Statement on the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe

March 27, 1986

I met with Michael Novak, a distinguished scholar and writer, who will head the United States delegation to the Experts' Meeting next month of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) in Bern, Switzerland. That meeting, part of the Helsinki process of lowering the barriers dividing East from West, will discuss expanding contacts across borders. Mr. Novak reported to me on his recent consultations with our NATO allies, the Swiss hosts, and the Soviet Union. In Moscow he also met with a number of individuals divided from their spouses.

Since 1 out of every 10 Americans has roots in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, the issues to be discussed at Bern -- family reunification, family contacts, binational marriages, travel for personal and professional reasons, and emigration -- are not abstract political questions. They are subjects touching the heart of our society: the family. Progress between the CSCE countries in this area would do much to carry forward my discussion last November with General Secretary Gorbachev in which we agreed on the importance of resolving humanitarian cases in a spirit of cooperation.

Today, in the Soviet Union and other East European States, there are too many individuals and families who are separated from relatives in the West or prevented from traveling abroad. The Berlin Wall is a physical embodiment of the cruel and unnecessary policies that separate peoples from one another. At Bern we have a chance to pursue the process of bringing down the barriers to human contacts that separate East from West.

I have instructed Mr. Novak to speak forthrightly at Bern about the continuing problems in the field of human contacts and the need for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe to work harder to resolve them. We would like to see practical results that will bring benefits to the citizens of East and West.