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1994 - Mr Major’s Joint Doorstep Interview with the Dutch Prime Minister

Below is the text of Mr Major’s joint doorstep interview with the Dutch Prime Minister, Mr Wim Kok, on Wednesday 7th September 1994.


PRIME MINISTER:

Can I say firstly that I am delighted to be back here today and to renew my acquaintance with the Prime Minister, we had the opportunity of working together as Finance Ministers some years ago and I have no doubt that the excellent relationship we have enjoyed with the Dutch government over recent years is going to continue and we had the opportunity to review a range of matters of joint interest over luncheon.

We spent a substantial amount of time looking at the prospects as we move forward to the intergovernmental conference in 1996 and other current European matters, I will not go into those in detail, no doubt if you wish to pursue that you will ask questions about it.

We also spent some time reviewing the present situation in Bosnia. As you know, the British have a number of troops there and the Dutch have a very large contingent, many troops in Srebrenica and elsewhere, and we were looking at the events over recent weeks, the current prospects and what may happen in the future, to review the possibility of there being progress, we spent some considerable time on that.

Beyond that we looked at a number of other bilateral matters. I will spare you the details of that, the Prime Minister may wish to mention some of them but by and large I think I will leave it to you to ask questions.

MR KOK:

Let me be brief at the same time. I am delighted that Prime Minister Major is able to be here today and to give his lecture this afternoon in Leiden, we know each other already for quite some time. And I think both on the bilateral and on the multilateral level a lot of issues had to be discussed in a constructive and fruitful way - the future of Europe, the enlargement of Europe, at the same time the preparation for the intergovernmental conference 1996, there we have a lot of interests in common - and we have agreed that on a bilateral basis our officials will be in contact in order to inform each other about views and possible common ways in order to tackle common problems.

As the Prime Minister said already, we also discussed the situation in Bosnia and the undesirability that the arms embargo would be lifted, not in the least because of the position and safety of the considerable amount of troops we have in the region.

And perhaps I might say in ending this short comment on my behalf that we exchanged views on Northern Ireland and that I expressed my admiration for the courageous and statesmanlike way in which both Prime Minister Major and Prime Minister Reynolds are trying to bring an historic problem hopefully to an end because Northern Ireland is a centre of instability and violence, as we all know, and we all in Europe, and we here in the Netherlands, do hope that it will be possible to bring this violent situation for a number of decades to an end and we fully encourage and support the way in which Prime Minister Major is doing his utmost in order to contribute to the stabilisation of that very difficult part of the world and Europe.

QUESTION:

Mr Kok, do you like what you hear from Prime Minister Major about variable geometry, multi-speeds, multi-layers in Europe? And Mr Major, did anything you heard from Dublin or anywhere else yesterday lead you towards setting the clock ticking?

MR KOK:

Would you allow me to comment on Prime Minister Major's speech after I have heard the speech?

QUESTION:

We may not have the chance to talk to you.

MR KOK:

I will be available, I will be there.

QUESTION:

I think you have heard the idea from him before though?

MR KOK:

Yes, but it is better perhaps to give my comments after having listened to the speech.

PRIME MINISTER:

I set out the position the other day, I do not think our position has changed, Naturally I think we are inching forward to being clearer about matters but I do not think that is quite yet the case, I very much hope we can move forward and it can be absolutely clear that this is intended to be a permanent cessation of violence. That is the conclusion that I wish to be able to draw, but I must credibly be able to draw it and I am not sure it is entirely there yet.

QUESTION:

Al Gore has today joined Albert Reynolds in accepting that the IRA renunciation of violence is permanent, do you feel uncomfortable that you are still sticking out when they are both prepared to accept this, and are you worried that the rush by Dublin to get Gerry Adams involved is prejudicing the chance of bringing the Ulster Unionists along in any eventual settlement?

PRIME MINISTER:

I find myself in a unique position in this respect. Unlike other people I actually have the responsibility for the security of Northern Ireland and I must be absolutely certain myself that this is not just a short-term ceasefire, but a credible long-term permanent cessation of violence and I believe the people of Northern Ireland would wish me to be certain about that as well. As I indicated a moment ago, I think gradually it is being made a little clearer that perhaps this is not just a temporary ceasefire, but it is not clear yet. It can be made absolutely clear very simply. All that has to be said is for Sinn Fein to say quite clearly yes, under no circumstances would we go back to violence - that is all I am waiting to hear. I do not want any particular formulation, I do not ask them to accept words that we have ourselves uttered in the past, I just ask for a clear cut, unequivocal assurance that violence is over for good, and I believe the people in Northern Ireland would expect me to be certain about that before I move forward, and I will be.

QUESTION:

[Inaudible] Gerry Adams involved by Dublin [inaudible].

PRIME MINISTER:

Everyone must make their own judgements about what pace to take things. The Taoiseach and I have worked very closely indeed over the last couple of years and I do not doubt for a single second his commitment to have a permanent end to violence and to be able to move forward satisfactorily, there is no shred of doubt about that and we will continue to work together to try and achieve that, but both he and I must make our own judgments about the speed at which things develop.

QUESTION:

[Inaudible] British troops out of Belfast?

PRIME MINISTER:

That is not a matter I can answer today, Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, there are British troops in every part of the United Kingdom, they are there to protect people against terrorist behaviour, that terrorist behaviour has come from the IRA and it has also come from some Loyalist sources as well. The policing and the troops on the ground in Northern Ireland are an operational matter, decisions upon that are decisions taken upon the advice of the GOC in the case of the Army, and the Chief Constable in the case of the Police.

QUESTION:

A two speed peace process seems to be coming along, with Mr Reynolds in the driving seat, what is your view on that?

PRIME MINISTER:

I indicated a moment ago, the decisions that must be taken in the near future are decisions that involve the British government and the people of Northern Ireland, we must be certain about those.

QUESTION:

What do you think about the UK economic recovery [inaudible].

PRIME MINISTER:

I think that is a question that you do not seriously expect an answer to. The rate of UK economic recovery has certainly been quickening over the last year or so. We now find ourselves in the position where unemployment is falling, inflation is at a 25 year low and growth has been accelerating, so I think we have a very benign set of economic circumstances and we are determined to keep them benign.

MR KOK:

We are now following that all over Europe, the continent is now falling, the only hope I have is that we are not only looking to the short term improvement of the economy because of the incidental improvements, but that we also are aware of the necessity to make structural adjustments all over Europe because the White Paper made by Jacques Delors and approved by the European Council is still very up-beat.

QUESTION:

What is your reaction to the lifting of the trade ban by Malaysia?

PRIME MINISTER:

I am very pleased about that. When the trade ban was introduced some time ago we made representations about it and we have continued to do so. We have had a,very long standing trading and investment relationship with Malaysia, I am delighted that the hiccup is now behind us and that we are now back into our traditional relationship.

QUESTION:

Mr Kok, would you be happy with the idea of a hard core of countries that went ahead, an inner core of 5, without necessarily pre-empting the Prime Minister's speech?

MR KOK:

I would not be happy as an objective. We cannot exclude that as far as the economic and monetary union is concerned, where the Netherlands play another role than Britain, as we all know, that at the end of the day by 1997 or 1999 there would be a certain split for the time being between some countries participating in the third stage and others who are not yet ready, but that should always be an unavoidable outcome of the process instead of an objective. I think it should not be the objective to make a split right from the beginning, but I do not exclude that the outcome of the process might be so.

QUESTION:

Did you talk about who is to be the next Secretary General of NATO?

PRIME MINISTER:

We have not reached a conclusion on that matter today, no.

QUESTION:

Which names were you discussing?

PRIME MINISTER:

None I am prepared to divulge today.

QUESTION:

This morning Dr Paisley has been calling you a dictator but we have not heard yet what you have to say about him?

PRIME MINISTER:

I will read what he has to say with my usual interest.