Helsinki disentangled (1973-75): West Germany, the Netherlands, the EPC and the principle of the protection of human rights

Lamberti, Sara (2012) Helsinki disentangled (1973-75): West Germany, the Netherlands, the EPC and the principle of the protection of human rights. PhD thesis, University of Trento.

PDF - Doctoral Thesis


This work is situated at the intersection between the historiographies on European integration, the Cold War, and human rights, and scrutinizes the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE, 1973-75) from the specific angle of the history of European integration. According to a narrative that has become standard in historiography, the EC countries achieved remarkable cohesion in the CSCE process through the newly-created European Political Cooperation (EPC), an informal intergovernmental mechanism set up in 1970. This thesis argues instead that the EPC was less successful in achieving cohesion and a common position of the EC’s member states than has been claimed so far. Human rights was a divisive issue, and ideas of détente differed widely in the West European camp. The thesis emphasizes the political fault lines among the nine member states, and in particular between West Germany and the Netherlands, two countries that stand out for their quite different negotiating style and equally different political goals. The author argues that while West German and Dutch foreign policy eventually achieved a degree of coordination, common understanding was lacking. West Germany and the Netherlands often fought for very different goals. In the case of West Germany, its key goal at the CSCE was human relief, a long-standing goal of West German policy that had marked Ostpolitik since its very beginnings: the conspicuous sufferings of German people and the personal experiences of German leaders had a powerful impact on West German foreign policy. The Dutch by contrast thought of human rights as a principle of international law to be used in an ideological confrontation. The work emphasizes the multifaceted nature of the domestic discussions about human rights at the time, points out that the very idea of human rights needs to be historicized, and highlights the role played by domestic influences and by individuals, with a specific focus on domestic political actors, like the Dutch foreign minister Max van der Stoel, who emerges as a staunch – and relatively poorly known - key-advocate of human rights.

Item Type:Doctoral Thesis (PhD)
Doctoral School:International Studies
PhD Cycle:XXII
Subjects:Area 11 - Scienze storiche, filosofiche, pedagogiche e psicologiche > M-STO/04 STORIA CONTEMPORANEA
Repository Staff approval on:26 Apr 2012 11:37

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