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1995 - Mr Major’s Doorstep Interview in Paris

Below is the transcript of Mr Major’s doorstep interview in Paris on Friday 9th June 1995.


PRIME MINISTER:

Let me just, before I take a few questions, say a word or two about this evening's meeting. It was a very businesslike meeting indeed, we covered a very great deal of ground and I am looking forward very much to the bilateral with President Chirac tomorrow morning. We have a lot to discuss tomorrow but we traipsed a little over some of the ground we will look at in our discussions with colleagues this evening.

Three principal areas that we discussed this evening: the forthcoming European conference at Cannes and a range of issues that are on the agenda; the European Union/American summit where President Chirac will represent the European Union in a few days time; and the G7 summit at Halifax.

We spent a long time in the midst of those discussions also looking at the present and future policy on Bosnia, what had happened, the chance of a diplomatic settlement, the role of the International Rapid Reaction Corps and the British Rapid Reaction Corps when it arrives there in due course.

If I can run through those different items. Insofar as the European/American summit was concerned, there were a range of matters discussed, the possibility of improving trade relations, the European attitude on a number of matters where we have a mutual interest with the Americans, Bosnia of course being the most obvious example. Not a great deal there I think to talk to you about.

As far as the G7 summit was concerned, we had quite a significant discussion about the prospect of reform of United Nations institutions, clearly something that President Chirac feels strongly about, as indeed do the United Kingdom. A number of other colleagues expressed fairly strong views about that as well and that is clearly going to be an important subject when we get to Halifax.

Also some discussion about unemployment generally both in relation to Halifax and in relation to the Cannes Summit. Most of our time was spent on various elements of what will be discussed at Cannes. The Commission will table their Green Paper on Economic and Monetary Union. No decisions were taken about that this evening and no decisions are expected to be taken at Cannes. What will happen, I think is a fairly thorough discussion of the Green Paper to set, if I can use the European phrase, an orientation for the Study Group that will continue its work, well we frankly don't know how long, perhaps up to Christmas, perhaps in time to report at Madrid, perhaps not.

We discussed the progress we were making towards being able to establish Europol and a range of other issues that are likely to come up in Cannes.

A number of people stressed in the discussions that we will have at Cannes that whilst of course they were looking at the Green Paper on Economic and Monetary Union, it was important to make sure that the European Union became a good deal more relevant to people right across Europe. In that respect I think it was perhaps the most down to earth and practical discussion of this sort that I have heard amongst European Heads of Government for quite a long time. There was considerable interest about what might be done practically to assure people across Europe that the European Heads of Government were concerned about the levels of unemployment.

There was quite a discussion about the relative lack of speed with which the Trans-European networks had proceeded and some irritation that not more had happened. I am sure at Cannes a firm impetus to those will almost certainly be given.

That is a fairly sketchy outline of what was a fairly vivacious two and a half hours and one I very much enjoyed.


QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, did you commit your government tonight to link all the EMU convergence targets that have been agreed, and whether you think at Cannes there will be discussion about the name of the single currency?

PRIME MINISTER:

On the latter point, I am not expecting discussion on the name of the single currency. Most certainly if anyone is planning to raise it at Cannes there was absolutely no mention of it this evening, either directly or implicitly with somebody hinting that might be on the agenda. It certainly was not discussed at all this evening. As far as the convergence criteria was concerned, there was a lot of discussion about the convergence criteria, I think almost everybody mentioned their importance, and indeed it was the British who were instrumental in having the convergence criteria written into the Maastricht Treaty. Nobody this evening re-committed themselves to the Maastricht criteria, we have all committed ourselves to them in the past. As far as the United Kingdom is concerned, we committed ourselves to them because we  think they are sensible economic criteria in any event, quite separate from their necessity if anyone proposes to move forward to Stage III of EMU. But there was no commitment by anyone especially tonight but there was a great deal of discussion about how important they are.

QUESTION:

On Bosnia, have there been sufficient offers of extra troops from other countries to the Rapid Reaction Force, and those offers that there have been, do they mean that Europe as well as Britain is prepared to get in deeper in Bosnia?

PRIME MINISTER:

There was a great deal of support this evening. This evening was not the occasion for people to offer extra commitment, though the Dutch certainly have and I expect that others will do so. But nobody was in the business of doing that this evening, it was not that sort of discussion. What I should have mentioned to you earlier, and neglected to do so, was that we did agree this evening that Carl Bildt should be appointed as the single negotiator for the European Union. Whether he will represent the whole of the Contact Group is a matter still to be decided, that has not been determined among the Contact Group. It may be that that will be what happens, it would be a perfectly acceptable  outcome from my point of view were that to be the case, but that is not agreed yet. But we did agree unanimously, and with some enthusiasm, that Carl Bildt would become the single European Union negotiator in future.

QUESTION:

Do you share the same point of view of President Chirac concerning Bosnia?

PRIME MINISTER:

We have worked very closely over the past few weeks on the question of Bosnia. Britain and France have very large troop contingents either there or going to be there and we have had right from the start. The proposition that Carl Bildt should replace David Owen was very much an Anglo-French proposition. So I think it fair to say that the relationship between France and the United Kingdom on this issue could scarcely have been closer. We will both be offering logistical help to Carl Bildt, both in terms of military advice and other logistical back-up, France will be doing that and so will Britain, and we will continue to work very closely together.

QUESTION:

Does that mean that Mr Stoltenberg steps aside?

PRIME MINISTER:

That is not entirely clear yet.

QUESTION:

When will you be considering using strength in order to free the hostages in Bosnia?

PRIME MINISTER:

I don't think anyone is imagining the Rapid Reaction Force are to be used in that fashion. They are there to protect troops and they are there in case they are needed. I think sometimes there is some dispute about how robust they are going to be. Perhaps I should say to you now that the rules of engagement that the troops have been operating on ever since they went there have been pretty robust. If the British troops are attacked the British troops will respond and they will respond vigorously. But they are not there as an aggressive force, they are there to protect people and they are there to protect their own troops. They are not there to make war, they are not there to wage war, they are not there to be aggressive, but when attacked they will certainly robustly respond and that will not be new on the British side, that has been the position right from the outset. I think we have probably had more robust rules of engagement than anybody else from the moment our troops have been there.

QUESTION:

The Irish Prime Minister has made representations to you about the possible freeing of Private Lee Clegg, what has been your response to what he said?

PRIME MINISTER:

I have not had the opportunity to discuss that. I hope to have the opportunity of seeing the Irish Prime Minister very shortly and I hope certainly, if we have not met before, that we will have the chance of a bilateral at Cannes, but we have not had the chance to discuss that. In any event, there is a proper procedure that is now under consideration as far as Private Clegg is concerned and that procedure must go through its normal procedures, there is nothing more that can be done other than that. It is in course of examination at the moment. In due course a recommendation will go to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and he will then make a decision but that is not something that anyone else can interfere with, it is for him.

QUESTION:

Mr Bruton says that he would like the remission procedures to be reviewed with a view to accelerating releases?

PRIME MINISTER:

I don't think it is helpful to anyone to make those sorts of points at the moment, it is not helpful for me to go into those points at the moment and I am not proposing to. I have not had a chance of discussing these matters with John Bruton tonight, when we have discussed them no doubt we will come and talk to you all about them, as we usually do, but not tonight.

QUESTION:

Jacques Santer has proposed setting up a working group as a sort of fledgling State Department for the whole of Europe, what is your position on moves towards a common Foreign Office for Europe at this stage?

PRIME MINISTER:

We are certainly not in favour of subsuming the independent pillars in to the central pillar of the European Union, that has certainly been the case, the two inter-governmental pillars we propose should remain intergovernmental, we don't foresee them being subsumed under central Commission control. That was and is our position and that is most unlikely to change. In terms of making a common foreign policy more effective, well we are very much in favour of making common foreign policy more effective but it has to be on an intergovernmental basis and on no other basis.