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

Below is the text of Mr Major’s joint doorstep interview with the Spanish Prime Minister, Mr Jose Maria Aznar, in London on Wednesday 27th November 1996.


PRIME MINISTER:

I would like first to say what a pleasure it is to welcome the Prime Minister here to Downing Street today. He is in no sense a stranger either to me or Downing Street, we have met on a number of occasions when he was Leader of the Opposition and I have been delighted to welcome him here today as Prime Minister.

Over the last two and a half hours we have had the opportunity of covering a very wide range of subjects. We have had a complete run through the agenda for the Intergovernmental Conference. On many areas we have a firm agreement, on some areas we are close to agreement, on some areas we still have a difference of view. I was particularly able to welcome the Prime Minister's decision on full participation in NATO. We also spent some time discussing a range of international matters. Spain has played a distinguished role, for example, in Bosnia and we were able to discuss the prospects there. We discussed of course NATO, we look forward to the OSCE Conference and a range of other matters.

We also discussed a range of matters of bilateral interest. Spain has developed remarkably in recent years and is becoming a growing industrial power within Europe. Our bilateral, industrial, commercial and trading relationship is excellent and is improving. We discussed all this and ways to improve it further.

We also discussed the on-going discussions that have been carrying on for some time over Gibraltar in the Brussels Process. These will be carried forward with an Officials Meeting within the next few days and the next meeting between our Foreign Ministers in late January. We also discussed other matters of mutual bilateral interest - fishing and related matters.

All in all it was an extremely friendly discussion, a very worthwhile discussion and I am delighted the Prime Minister was able to join me. We have agreed on greater bilateral coordination of our position in European matters and will both be keen to take that forward.

So I am delighted both with the nature of the meeting, the conduct of the meeting and the extent of agreement within the meeting and I look forward to seeing the Prime Minister again shortly.

SPANISH PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you. I am delighted to be here and I can simply say that I agree with the statement of the Prime Minister. This meeting has been held in a spirit of confidence and trust and both of us have agreed that what we want for our countries is to increase the trust-based relationship between the two countries and further it and we have worked very hard towards that goal today to establish this enhanced framework of cooperation and friendship between our two countries which has been very useful to discuss many issues.

There is wide agreement on many of those issues and it is also a useful framework in order to discuss those issues where some [indistinct] to come about.

QUESTION:

[Not interpreted].

SPANISH PRIME MINISTER:

There are lots of people in the world who speak English, many people speak English. I am sure Spanish fishermen too can learn to speak English. But that is all [indistinct].

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, are you close to agreement on quota-hopping?

PRIME MINISTER:

No we are not. We were not discussing the details of that, that is a matter for the Intergovernmental Conference and we have set out the protocol and that will be discussed at the IGC.

QUESTION:

[Not interpreted].

PRIME MINISTER:

On the position between the European Union and Spain and Cuba, we wholeheartedly support the Spanish position. I don't think the way the Cubans treated the Spanish Ambassador was a tolerable way to behave. We agree with the common position that the Spanish are seeking and we will give them our support.

SPANISH PRIME MINISTER:

[Inaudible].

QUESTION:

From the Spanish perspective, it is difficult to understand why quota hopping is not part of the Common Market. I noticed that the Spanish government said the other day in London that there were politics behind the attitude of Britain towards fishing, will you elaborate upon that?

PRIME MINISTER:

It is a dreadful proposition that politics should be behind governments attitudes, I agree that is disgraceful. I cannot imagine what will happen to international affairs if politics intervene, they will have to start from the beginning again and I just don't know what we will do. We are concerned about the impact upon the fishing villages of the catch that traditionally went into those fishing villages. For every fish at sea, for every boat at sea, there are a large number of people on shore whose livelihoods depend upon the catch being landed on shore.

And of course if the catch is taken and then landed elsewhere there is a great deal of difficulty in that respect, so that is one of the problems that has arisen and these are problems that we will address in the Intergovernmental Conference.

QUESTION:

On the same issue of quota hopping, do you think it would be helpful of having a measure which ensured that quota hopping vessels had English speaking crews to enhance understanding?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think there is rather more, that is an element, but there is a series of things I think that Tony Baldry said and we set out our position in a protocol that we have tabled for the IOC.

QUESTION:

[Inaudible].

SPANISH PRIME MINISTER:

[Inaudible].

QUESTION:

[Inaudible].

SPANISH PRIME MINISTER:

[Inaudible].

PRIME MINISTER:

I don't really have much to add to that. We have a mature relationship with Spain. When we meet we don't only discuss the things upon which we are in agreement, we discuss the things upon which we are not yet in agreement, and it was in that spirit that we discussed Gibraltar and quota hopping.

QUESTION:

[Indistinct] full agreement for the IGC unless you can get agreement on the issue of quota hopping?

PRIME MINISTER:

You are assuming we are not going to get an agreement on quota hopping. We have made it clear that we will negotiate very toughly at the IGC on the issues we have set forward. We have certainly made it clear we expect to have agreement on some issues before there is general agreement. Don't invite me to stir the pot even more. We will fight very hard for our agreement and I expect that we will be able to reach a conclusion.

QUESTION:

[Inaudible].

SPANISH PRIME MINISTER:

[Inaudible].