Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Joint Press Conference with West German Chancellor (Helmut Kohl)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: No.12 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Editorial comments: 1445 onwards.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 4502
Themes: Defence (arms control), Economic policy - theory and process, General Elections, Trade, European Union (general), European Union Budget, Economic, monetary & political union, Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU)


This is the first bilateral meeting we have had between the Federal Republic of Germany and Britain, since Chancellor Kohl was re-elected and a new government was formed, and we would like to congratulate him very warmly on his triumph.

We have had a very very good bilateral indeed; very constructive, very warm, in a very friendly atmosphere. Perhaps it is not surprising, because economically we think the same about so many things. Chancellor Kohl 's inflation rate is about 3.5%;—ours has just today come down to 4.6%;, so economically we think the same, and we are both very firm on the need to defend our Western way of life and freedom and justice.

There were five sets of Ministers discussing matters, as well as Chancellor Kohl and myself. Herr Genscher came over and had discussions with Francis Pym; Dr. Staltenburg with Geoffrey Howe; Count Lambsdorff with Patrick Jenkin and Arthur Cockfield; and Herr Werner and Herr Bloom with Defence and Norman Tebbit as well. They have done the [end p1] detailed discussion. Chancellor Kohl and I have stuck, I think, to the broad, main matters before us. Again, everything in a very cordial, warm and friendly atmosphere.

We talked about (gap on tape) It is absolutely rock solid. Both sides of the Atlantic are firm in NATO, determined to defend freedom, but at the same time determined to continue disarmament talks. We believe that the proposals that have been put forward at Geneva are positive, constructive and reasonable and we really wait for a response from the Soviet Union, and we hope that there will soon be a response, and if there is no agreement on zero option then, of course, we are both determined that the Pershings and the Cruise missiles would have to be deployed.

Secondly, we discussed Williamsburg. I think we are both in the position that we can say that there is a likelihood that there will be a recovery this year and the mood therefore is one of cautious optimism. Recovery is stirring. We are not talking about enormous figures; we are talking about a soundly-based, durable, steady recovery this year. We hope that at Williamsburg we can give that message. We shall also need to talk about world trade, and we shall talk, again, in a very friendly atmosphere. We are neither of us protectionists; we both of us understand the problems with unemployment and we have talked [end p2] particularly about the problems concerning youth unemployment.

Thirdly, we have discussed the European Conference which is due to be held in Stuttgart, under the Presidency of Chancellor Kohl. We hope for great things at that conference. I believe it is the conference which will solve Britain's Budget problem. As you know, we had a very forthright and progressive communique from the last European Council under Chancellor Kohl 's presidency, and if we are able to solve Britain's budget problem, it really clears the last obstacle out of the way in any of our problems with Europe. Then we can go full steam ahead to play a full part in taking Europe into the next decade.

Other Ministers have discussed in detail. If you wish to know the details, we will try and answer it, but this has been a very good conference indeed. I think the best we have ever had.

I will now ask Chancellor Kohl to say a few words. [end p3]


Prime Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen, first of all, I should like to thank the Prime Minister, in the presence of all of you here, for the friendly and hospitable welcome we have had for these Anglo-German talks.

And those who were present have felt, not only from the substance and content of what we discussed, but from the atmosphere, that the relationship between our two countries is marked by cordiality and friendship, and I think I can also say, as never before, and I would like to thank you, Prime Minister, personally for this, because it was not least your personal merit that this could be so. And it is good that this should be so, because together we have a difficult road to follow in the future.

This first five years of the 1980s in which we are now living is a period in which vital existential issues will have to be decided. It is a question of peace, freedom, social justice and welfare of the peoples who are in our trust.

I felt that in Europe, facing all the problems which we still have and a history of several hundreds of years, cannot be overcome in a few years. I have felt that we have very close to one another. Of course, we are marked in a different way by our own histories, but we are seeking a common road to the future, and we shall find it. [end p4]

These talks were very useful. We have had a comprehensive tour de horizon. We talked about East-West relations, developments in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, I would only mention Poland, the preparation for Williamsburg. A week ago today, at this very hour, I was still with the American President, and we talked about that of course, and together with the President, we jointly feel that Williamsburg must be a success and must send out a message.

We thoroughly discussed the discussions and negotiations in Geneva which are of fateful importance this year. We wholly agree that the NATO two-track decision stands, in its first part, and here we are agreed that whatever is humanly possible shall be done to negotiate and that we are totally convinced that the Americans will serious, and are seriously, negotiating on our behalf if you like. We are being very fully informed and consulted, and let me add—speaking personally for myself—that in the light of my observations I do think there is a chance of making progress and since this is a question of the fate of our generation, the humanly possible must be done in these negotiations, and there can be no doubt that the second part of the two-track decision stands as well and I said to our friends here in Downing Street that they can rely on their German friends, and I have said that, as we have promised, if these negotiations do not produce a [end p5] satisfactory result, we shall deploy and we shall stick to the time-table.

Of course, we talked also about the preparation of the Stuttgart conference of the European Heads of State and Government. We are aware that important issues are involved, that promises were made in the past, for instance the demands of the European Parliament with a view to the future of the Budget issue, and so far as the German Government is concerned, we shall do whatever is possible to ensure that in the Stuttgart talks with our partners, we shall achieve satisfactory results.

Of course, we discussed the problems of the economic prospects, problems which we all have, each one of us, with unemployment, unemployment of young people. It is my impression that we are on the right road. The problems are far from being solved, but we are on the right road and I think the hours we passed in London have shown once again that it is very important, in difficult times, to talk together with friends and not to talk about one another but to talk with one another. [end p6]

Question (John Dickie, “Daily Mail” )

Prime Minister, if I may mention the month of June in a totally non-party context, can I ask you whether you are as confident after the talks today as you were at the end of the Council Meeting in Brussels that you have a concrete commitment for the resolution of Britain's Budget problem at Stuttgart in June?

Prime Minister

Chancellor Kohl was in the Chair when that communique was drawn up. He was a very effective and very firm Chairman, quite determined to help in the solution of this problem, both in the short run and in the longer term. I have every confidence that that communique will be carried out that Chancellor Kohl will make the most strenuous efforts to see that Britain gets a fair deal, both in the long run and in the short run, on the Community Budget.

Peter Osnos ( “Washington Post” )

Mrs. Thatcher and Chancellor Kohl, did you discuss the US Export Administration Act and particularly its extra-territorial powers? Do you think at Williamsburg you might be able to persuade President Reagan to revise that Act as it now stands? [end p7]

Chancellor Kohl

We have not gone into this in great depth, but we were agreed that we, and others as well, in fact I phoned President Mitterrand about this and I spoke to Mr. Fanfani and others, that this is a subject which will certainly take a central place in our discussions in Williamsburg.

Prime Minister

We do not like extra-territorial powers. I do not think any nation does. We take the view that any company has to operate according to the laws of the place where it is situated. That is to say, if we have subsidiary companies operating abroad in other countries, the law that applies is the law of the country where they are operating, and therefore, companies here obey our law. There are well-understood international legal principles by which any other problems are solved, and that is the view that we take and as you know, we have had to take measures in this country to protect our own companies. But I think the principle I have enunciated is the correct one on which to operate.

Jerry Lewis (B.P.A)

Question for Mrs. Thatcher. On a day when Mr. Hurd met Mr. Kadumi of the PLO, do you, Mrs. Thatcher, recollect saying in Kuwait in October of 1981 “the reason we do not go further and have ministerial meetings with the PLO is [end p8] firstly because of their association with terrorism and secondly, because of the statements on the part of the PLO for their real objective is to drive Israel into the sea and wipe it off the face of the globe” . Can you say whether you discussed the Middle East with Mr. Kohl and also what the situation now is with regard to conditions for meeting the PLO and recognition of the PLO?

Prime Minister

Chancellor Kohl and I did not discuss the Middle East but Herr Genscher and Francis Pym did discuss the Middle East. The situation with regard to meeting the PLO is that I do not meet them and no Cabinet Minister meets them. Previously, Mr. Hurd had met Mr. Kadumi when he was part of an Arab League delegation. This time he met Mr. Kadumi in response to an offer made some time ago, when we had refused to have an official member of the PLO on the Arab delegation that was going to come to London and you know it eventually did come without a member of the PLO. But neither I, the Prime Minister, nor a Cabinet Minister, meets the PLO for reasons which I have given previously.

Question (Japan)

Mrs. Thatcher, to what extent are you optimistic about the Geneva Talks? Have you got some tangible indication that the Russians are really seriously reviewing President Reagan 's new proposal and what is your view about this negotiated settlement? [end p9]

Prime Minister

We believe that the proposals which United States has made, both as far as strategic missiles are concerned and the intermediate ones are concerned, are reasonable and we are entitled to expect a reasonable response. The negotiation has to be done there. There is not the slightest shadow of doubt one is very disappointed that we have not had a response from the Soviet Union. We hope for a response. I think that the prospects of zero option by the end of the year are very very slender indeed, and I believe, therefore, that both the Pershings and the Cruise missiles will have to be deployed. After they have been deployed, as you know it would take a full five years to deploy them all, after some of them have been deployed, I think there is probably a much better chance of securing some response to the disarmament proposals on the part of the Soviet Union, and there is then a possibility that we might not have to deploy all of the missiles. Chancellor Kohl, would you like to add to that?

Chancellor Kohl

No, I have nothing to add. I wholly agree with you. [end p10]

Question (American Television)

President Reagan has appointed a task force to investigate possible Soviet violations of the Salt 2 treaty. Meanwhile, conservative members of the Congress of the United States have been claiming that there have been outright violations. Do you feel that this investigation and these claims are helpful to the Western Alliance at this time?

Chancellor Kohl

If these events were proven they would be very serious. I did not start any such enquiry. I do not know about it. We will have to see how they go, but I think this goes beyond the immediate issue.

Prime Minister

It has been claimed by both sides that Salt 2 has in fact been observed, although of course, as you know, it was not finally ratified. I hope that is correct and I hope that any investigations would prove that is correct. Going into a fresh round of disarmament talks as we are at Geneva, it is important to have confidence, and of course, [end p11] the greatest confidence one can possibly have is that the other side, in either case, is prepared to have what it does verified. Unless that is so, there could not be any trust that the disarmament proposals were carried out. So verification and willingness to be inspected and to have one's actions verified is extremely important to the success of disarmament talks.

Right, did you hear that? Good! Do you want a supplementary?



Prime Minister

Good! Go ahead!


Do you see any ulterior political motives in these charges being made now while these talks are going on?

Prime Minister

No, I do not see ulterior political motives. You must be in a position to have trust in disarmament proposals. I mean, the most important thing of all, I would have thought for us, is that we are certain that our freedom and justice are properly and effectively defended. We want [end p12] to get them defended at a lower cost, but you have got to be certain that your defence is still secure. To get it defended at a lower cost, you have got to be certain that the other side is honouring any commitments it enters into. Otherwise, you are not more secure, but less secure, and the purpose of disarmament is to keep you still secure, but with fewer weapons. I do not see anything wrong in what has happened.

Question (Rheinische Post, Dusseldorf)

I have a question to both of you concerning the meeting of the Common Market in Stuttgart. There is the so-called Colombo-Genscher Plan or Declaration on unity in Europe. Did you talk about it and what is going to happen to it? What is, especially, the British attitude to this declaration?

Chancellor Kohl

We discussed this subject very thoroughly and it is the wish of the Federal Government and of the Italian Government and of other European Governments that this subject shall be on the agenda in Stuttgart, and I hope that in Stuttgart we will be able to take the necessary decisions.

Prime Minister

We did discuss this plan. We have just one remaining difficulty. The only remaining difficulty is one over [end p13] majority voting and we are discussing that now which is, as you know, a matter of the Luxembourg compromise.

Michael Brunston

Chancellor Kohl, you have just won an election and, Prime Minister, you face one. Did you spend at least a minute comparing notes about the calling of and winning elections?

Prime Minister

Well, I would be very very happy to receive advice from Chancellor Kohl about how to win triumphantly, effectively, with a vast majority, for many many years in the future.


Chancellor Kohl, did you talk about the Madrid Conference?

Chancellor Kohl

Yes, we did talk about that and I reported on my discussions on the matter with President Reagan. We believe that this conference will be of great importance and that this conference should, if possible, soon be concluded in a positive sense. The document which we [end p14] have, which is existent, is a document which is still capable of further improvement, particularly with a view to human rights.

In our talks with our British friends, I pointed out that the commitment to human rights is self-evident so far as we are concerned, and self-evident in a very specific manner. We are a divided country and human rights are being withheld from a large number of our compatriots in the other half of the country, and I said that when we talk about human rights, of course we take up the cause of dissidents. The name of Sakharov stands for many others, but we should not, in so doing, forget the very very many anonymous people.

Let me take one example to cover many. There are many thousands of Germans in the Soviet Union at this stage and who would like to go to the Federal Republic and the fate of these people is particularly close to our hearts. Secondly, we would welcome it if this conference were successful, because this would make it possible then in the further future in talk about human rights, because the proposal says, does it not, that after two years there should be a kind of review by Ministers. In other words, the subject would remain on the table, on the agenda, which is psychologically important. [end p15]

And there is a further very important argument. If this conference concludes successfully in June or whenever, then within six months we can call or we can convene a European Disarmament Conference. This would be in the coming winter, at a point in time when, possibly, the question of deployment will have found a practical solution. In other words, we would be practically negotiating at another level whilst at the same time the first deployment would take place, providing there was no success in Geneva, and each one of you will realise that that would be a very interesting constellation.

Question (Edwin Roth)

Prime Minister, those of us who have known Chancellor Kohl for some years, know that for him Europe is a philosophy, a way of life, and very late last night he discussed with some of us his philosophy of Europe, Europe as a way of life. Have you got a philosophy of Europe? Is it a philosophy for you, Prime Minister, and what do you think about the future of Europe and Britain's place in the future of Europe? [end p16]

Prime Minister

Yes, it has always been for me a philosophy, an ideology, a point of principle—call it what you will—but for me, one of the great reasons for belonging to the Community and for doing everything possible to make it most effective, is because it is a grouping of countries which believe in freedom and democracy, living next door to a forcible grouping, a Communist grouping, which has neither freedom nor democracy, and we in Western Europe must band together as a community, and show that we can effectively live together and come closer together. That will not only be beneficial for each and every member of Western Europe; it will also be beneficial to the wider world, because we can show the wider world that there is an area of stability and success which believes in defending the fundamental freedoms which so many would like to have which do not yet possess. I do not know whether you call that a philosophy, a principle, ideology, a belief, a conviction. I think I would call it all of those.


The Chancellor said something last night which expressed. He said, and I quote him: “When my sons go across the Rhine to France, they are not in France; they are in Europe!” Do you feel anything like that? [end p17]

Prime Minister

We are all in Europe, in the Western part of Europe. I must say that I would also feel a little bit of France as well.

Question (Mexican Television)

Earlier this week, Mr. Shultz from the United States left Mexico City having …   . the Controllo Group but by Mexico City Panama, Columbia and Venezuela. I wonder if you discussed in the European world the situation in Central and Latin America.

Chancellor Kohl

We did not discuss that.


Herr Bundeskanzler, I would like to put two questions to you. I am Polish, but I am working for an American-Polish paper, so you know my situation. Recently, one of the eminent members of your party expressed himself in a very dubious way about the present Polish frontiers and this has caused a lot of disturbance in Polish public opinion and has been used by the Communist Government and by General Jaruzelski who says: “Here, you see the right wing German Government puts into doubt what has been already recognized!” and, of course, people get frightened. Would it be not [end p18] possible for you or for your Government to somehow make a statement which would take off from the Communists this argument?

My second question, if you will allow it Herr Bundeskanzler, would be this:

Would you agree with the campaign for nuclear disarmament and similar organisations in your countries are really playing into the hands of Mr. Andropov and that it would be right to consider them as conscious or unconscious agents?

Chancellor Kohl

Let me begin with the second question:

There is no overall answer to this and I do not want to give one, because I do not like that. The problem is very much more differentiated. The opponents to the deployment of United States missiles are a compound of very very different types, and we must be very careful not to throw them all into one pot. Just let me mention a few aspects:

I will not mention them all, it would take us too far.

First of all, there are the pacifists, the religious pacifists, highly respectable people. These are people whose grandparents were executed by Hitler for their pacifism and how could I refuse them my respect, but as a Christian, I realise that pacifism is a personal attitude, but as a [end p19] Christian, I also realise that I am not entitled to declare my personal Christian belief to be binding upon the State and society.

Then, there are people who are just simply afraid. This is another very large group, which is quite normal in a country which has gone through two wars. If there is an old lady sitting at home and thinks about these things and sees the news on the television, she has not only her television set at home but she has the pictures on the walls of her husband who may have been killed in the war or her son or her brother. I can understand that very well, although fear is a bad counsellor. You have to calculate it and you must talk to people who feel this fear. You talk to them quietly, calmly, reasonably, respecting their dignity.

I would like to answer this question in a very personal way. I come from a very typical German family. My mother's brother was killed in the First World War, and my parents gave their eldest son, who is my elder brother, the same Christian name. He was killed in the Second World War. My own eldest son is called after my brother and he is at present doing his military service with the German Army before going to University. So you can well imagine what we feel, but peace and freedom are not given to nations. We have to do something for it. [end p20]

And then, amongst many other groups, there are also the professionals, who come from the other side of the Iron Curtain, with a lot of money and lot of good and a lot of bad words. They disorient people and they do what they can. But we must be careful of not putting them all on the same footing. There are very serious elements in this and very disorientating ones.

Now to revert to your first question:

The Jaruzelski government knows perfectly well that there is no reason whatever to feel upset about what my colleague Mr. Zimmermann has said. It is using this as a propaganda coup to divert attention from their own problems and my colleague, Mr. Zimmermann, is not part of a right wing government; he is part of the central government or medium government. Where the President of the CDU in Germany sits is the centre of German politics. And what did he say? He said nothing different from what the legal situation really is. We have concluded valid treaties; a treaty with Moscow, a treaty with Warsaw, and the basic treaty with East Berlin. We in the CDU criticized these treaties at the time very seriously because of the way in which they were brought about, but these treaties have been concluded. They are valid in law and the very basis of all peace policies is loyalty to treaties, and Konrad Adenauer, at the end of life, told us young people at the time, that we Germans have to catch up on loyalty to treaties, and he was right. And we are a government which honours its treaties self-evidently. [end p21] But this treaty that I am talking of is not a peace treaty, it is not a treaty laying down frontiers. It is under the very clear international law reservation that it is not a peace treaty and under international law only a peace treaty can settle these matters finally.

In practice and in truth, this means that there is a status quo and that there is no peace treaty and as long as there is no peace treaty, we have to live with the status quo.

Mr. Jaruzelski would be well advised instead of polemicizing, engaging in polemics, to mention something else. Because this would reflect the real situation which is what people think and what people feel.

Since the martial law was declared two years ago on 31 December, DM 300 million have been collected for Poland privately and through the churches and other organizations. I will say quite frankly we have to look a long way in Europe before we find anything comparable, and this is the expression of a very important mood amongst the citizens of my country.

We want to make a new start with Poland. Terrible things have been done to Poland in the name of Germany during the Nazi period, and terrible things were done to Germans in Poland by way of revenge after the War, and we want to draw a line under all this. We want to make a new start, and we want to work for peace and this is particularly what the young generation in my country feel. [end p22]


Would the Prime Minister tell us how important she thinks it is that at the Stuttgart Summit there should be agreement on the Genscher-Colombo plan for a declaration of European unity? Is it essential to the future of the Community?

Prime Minister

I would not say just exactly when it is important to have that through. I think it is very important to make progress on it and important that one can see a time when it should be through and therefore we must strive to eliminate the areas of disagreement. What is important in Europe is to make progress on the practical matters outstanding, such as the budget problems, the problems of the internal market, the problems of having a market in services. It is very very important to make progress on those practical problems.

Thank you very much indeed.