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1994 - Mr Major’s Joint Doorstep Interview with Jacques Santer

Below is the text of Mr Major’s joint doorstep interview with the European Commission President-Designate, Jacques Santer, in London on Wednesday 14th September 1994.


JACQUES SANTER:

I was very pleased in my function as designate-president of the Commission of the European Union to see the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, John Major, on my trip through the capitals, coming from Dublin; before I was in Madrid, Rome and Lisbon and we had very good talks about the constitution of the Commission and we had also the opportunity to discuss some common subjects about the forthcoming European Union, about the procedures and the institution of procedures and also the intergovernmental conference of 1996 and so on. We had a very constructive and for me at least a very useful discussion and in my view it is very important that as the upcoming President of the Commission I hear all the opinions of the members of the European Council.

PRIME MINISTER:

There is very little, frankly, to add to that. I have been delighted to welcome the President here today. As he said, we have ranged fairly widely, looking at what might be in the IGC, very much in its preliminary stages of course at the moment; to look at the way in which we think Europe might develop to the east; to discuss the composition of the European Commission; and to look at a number of matters related to common foreign and security policy and defence policy in the future so I think it has been a very fruitful discussion and we have agreed that we will meet at regular intervals to continue it.

QUESTION:

Mr. President, you are taking over at a time when there is a debate going on about the future structure of the Union. Do you see a future for a Union which has a hard core in the centre, what some people see as a two-tier Union?

M. SANTER:

I am very fond of all the discussions you can have about the future of Europe. I think that everybody can bring in a paper and we have to discuss it. I think that is very useful also that we have to discuss it in the future.

As the forthcoming President for the European Commission, I cannot deal at this moment with all the papers coming up and with all the Opinions made by the European Union but I think as we made it up also for the Treaty of Maastricht and for the Treaty of the European Union we have to reach the objectives and to be a Union of 12 member states and we have to reach this objective of 12 and even the intergovernmental conference of 1996 has to reach agreement at 12 or 16; after the referenda in some of the Scandinavian countries, we have to reach 12 or 16 member states so we try and I am trying as forthcoming President of the Commission to reach agreement by all the member states. I think it is very important that all the member states can reach the targets, the objectives, that we have been trying to.

QUESTION:

Is it your personal view that one of those objectives should be and will be a single currency for Europe?

M. SANTER:

I think we reached an agreement about economic and monetary union, Inside the Treaty of Maastricht we made the steps and the stages and of course also established the criteria that each country has to reach before they could pass to the third stage and in this view I think the Treaty of Maastricht would be operational in itself. It is not my opinion to change the Treaty of Maastricht belonging to the economic and monetary union.

QUESTION:

But you would support the objective in that treaty of a single currency?

M. SANTER:

Of course.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, do you believe that the IGC in 1996 will be the be-all and end-all of this debate or is it just a staging post along the way?

PRIME MINISTER:

I don't think the IGC of 1996 has anything to do with a single currency and I will be very surprised indeed if a single currency is part of the debate in 1996. That debate was had at Maastricht, a view was expressed by various people, we have expressed our view and at some stage in the future people will make a judgement about whether that can proceed or not but that is not a matter that is going to be particularly on the table in 1996. Many people misunderstand that but I don't think that is going to be materially on the table then. What people are going to be at are other institutional matters and the development of course of the Community to the east, the enlargement of the development and what that means for the institutions of the Community, that perhaps and the development of common foreign and security policy and defence.

QUESTION:

And on the issue of a hard core which has been raised in Germany?

PRIME MINISTER:

You know my view about the issue of a hard core. It depends what you mean by the issue of a hard core. If you mean the issue of a hard core that lays down precisely how the rest of the Community go, goes there and expects the rest of the Community to follow it, then I think that will be destructive and I set out my views on that very clearly at Leiden a few days ago.

QUESTION (Hugh Pym - ITN):

If I could switch to a more domestic matter, the unemployment and inflation figures this morning, do you feel they might suggest that the interest rate rise on Monday was unnecessary?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, I don't think that. I was delighted to see the further fall in unemployment; it has been falling for a long time; we are down now to 9.2%, that is far higher than I would like to see it but there has been a very great improvement and I think people are very pleased about that but one of the things to sustain employment in the future is to ensure that we have low inflation in the future, one of the things that will make us competitive with other countries not just in Europe and elsewhere is to make sure our inflation is as low as theirs.

What concerns me and has concerned the Chancellor is that over many years in the post-War period inflation has gone down but it hasn't been held down, it has gone down and it has gone up. What we are determined to do in the interests of keeping people in jobs, keeping Britain competitive is to make sure that we keep inflation within our target range of between 1 and 4% and round about the middle and lower half of that by the end of this Parliament so we are looking at the pressures that might emerge in the future and taking action to ensure that those pressures don't damage people's jobs and people's prosperity.

QUESTION:

And would you agree if necessary interest rates would have to go up?

PRIME MINISTER:

I am never going to speculate on which direction interest rates may go. It isn't a one-way stream ever, you have to look at the conditions that apply and see what monetary policy is appropriate to contain inflation. We are serious about making sure we keep inflation under control. I have never made any secret about my passionate belief that we have to do that if we are to make sure that our economy progressively gets stronger and people's employment gets progressively more secure and towards the end of last week the decision was made that it would be appropriate to have a small change at the moment.

QUESTION:

On one other subject, in a court case today, the Rachel Nickell case, there have been severe criticisms of the police handling because the accused has been allowed to walk free. Do you have any view on that?

PRIME MINISTER:

I haven't seen the reports yet, I may comment when I have seen them.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, can I ask you very briefly about Ireland? There is criticism today from the Republican prisoners who are suggesting that perhaps you and the British Government are dragging your feet over the IRA ceasefire.

PRIME MINISTER:

The IRA were conducting intolerable outrages for twenty-five years. I hope they have now given up those outrages for good, they certainly seem to be indicating that, they haven't expressly yet said so, I hope they will expressly say so but we have made a great deal of progress. The Downing Street Declaration isolated the IRA, it isolated them in the opinion of the world and in the opinion of many other people and it has brought them to the position of a ceasefire. I hope we can build on that but we will build on that in a way that will be secure and I will do that at the time I think it is appropriate.