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1993 - Mr Major’s Joint Doorstep Interview with the French Prime Minister

Below is the text of Mr Major’s joint doorstep interview with the French Prime Minister, Mr Edouard Balladur, held in London on Tuesday 4th May 1993.


PRIME MINISTER:

I am very pleased this evening to welcome the Prime Minister here for talks. We have had an hour or so before dinner to talk, we will be returning over dinner and perhaps after dinner to deal with a range of other issues. I had the pleasure of congratulating the Prime Minister on his remarkable election victory and we spent some time discussing a whole range of issues. we have in fact had opportunities for discussions before, during the period I was Chancellor we have had a number of discussions.

We have spent this evening looking at a number of matters of bilateral interest so far. Of course we have touched upon the problems in Bosnia in which both France and the United Kingdom have a very great interest and we both have a significant number of troops on the ground in Bosnia. We have looked at a range of European. Community issues and we have looked forward at how we will deal with those in the future. We have discussed how to take the European Community forward and we hope to discuss these and a range of other matters later on this evening.

M. BALLADUR:

I was really happy to be meeting with the Prime Minister, whom I had already met on other occasions. This gives me the opportunity of saying how deeply attached I am to the strengthening of close ties between Great Britain and France. Of course there are plenty of problems and the Prime Minister has already listed some and we have noted a broad convergence of views on many subjects, including I would say that I have great confidence in the fact that the United Kingdom will decide to ratify the treaty on European Union. And as far as Bosnia is concerned, we really share the same concerns, that is that the region should in fact be able to live under the rule of law and human rights and that the whole region will move towards peace. And we also exchanged our views on the conversations that we had, I think, with your Prime Minister on Sunday and for me this morning with Mr. Warren Christopher. And we spoke of the respective situations of our two countries from the domestic point of view and from the economic point of view and it is our intention to continue talking over dinner and afterwards.

QUESTION:

M. Balladur, have you perhaps considered the joint attitude if the Bosnian Serb Parliament decides to refuse the agreement, would you contemplate working together, what would your position be?

M. BALLADUR:

As you know, Madam, in all world affairs there are always two possibilities, there is the favourable outcome or the pessimistic outcome, and we have looked at the two possibilities, and between the two of us we have noted no fundamental divergence.

QUESTION:

Are you prepared [indistinct] a stormy agenda?

PRIME MINISTER:

We have never ruled out action of that sort, we have set out our views repeatedly, we have never ruled it out, we must wait and see.

QUESTION:

Do you think there will be an over-stretch if we commit more troops to Bosnia, will you stop the Army cuts; and are there any circumstances under which you could accept the Social Chapter?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think on the first of your two questions we first have to make sure that there is a satisfactory peace, there is not a satisfactory peace, no-one has been discussing the question of putting troops on the ground in order to make a peace. If there is a peace we have to look at the question of keeping the peace and if that is so that may well be an operation by NATO, discussions are going ahead, many people would have to contribute, but I think that problem lies a little ahead and I have no more to say about that this evening, but I am sure we can cope with any problem that arises. On the second question, I have made my position about that clear often enough and it has not changed.

QUESTION:

Can I ask M. Balladur why, as a fellow Conservative politician, he does not share Mr Major's reservations about the Social Chapter and the impact it would have on French jobs?

M. BALLADUR:

Firstly I am not absolutely sure of being a Conservative, I would also say that I am a Liberal. The adjectives do not mean quite the same thing in English and in French and it is true that as far as I am concerned the Treaty on European Union contains a certain number of social elements which personally I approve of. The third is, in any case, to some extent, if I may say so, past history because the problem was discussed at length and settled during the negotiations.

QUESTION:

In that case are you disappointed that it is still an issue in this country?

M. BALLADUR:

I cannot say that I am disappointed that you should be yourself raising the issue and asking the question, you are obviously entitled to ask any question that you wish.

QUESTION:

Did you talk about GATT?

M. BALLADUR:

We did talk about GATT briefly and we will continue to some extent over dinner and as you know it is our intention to explain clearly to our partners the various items on which we call for greater precision. And I told the Prime Minister that I would be giving your Prime Minister the list of these questions within the next two weeks. And I said the same thing to Chancellor Kohl two weeks ago.

QUESTION:

[Inaudible] Battle of Trafalgar?

M. BALLADUR:

The British seem to talk about the matter so often that I do not quite see what one can add on the subject.

QUESTION:

[Not interpreted].

M. BALLADUR:

That is a matter for the English to sort out among themselves, it is not my business.

QUESTION:

[Inaudible] on the Vance/Owen plan in the next coming days?

PRIME MINISTER:

That is exactly one of the matters that we are discussing within the Allies at the moment, we are discussing it with the Americans, we have had the opportunity of discussing that this evening, but I think that is a matter that is better concluded in discussion before we make the announcement..

QUESTION:

[Inaudible].

PRIME MINISTER:

I think our position has been made pretty clear on the Social Chapter, it was not readily reached. It is a position that is very widely shared across British industry and commerce, it is not a position that is unique to the British government. We have a different structure of social provision in this country to many of our colleagues in different parts of the continent and it is partly a result of that different structure that makes us so reserved about the particular application of the Social Chapter.

So I think our position is pretty clear, has not changed and has been consistent throughout, and as the Prime Minister said, it was accepted by all our partners when we had the negotiations at Maastricht.

QUESTION:

[Inaudible].

PRIME MINISTER:

As I said, it was discussed and accepted by our colleagues in the negotiations in Maastricht and our position on Amendment 27 some time ago was made perfectly clear and has not changed.

QUESTION:

[Inaudible].

PRIME MINISTER:

I made it clear a moment ago, our position has not changed, we must wait and see.

QUESTION:

When you were talking about the possibility of an unfortunate [indistinct] in Bosnia did you have in mind the idea of lifting the arms embargo?

M. BALLADUR:

I really do not think that we can today in public look at all the possible scenarios and all the possible answers to every problem that could arise. We discussed these matters with our partners and our allies and when the time comes we will make our position known, but our allies know our position already.

QUESTION:

On GATT, is the French position still the same, that better no agreement than a bad agreement?

M. BALLADUR:

It is not only GATT, I think that in all fields you could really say that it is better to have no agreement than a bad agreement.

QUESTION:

The Bosnian Serbs have launched a new offensive against certain Muslim held places, does this strengthen the resolve of the British and French governments to strengthen their position, militarily perhaps, and what would be the possible size of a military involvement of Britain and France in Bosnia?

M. BALLADUR:

All I can do is to answer what the Prime Minister has already said, and I have already said it myself, we are looking at all the possible situations that could arise and how to respond to each of those possible situations, and as far as I am concerned it is not my intention to say any more.

PRIME MINISTER:

On my part, I think the Prime Minister summarised my views very accurately. We have spent some time discussing it upstairs, I do not think it is helpful to discuss it any further at the moment. We are looking at all the possibilities, there are a range of possibilities at the moment as events move forward. Clearly we would like the peace to hold, we would like the Security Council Resolution as speedily as possible, we would like a proper ceasefire, we would then like to look at how we can actually make that ceasefire operate successfully, be successfully implemented, and deal with the problems that then begin to need to be faced after the ceasefire is in place. That is what we wish to do but I think the mechanisms between here and there are not mechanisms I wish to discuss this evening.