Below is the text of Mr Major’s press conference in Majorca, held on Saturday 23rd September 1995.
We came here this weekend without a set agenda, without pre-
Let me just say very briefly a few words about the three component parts of the meeting we have had over the last day or so. Yesterday we spent the majority of the time discussing the challenges and the opportunities that lie immediately ahead of the European Union. The old slogans and the old prescriptions won't do any longer. We are now coming to a position where it is not sufficient just to hold out an aspiration of doing this or that at some stage in the future. We are now reaching the position where clear-
Last evening over dinner we had a discussion that divided into three parts: firstly, a discussion on Russia, the internal position, relationship with the European Union, prospects for its future; secondly, a discussion on the Middle East, again its relationship with the European Union, prospects for the peace process in the Middle East, relationship with particularly the Palestinian authority, I think a number of people are very concerned about the difficulties that they face; and the third part of the discussion last evening was on Bosnia and the prospects for moving from the present position to a ceasefire right across Bosnia and then after a ceasefire a settlement, and then what would happen after the settlement.
This morning I was asked to open a discussion on defence and security architecture in Europe, clearly an important part of the Intergovernmental Conference. Things have changed more dramatically, I think, than most people realise until they sit back and think about it over the last few years. Ten years ago, if we had met here, we would not have been discussing the future architecture of European defence, we would have been discussing the difficulties there were between East and West, SS20s pointing in one direction, Cruise missiles pointing in the other. So we have come a very great distance in the last 10 years or so, but we need to look at the problems that lie immediately ahead of us.
The fall of the Iron Curtain creates the prospect of re-
I should say also, in the high-
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
QUESTION (Robin Oakley):
President Chirac has indicated he wants to see the IGC concluded quickly, Chancellor Kohl has suggested it could well be delayed until the second half of 1997, taking it well beyond the next British general election. Which camp do you belong and do you fear that your veto has been weakened by the election timetable?
No, I don't think the British capacity to veto if we think it is necessary has been weakened, whatever the timetable may be. I am personally relaxed about the timetable. What concerns me is the substance of the discussions. We will have a clear cut British position on a range of matters and it matters not to me whether those matters are determined before the election or after the election, I am relaxed about that. But we have many complex matters to do. I don't think this is going to be a very short and speedy affair, this Intergovernmental Conference, it has got a great deal to look at. It is not going to be earth shattering in its implications, I don't believe. Many of the matters to be discussed are quite detailed, quite difficult, and they will probably take quite a while. But I don't wish to put an artificial constraint, either a short term constraint or a constraint of delaying decisions to put it out a long way. I am relaxed. We will take the decisions when we are in a position to take them and the British position will not change, whether we are this side of the election or the other side of the election.
QUESTION (Judith Dawson, Sky News):
Going back to your meeting with the Taoiseach, are you confident that you will be able in the near future to announce the date of another summit?
We did not discuss the date of another summit. I should say that the Taoiseach and I speak a good deal more regularly than most people realise and I would think our offices are probably in touch almost on a daily basis. I do not know when we will reassemble for a formal summit. But the lack of a formal summit will not stop the discussion and the developments going on, that will continue. As soon as we are in a position to have a summit, we will have one, but I do not wish to set a date for it today, and neither did we discuss a date at all over the weekend,
QUESTION (George Brock, Times):
You talked about the enlargement of both the European Union and NATO. From your discussions which of these two organisations would you prefer to see enlarged first and did you get any impression about which way it would happen?
I don't think anyone knows yet is the strictly accurate answer to that. I think both of those enlargements are going to proceed by stages. Anyone who thinks there is suddenly going to be a date upon which the European Union is going to dramatically expand, I think misjudges the complexities of expanding the European Union. The present intention is that discussions with the Visegrad countries, and possibly with one or two others, will begin 6 months after the conclusion of the intergovernmental Conference. So there is broadly a date, I guess, sometime by 1993 at the latest they will begin the enlargement discussions with them at that stage.
As far as NATO is concerned, that is not of course just a matter for the European Union and we did not discuss the specific timetable for the enlargement of NATO in detail over the weekend. But again, NATO I think will enlarge incrementally. There is not suddenly going to be a date upon which there is a huge and dramatic enlargement of NATO, that is not how I believe it will work. I think it will enlarge at a relatively relaxed speed and it will begin to enlarge from the centre of Europe, moving eastwards.
You said just now that the negotiations with the Visegrad countries would begin 6 months after, is that an agreement that was reached here?
No, that has been the understanding from a couple of summits ago, it is not a novel piece of agreement, that has been the working assumption for some time.
QUESTION (John Palmer, Guardian):
I was interested to hear that because certainly the other governments say the only formal agreement on 6 months is Cyprus and Malta, with the timetable for the others left open, but you say there is a political consensus that that will be the case?
That is certainly my understanding, yes. My understanding is that we are going to start looking at this 6 months after. How soon they get in, of course, there is no agreement upon how soon they get in. But there has been very considerable pressure from the Visegrads to continue discussing and I hope we will be able to do it six months afterwards, and I have not heard anyone veto that, my understanding is they will be able to do that.
Could you elaborate on how far you pushed forward the thinking on European security architecture and do you now envisage the very real likelihood that at least some East Europeans may find themselves in the EU and in the WEU before they are in NATO, is that now because of Russian attitudes more likely to happen.
And also, you are quite relaxed about the timetable for finishing the IGC and you say it will not make any difference to British policy, do you have the assurances of Mr Blair about that as well?
I don't need them, he won't be here to discuss it. So I was referring to British Conservative government policy before the election and British Conservative government policy after the election, and I shall look forward to discussing it you on both occasions, both before and after the next general election. It is something we will both look forward to.
On the earlier point. It is not possible to say whether they would join WEU or the European Union before NATO, it simply is not possible to say. I certainly would not rule out that in some circumstances there would be an enhanced relationship with NATO before the European Union, but that is not a view we have agreed and discussed. But it is certainly possible that it will fall out that way. It is at the moment too early frankly to say.
QUESTION (BBC Wales):
In your bilateral discussions with Mr Bruton did you talk about the public concerns in Ireland and in Britain about the dangers from nuclear power stations?
The question of WILFA [phon] was briefly mentioned but it was not a substantive discussion. Beyond that we didn't, no.
QUESTION (Tony Bevins -
Could you give us your assessment of the risk of allowing the deadlock in Ireland to continue for much longer please and can you also tell us what areas you are looking at with Mr. Bruton for breaking this deadlock?
On the latter point, I don't think it would be wise to go into that in detail at the moment.
On the earlier point of how risky is the deadlock, I think that too many people read too much into each setback and there is a great danger that whenever there is a setback like the postponement of the summit, up pops someone to say as surely as Christmas comes around every year that the process is in crisis and all sorts of dreadful things are about to happen. I have heard that before on a number of occasions and the reality that there is an undertow that all the politicians have to take account of whether they are British, Irish, Northern Irish, Sinn Fein, whoever it may be, and that is the huge undertow of public opinion in Ireland that wants this process to continue. No-
I remain optimistic about the process. It isn't going to suddenly produce a conclusion. Anyone who thinks that we are suddenly going to wake up one morning, rub our eyes and have a final agreement to the problems of Northern Ireland misunderstands both the nature of our discussions and the nature of the problem. The solution will evolve. You may notice movements as you go along, others you won't but the changing perception of what people demand to which the politicians have to respond is continuing all the time and anyone who goes to Northern Ireland today and compares the atmosphere in Northern Ireland, the way of life in Northern Ireland, the economic activity in Northern Ireland, the aspirations in Northern Ireland to twelve or eighteen months ago will find a wholly different situation and frankly, this old-
QUESTION (Paul Meray -
Are you concerned about comments from Gerry Adams that he feels the process could slip back into violence if there is not progress fairly soon?
Who is going to be violent? Mr. Adams says it can slip back into violence; whose violence will it be? It doesn't have to slip back into violence if Mr Adams doesn't want it to slip back into violence, that is a matter that is in Mr. Adams' hands and I hope he will tell us that it isn't going to slip back into violence. It isn't all that long ago that Mr. Adams was saying to us: "Violence is ending! We are on our way to a settlement!"
I don't think this suggestion that you slip back to violence every time something doesn't proceed at a rapid pace is remotely helpful. When Mr. Adams next says that, I suggest the people to whom he says it ask him: "Who is going to return to violence? Are you, Mr. Adams, going to return to violence? Are the IRA going to return to violence?" That is the question Mr. Adams needs to answer and on the basis of what Mr. Adams has been saying in the last year his answer to that question should be no and if it isn't no, how does he explain all the things that he has been saying over the last twelve months?
QUESTION (James Mates -
Prime Minister, on a different subject can I ask you about Chris Patten's remarks that Hong Kong British passport holders should be given the right to live in the UK. Do you agree with these remarks? Did he discuss them with you before he made them? Is it going to be Government policy?
I haven't seen the remarks and I will comment on the remarks when I have seen them and when I have discussed them with Chris. I have not seen them, I have been here, I don't know when or how they were made or in what context so I am not in a position to discuss them at the moment.
QUESTION (Sarah Holmes -
Prime Minister, has there been any progress at all in deciding what the name of the single currency should be?
None whatever. It wasn't mentioned.
QUESTION (Sarah Holmes -
Can you tell us what your favoured thought is at the moment?
No, I can't. I haven't given it any thought at all. The name of a single currency that may be some time ahead doesn’t frankly seem to be the most important issue. The most important issue is what are the implications of a single currency and I spend a lot of time thinking about that but I confess to you in the privacy of this meeting I haven't spent a lot of time thinking about the name of the single currency yet and as I said, it simply wasn’t mentioned.
QUESTION (Robin Oakley -
Prime Minister, you have said that the European Union has got to accommodate itself to a world in which some members will be in a single currency and some will be out. What precise accommodations do you think are necessary?
I am pointing out that the position of the European Union has changed and what I have said I have not said for the first time this weekend though it seems to have struck more of a chord this weekend. It is a message I have delivered elsewhere and to my colleagues in Europe on a number of occasions in the past.
Let us look at what most people think is a possible future. Many people will say to you that a small core of the European Union may be able to go ahead with a single currency in 1999 or perhaps a little later. Let us take as a base for discussion the belief that that might happen, that half a dozen might go ahead.
There are fifteen members now, half a dozen go ahead, nine don't. Within ten years, there could be as many as twenty-
What happens about the fact that the inner core, might integrate more speedily than elsewhere? Have they considered either the political or the economic implications of that? The answer is they haven't considered that.
What are going to be the circumstances in which countries not in the inner core might subsequently join the inner core? That, too, is undetermined.
What happens to the direction of structural funds and the determination of structural funds? If the idea of a single currency is that it would help improve integration and growth, are those countries going to make a greater contribution to the structural funds of the less well-
There are a whole range of other questions like that. I could spend twenty minutes listing for you the questions that have not yet been examined.
We know the aspirations for a single currency, people have set out what they seem to think are the advantages of a single currency but the realities of what it means, how it would be bought out, what its market impact would be, what it would do both to the political and the economic structure of the European Union have not been fully examined and the whole basis of it thus far is that the European Union has tended to move forward broadly together -
The European Union has to address all these questions and decide how it is going to deal with them and it was those questions and others that I put to my European partners in the discussion yesterday. It was not an attempt to cause a row, not an attempt to create a blockage in discussions; it was laying before them practical questions that will need to be examined in the near future and I am delighted to say that there was very general agreement that those matters did need to be examined before irrevocable decisions were taken.
QUESTION (Robin Oakley):
Could you ever envisage as Prime Minister leading Britain into a single currency in the period you would expect to be in that office?
That begs several unknowns, Robin. Firstly, I think it is too early to say. I will look at the circumstances. As I have always said, I do not think a single currency is imminent. Some people believe it may happen for some in 1999 -
QUESTION (John Palmer):
Just a clarification on your last answer to Robin, Prime Minister. The Commission, as you know, are already looking at just the questions that you have raised with your colleagues today and their preliminary conclusions seem to embrace the strong view that non-
Do both of those strike you as practical answers to the questions you raised?
Let me take the three points:
Firstly, the convergence criteria. We invented the convergence criteria, it was British determination that got the convergence criteria into the Maastricht Treaty. The convergence criteria are first and foremost sensible and practical economic aims so of course people should continue to aim for the convergence criteria of low inflation and the other things that go with it. The answer to that is self-
On the second point, frankly, I would be very surprised if it was a majority of the fifteen that were able to move ahead in the first tranche going to a single currency. I wouldn't be surprised, I would be absolutely dumbfounded if that turned out to be the case.
Thirdly, the monetary relationship between the inner core and the outer ring. One of the ideas that has been floated is that the inner core of course will be a single currency so within the inner core there is no exchange rate fluctuation, there is only the one currency. Outside, the proposition is that there should be a strengthened EMS in order to maintain the value of the external outer-
Is it going to be attractive to the countries in the outer ring to find that they don't have what many of them would perceive to be the advantages of being in the inner core but they would have the discipline and responsibility of having to maintain the same exchange rate against the inner core without the advantages of being a member? I wonder how politically saleable that is going to be in all of the countries outside the inner core. It is, again, a worthy aspiration but when you get down to the reality of whether it is politically deliverable in all the countries of the outer core, then I begin to wonder about its practicality and these are the matters that needed to be examined.
On the substantive point, the convergence criteria are self-
Do you think that might be practical [inaudible]?
No, it will not.