Eastern Europe (Elections)

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 9 May 1990.

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Photo of Mr Peter Thurnham Mr Peter Thurnham , Bolton North East 12:00, 9 May 1990

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reports he has received about democratic elections in eastern Europe; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

The elections in the GDR on 18 March and in Hungary on 25 March and 8 April were free and fair. We hope that the forthcoming elections in Romania, Bulgaria and Czechoslovakia will be so too. I am glad that Members of this House are observing most of these elections under the auspices of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. We shall be sending teams of local government electoral officials to observe the elections in Romania and Bulgaria.

Photo of Mr Peter Thurnham Mr Peter Thurnham , Bolton North East

Will my right hon. Friend ensure that our increasing levels of aid to eastern Europe are conditional on free and fair elections in countries there?

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

Yes, this is extremely important, and we have made it clear to the countries concerned that the level of help, co-operation and friendship that they can expect to receive from us and from members of the European Community will be directly related to their progress in democratic and economic reform.

Photo of Mr Eric Heffer Mr Eric Heffer , Liverpool, Walton

Will the right hon. Gentleman draw the attention of the Soviet Government to the fact that there have been free elections in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia? Will he also draw the attention of President Gorbachev to the fact that, while many of us support what he is doing, up to a point, Lenin in the early days of the Soviet state argued strongly for the self-determination of all peoples? That is why those three states got their self-determination. Even Stalin—it must have been an aberration—wrote a pamphlet on the rights of nationalities and said that self-determination was acceptable. Since those three states were democratic and free until they were occupied by the Soviet Government in 1940, let us make it plain that perestroika, democracy and freedom must apply when the people themselves decide what they want.

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney

The hon. Member is right. Stalin allowed into the Soviet constitution—I think that it was in 1936 —a provision that republics could leave the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, he omitted to provide any way in which they could actually do that. That omission has recently been repaired by the Supreme Soviet. The principle of self-determination is accepted, as is the right of people in the republics to leave if that is their freely expressed wish. We now need a discussion or a dialogue between the Baltic republics—first, Lithuania—and the authorities in Moscow to bring that about in an orderly and sensible way.