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1991 - Mr Major’s Comments on the European Community

Below is the text of Mr Major’s comments on the European Community, made in an interview in Paris on Thursday 12th September 1991.


QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked whether it was possible to widen and deepen the Community].

PRIME MINISTER:

I think it is possible to combine the two, but we have to ensure in the areas of deepening that in deepening we don’t erect the barriers that prevent subsequent widening; that is really the point.

We are facing changes at the moment of an absolutely historic nature. There are chances here for creating a new circumstance across the whole of Europe, the whole of geographic Europe, on a scale nobody would have dreamed about even a few months ago. That is a chance that Western Europe and the Community must not let slip so whilst we look at the developments within the Community for deepening, we must do so and have it against the background of the possibility of widening the European Community very substantially in the years ahead.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if the process should be slowed down].

PRIME MINISTER:

I don’t think it is just a question of slowing it down. There are many matters to be discussed and to be determined on economic and monetary union; we are getting deep into the detail now. The important matter is that as we determine that detail, we do so against a background of what will be possible in the years ahead for the Eastern European nations. We need to make sure that we leave open the possibility for them to meet their ambitions of joining the Community and that what we do does not erect a barrier over which they would never be able to jump.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if a larger Community would fail to agree on issues].

PRIME MINISTER:

It is a Community that is coming. I don’t know of very many European leaders within the Community who don’t actually expect that Community to widen. Even here in Paris yesterday, for example, President Mitterrand signed an agreement with the Hungarians and the Poles that presumed in due course their eventual membership of the European Community.

We have a much wider issue in mind in terms of the general relations within the Community than some of the narrow-minded visions that have sometimes been enacted in the past. It is an opportunity we dare not miss.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if President Mitterrand thought this would take a long time].

PRIME MINISTER:

No-one is suggesting that it is imminent. The Eastern European countries are going to have to prepare their economies so they can be satisfactory members of the Community. What we have to do to them is say: “It is worthwhile preparing your economies. When that has been done and when you are ready, we will say to you: “You are welcome in the Community!”, not “The barriers are up and we don’t want you”. They will be welcome and we must make that clear to them.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if there were still big differences of opinion between President Mitterrand and himself].

PRIME MINISTER:

No. I think you misjudge this question of a deep gulf. We are in the midst of negotiations. When one is in negotiations, there are differing opinions about which Europe has to reach a conclusion between here and Maastricht. It isn’t just a question of differences that may exist on negotiating positions between the British and the French. There are very many differences amongst all the nations in the Twelve at the present time; that is what the negotiations are about; if they didn’t exist, we would have no need for the negotiations, but we have the negotiations in hand and there is a general expectation that we will reach a satisfactory conclusion by Maastricht. That is what I wish to see and I think it is what every other member of the Community would wish to see as well.