Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Complete list of 8,000+ Thatcher statements & texts of many of them

1990 Oct 19 Fr
Margaret Thatcher

Article for Inside the New Europe

Document type: speeches
Document kind: Article
Venue: -
Source: Thatcher Archive
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: Item listed by date of despatch. The article was published during 1991 in a book by Axel Krause, Corporate Affairs Editor of the International Herald Tribune, Inside the New Europe. The final chapter of the book included contributions on their respective visions of the "new Europe" from President Mitterrand, Chancellor Kohl, Prime Minister Gonzelez, Jacques Delors and MT.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1641
Themes: Defence (general), Trade, European Union (general), Economic, monetary & political union, European Union Single Market, Foreign policy (Central & Eastern Europe), Foreign policy (International organizations), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU), Transport

You invite me to set out my views on Europe in the year 2000: what it will be, and what it will not be. Recent events have underscored the dangers of prediction. None of us foresaw the speed and suddenness of communism's collapse in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. We were caught unawares by Iraq's murder of Kuwait. The chances of predicting successfully how Europe will look in the year 2000 must be small. But I can say something about the Europe I would like to see by the end of the millennium.

As you point out, I set out my hopes for Europe quite fully in a speech at the College of Europe in Bruges. That was rather over two years ago. But in their essence they have not changed. Europe's achievements down the ages have been those of proud and independent states, each with its own history and traditions. At the time when the world was divided into great empires—Sung China, the Ottoman Empire, the Mogul Empire—Europe developed the small states, sometimes based on the city, sometimes on the kingdom. While the empires imposed a uniform system on their peoples, it was the diversity of the small states that accounted for Europe's great artistic and intellectual renaissance, its inventiveness, its industrial revolution. [end p1]

That is the foundation on which we have to build. We have the raw material there in the shape of our individual nations, now enlarged by the return to Europe of those Eastern European countries who, for forty years, were cut off by the Iron Curtain. Our task as governments is to ensure successful co-operation among them, so as to enhance the future prosperity and security of our peoples in an intensely competitive world. We shall not achieve that by trying to force them into a straightjacket. We have to preserve the different traditions, the Parliamentary powers and the sense of national pride which have been the source of Europe's vitality through the centuries. The conclusion which I drew at Bruges—and of which I am no less convinced today—is that the best way to build a successful European Community is through willing and active cooperation between independent sovereign states.

Indeed my vision of Europe is reinforced by what has happened in these last twelve months in Eastern Europe and by other world events. The revolutions of 1989 in Eastern Europe have shown how strong the feeling of nationhood is. As the people of Eastern Europe detach themselves from the abberation that is communism, they look to their own country as the focus of their loyalty and their sovereignty. So too—quite naturally—do the people of the newly united Germany. They talk of their sovereignty and independence. To take another example: when it came to sending forces to the Gulf, it was not WEU which first responded, it was the independent nations—above all Britain and France—which took rapid and decisive action. [end p2]

Europe cannot be built successfully by ignoring or suppressing this sense of nationhood, or by trying to treat sovereign nations as no more than regions controlled by a central body in Brussels. There is sometimes talk of trying to achieve federation by stealth. It won't work because it runs against the grain of history.

So my vision is of a Europe where increasingly we speak with a single voice: where we work more closely on the things we can do better together than alone: and where the concept that the Community does those things—but only those things—which cannot better be done by individual nations, is rigorously observed. Europe is stronger when we act in this way, whether it be in trade, in defence or in our relations with the rest of the world. I want Europe to be more united and have a greater sense of common purpose. But it must be on the basis that we work with the grain of history and with the feelings of people. That is the way to achieve results.

That is my first point. My second is that Europe does not consist only of the twelve nations of the existing European Community. The new democracies of Eastern Europe want to join the institutions of Western Europe and we should encourage them. Some are already in the process of entering the Council of Europe, which we very much welcome. I have proposed that the European Community should declare unequivocally that it is ready to accept all the countries of Eastern Europe as members, provided that democracy has taken root and their economies are capable of sustaining membership. The Association agreements which we have offered are only intermediate steps. The option of [end p3] eventual membership must be clearly, openly and generously on the table. We cannot say in one breath that these countries are part of Europe and in the next that our European Community club is so exclusive that we will not admit them. In considering plans for European integration we should hesitate before doing anything which would make it more difficult for the countries of Eastern Europe. Just as the Community reached out in the seventies to strengthen democracy in Greece, in Spain and in Portugal by offering them membership with long transitional periods, so in the nineties it should be ready to open its doors to all the countries of Europe who want to join. I hope that by the end of the decade we shall be well down that road.

My third point concerns the economics of Europe. I do not want Europe to be a tight little inward-looking, protectionist group which would induce the rest of the world to form itself into similar blocs. That could all too easily happen: indeed we are already seeing some signs of it. It will be much better to create an outward-looking Europe, to reduce regulation and remove the constraints on trade, to allow the market to work and adopt policies which encourage enterprise.

The Single Market programme will take us a major step towards that. But there is still a very long way to go before we have genuinely fair competition in the European Community, with the present disparities in subsidies and state aids removed. And we cannot allow the distortions and the damage to world trade caused by the CAP to continue for another decade. The Treaty of Rome was intended as a charter for economic liberty: and it should be our aim to make Europe by the year 2000 a model of what [end p4] free trade and open markets can achieve—and therefore an example to the rest of the world.

My fourth point is that we should concentrate on the practical measures which appeal, above all, to young people and will bring home to them the benefits of a more united Europe. We should make it easier to move around Europe, whether on business or for pleasure, with a minimum of inconvenience (while maintaining basic checks which are necessary against drugs, crime and terrorism). We should increase exchanges of young people. The best example of what I have in mind is the Channel Tunnel, due to be completed in 1993. By making trade and travel easier, it will bring Britain and the rest of Europe together in a very practical way.

My fifth point is that we should not make the mistake of seeing Europe as the creation or the preserve of the Treaty of Rome. If we really want to unite Europe, we need a wider vision. We should strengthen and extend the Helsinki process, first to entrench basic human rights, and second to enlarge political consultation throughout the whole of Europe. The CSCE is the only body which brings together all the European countries as well as the United States and the Soviet Union: and we should fashion it into an institution where regular political consultation takes place, not only about Europe's problems but those of the wider world as well. Our aim should be to create, by the end of the century, a great area of democracy stretching from the west coast of the United States right across to the Soviet Far East. [end p5]

That leads me on to my sixth and last point which concerns the defence of Europe. Some people talk of establishing collective security structures for Europe on the model of the League of Nations. But that sort of body will in reality function only if nations behave so virtuously as to make collective security unnecessary anyway. That is why I do not believe we should look for CSCE to offer a defence for Europe. Security is founded not only on ideals, but on the will and the capacity to defend them with adequate military strength. And for that we in Europe shall continue to rely on NATO which have proved its worth.

The partnership with the United States will remain just as essential as it has been these last forty years. But we cannot look to the Americans to display the same degree of commitment unless we Europeans take a greater share of defence burdens, not only in Europe but out-of-area as well. That was one reason why it was so important for European countries to respond quickly to the crisis in the Gulf and to send adequate forces to stand alongside the United States and the Arab nations to resist aggression. After all Europe is much more dependent than the United States on oil from the Gulf for its industries and its prosperity: we should be no less stalwart in defending our shared interests. That is the lesson which Europe will have to learn and where our performance will need to improve dramatically over the next decade.

One has to be selective in a short article and I have said nothing, for example, about the passionate wish of Europe's people for a cleaner and safer environment, or about our [end p6] responsibility towards the developing countries, above all to keep our markets open to them.

But the essence of my vision of Europe in the year 2000 is here. I have not spoken—as I am sure other contributors will—of political or economic or monetary union, or of integration, or of a Federal Europe. They are labels. What matters is the reality: — that the countries of our continent should be united by their commitment to democracy, the rule of law and a market economy; — that they should remain proud, independent nations within a broad framework of co-operation; — that by acting together they should ensure that the influence which our history, our experience and our civilisation have given us ensure that Europe's influence matches that of other great world powers; — and that we should always act in close partnership with the great United States.