Speech to European Democrat Union dinner
|Venue:||No.10 Downing Street|
|Source:||Thatcher Archive: speaking text|
|Editorial comments:||2000. The text was issued to the press through Central Office.|
|Themes:||European Union (general), Foreign policy (Western Europe - non - EU), Defence (general), Foreign policy (USSR and successor states), European Elections, Labour Party and Socialism, Conservatism, European Union Single Market, Foreign policy (Western Europe - non - EU), European Union (general), Foreign policy (Central and Eastern Europe), Foreign policy (general discussions)|
We who are gathered here tonight, as Leaders of parties which are members of the European Democratic Union, have great responsibilities.
First, we must maintain the strength of the Alliance of which our countries together constitute the European pillar.
Some of the Parties represented here come, of course, from nations which are not members of the Western Alliance.
But all of us present know that the Alliance is the guarantee of Europe's freedom.
Of course, we must seize any opportunity which may arise to give genuine disarmament.
But we all need to remind ourselves, and our peoples, that nothing has happened since 1945 to show that the threat of war might not still, in certain circumstances, be an effective instrument of state policy.
It could be very effective indeed against peoples unwilling to defend themselves.[fo 1]
Much to our mutual disadvantage, that truth seems to have been realised by the Soviet Union, which has built up its forces in Europe so substantially, as well as creating an immensely powerful battle fleet, and raising a reliable army of Cuban mercenaries and so-called Advisers from East Germany for use in Africa.
None of these investments in arms can be justified by any responsible standard as "defensive".
Second we need to assure our supporters that the parties of the Centre-Right in Europe are now just as capable of making common cause effectively, as the collectivists have been for a long time.
It was this need, of course, which led to the formation, in the first place of the European Democratic Union.
We take heart from the successes of our parties in recent national elections, including our own, and from the signal successes of those of our parties which are represented in the European Assembly.
We look on them as joint victories in the common cause.
We should also be encouraged by the signs that some of the long standing illogicalities within the collectivist parties are becoming more and more evident.
We recognise the sincerity of some Socialists.
But we are most sceptical whether an entity which calls itself "democratic socialist"—that is, authoritarian in economics and liberal in politics—can exist without self-contradiction.
That scepticism has begun to be shared by many "democratic socialists" too.[fo 2]
These difficulties within the collectivist parties give us a great opportunity.
Not surprisingly, there is a philosophical tide running our way strongly, throughout the Western world, and not only in Europe.
To recall this reminds us that we cannot say too often that the preservation of liberty depends not only on maintaining a good defence against external threats.
We must face the dangers within our frontiers as well.
Here I am not referring to the ruinous plans prepared for our peoples by Communist parties.
Nor do I mean to refer now to the contemptible terrorists.
Political liberty depends on economic liberty and that if a state is allowed to dominate the economy of a nation, that nation's political freedom is at risk.
Even in Britain, we have, in our view in our party, allowed what one of the greatest French historians, Elie Halevy, referred to as, "the cold monster, the State," to extend its tentacles far too far.
We in the Conservative Party are determined to restore here the proper balance between State and Society, because, among other things, we have far too much respect for the State to wish it to interfere in departments of life where it has no business.[fo 3]
In attempting to inspire in Britain a revival of free enterprise and hence a national revival too, we have naturally taken into account that the greatest economic successes since 1945 have come in those nations where free enterprise has been allowed to flower with the least impediment.
That, after all, is the message, as we read it, of the prosperity achieved within the European Economic Community.
Free movement of goods, capital and people, has led to increased riches.
Since the signature of the Treaty of Rome in 1957, poverty has been almost eradicated in every country of the original members of the Community.
We attribute that success to the way that the Community has created a vast market place for all the diverse wares of the continent.
We in the Conservative Party are determined to help to ensure that that great market flourishes even more in the 1980s and afterwards too. It will be a foundation for our prosperity and our democratic ideals in Europe, and for our joint action in the world outside.
The Parties represented here have, I think, three other tasks beyond those which I have mentioned.
The first is to restrain our peoples from being trapped by any mood of fashionable despair about the working of our democratic systems.
All our nations have, for the first time, introduced universal adult suffrage in the course of the last two generations and, if we may sometimes allow ourselves to complain at the apparent ingratitude of electorates, our new mass democracies have been fare more successful than many, including many conservatives, in the last century thought likely.[fo 4]
These democracies have also adapted themselves well to the technological opportunities of our times, from television to opinion polls—though probably few of us have not cursed both of those from time to time.
So, don't let the advocates of totalitarian or authoritarian rule put the argument that it is they who have something new and interesting to offer.
On the contrary, it is we, the democrats, who are still the innovators and it is our enemies who are trying to justify ancient absolutism in modern dress.
We have had, after all, great democratic successes lately.
Five years ago, we should not have been able to have counted on the presence, at a meeting of political parties like this, of representatives from Portugal, or Greece, or Spain.
The fact that those representatives are here tonight is a reminder that, for the first time in history, all the states of Western Europe now have freely elected governments.
Then our ability to carry through, last month, the first ever international election shows again that this Europe aux anciens parapets, as Rimbaud put it, is still capable of renewing itself.
Another great task before us is to ensure that the new institutions of the European Community, including the Parliament, serve us well.
Sometimes, those institutions seem concerned to establish conformity where diversity does no one any harm, while failing to reach common policies on important matters.[fo 5]
The Europe which we hope to create in the 1980s will be one where we find a common will on the great issues, while preserving our national traditions.
This task may not be easy, but it should not be impossible.
Herr Franz Josef Strauss, whom we are so glad to see here, once pointed out in a book of his; "however you may look at it, the diversity of nations remains Europe's hallmark".
Just as we need to establish the right balance between the individual's interests and the State's interests, in each one of our nations, so must we also achieve the just balance between the interests of our separate nations and those of the community of Europe.
In one of the first actions harmoniously undertaken by European nations, the protocol for the independence of Belgium in 1831, the inter-relation was put thus: "Each nation has its rights but Europe has also its rights."
Finally, we must not forget that if the Iron Curtain were to be torn down, we should realise again how much of Eastern Europe and even of Russia, has shared a common European tradition.[fo 6]
Europe, we all know in this room, is must more than a geographical expression invented by the Greeks in the 7th Century BC.
It is a word far older than the names of any of the states which comprise it.
Nor has it changed its name, though most of the peoples within Europe have changed theirs.
Many of us have deep loyalties to peoples in other continents and we are each of us proud of our national pasts.
But honesty compels us to admit that the great intellectual transformation which followed the Renaissance and led to the scientific and industrial age was a shared, European experience.
The memory of those shared achievements in the past must fortify our resolve to reach effective working agreements in the future which will benefit all our peoples.
For many generations, we in this Continent quarrelled amongst each other but always we have given much to each other.
Despite the growth of nations individually more powerful than any single one of us, we remain, we believe, the nerve-centre of the world.
It used to be said that, when France sneezed all Europe caught a cold.
On the occasions nowadays when Europe's nerve falters, we can see the world trembling too.
In the years to come, our fortitude may very well be severely tested.
If the parties of the European Democratic Union stand together, we can hope to maintain our great heritage.
We must never forget that we are the trustees of European civilisation.