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1996 - Mr Major’s Joint Doorstep Interview with Prime Minister Klaus

Below is the text of Mr Major’s doorstep interview in Prague with Prime Minister Klaus, given in Prague on Wednesday 17th April 1996.


MR KLAUS:

[Not translated].

PRIME MINISTER:

Let me just add to some of the points the Prime Minister has just made. We have a very close relationship between our two countries, no bilateral problems. And so we have been able to spend the majority of our time this afternoon discussing two subjects of great importance to both of us. The first is future developments in the European Union and in particular what is likely to emerge from the intergovernmental conference that has now begun; and what implications that will have for future enlargement of the European Union and in particular the entry of the Czech Republic into the European Union as a full member.

I expressed the view that the widening of the European Union remains the most important European issue to be discussed. I think there is an historic opportunity, with the widening of the Union to bring the Czech Republic and other countries in fully to the Western family of democratic nations, and I believe it is attractive both for the existing European Union and the applicant members for that to happen as soon as it is economically and politically desirable for it to be done.

The Prime Minister and I discussed many of the matters that will be at issue in the intergovernmental conference, and then the likely timetable for discussions with the Czech Republic and the European Union about subsequent membership.

There will be a number of applicants to the European Union. It is our British view that however many we may begin to negotiate with at the same time for future entry, entry itself should be discriminatory in the sense that those countries should enter the European Union when they are economically ready to do so, and no-one should be delayed so that there may be a particularly large entry at a later date. And we discussed those and a number of other detailed matters relating to Europe over the last hour or so.

We also spent some time discussing the development of Partnership for Peace and the defence relationship between the Czech Republic and the United Kingdom. For example, at the moment there are Czech troops serving with British troops in Bosnia as part of the IFOR contingent and they have a very close and very deep working relationship.

At the moment, as you will know, NATO is considering enlargement and clearly the Czech Republic is one of the prime candidates to join NATO as and when that enlargement proceeds. I am confident it will proceed. I think it will need to proceed at a measured pace. There is much to be decided upon with enlargement of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. One has to look both at the obligations that NATO will take on with enlargement, the obligations to the new members, and equally the obligations of the new members to the organisation - NATO - that they are joining. And again we looked at those and what those obligations might be in some detail over the last hour or so.

We anticipate continuing this discussion over dinner a little later and I have no doubt then we will wish to discuss other foreign policy matters, certainly Russia, and other matters of that sort. I think the delights of those discussions lie a little ahead over dinner in a few moments.

I think the Prime Minister is content for us to take any questions on our discussions - it is questions on our discussions - if there are any.


QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

QUESTION (Newsweek Magazine):

Mr Klaus, recent polls show that Mr Major is one of the least successful leaders in post-war history. I wonder how can his presence possibly boost the chances of your party in next month's elections?

MR KLAUS:

It is a very strange question. First, I don't agree with your analysis of the position and of the success of Prime Minister Major, I definitely don't agree with that. And I know that the situation in the United Kingdom, is not yet over and I am looking forward to seeing an improving position of John Major's government. So that is quite clear. And secondly, we are quite happy that John Major is here. Definitely I suppose he is not coming here to boost anyone in the elections, so it is absolutely unnecessary to put it in such a simplified form and way.

PRIME MINISTER:

It is possible perhaps that the questioner did not hear what we have been talking about, two matters of some importance I think to the Czech Republic insofar as NATO is concerned and the European Union is concerned, but perhaps you missed that.

QUESTION:

Do you mind me asking a follow-up to that question? Does that kind of question and that kind of analysis annoy you at this stage?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think it is just silly. I can't be responsible for silly questions from journalists, that is a matter for the journalists, and the editors and the readers of their journals. But what I am here to discuss with the Prime Minister are matters that we have been discussing in Europe for some time, and we have been discussing with the Czech Republic for some time. The most critically important issue in European politics at the moment is enlargement of the European Union. That is an historic opportunity, as I said a few moments ago, that never occurred in the past and may not readily occur in the future if we don't take the opportunity. One of the elements of taking that opportunity is the discussions and the decisions that will be made in the intergovernmental conference. And that will be so for this reason: the intergovernmental conference will look at institutional matters related to the future of Europe, once those institutional matters are decided in the conference they will be a matter of fact and that will be the nature of the European Union that the Czech Republic and others will then be negotiating to join. So it is crucially important to the Czech Republic and very important to the interests of the United Kingdom that those decisions are right in the intergovernmental conference so we can take this opportunity to enlarge. And that of course is what we have been discussing on a number of occasions over recent years and in our discussions this afternoon.

QUESTION:

[Indistinct] to EU membership, is there any advice within your gift to Czech people?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, there is, but I would give it privately and have done so.