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1991 - Mr Major’s Joint Doorstep Interview with Ruud Lubbers

Below is the text of Mr Major's joint doorstep interview with Ruud Lubbers, held at The Hague on Wednesday 18th September 1991.


PRIME MINISTER:

We have had the opportunity this morning of an exchange of views on a large range of issues, economic and monetary union, political union, the difficult circumstances that exist at the moment in Yugoslavia, the importance of reaching agreement on the Uruguay Round during the course of this year, all these are matters upon which we have had the opportunity of an informal exchange this morning.

If I can run very briefly through some of those and then I am sure you will have some questions after Ruud has spoken. Progress has self-evidently been made I think in recent months on economic and monetary union and some of the difficulties are becoming smoother and I think increasingly a way through can be seen. There is still a considerable way to go and nobody should assume that there is necessarily going to be an easy agreement well in advance of Maastricht but I have become increasingly confident that we will be able to reach an agreement on economic and monetary union when we reach the conclusion of the intergovernmental conference in December at Maastricht.

On political union I think it is fair to say that the debate is a good deal less advanced. There are many very formidable and difficult problems still to be discussed, we were able to touch upon some of those today and I know that the Prime Minister, as President, will be conducting a series of negotiations in the months ahead and I have a series of bilaterals with our Community partners as we try and find a way towards an agreement that will be generally satisfactory in December.

The situation in Yugoslavia is one of very great concern, I do not think anyone underrates the difficulties that there are there and the problems that there will be in seeking a satisfactory solution. I would like to express my congratulations to Hans van den Broek for the way he has handled those matters in recent weeks, I think he has done magnificently, and I am delighted at the way in which Lord Carrington is chairing the peace conference, we must see how these events progress. But clearly it is a very dangerous and difficult situation and it would be very unwise at the moment to determine precisely how that may fall out.

On GATT, there is a clear conformity of view, we are wholeheartedly of the opinion that it would be very damaging indeed if there were not a very formidable push towards reaching an agreement in the GATT Round by the end of this year, that is our agreed position, has been for some time, and the problems lie elsewhere rather than in Holland or in the United Kingdom.

MR LUBBERS:

I have not much to add to what Prime Minister Major said. Tomorrow we will have the Ministerial and the WEU conference on Yugoslavia and of course we discussed that topic but we draw conclusions tomorrow together with our other European partners.

We had a very good discussion, as was said, about monetary union and political union and this was very timely because it gives us the opportunity to take into consideration the British position and see what we can do to come to agreement in Maastricht.

About GATT we have still a long way to go to find a good method to bring the Uruguay Round to a success but as you know as well Great Britain and the Netherlands as, if I might say so, the Presidency, have a big interest here that we show that Europe can not only organise itself internally but is also prepared to come to terms with other groups of nations and continents.

Finally, one word about central and Eastern Europe. As you know, Prime Minister Major is also in charge now of monitoring the efforts of the Group of G7 and also in that responsibility we had a useful talk about the possibilities, [Indistinct] the coming months, to coordinate the action of the European Community and that of the G7 group of countries.


QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

QUESTION:

Prime Minister Major, on political union, are you still opposed in principle to any extension of the legislative powers of the European Parliament and Prime Minister Lubbers, has anything that Mr Major told you this morning made it easier for you to complete your internal examination of new proposals for the IGC?

PRIME MINISTER:

We discussed a great many matters on political union, not just the extension of legislative competence, I think it would be a mistake to think that that is the only matter of difficulty, not just for the United Kingdom but for other countries as one actually moves forward to the debate on political union at Maastricht in December, there are very many areas of difficulty. We are prepared to look constructively at what the role of the European Parliament should be in the future, there are areas where we believe that it should change and I have set those out on a number of occasions in the past. Precise details of where we think their role should change and how it should change, what its reporting mechanisms should be, are matters we are still in discussion with both the Presidency and with our European partners.

There can be some changes, I think there are areas beyond which we would find it very difficult for the European Parliament to go at this stage, but there are other difficulties as well and we have not dwelled especially upon those this morning.

MR LUBBERS:

The answer to your question is yes. To clarify that a little bit, we see Maastricht and the result of the inter-governmental conference on political union not as the final result of one political union immediately and for the full 100 percent at Maastricht. In fact, it will be a first step forward to a political union, defining the process, as I see it, and the different fields and speech in which we can come together to a more common approach will be different. You see that on the one hand in monetary union but there is also the single market and areas related to that in which we can make a step forward but we have to be a little bit more cautious in other areas like foreign policy and defence, not losing the perspective of political union but allowing ourselves time to develop procedures in which gradually Europe will speak more with one voice which is the ultimate aim of course.

QUESTION:

[Indistinct] Carrington and London has been frankly pessimistic about the prospects in Yugoslavia, in the light of that could I ask you both what conditions you would set and what prospects you see for the sending of an EC peace-keeping force to Yugoslavia and what implications do you think the different emphasis seems to being put within the Community for that political union?

MR LUBBERS:

As we said earlier, this will be discussed tomorrow with our European colleagues which is essential because if we really want a Europe which acts coordinated with one voice we have to come to a common opinion together. It would be very unwise I think as well for the British Prime Minister as for myself just one day before such a Ministerial meeting to dictate already the result of such a meeting. But I can assure you that we had a very thorough and fruitful discussion about the difficult situation and certainly we will do our utmost to support with all means the possibility for a success of what Lord Carrington is doing now in the peace conference here in The Hague.

PRIME MINISTER:

Let me just add something to that. I do not think one wants to necessarily assume all the difficulties of Lord Carrington's mission will come about, we must hope that he is more successful, I think he is very prudent to be cautious about what can be achieved, it is clearly an extremely difficult circumstance and I think both on substance and in terms of tactics he is entirely right to be cautious about the outcome.

One of the purposes of tomorrow's meeting is to determine the extent to which it will be possible to coordinate policy and decide how to deal with the difficult emerging situation that exists in Yugoslavia. But many of the conclusions that we will have to reach will have to depend upon the will of the people in Yugoslavia firstly to create a ceasefire, secondly to seek assistance to make sure that that ceasefire actually continues. I do not think anybody is talking about a peace-making approach in terms of military intervention in Yugoslavia, but we must wait and see what happens in the discussions tomorrow, there are many things to discuss in what is a very rapidly evolving situation.

QUESTION:

[Inaudible].

PRIME MINISTER:

It means we are going to discuss things tomorrow, I do not have any immediate likelihood of sending a force, no.

QUESTION:

Did you outline any British reservations about the sending of a force, any conditions there would have to be on the ground?

PRIME MINISTER:

As Ruud said a few moments ago, we are going to discuss all these matters tomorrow and we have had the chance of some exchanges today, but I think these are matters that have to be developed in discussion tomorrow.

QUESTION:

[Inaudible].

PRIME MINISTER:

Every European nation has entirely the right to express its own distinctive views on what is happening in Yugoslavia and seek to discuss those views with its European colleagues, that is the free and easy and open way in which we conduct our affairs. But we will have a meeting tomorrow at which I hope we will get a communal view.

MR LUBBERS:

Let me add to that. In our discussion it was very clear, the main point of course is not the common policy, our common policy in this part of Europe, but the necessity that those who are responsible in Yugoslavia are ready to accept the necessity of a ceasefire and of the positive attitude to the efforts of Lord Carrington and only under that condition can we be instrumental in helping and assisting them. And that is the main point of discussion tomorrow, I guess, how we define that necessity of a perspective for the future of Yugoslavia based on their own efforts and then what can we add to help them in that situation.

QUESTION:

Are you planning an extra summit?

MR LUBBERS:

No, not at this moment.