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1994 - Mr Major’s Remarks in Reply to President Brazauskas

Below is the transcript of Mr Major’s remarks to President Brazauskas on 2nd August 1994.


PRIME MINISTER:

Mr President, Prime Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I am very grateful to you, Mr President, and to the Lithuanian Government, for your generous hospitality.

Prime Minister Laar and Prime Minister Birkavs have kindly travelled from Estonia and Latvia to join us.

This may be the first visit ever by a British Prime Minister to Lithuania. It has certainly been the first visit of its kind in over half a century.

For over fifty years we, like you, held firm to the idea that the three Baltic States would again be independent. You never lost hope. Your determination brought you back to independence.

I had the pleasure of nominating the first three British post war ambassadors to your countries, and of greeting the first Baltic leaders to visit London again. Now I have the even greater pleasure of coming here to one of the Baltic States and of meeting the Prime Ministers of all three.

We have had an intensive morning of talks. We have discussed individually the different problems of each of your countries, and the particular relationships which you have with the United Kingdom. But there have also been some common themes, and I would like to say a few words about them.

First, let me say that your independence is no less important to us now that you have regained it.

You rightly insisted - with our support - that occupying forces had to withdraw. Your persistence will see the Baltic States free of uninvited foreign forces by the end of this month - for the first time in 54 years.

The way this has been achieved testifies to the good sense of your governments and of the Russian Government under President Yeltsin.

Second, you want a greater sense of security. We live in an uncertain world, and your countries have had a turbulent and uncertain history.

I cannot hold out certainty for the future, but I am optimistic about the prospects for the Baltic States.

Your sovereignty is a recognised fact. You have the rights and status of members of the United Nations and the CSCE. Violation of that status would carry a heavy cost.

You have developed links with NATO through Partnership for Peace - links which threaten no other country.

You now have a network of bilateral relationships with your friends in Europe and elsewhere. For example, Britain's defence cooperation with you and the establishment of the Baltic Peacekeeping Battalion is a sign of practical cooperation which ties in well with Partnership for Peace.

But I am optimistic also about Russia. I take nothing for granted. The huge changes under way in Russia will take years to work through. But both you and we have shown the desire to develop stable and modern relations with Russia, as sovereign partners and in your case as neighbours. The leaders of Russia, for their part, know that this meets their country's interests, too. They know, I hope, that the last thing we want is to create new barriers in Europe, now that we have erased the post war dividing line.

This brings me to my third point. The Baltic peoples are members of the European family. Britain has always been the foremost advocate of an outward looking European Union. I cannot at this stage predict exactly how the European Union will develop in the years ahead. You have taken a first step with your Free Trade Agreements with the European Union. At Corfu, the European Council agreed that Europe Agreements should be the next step of the Baltic States.

I want the European Union to go on building up its relations with your countries, step by step, matching the development of your own economies and political systems.

Mr President, fellow Prime Ministers, I have come here at an encouraging time.

Estonia has now reached agreement with Russia on troop withdrawals.

Latvia has resolved the problem of her citizenship law. I hope that Lithuania will soon be able to find agreement with Russia on military transit.

You are making progress with economic reform. This has been reflected in increasing trade with Britain, and investment by some of our largest companies such as Shell and Cable and Wireless.

Rebuilding your countries after half a century of Communism and foreign occupation is a huge challenge.

You and your peoples have risen to that challenge. I have no doubt at all that you will succeed.

We wish to play a part in that success, and will continue to offer our enthusiastic support.