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1997 - Mr Major’s Joint Doorstep Interview with the French Prime Minister, Alain Juppe

Below is the text of Mr Major’s joint doorstep interview in London with the French Prime Minister, Mr Alain Juppe, held on Monday 3rd February 1997.


PRIME MINISTER:

Good afternoon. Let me firstly say what a pleasure it is to welcome the Prime Minister again to the United Kingdom. Over the last couple of years, or perhaps longer, we have had the opportunity of a number of meetings, they have always been immensely enjoyable and very constructive and I think I can say that of our meeting here again today.

We had a pretty wide agenda, I will run through the heads of it, invite the Prime Minister to speak and then we will take your questions.

I think if I went into the detail of all we had been discussing, we would be here until a very late hour this evening. We discussed a number of bilateral matters before turning on to the European agenda, concentrating most comprehensively upon the Intergovernmental Conference, but also discussing the prospects for economic and monetary union and communal European interests with the rest of the world.

We also looked at a number of specific issues - enlargement of the European Union, enlargement of NATO, the present situation in a number of overseas countries, we also looked at the problem in the Great Lakes and a number of international issues of that sort about which we have a mutual interest.

In many of the European matters we have a common view, in others I think, as is well known, we have a different view at present but are trying to see to what extent we can bring divergent views together and I think we had a very useful explanation, one to the other, of the areas of difficulty we both see in the Intergovernmental Conference.

I think I will leave the details for your questions and invite the Prime Minister to say a few words.

M JUPPE:

[Interpretation inaudible].

QUESTION:

Prime Minister Juppe, do you think the single currency will come into effect on 1st January 1999 and why do you think it would be in Britain’s interest to join on that date?

M JUPPE:

I am deeply convinced that the single currency will be implemented next year, in 1998, and as you know France will be ready at that time to enter the single currency. Our budget policy, our anti-inflation policy and so on will allow us to meet the criteria and those criteria are wise criteria, as you know. We also think that it will be in the interests of all our partners, and especially of Great Britain, to join us, but I think that John major has reason to explain this better than I do, but I wish that either in the first wave or in the second wave Great Britain will join us.

QUESTION (Adam Boulton, Sky News):

Is the British government now in favour in principle of the single currency, as the Foreign Secretary has accused Mr Blair of being and M. Juppe, what do you see as being the significance of this possible division between the Labour Party and the Conservative Party?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think you know very well our position on a single currency. We are not absolutely certain that it will be ready for 1999 and there is a difference of view between our European partners and us upon that about whether the convergence criteria will be clearly sustainable at that particular date. Clearly the importance of the economic criteria are such that if it isn’t sustainable we are very dubious about the desirability of it proceeding.

And I will comment on the Labour Party’s position when I have been discussing the Labour Party’s position and not after I have been discussing the British Government’s position with the Prime Minister.

M JUPPE:

No comment on domestic affairs of course.

QUESTION:

M Juppe, does the existence of the social chapter in France present an obstacle to job creation?

M JUPPE:

I don’t think so. I think there is no relation or no link between those two elements. I think that our main objective to create jobs in France is to consolidate our budget and financial situation and I think we are making very interesting progress on this way. As you know unemployment has decreased in France during the last month of December and we have many signs of an improvement of the situation of our companies, especially our small businesses and as you know small business is likely to be the place where jobs can be created most efficiently in France.

QUESTION (Tom Burrows, Market News):

A story in the Independent today says that France and Germany have come close to an agreement on some kind of stability council, that would be some kind of counterpart to the European Central Bank. Given the concerns about this, particularly from some quarters both here and also in Germany about what this would mean for the Central Bank’s independence, where do you both stand on the issue of such a council and what its status should be?

M JUPPE:

We obviously respect the independence of the central banks, of the French central bank, of other European central banks and of course of the European central bank when EMU will be in effect. But it is also absolutely necessary to have a cooperation dialogue between the countries which will participate in EMU and the Council of Stability and Growth is the place where this cooperation must take place. It is in the spirit of the Maastricht Treaty and there is no question of stopping the independence of the Central Bank in such a project.

QUESTION:

[Indistinct] of a Labour Government?

M JUPPE:

I have already answered that question saying there is going to be no comment on domestic affairs and you can just use this answer to all the following questions on the same issue.

QUESTION:

Did you discuss defence matters and are you in agreement that it should be the Western European Union rather than the European Union that should proceed to control those [Indistinct].

PRIME MINISTER:

We discussed defence matters in some respects, we discussed for example the NATO Summit and we discussed the desirability of developing a European defence identity as the European arm of NATO. We did not discuss the organisational question to which you refer.

QUESTION:

Did the British Prime Minister give the French Prime Minister any useful home recipes as to how to manage the economy, and if so what are you going to do about it?

M JUPPE:

[Interpretation inaudible].

QUESTION.

[Indistinct] intervene in the current situation in Serbia with regard to the local elections?

M JUPPE:

[Interpretation inaudible].

PRIME MINISTER:

That is my view as well.

QUESTION:

Could you just make a comment on Serbia in English for the international press?

PRIME MINISTER:

As the Prime Minister just said, we are concerned that the legitimate outcome of the elections is honoured and that has been a European Union position, I think it is very well known. We spent some time looking at the position both in the short term and the long term in Serbia and also in Bosnia Herzegovina and clearly there is a great deal to be done. I don’t wish to go into the details of what we discussed.

QUESTION:

Since Prime Minister, you said that you talked about a number of international issues, did you talk about Algeria and if so what did you say?

M JUPPE:

[Interpretation inaudible].

QUESTION:

Can you comment on England’s World Cup row with Germany?

PRIME MINISTER:

The last time we played Germany we lost on penalties, it was an extremely good game and I think we were very unlucky to lose but it was a very good one. Whether we will lose as far as 2006 is concerned is a long way away. We think that the United Kingdom could stage the World Cup with skill and style and the Football Association will have the Government’s full support in its bid to do so.