Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1983 Feb 4 Fr
Margaret Thatcher

Joint Press Conference with West German Chancellor (Helmut Kohl)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: RAF Halton
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Editorial comments: 1425 onwards.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 3208
Themes: Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Monetary policy, Public spending & borrowing, Trade, European Union (general), European Union Budget, European Union Single Market, Foreign policy (Asia), Foreign policy (International organizations), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU)

Prime Minister

This is the second time that Chancellor Kohl has visited Britain since he became Chancellor last year. On this occasion, our discussions centred on defence, security and arms control, the prospects for economic recovery and world trade and, in particular, the threat of protectionism, and on Community matters. If I might say a few words about each:

First, the Geneva negotiations on intermediate nuclear forces. We are agreed that the zero option remains far and away the best solution to the problem of INF missiles in Europe. We endorse President Reagan 's proposal that he and Mr. Andropov should sign an agreement banning all United States and Soviet intermediate range land-based nuclear missiles, but we emphasise that the zero option is not a take-it-or-leave-it proposal. The Chancellor and I are absolutely clear that any agreement should be firmly based on the principle of balance, that is, balanced numbers of comparable weapons systems in an equitable agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union. Without agreement on the zero option, the deployment of United States Cruise and Pershing missiles will go ahead as planned at the end of 1983. The Chancellor and I agree that there can be no [end p1] question whatever of a Soviet monopoly in this class of weapon system. In the longer term, our goal remains the achievement of balance at the level of zero.

The INF negotiations in Geneva are between the Americans and the Russians in pursuance of a NATO decision of 1979 that any agreement that emerges there will be about their land-based missiles and theirs alone. The British Polaris submarines which form our strategic deterrent are excluded from these talks by definition, like comparable American and Soviet submarines, and therefore cannot be taken into account.

On trade, we agree that it is essential to maintain the open trading system and to reduce the strains upon it. To this end, we agreed on a number of fundamental points:

First, if we are to resist successfully the protectionist pressures in our own countries, other countries which benefit from the open trading system must bear their share of the responsibility by ensuring and demonstrating fair trading opportunities. We agreed that Japan must continue to make her market more open and thus shoulder her responsibility for a full contribution to the open trading system.

Secondly, we welcome the intention of the United States Administration to stand out against domestic protectionist measures, and we agree that trade problems between the European Community and the United States, notably of course in agriculture, must be settled by discussion and negotiation, rather than by confrontation. [end p2]

Last, we welcome the prospect of intensive work on completing the internal Community market for industrial goods in accordance with the conclusions of the European Council at Copenhagen, and progress should continue on completing the internal market for services.

As you would expect, we exchanged views on the state of Community affairs. The imbalances arising out of the Community budget are a matter which the Community has decided to correct and we look forward to the earliest possible decisions about this. As you will see, we have used our brief time to the full and constructively! I will now ask Chancellor Kohl to address you.

Chancellor Kohl (Interpreter in English)

Prime Minister, I should like first of all to thank you for the frank and friendly discussion. When I was elected on 1st October last year, which is only a few weeks ago, we have now been meeting for the fourth time. I have been twice in Britain; you visited us in Bonn, and we met at the Copenhagen Summit and discussed at length.

You have listed most of the problems we have discussed and I would like to perhaps refer to one or two.

Now, to the main issue of the disarmament negotiations. For us, as citizens of the Federal Republic of Germany, this is an existential question in a very special way for us. In view of the armaments race throughout the world and in view of the fact that our country is divided, that our old capital Berlin is divided, we have had to make the experience that all [end p3] hardening in the world situation particularly immediately affects us, rather like a seismograph when there is an earthquake somewhere. We Germans have, in a very particular way, been tested and tried in the experiences of this century. We realise that war and violence are no means of politics for us and that is why our people want the NATO two-track decision which means both peace for our countries and for the Free World and to stand up for peace, also the outstretched hand in order to come to real detente and real controlled disarmament. We hope that all concerned will have the same view of this in Geneva.

We have full confidence in our American friends, that they will very seriously and with great resolution negotiate. We have reason for that confidence because—and we have experienced this throughout—that we are being constantly and intensively informed about the course of these talks, and I want to say very clearly that everybody in East and West must know—our friends in Great Britain also should know—that they can rely on the Germans; that Germany stands on the basis of the two-track decision. We want these negotiations to be successful if at all possible, but if success is denied them, then we will—together with our friends in NATO—we will deploy. The slogan that I have for my election campaign is “Create peace with less arms” but you know that in the world in which we live, which we have to [end p4] shape and for which we are responsible, it will be possible if there is good will on all sides, and good will is not a cheap merchandise in global politics and there are realities, and that is why we stand firmly on the basis of the two-track decision and you can rely on the Germans. [end p5]

Question

I would like to direct my question to both of you. Would you please tell me if you talked about the growing peace movements in the United Kingdom and in Germany and whether you found any common attitude in this respect?

Chancellor Kohl

I take it, first of all, the term “growing peace movement” needs to be defined. I am Chairman of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany and we have 1,100,000 members and they are all members of this great peace movement and I can only hope that it will continue to grow. I do not think it is admissible and I do not think it is intellectually honest to distinguish between those who are more in favour of peace because they call themselves a peace movement and those who take peace and work for peace quite as a matter of self-evidence. I take it that the great majority of my fellow citizens in the Federal Republic of Germany, with the exception of a very small category, and these cannot be described by political terms but only by medical terms, the great majority is for peace, because we know in practical terms what war means. There is hardly a house in our country in which people live—my own family is typical for this—who have not lost a very close relative in one of the two Wars. There is hardly a war in which there are not refugees or expellees or people who have lost everything through the bombing so we know what the lessons of history mean. But we want peace [end p6] and freedom to be maintained in our country. That is why we are in the Community of free peoples, the European Community; that is why we joined NATO; that is why our sons do service for peace in the German Army. It is a peaceful army; it is an army intended to defend peace and freedom; it is an army that will never be available for any aggressive purposes. That is why I am sure that the peace movement is deeply implanted in the hearts of all our people and not only those who demonstrate in the streets.

Prime Minister

We spoke about it briefly, but our wish is not for peace at any price, but peace with freedom and justice. To do that, we to be prepared to defend the freedom and justice to the extent which would deter any aggressor. Nuclear weapons have keep that freedom and justice in the whole of Europe and the Western World, because the thought of using them would be so horrific that they have, in effect, deterred any aggressor. We really are a true peace movement ourselves and we are the true disarmers, in that we stand for all-sided disarmament, but on a basis of balance. So we do not really have any difficulty about these matters. We must just make certain that we deploy our case—that is the case of peace with freedom and justice—as well as other people deploy theirs, and we must point out the weaknesses in the case of the “peace at any price” movement. [end p7]

Michael Brunson (ITN)

A question to you both, if I may. Both of you face problems—very severe problems—of unemployment, and both of you—particularly Chancellor Kohl at this moment—face demands from your Opposition for increased public spending projects as a means of countering that. Did you discuss this between yourselves and are you still agreed that that is not the way to proceed?

Chancellor Kohl

Well, of course, we discussed this briefly and we have continued our discussions that we had at the EEC Summit in Copenhagen. At that time, in Copenhagen, I said that it is important for the struggle against unemployment, which is a scourge of our generation, is that each one of us does his homework; that we do not wait for everybody else to start, but each one of us looks at his own doorstep, and you see that I was elected on the 1st October and I have mass unemployment; I have a public budget which became more and more a deficit budget. I inherited all this heavy indebtedness of our country and the very great economic pessimism which I inherited which has led to a decline in the will to invest. What has developed over thirteen years cannot be positively reversed in thirteen weeks! You can start and do the right things and set the points for the right development. We have done this, the new coalition of the centre, the CDSU together with our colleagues on the FDP. With great difficulties, we have [end p8] managed to reduce the public budget, of course with all the discussions which follow upon saving measures, because it is the same in Germany as in Great Britain. Everybody wants to save, but everybody wants to save elsewhere but not in his own house! So in these few weeks we have managed to do something about all this and we have been able to get the Federal Government a little bit out from the credit market and this has meant that the Federal Bank was able to reduce interest and after a few weeks we now see, in these few days already, that there has been a fundamental change in the psychological climate.

With regard to the question as to whether we can look towards the future with optimism, which is very important in a modern free society, we find that there has been a decisive change of climate over the last few weeks. In a number of branches of industry we have full order books again, particularly in the building sector which is a sort of initiator and we set this goal of 100,000 housing units at first and this is giving a clear signal for the cyclical upward move. We can see this in the figures for unemployment and we have managed in free discussions with industry, without legal provisions—and this is important—and we have got this agreement that all school-leavers in 1983 who are able and willing to be trained shall be given training and positions in the German economy and German industry is ready to take another 30,000 in addition to the existing 650,000 training posts. In other words, I do not think we have got [end p9] the worst behind us, no, but I think we are on the way, and I think I can be quite optimistic.

Prime Minister

Can I just give a brief reply? Public expenditure always has to be kept within limits for this reason. Ultimately, it comes from successful industry and commerce. If you put too heavy a burden on that successful industry and commerce, you put its future in jeopardy and also put in jeopardy the jobs it provides. You cannot put too heavy a burden in that direction.

The only other source of public expenditure is borrowing and if governments borrow too much, up go the interest rates, and if you have high interest rates the construction industry and your new businesses cannot get underway, so public expenditure is not an answer. It must be contained within limits. The most important way of getting out of recession and coming towards recovery is historically by having low interest rates at a level which in fact encourage your construction industry to get going and your small businesses. That, I think, is why at the several conferences to which Chancellor Kohl has referred we have put tremendous emphasis, and we still do, on lower interest rates, and you know, high deficits are death to low interest rates. And I think we would agree about that broad, general, economic approach. [end p10]

Question

…   . this discussion you referred to President Reagan 's open letter and a possible meeting with Mr. Andropov ultimately. I would like to put the question both to you and to Chancellor Kohl. I was referring to the fact that Mrs. Thatcher mentioned Mr. Reagan 's letter and his proposal for a meeting with Mr. Andropov. You, Mr. Chancellor, have I think said frequently that you would like to see a Summit in order to break the deadlock between the two super powers. Now, do you still stand by your views that a Summit could actually help to solve problems rather than to have a Summit to seal agreements which at the moment have been turned down by the Russians?

Chancellor Kohl

Yes, indeed. I stay with my opinion that it would be useful to do this on the condition that such a meeting is not planned as being a propaganda coup, but the timing must be very carefully chosen and the preparation must be extremely serious and intensively carried on. The fact of such a meeting in itself must not create psychological pressure, but it must be prepared in such a way as to be promiseful of a result. If what I said is right, that this is a question of life and death in our generation, in a world which is full of arms, to reach agreement on disarmament, particularly nuclear disarmament, then it is important that the two most important men in the two camps [end p11] on East and West must be able to make use of an opportunity in the light of their particular and almost unique responsibility to talk to one another. The idea is not new. You will know that President Reagan, immediately after his election and after taking office, at the time after the attempt on his life, when he was still in hospital, addressed himself to the then Secretary-General of the Soviet Communist Party, Mr. Brezhnev, and suggested such a meeting. For reasons which we do not know and which may have had something to do with Mr. Brezhnev 's state of health, this meeting did not take place. I should welcome it if such a meeting could be made possible on the conditions that I have mentioned.

Prime Minister

Can I just reply briefly? I hope that one day such a meeting will take place. Before it does, it must be prepared extremely carefully because the hopes of the world will rest upon it. What President Reagan has done is to say: “Look! The West are the true disarmers. We want no nuclear weapons at all of a certain class. We offer out that hope to the peoples of the world provided the Soviet Union will accept that offer. We will gladly meet at any time to sign such a treaty, but there are two things: first, we wish to [end p12] protect our freedom and justice at a lower level of expenditure, but it must always be balanced; zero is the best balance.” We hold out that prospect; why will not the Soviet Union accept it?

And so, really, it depends upon whether the Soviet Union will accept it. But if not, the negotiations must continue in Geneva. That is where the detailed negotiations are worked out, but I hope that one day there will be a meeting between President Reagan and Mr. Andropov, but very much will depend upon the attitude of the Soviet Union and upon their willingness to bring down their armaments in the way that President Reagan has offered.

Question

Could I ask you both please whether you feel that the American Administration of Mr. Reagan has combatted the fears of Europeans sufficiently about the nuclear issue?

Prime Minister

Well, it is up to us also to combat the fears and to put the true case. As I indicated earlier, we are not people who believe in peace at any price. We do not want the peace of Stalin. We want peace with freedom and justice. We are prepared to defend that peace. Wars [end p13] come when those who defend freedom and justice are too weak in their defence and become the prey to aggressors. We therefore must keep up our defences sufficiently to deter and if we do that we really are the true guardians not only of freedom and justice, but the true guardians of peace. We must not leave it to any one nation to put that case. We must all put it. Perhaps we can get some help from the media, because we could hardly have this sort of press conference if we were in Moscow!

Chancellor Kohl

Well, I can only agree to that. I can only agree with what the Prime Minister said.

Question

A question for both of you. I wonder if you considered the Warsaw Pact proposals for a non-aggression treaty and other matters and how you should respond.

Prime Minister

We have had non-aggression treaties before. They have not been kept. This idea of a non-aggression treaty has been around since about 1955 but, you know, in a way, the United Nations itself is a non-aggression treaty for those who wish to observe it. [end p14]

Chancellor Kohl

If I understood you correctly, you are thinking of the Prague Statement. I think we in the West have reacted jointly and correctly. We have introduced our experience into public discussion; experience over the past years—the invasion of Afghanistan, martial law in Poland—this is all part and parcel of the realistic consideration of world affairs, and we have stated our opinion. I think that it is quite right that every step in the right direction by the members of the Warsaw Pact will be very carefully looked at by us and will be positively judged, but these steps still have to be taken.

Question

My question has two prongs: number one, did you talk or discuss about inter-regional aspects of INF, i.e. the transfer of some SS20s to Asia and Siberia? If there was no discussion, what is your reaction?

Chancellor Kohl

Yes, but it is not a major problem for us. We have always said that the solution in Geneva cannot be that the SS20s, the Soviet intermediate missiles, land-based missiles, are moved from the European part of the Soviet Union back into the Asian part of the Soviet Union. That is the core of your question, and we said that it cannot be that the threat is removed from us and placed [end p15] into your area. That is not our idea. When we say that the SS20s should disappear, we mean this literally. We mean that they should be scrapped altogether.

Prime Minister

Zero is total absence of a particular class of nuclear weapons. If you cannot get zero, then you get into detailed negotiations and those must take place at Geneva.