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1994 - Mr Major’s Joint Press Conference with Chancellor Helmut Kohl

Below is the text of Mr Major’s joint press conference with the German Chancellor, Helmut Kohl, held in London on Wednesday 27th April 1994.


PRIME MINISTER:

We have had today at Chequers, and with other Ministers elsewhere around London, a formal summit but frankly with a fairly informal side. It has certainly, judging from the reports of the plenary, both been very easy natured and very productive. Many of the meetings that have been held have produced some initiatives and I will touch on some of those in a few moments time.

In the discussions I had with the Chancellor at Chequers we spent the bulk of our time looking at the broad picture of what will happen in the European Union and in our European continent beyond the boundaries of the European Union in the years immediately ahead.

The key issue we were keen to exchange views on today was how to extend the security and prosperity that we have become used to in Western Europe to our neighbours further to the East, and we agreed that Germany and the United Kingdom should continue to work together on that particular objective.

We agreed on three specific projects: first, we will jointly make a proposal to Hungary for our armed forces to hold a trilateral peace-keeping exercise in 1995 in the broad framework of the Partnership for Peace Agreement; secondly, we have agreed to coordinate our national efforts to help Ukraine remove all nuclear weapons from her soil; and thirdly, we agreed to enlarge our traditional bilateral defence seminar and enlarge it by inviting representatives of Partnership for Peace countries to take part next year at our seminar in Hamburg.

We also discussed relations with Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States and other countries of central and eastern Europe. I do not think I need to go into those discussions in depth, our approach to them is virtually identical and our governments continue to cooperate very closely in these areas.

We spent some time this morning looking at the problems of Bosnia. I think there is no doubt after the set-back earlier this month that UNPROFOR has taken a step forward today with the withdrawal of Serb heavy weapons from the surrounds of Gorazde. That was the result of some very difficult and some very carefully measured decisions by NATO and of skilful and courageous work yet again by the United Nations protection forces on the ground. We are both determined to help NATO and UNPROFOR defer aggression against any of the safe areas, but we agreed this morning that the real prize is a negotiated settlement. Both the United Kingdom and Germany are represented in the new contact group that has now been established and that will try to help the United Nations achieve a comprehensive ceasefire which must be linked to the settlement negotiations.

Neither of us were in any doubt that achieving a settlement, a lasting settlement, was likely to be an immensely difficult task, but we share the view that we will have the best chance of achieving that by pooling the diplomatic effort between Europe, the United Nations, Russia and the United States in the contact group that has been established.

We spent some time on European Union matters. The Chancellor of course takes over the Presidency of the Community in a couple of months time and he may wish to say more about that himself in a few moments. But before then we hope to see the accession treaties of the four EFTAn applicants through the European Parliament and signed. During the German Presidency we agreed we wish to work together on specific steps to build up the Union's relations with the countries to the east.

We also identified a fairly long list of European Union subjects where we share a common approach. Simply to list them for you illustrates the scale of the areas of agreement: competitiveness; subsidiarity; deregulation; the single market, especially telecommunications, energy, transport and budgetary discipline; a more effective foreign policy; and common action under the Justice and Home Affairs pillar on illegal immigration, asylum, terrorism, drugs and other forms of crime. We have issued a joint statement on cooperation in those areas which I think you should have by now.

There is no doubt you are going to hear a good deal more about deregulation in Europe. The Chancellor and I wish to see a substantial reduction in the regulatory burdens on European business because we both believe it will help growth and help competitiveness.

We have agreed today to work with the Commission and other members to ensure that deregulation is at the heart of European policy-making in order to promote real increases in competitiveness, employment and economic growth.

At their bilateral the President of the Board of Trade and Herr Rexrodt agreed that an Anglo-German group of businessmen should be invited to scrutinise European Union regulation and to act as a stimulus for specific deregulatory measures in Europe.

I do not wish in these brief remarks to cover all the subjects we discussed, though I should emphasise to you the importance to both countries of the South African elections today. Both Britain and Germany have worked for many years, very often very closely together, to help bring about change in South Africa, so we both wish to do all we can to assist the in-coming government after the elections are concluded in South Africa. We hope to see business investing there and both competing and collaborating to develop the enormous economic potential that we both believe exists in South Africa.

What was clear from our discussions was that the Anglo-German relationship is in very good heart indeed. Our politicians, our professionals, our businessmen, our performers, our cultural figures, all of them know one another, I believe they both like and respect one another as well.

But we did discuss one other matter, we do wish to bring our young people closer together if we possibly can and improve our understanding of each other's countries. So the Chancellor and I agreed this morning that we would ask our officials to come up with specific and imaginative proposals on this and we will discuss them and take decisions on that at our next meeting later this year.

So that is a broad summary of what has been happening, I will invite the Chancellor to add, or if he wishes, subtract from what I have just said.

CHANCELLOR KOHL:

First of all, I will gladly take this opportunity here to thank you and the members of the British Cabinet on my own behalf and also on behalf of my colleagues in the Cabinet, for these very frank, very open, very fruitful talks that were characterised by a spirit of mutual friendship.

The relationship between our two countries are of the utmost importance, particularly if we look towards the future development of the European Union. We have taken different courses during this century and this century will soon end in only a few years time and it was a century that was characterised by a lot of suffering, death and pain, and we see it as our task, looking to our children and generations to come, to build a cooperation characterised by friendship and mutual trust in all possible areas.

And John, here in front of the public of your country, l would like to thank you personally, John, for the fact that during your time in office we have been able to discuss matters in such a frank, open and very warm atmosphere and I trust that we might be able to continue that.

The Prime Minister has just mentioned in his introduction most of the issues that we discussed, I would just like to make a few remarks. The first remark is that another subject which we discussed was one that may not be the most dramatic one, but that is important too, we agreed that until the next Anglo-German consultations to enlarge and intensify the exchange of young people, I think that this is a very important subject indeed. You know that we should foster this to the best of our abilities and I think there should be very many possibilities for young people to meet and to get to know each other.

On 3 September in Berlin we will, together with Vice President Al Gore, Francois Mitterrand and John Major, take leave of the allied troops that have been stationed in Berlin for so long and I would like to use this opportunity to thank the hundreds and thousands of British soldiers who served in our country and who lived together with their families in our country and the fact that we, before unification the Federal Republic of Germany, were able to maintain our freedom and peace and the fact that we have been given this gift of German unification is due to the fact that they have served and done their duty in our country. I know it is not fashionable these days to say "Thank You", but I would like to use this opportunity to say a very warm "Thank You" to you.

The Prime Minister mentioned a number of issues that we discussed this morning, we were totally in agreement that we should do everything in our power in order to give help for self help to the reforming countries in central and eastern Europe and I think that we have after all entered into a promise here and we have said to those people who were subjugated under the yoke of communism, should you throw off that yoke, should you introduce democracy, the rule of law and a market economy, we will help you, and we have to keep this promise now.

We talked about the important vote that will be taken next week in the European Parliament on the accession of the EFTA countries -Norway, Sweden, Finland and Norway - and we hope that there will be a clear majority of the European Parliament for this accession.

Another important issue was the German Presidency, Germany will take over the Presidency of the European Union in only a few weeks and we have agreed on trying to promote a number of very important issues together in very close coordination and cooperation, close cooperation also of the immediate members of our personal staff.

Of the many issues that we discussed this morning that will play a role in the second half of this year, I would like to only mention a few. First of all a discussion of the white book on employment and economic growth. In spite of the positive developments that we see in our economic systems the problem of the loss of jobs is a concern, one of the most important concerns that we both share, the problems that many people have to find jobs. And John Major talked about the intensification of cooperation in the common foreign and security field, and there is another area where we should cooperate, namely in home matters, in domestic matters, would like to mention here particularly the fight against organised crime, against the mafia. In only few weeks time there will be a summit meeting under the Greek Presidency and we will have this on the agenda.

Another important subject obviously is the issue of migration and the whole complex of issues related to asylum. Then another subject that we discussed already in Edinburgh but which I think has not really developed in a very positive sense, something that is at the real heart of the integration of Europe, namely the subject of deregulation, getting away from too much rhetoric, too much bureaucracy on a European level, and that is a subject that I take a personal interest in.

In Germany we are very satisfied, although one would have to wait and see whether optimism is really in place here, but there seems to be a bit of light at least at the end of the tunnel in former Yugoslavia in view of the developments this morning. We sincerely hope that those who have political responsibility in Serbia understand the message that the civilised world has sent to them, and last but not least, that NATO has sent to them.

A last point. Since we have waged so many battles together, the British government and the German government, over the past 10 years on South Africa on abolishing apartheid, racial discrimination, I would like to say that we both note with particular pleasure and satisfaction that the elections are now going on in South Africa and let me say that I am hopeful that they will be democratic and free elections, obviously we would all have to remember here in Europe that this is an enormous undertaking and we all hope I think for peaceful developments there in South Africa.

In one word and in a nutshell, John, thank you for the very warm and friendly reception and we will go on and continue to work together closely.


QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

QUESTION:

Chancellor, two questions, the first one as to the relationship between the UK and Germany. One sees that the mood seems to have improved considerably since the predecessor of Mr. Major left office.

CHANCELLOR KOHL:

He has his own complex, John, you know!

SAME MAN:

There are certain irritations in the press however on for example the commemoration of D-Day. Do you feel that this is something normal or do you think that this is a burden on the relationship?

The second question is on Europe where too one has mentioned a number of different accents that seem to be put on different parts of policy by the two governments. Do you think that what has been the policy enumerated in the Maastricht Treaty is no longer realistic in the light of present developments? And then the development of Europe will not go without blood, sweat and tears?

CHANCELLOR KOHL:

Well, John, I have known this esteemed colleague from the British press for a long time and I would have been very disappointed had he not mentioned your predecessor in office. That has been his standard subject for many years.

The relationship is an excellent one and has been for a long time and I don't think one should make any bones about it and as far as I can see, in every family however there are obviously disagreements and there are as far as I can see also in every newspaper editor's room about this.

As to the events that will commemorates what happened fifty years ago, I must say quite frankly that I really don't understand what people are talking about. When I read these reports in the press I am really surprised because at no point in time did I ever seek to get invited to the commemorations for D-Day and had I been invited I would not have attended and this was very well known so this has never been an issue between us but what is I think quite a matter of course and understandable to everyone is that we want to learn our lesson from history and if next year for example, looking back on the end of the Second World War, we agree to meet and to remember the dead of that war and to pay our respects to the victims of that particular war it will be in the joint conviction that it is our duty - and let me say this on a very personal note; after all I was 15 years old when the war ended so I have a very personal memory of it - that we feel obliged to see to it that no generation will ever be in such a situation again in Europe that there be war between them.

As to enlargement, I think we have a common policy concert and we will have to obviously discuss that during the Presidency.

As to the question of union, from the German point of view there has always been a very clear list of priorities. The first and most important point has been and will always be that a future joint European currency will have to be subordinated to the laws of stability and that stability is more important than anything else.

As to the date, I think you should wait and see a little but after all I was in Paris six years ago and had I said at the time that the Common European market will be introduced and if I had given you the date and people would have been very doubtful five years ago had I told you we would agree on the Maastricht Treaty and adopt it. People here would have said: "Well now he has finally gone round the bend! That treaty will never come!" People said it would never be ratified and now it has been ratified and is being ratified so please be a bit patient with us!

Here in this house you can feel history in every nook and cranny and you can feel also that time is very relevant if you look back into history. What is important now is that we make the right decision and this is what we want.

QUESTION:

I wanted to know if the chances of the Belgian Prime Minister for the Presidency of the EC Commission are stronger after this summit than before.

PRIME MINISTER:

I read in the newspapers today, those that I read, that the Chancellor and I were supposed to be having "sharp disagreements" I think was the expression over the Presidency of the Commission, I hate to disappoint you but we haven't managed a sharp disagreement today on any subject at all!

As far as the Commission Presidency is concerned, the question is now only beginning to come under discussion around European capitals. It didn't feature high on our agenda and it is not something which will be decided between Britain and Germany or indeed between any two member states; it is a collective decision for all the members of the European Union.

The matter will almost certainly be discussed at the Corfu Council which is still two months away and the Twelve will collectively look for a well-qualified candidate who can command general support. It is not absolutely necessary that the decision is made at Corfu but clearly we will examine it there. At this stage it isn't yet wholly clear who all the candidates might be. I have heard at least half a dozen names mentioned; it may be others will be mentioned as well so there is no sharp disagreement, no determination who the next President of the Commission will be, it is a decision for a later time in a larger group.

CHANCELLOR KOHL:

John, let me comment if I may. I would like to say that the Federal Government has not in any way made any firm choice or is trying to push any particular candidate. The purported talks that have been reported in the papers have never taken place. Obviously we will consult about this matter with partners in the European Union, with colleagues of state and government so whoever is reporting that we have already fixed a candidate will report something that is totally wrong and if you think that I am a candidate you may rest assured that I will certainly not be a candidate for this particular post.

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, your former colleague in government, Lord Young, who is now Chairman of Cable & Wireless launched a very strong attack yesterday on the European Community. He suggested Britain was wasting its time being a member of it and should actually look to the emerging markets in the Far East. He also gave a very strong warning about unemployment in Europe and the rise of fascism. Could I have your response to that please?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think there is total agreement certainly between the Chancellor and I and amongst the other European Heads of Government as well that Europe can't be inward-looking, that Europe does have to look to the Far East and elsewhere. It is with those markets that we have to compete. Germany and Britain don't just have to compete against Spain and against France; we have to compete against Japan, the United States, the Pacific Basin and Latin America as well so to that extent Lord Young is right to say that the whole of the European Union must lift its sights and make sure that it collectively can compete with the rest of the world. There is nothing startling about that. The Chancellor and I would absolutely agree with that point.

We also think that within the European Union a great deal has been gained collectively by the development of the Community into the present Union. That would be our view on the latter point but of course we must look beyond the European Union. We are not, we can't be and we never will be a narrow inward-looking group that doesn't raise its sights to what goes on in the rest of the world so of course we will compete beyond it. A great deal of Britain's trade is with the European Union, we are massive trading partners of Germany, Germany are our largest trading partners in the European Union but we also have very substantial trade in the Far East, America, Africa and elsewhere and so of course do our partners so I think Lord Young on the substantive part of his thesis was preaching a gospel that would be generally accepted.

QUESTION (Barnaby Mason, BBC World Service):

Prime Minister and Chancellor, you are both in favour I think of opening up the European Union towards the countries of central and eastern Europe. What changes, what reforms do you think there are going to have to be in the structure of the European Union in order among other things that it should be able to pay for the financial implications of enlargement?

CHANCELLOR KOHL:

Before I answer the question, allow me to make just one remark on what Lord Young said. In the Federal Republic of Germany every fourth job comes from export into countries of the European Union and allow me half in jest to say that the productivity of the European Union cannot be seen if you look at the atlas of 1914, you have to look at the map of today of 1994; then you can see very clearly that the world is a very changed place and that the world has changed for the United Kingdom, changed for Germany and changed for all.

Right now we are in the final phase of enlargement of the European Union with new members Norway, Finland, Sweden and Austria coming in and obviously after the referenda are taken in these countries and the decision has been made there needs.to be a certain phase of tranquillity, a certain breathing space when one has to discuss the consequences for institutions, for the Parliament, for the budget in the European Union because after all we must not have a situation where enlargement means that we raise the number of funds to an unlimited number; we also have to achieve budget stability.

Secondly, under German Presidency - and I am saying this in such a general way because I don't want to preempt anything that anyone else might want to say - we will have to discuss in public an enlargement at a later point in time. I don't want to mention any dates here but obviously under the precondition that these countries themselves actually want it and actually create at home the necessary preconditions for that it will have to be seen in such a way that the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary would be the first candidates for that enlargement. Then we will have to talk very frankly about where we see limits to enlargement and in all the discussions that are now going on about enlargement, further enlargement will certainly not be possible. We will have to discuss the possibilities of concluding Treaties of Association in the security field and the foreign policy field and in the economic field and enlargement over and above the countries that I have mentioned and on the list of the Parliament for next week for the vote but that will only be possible in a number of years and when this will be no-one is able to say and certainly only after the present enlargement has been concluded.

PRIME MINISTER:

Those who are familiar with the British position on enlargement will have been familiar with what the Chancellor has just said. I think it indicates the degree of practical agreement between us on many of these issues. Clearly, we have to look at institutional change. It also means looking at policies. As the Chancellor said, there is no bottomless budgetary pit and we have to take account of the economic readiness of applicant countries as staging posts. We will wish to see what we can do in a variety of ways - trade liberalisation and other ways as well - to help encourage the next tranche of members to become ready for membership and to look at Association and other agreements to achieve it. That is very much a matter that we will need to address not in the far distance but in the near distance so that we can begin to prepare the path for those applicant countries we have identified and assist them to become ready to join the Union.

QUESTION (Andrew Marr):

Could I ask the two leaders whether they believe that the historical drive for a deeper Union is now over?

CHANCELLOR KOHL:

I certainly don't think so, certainly not. We are right now at the front of a development that may have both possibilities in it. We will have to do a lot of work, we will have to increase the awareness of people in our countries about what is going on. We have to disseminate information but I must say I am very clear in my mind that if we were to be asked how do we want to shape the future of countries going back on what we have achieved would mean yesterday and then there is a common future in a European Union that is not a centralist state, not a supranational entity that takes care of everything. Quite the contrary would be a Community where we all of us maintain our identity, where we bring in our traditions, our culture, where the British stay British, the French French, the Germans German and it would be a rather boring sort of club if we were not to maintain our national peculiarities.

In the decisive questions however as they relate to the acceptance of our people we would not be able to cope with matters. Just look at the worldwide challenge posed by the subject of environmental pollution and other matters like development policy, the gap between rich and poor countries; look at the European Union! In spite of all the difficulties that we may have it is actually a community of the rich nations. If I look at the task that we have in order to maintain peace, freedom and security on our continent no-one should believe that these terrible spectres of the past, these terrible ghosts of the past, are only at home on the Balkans; they may raise their ugly heads at any minute and there are a number of other issues where I feel we have to work strongly together. I think that we are now at a historical cross-roads where we have the possibility to ensure that one's own country enjoys prosperity and wealth and together with our partners we go into the future and create that sort of prosperity for all of us.

PRIME MINISTER:

As the Chancellor said, we illustrated earlier some areas of greater cooperation not a centralist state as the Chancellor indicated a moment or so ago but if one pitches one's mind forward for a few years and looks at the sort of world we will be living in - Japan, a much, more powerful China, United States, Russia - there are going to be areas where in the collective European interest one will wish to have the collective European muscle and those are areas of cooperation where it is very much in the interests of each individual country in Europe to seek cooperation. The Chancellor touched on some, I would offer others! The initiatives that were developed between our Home and Interior Ministers today on crime are an illustration where it is practical for us to work together. You can call that "deepening" if you wish. The development of the foreign policy pillars is another illustration where one works as individual nations but collectively exercising muscle. They both arise - the home affairs pillar and the foreign affairs pillar - out of the Maastricht Treaty and there are developments like this where it is going to be collectively in the interests of the European states without, as the Chancellor emphasised, creating a centralist state which so many people not just in the United Kingdom are concerned about, where it is in the interests of all of us in the European Union to cooperate so I think there are many areas.

QUESTION (Robin Oakley, BBC):

Could I ask Chancellor Kohl please: we are at the moment in the European elections campaign. Does he think that the European Parliament has sufficient powers at present and if not, how would he like to see those powers enhanced at the next intergovernmental conference in 1996?

CHANCELLOR KOHL:

I think that the European Parliament now has an enlarged competence after the Maastricht Treaty. One may obviously discuss whether one has actually gone a step further in adopting the Maastricht Treaty but I do think that we have gone a step further. Now the new Parliament will be elected and will have to deal with its rights and obligations. There will be a certain phase of transition which we will have to get used to it and you will see after a certain phase of consolidation that for the first time the European Parliament will actually be able to have a say and a very significant say in the appointment of the President of the Commission.

I am for pragmatic solutions. I don't think that one should hold any dogma. I must say that I am rather surprised that the Germans should be all of a sudden the pragmatists and that there are others in Europe who look at the subject in a way that I think is particularly German. I am for a number of many small steps but I am for making those steps. As to how they may develop also in view of the intergovernmental conference in 1996 one would have to look at that in the light of developments.

There is one thing that I would like to mention here. If I look back fifteen years ago when we discussed the question of competency at the European Parliament, if I remember my first EC summit meeting in December 1982 in Copenhagen at what was possible then and what is now reality now, I am not pessimistic at all.