The path to the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe held in Helsinki in July/August 1975 had been winding. Warsaw Pact countries meeting in Romania in 1966 had proposed a general conference on European security. The idea had been that all European states should confirm their acceptance of existing boundaries and political systems. The NATO countries did not rush to reply and, when they did, wanted to shift the agenda onto a discussion of force levels. Proposals were batted to and fro. Events in 1968 and after, as discussed in the previous chapter, did not suggest that the time was altogether ripe. Instability in that year, as will shortly be discussed, was not confined to the Soviet bloc. Events in France and the Federal Republic revealed the scale of dissatisfaction with the status quo that existed in some quarters in Western Europe. There was, however, a paradox. In the ‘West’ it was a ‘liberal capitalism’ which was being savaged. In the ‘East’ it was the illiberality of a ‘rigid Communism’ that was being attacked. In country after country across Europe political debate raged. Familiar concepts — Democracy, Communism, Socialism, Class, Culture, Consumerism, Christianity, Secularism, Capitalism, Freedom, Tyranny, Equality — were again fiercely argued over and paired in different ways. There was, however, no regime change. ‘Order’, though different both in substance and structure, was reasserted in Paris and Prague. The questions that had been posed, however, had not disappeared, even in the ‘co-operative’ conference chambers of Helsinki.
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