Primary Sources

Europe as a Common Home


After gaining the position of General Secretary of the Communist Party, Mikhail Gorbachev set the Soviet Union on the path of reform with perestroika (restructuring) and glasnost' (openness). He had followed his domestic changes with a general arms reduction throughout Eastern Europe in 1988, extending the reach of his reforms. On 6 July 1989, in a speech made in front of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Mikhail Gorbachev, extended his program of reform even further by publicly announcing that the Soviet Union belonged to a "common home" in Europe, and would support extensive cooperation between Eastern and Western Europe. Following the landslide victory of Solidarity in the Polish elections of June, Gorbachev's speech was also an informal endorsement of these political changes and an agreement not to intervene.


Mikhail Gorbachev, "Address given to the Council of Europe," speech, Strasbourg, France, July 6, 1989, European Navigator, European Navigator (accessed May 27, 2008).

Primary Source—Excerpt

The fact that the states of Europe belong to different social systems is a reality. The recognition of this historical fact and respect for the sovereign right of each people to choose their social system at their own discretion are the most important prerequisite for a normal European process.

The social and political order in some particular countries did change in the past, and it can change in the future as well. But this is exclusively a matter for the peoples themselves and of their choice....

Now it is up to all of us, all the participants in the European process, to make the best possible use of the groundwork laid down through our common efforts. Our idea of a common European home serves the same purpose too.

It was born out of our realization of new realities, of our realization of the fact that the linear continuation of the path, along which inter-European relations have developed until the last quarter of the twentieth century, is no longer consonant with these realities.

The idea is linked with our domestic, economic and political perestroika, which called for new relations above all in that part of the world to which we, the Soviet Union, belong, and with which we have been tied most closely over the centuries.

We also realized that the colossal burden of armaments and the atmosphere of confrontation did not just obstruct Europe's normal development, but at the same time prevented our country—economically, politically and psychologically—from being integrated into the European process and had a deforming impact on our own development....

n our recent meetings with European leaders questions were raised about the architecture of our "common home," on how it should be built and even on how it should be "furnished." ...

In actual fact, what we have in mind is a restructuring of the international order existing in Europe that would put the European common values in the forefront and make it possible to replace the traditional balance of forces with a balance of interests.

How to Cite this Source

Mikhail Gorbachev, "Europe as a Common Home," Making the History of 1989, Item #109, (accessed May 28 2021, 3:26 pm).

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