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1992 - Mr Major’s Joint Doorstep Interview with Ruud Lubbers

Below is the text of Mr Major’s joint doorstep interview with the Dutch Prime Minister, Mr Ruud Lubbers, held in Edinburgh on Monday 7th December 1992.


QUESTION:

I think you talked about the Danish position, can you say something about that issue?

PRIME MINISTER:

We talked about the whole range of issues at Edinburgh and beyond Edinburgh. We ran through the agenda. We looked at the question of Denmark and future financing, enlargement, all the issues we expect to face at Edinburgh. I think we are both committed to making sure that Edinburgh is a success and the Community can show it's on a forward path. I hope very much we will be able to reach an agreement over the weekend that will enable the Danes to put the whole question back to a new Referendum.

QUESTION:

Why do you think Edinburgh will be a success, because the EC is in a rather desperate position right now?

PRIME MINISTER:

The European Community is a fairly remarkable organisation. Over the years it has had many occasions where it faced difficulties. It has hurdled those difficulties. It has faced them and overcome them. I think that when we get to Edinburgh the many difficulties to be overcome, there's a general will to overcome them.

QUESTION:

There's a general will to overcome them?

PRIME MINISTER:

There's a general will.

QUESTION:

And you saw that general will as well from Mr Lubbers?

PRIME MINISTER:

Ask the Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER LUBBERS:

Of course we discussed the very useful proposal of the British presidency about the Danish problem and as was said in other capitals, we think it can be improved. Certain elements of it, as I explained to the press in the Netherlands already on Friday. But I see good possibilities. You never know of course. It will be difficult and the same is for the other topics we have to discuss. It won't be easy. Europe is often at its best when it is difficult.

QUESTION:

The Christian Democratic leaders have said last week that they won't accept the British solution on the Danish issue.

PRIME MINISTER LUBBERS:

Oh, that's the way we prepare meetings. Always it is the same.

PRIME MINISTER:

Would you go into a meeting saying I agree with everything if you are just about to go into negotiations? That is the standard way the Community prepares.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, what kind of improvements could you bring to this proposal to solve [inaudible].

PRIME MINISTER:

What we brought forward for the meeting over the weekend is a compromise between the necessary changes that are there to ensure that Denmark can successfully put the Referendum back and the changes that the rest of the Community are prepared to accept. There are some things that the Community can't accept. We can't accept changes to the Maastricht Treaty itself. We can't accept things that require re-ratification. And there has to be flexibility both on behalf of Denmark and on behalf of the rest of the Community. Now we have put forward a proposal in some small areas where I think there will be further discussion at Edinburgh. I hope it will be possible to reach a conclusion. No-one can be absolutely certain about that. We will have to wait till Edinburgh. But what is perfectly clear, talking to every head of Government across the Community, is that there is a general will to see whether we can reach an agreement. Everybody will be going there trying to reach an agreement and I think that is a very satisfactory way to begin the meeting at Edinburgh.

QUESTION:

Will there be a motion to stimulate the European economy?

PRIME MINISTER:

We will be discussing the European economy of course.

PRIME MINISTER LUBBERS:

Of course we will do that.

QUESTION:

Do you think that it is still possible that Denmark will take over the European Presidency in January?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, its not only possible, it is certain they will.

QUESTION:

Still?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes.

QUESTION:

Could we have your comments about the rejection by Switzerland of the EEA? Both of you please.

PRIME MINISTER:

It is not a wholly unexpected rejection, given the nature of the Swiss constitution. They needed to win in each and every Canton, so I don't think it is a great surprise they have said no. I think it is a disappointment for Switzerland and for others. What will now happen, of course, is that the Swiss will have excluded themselves from the largest free trading market in the world, and the free trading market that is getting larger. The other EFTA states will no doubt now hold a conference and decide how to proceed. What I think is absolutely clear is that in no way will this diminish the wish of the other EFTA states to join the Community proper.

PRIME MINISTER LUBBERS:

It is a pity of course, but as the Dutch Prime Minister, I want to pinpoint, make clear that we have a separate agreement with Austria and Switzerland about a very important transit problem, and that was made separately and was accepted by the Swiss population a few months earlier. Frankly speaking, that was the most important part for us and that is not endangered by this Referendum.

QUESTION:

But the Edinburgh summit can't be a failure? You agree with that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Everyone will be working to make sure the Edinburgh summit is a success.

[Remaining section was in Dutch, and translated to the below]

QUESTION:

Have you been given British support for the siting of one the European Institutions in the Netherlands?

PRIME MINISTER LUBBERS:

The British hold the Presidency. They are only looking for consensus and agreement and I do not have the feeling that it has become easier now than it was in Maastricht or in Lisbon. I am talking about the whole question of the siting of institutions.

QUESTION:

Your colleague Mr Major has been criticised for being too British in his Presidency. Do you share that criticism?

PRIME MINISTER LUBBERS:

We are now busy preparing for Edinburgh and making the best of it, and in the week to come there should be no criticism - only cooperation.

QUESTION:

Mr Lubbers, last Friday you said that you and Mr Major would come with a few suggestions for the Danish problem.

PRIME MINISTER LUBBERS:

That is what we have done. That is why he was looking so cheerful.