Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1983 Nov 9 We
Margaret Thatcher

Joint Press Conference with the West German Chancellor (Helmut Kohl)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Federal Chancellor’s Office, Bonn
Source: Thatcher Archive: OUP transcript
Editorial comments: 1200-1300.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2615
Themes: Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Economy (general discussions), European Union (general), European Union Budget, Foreign policy (Americas excluding USA), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU)

HK

Prime Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen. This has been the 14th such Anglo-German consultation meeting and as is usual it served for a broad exchange of views, which is of course the purpose for these meetings and in view of the present world situation it is quite clear that we discussed about security questions, questions of disarmament, East-West relations and the imminent Athens meeting. We were able once again to note in our discussions the very close and friendly co-operation between our countries and the far reaching agreement on all the subjects for discussion. Of course a broad part of our discussions was naturally taken up by the Geneva negotiations on medium-distance missiles.

Once again we have considered President Reagan 's latest modified steps and we feel that these provide good conditions for a result being obtained in the Geneva negotiations and Secretary Andropov 's attitude displayed so far shows that it is still possible to obtain satisfactory results at the end of these negotiations. We appeal once again from here today to the Soviet Union to adopt a constructive attitude and to relinquish their maximum demands concerning the British and French weapons systems and in this way to open up the road to a fair compromise solution. We reconfirm once again our firm resolution to carry out the NATO two-track decision in all its details and according to plan, and it is now up to the Soviet Union whether deployment will have to take place. The present situation in Geneva and my talks yesterday with Assistant Secretary of State, Mr Damm (phon.) and also the personal message which I have received from Mr Ceausescu last week confirm me in the view that the present negotiation situation in Geneva has not yet been fully exhausted. It is likely that both situations will give a preciser view of their position in the light of the most recent United States proposal and it is also likely that the [end p1] United States will provide more detailed figures. The decisive obstacle at the moment is the Soviet insistence on the inclusion of the counting if you like of the United Kingdom and French systems. In this context Mr Ceausescu has made a proposal which might help us a lot. If after all these efforts there is still no satisfactory result in Geneva then the deployment will take place according to the agreed time schedule and these arms will be made ready for use by the end of the year. Anything going beyond what I have just now explained is purely speculative and basically fundamentally wrong. We believe that the Geneva negotiations are in the interests of both sides and there is absolutely no reason why the Soviet Union should give up negotiating after deployment has started. We shall certainly be ready to go on negotiating after deployment and this includes the readiness to dismantle any deployment that has taken place if negotiations lead to result. We wholly agree on all matters concerning the conference which will begin in the middle of January in Stockholm on confidence building measures and disarmament. We consider that this is an important new stage for co-operation in Europe. We think that both these elements are of extreme importance and we think that the dialogue between the Soviet Union and the West will continue. Of course in Stockholm it will not be a question of missiles but of conventional arms, but nevertheless it will be negotiation on disarmament. Of course we also in the course of our discussions had a tour de horizon of my recent visit to Asia, Japan, Indonesia and India. We spoke at great length and very thoroughly about the situation in the Near-East and the anxiety that this causes us and the situation in the Lebanon, and of course we also mentioned the Grenada problem. One of the central issues of our talks was the preparation of the Athens Summit meeting and this of course involved all the other ministers who were here, the ministers of finance, the ministers of economic affairs, agriculture and so on. We want Athens to be a success. We will certainly co-operate to ensure that this is so. And this means that the package which we put together in Stuttgart shall [end p2] now be properly processed. The Community must be in a position to do its job to function properly and this in particular with the prospect which we welcome of enlargement by Spain and Portugal. We think it's an urgent necessity to limit the dynamics of expenditure in the agricultural field. And we realise that the budgetary load of the Community should be equally spread and that a limit should be set on this burden. I would now invite the Prime Minister to make a statement.

MT

Thank you, Helmut KohlHerr Bundeskanzler, I would like if I may to add a few comments to what the Chancellor of the Federal Republic has said. First, this bilateral comes at a very important time, being as it is shortly before the deployment of cruise missiles, shortly before the Athens Summit meeting, and of course at a time when there's considerable turmoil in the Lebanon and also at a time when I think that there is more hope for the economic future of Europe and for the world, in general. May I deal very briefly with each of those four things. First, sorry … [pause for translation].

With regard to the cruise missiles, first we have had our debate in our Parliament. It ended with a majority of over 140 in favour of deploying cruise missiles in Britain in the absence of an agreement on zero options. We are very anxious for the negotiations in Geneva about the intermediate nuclear weapons to be a success. The best possible Christmas present for the whole of the western alliance would be if the Soviet Union were to agree to take down her SS20s and therefore by implication to agree to the zero option. Then the cruise and Pershing programmes could quickly be put into reverse and there need be no deployment. Should however we have to deploy, we would deeply regret any decision by the Soviet Union to break off [end p3] negotiations in Geneva. After all we have been negotiating while the Soviet Union was deploying SS20s at the rate of one a week. That did not stop us from trying to negotiate on disarmament, so great is our wish for those negotiations to succeed, and we think it would be quite wrong and unreasonable of the Soviet Union therefore to break off negotiations in Geneva. May I briefly explain the position in regard to the British independent nuclear deterrent, the Polaris weapon? First that is not an intermediate weapon, it is a strategic weapon. It is in Britain to deter the Soviet Union's use of her strategic weapons against Britain. It was there long before any SS20s were deployed. Its purpose remains to deter a strategic attack, or indeed any attack on the United Kingdom by the Soviet Union. When it comes to comparing strategic weapons with strategic weapons, for every one strategic weapon we possess the Soviet Union has forty. You can see therefore that it would be quite absurd for us to enter into negotiation with the superpower to trade off our very small irreducible minimum. The sensible thing is for the Soviet Union with those large number of strategic weapons to negotiate with the United States on her large numbers of strategic weapons, and if those negotiations were overwhelmingly successful and enormous numbers of strategic weapons in the world reduced very greatly indeed, then of course we would wish to take our part in the arms control, er, disarmament process.

With regard to Athens, we worked for an agreement at the Athens Summit on the basis of the negotiations which were completed at Stuttgart. May I select just three points? First from our viewpoint and from the viewpoint of our discussions this morning, we made it very clear that we shall require an equitable limit on the financial burdens of each member of the Community. That equitable limit will have to be determined by reference to the ability to pay. Secondly, we shall seek strict financial control both over agricultural expenditure and all other expenditure of the Community. Unless there is that strict financial control the resources would very [end p4] quickly be dissipated. And thirdly we should like to see the accession of Spain and Portugal, because we are anxious to enlarge the area of democracy in Europe, democracy and stability, which is in the interests of each of us and in the interests of the western world as a whole. Thirdly, the tragedy of the Middle East does not lessen with Lebanon in turmoil. I made my own position clear in Parliament yesterday with regard to some of the present debate and news. Every soldier there under military law and every force there has a right of self-defence. One could not possibly put a force in the field without it having that right and no politician would do it. The important thing now is to do nothing to jeopardise the process of reconciliation which is being undertaken to ensure that Lebanon will have a secure and stable government, and a process which will bring back the integrity of the Lebanon. Fourth, finally and briefly, we are encouraged by the signs of economic progress which we believe will continue into next year. We still have problems with providing enough jobs but the news we feel now is better than it was a year ago as far as economic progress is concerned.

Thank you. Now questions, I expect.

Journalist

Federal Chancellor, Prime Minister, what conclusions did you, have you both drawn from the information that you received yesterday from Mr. Damm with regard to developments in Grenada?

HK

Mr Damm of course, before he came here yesterday, was in London and quite naturally yesterday and today we discussed the Grenada situation. And we agreed that what matters now was to look forward to the future. And that in the given circumstances we must do all that is possible to ensure that Grenada is now given a real chance to return to democracy and we welcome that development. And [end p5] from our talks with the Deputy Secretary of State we have gained the conviction that the United States too are very anxious to return as quickly as possible to a normal situation there. And it is the joint conviction of the Prime Minister and myself that the NATO alliance in which the United States, Canada and the West European countries jointly ensure peace and freedom for the western world has not been in any way impaired by what has happened in Grenada. It is our joint conviction that it is possible only within NATO to realise our fundamental views of peace and freedom and justice and that these principals have not been changed, they are unimpaired, they remain as they were, and it is important now at this particular stage to re-emphasise our friendship with the United States.

MT

May I respond briefly. First, we had constructive and friendly talks with Mr. Damm and Mr. Burt in London. Second, Grenada has another chance to return to democracy, which we hope this time will persist. Should she seek help in that process of returning to democracy we in Britain would naturally be very willing to respond for any requests for help. Thirdly the wider Atlantic alliance as Chancellor Kohl has said, is in good heart and good health.

Journalist

Prime Minister, you did not today and here repeat your warning against an American reprisal in the Lebanon, you did not repeat this. Does that mean that in your view the possibility, the threat of such a reprisal has disappeared?

MT

I repeated by reference what I said in the House of Commons yesterday, that any force has a right of self-defence, it is precisely for that reason that when I thought our own part of the multi-national force was not sufficiently defended that I put six Buccaneers close by in Cyprus, should our own force wish to call upon those. It is a right of self-defence which any force has. [end p6]

Journalist

Yesterday, Prime Minister, yesterday a British diplomat said at a CDU peace meeting that the United Kingdom would be ready to reduce its nuclear arsenal as you have said today if the Soviet Union were prepared to do the same, now, as you said just now. But what do you think would be the Soviet pre-conditions for any such process?

MT

Well, I'm sure that it's the pre-conditions that matter. What matters is that the result that we get from disarmament leave us in the position of balance and that that position can be verified. You have to have the position of balance to have the necessary defence of one's way of life. We would like that balance to be at a lower level that [sic] it is now and we must be certain that any agreement could possibly be verified. It would be quite possible if the Soviet Union has the same view as we do persistently to negotiate, with the will to get reductions which we have, and to come up with a satisfactory result. May I make it quite clear that we have the will to persist in negotiations, and we do most urgently seek a result which enables us still to keep our defence and security but at a lower level of weaponry.

Journalist

Prime Minister, Mr Kohl. Observing the present tragic situation in North Lebanon for the Palestinian leadership and for the Palestinian people, don't you see as two European leaders that the time is, has come, for the European Community to play a better role in the peace process in the Middle East and in the Gulf War?

Genscher

I think you are aware of the fact that just four weeks ago I paid a visit to Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. And quite irrespective of the tragedy which has taken place in the Lebanon since then I have gained the impression that we [end p7] Europeans have a special task in that region. And I have taken the opportunity and will take it again to intensify my impressions that I have gathered there with our European friends and with our American friends. But my answer to your question, sir, is a clear “Yes” , the Europeans must do more in this field.

Moderator

The gentleman in the second row.

Journalist

John Dickie of the Daily Mail. Mr. Chancellor, may I ask your guest a question? I'd like to know, Prime Minister, if in view of the storm clouds gathering over the Athens Summit you and the West German Government have made it clear that you'll not continue to be the paymasters of the others, and secondly that you have let it be known without any shadow of a doubt that the British government will suspend contributions to the Community unless the budget problem is resolved.

MT

You will note that during my brief remarks I said it is vital that each of us has an equitable limit on our financial contributions to the Community. Another way of putting it is a more, is a fairer sharing of the financial burden of the Community, that there must be an equitable limit based on the ability to pay and that is one of the most important things we have to try to agree at Athens. If we agree it at Athens there'll be no question of any threats arising. I would rather try to seek agreement than to mutter threats.

Journalist

With your permission Chancellor, can I also address the question to the Prime Minister? I wonder Prime Minister, if you share the very considerable optimism which we heard from Chancellor Kohl this morning that something can [end p8] still come out of Geneva, because one has the impression that previously you've been rather more pessimistic whether something can still be achieved there.

MT

I think perhaps I'm a little less optimistic than Chancellor Kohl about the possibility of reaching an agreement on zero option at Geneva, but I share his optimism and his determination that we shall continue negotiations both at Geneva and also at Stockholm and that it is possible that we can reach agreement on deploying less than the full amount of cruise and Pershings and reach agreement in other spheres of disarmament talks about reductions of other weapons which are every bit as important.