Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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

1984 Feb 4 Sa
Margaret Thatcher

Press Conference visiting Hungary

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Atrium Hotel, Budapest
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Editorial comments: 1500-1600 local time. MT’s flight took off for London at 1800.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 3360
Themes: Arts & entertainment, Defence (arms control), Employment, Industry, Trade, European Union (general), Foreign policy (general discussions), Foreign policy (Central & Eastern Europe), Foreign policy (International organizations), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states)

Mrs. Thatcher

Mr. Chairman, I'm very glad to have the opportunity of meeting the press at the end of a most useful visit to Hungary, the first visit to this country by a British Prime Minister. I've had a very warm and generous welcome wherever I have gone and my talks with the First Secretary Mr. Kadar, the Prime Minister Mr. Lazar and the PresidentMr. Losonczi have been open and constructive. Our exchanges have been valuable and I feel my visit has been a helpful first step towards a better relationship between the countries of Europe. I decided to take up Mr. Lazar 's invitation because I felt that a visit by a British Prime Minister to Hungary was overdue but also for two other reasons: first I wanted to see Hungary for myself and to talk to her leaders. Second because I felt the time was right. My visit has amply confirmed that this feeling was correct. There's deep concern on both sides of the political divide about relations between East and West. This is because nuclear disarmament negotiations have been broken off while the build-up of arms has been intensified and this at a time when there is an election in the United States and uncertainty in the Soviet Union about Mr. Andropov 's health. We've recognised these concerns in our talks, we've also acknowledged our differences, ideological, political, social, they are there and they cannot be wished away but in recognising them we have not dwelt upon them, instead we've concentrated on the future, the peaceful and prosperous future which ordinary people want the world over.

I've made clear that we in Britain believe passionately in liberty and democracy and are prepared to defend them, but I've also made clear that we believe in peace. Speaking for Britain I reiterated our desire to see the peace maintained and at the lowest possible level of armaments, both nuclear and conventional, consistent with our security. And while I have no mandate to speak for the West as a whole, I emphasize my utter conviction that the United States and the West threaten no one. But NATO of which we are and always will be a loyal member is a defensive alliance, an alliance that would dearly wish to be able to devote less to armaments and more to developing our economies. Both of us—Hungary and the United Kingdom—Want to see a resumption of disarmament negotiations which produce a lower level of armaments of all kinds on a balanced and verifiable basis. I believe that the Hungarian leaders have greatly appreciated the chance to talk as much as I have. I'm equally clear that they would like to see a closer relationship with Britain, closer economic, trading and cultural links. We shall try to forge them.

For my part I hope I have convinced them with my sincerity and while I'm known as the iron lady—I also have an iron resolve to work for an easing of tension and for a safer and more prosperous world in which less is devoted to arms and more to wellbeing. I hope that my visit will have eased a little the burden of anxiety felt by ordinary people but I'm under no illusion that the development of a better relationship between East and West will be a very slow and gradual process. The only approach is hard-headed realism and perseverance. I believe that both we and the Hungarians possess these qualities in abundance. That is the end of the opening statement.

Now may I have questions, perhaps you'll very kindly put them through the chairman. [end p1]

Reporter

Prime Minister, this is the first time you've met the Hungarian leaders in Budapest, after that meeting what's your opinion about the future of political and economical contacts between our two countries?

Mrs. Thatcher

I believe we can work together and very well, I believe we both feel that although we belong to different alliances, that does not preclude bilateral contacts between Britain and Hungary and I believe that they will improve as a result of this visit.

Reporter

Thank you very much.

Reporter

Prime Minister, do you still believe that it is important for you to go to Moscow and do you feel that Sir Geoffrey Howe would still be the best person to pave the way?

Mrs. Thatcher

I don't think that I have ever said that I was going to Moscow, I think I probably said, indeed I have said a number of times, that I wish a number of their politicians, a greater number, would visit the West, I think it will take quite a time for visits between heads of government between Britain and the Soviet Union. I would be very happy if Sir Geoffrey Howe were to visit Moscow, if he had a specific invitation to do so.

Reporter

(Hungarian radio) Prime Minister, you've already referred to it in your statement but still I'd like to ask you the question that though Britain and Hungary have been far away from each other and not only in geographic terms, then how can you explain that the first time a British Prime Minister to pay a visit here has come just at a time when tensions abound in international politics?

Mrs. Thatcher

Well, I think it's not quite right for the first British Prime Minister who does come here to be blamed for the shortcomings of her predecessors …   . (laughter) …   . after all I'm the one who's tried to put that right, I did feel the time was right now, there is rather a hiatus and I felt it was the time to take an initiative. I had an invitation and I was very very pleased to accept it.

Reporter

Madam Prime Minister, lots of Western newspaper articles point out that there is a kind of difference between your former statements and what you say recently about the socialist countries and the East/West relations. Is it correct to draw a conclusion that in this respect there is a certain change in the British foreign policy? If that is so, what is the consideration behind it?

Mrs. Thatcher

I think if I might ask you to look very closely at some of my former speeches, I hope that won't be too much of an imposition, but there are two which I'd like to direct your attention to, one in September in Washington, which I made when I received the Winston Churchill award and another one at my own party conference and a third one, actually now I remember it, at the Guildhall in the City of London, you will find that they all recognise that while we have differences, total political differences, and different political systems, I recognise that we have to live together on the same planet and that as we both wish to live in peace and security I thought that it was in our common interest to talk across the political divide and try to see now if we can get the disarmament talks going once again but I think you will find that this visit has not been a difference from those speeches but a manifestation of those speeches. [end p2]

(question inaudible)

Mrs. Thatcher

I think it's not possible to say yet except that we are having an exhibition in London called Hungarian days and that will be in April and that will be a chance practically to follow up the contacts that have been made now. I think the process will inevitably be slow and I don't think one should expect too much from any one move, but accept that each move may be helpful in the long run. May I just say that I would disagree with one premise that I thought was present in your question, the premise I thought was that we can only be active while there is in fact an American election, I would not so restrict my activities.

Reporter

(Hungarian news agency) Prime Minister, you had a meeting with Janos Kadar, the first secretary of the Hungarian socialist workers party, it was your first meeting, could you tell us what your impressions are of him as a personality and a politician?

Mrs. Thatcher

Could I say what my impressions are on Janos Kadarhim? I'm afraid you'll have to address that question to him. I wouldn't presume, I would only say that I found it a most valuable constructive and truly enjoyable meeting and I should very much look forward to another meeting on another occasion. I found it very valuable indeed and we found it easy to talk very openly, that's always a good sign.

Reporter

Prime Minister from what you've seen or been told the last couple of days of the Hungarian economic reforms of …   . (unintelligible) …   . in particular an emphasis on private initiatives and enterprise though not necessarily ownership, what overlap do you see with Thatcherism?

Mrs. Thatcher

This is a typical newspaper point isn't it? Let me answer with a typical politician's reply, that I think Hungary is following the economic system which suits Hungary and I think it's very wise to follow an economic system that suits your own people. I in Britain follow Thatcherism, because I believe it suits my own people … (laughter)

Reporter

Can it be understood in the light of the Prime Minister's first visit that the United Kingdom in the future ought to give increasing importance to the European continent and as a part of it to East European socialist countries in her foreign policy? Thank you.

Mrs. Thatcher

First I wanted to come to Hungary, that visit is overdue, so that is a reason which stands on its own. Second, I believe that the times require increasing contact and discussions across the political divide, so those are two very good reasons for coming at this time and I believe that those first steps will be continued but it will be a slow process.

Reporter

Do you think, Prime Minister, that you have achieved anything in connection with East/West relations during your conversations with Hungarian statesmen? Are you satisfied?

Mrs. Thatcher

I am satisfied, yes, I believe that I have a greater understanding now than I did 48 hours ago, I believe that I have made a contribution to East/West relations that I had not made 48 hours ago, I am therefore satisfied. [end p3]

Reporter

How do you think about the possibility of Hungary, a small country, belonging to Eastern bloc, to contribute for easing international tension, for promoting the East/West dialogue and for supporting arms reductions?

Mrs. Thatcher

All countries contribute to reducing East/West tension and Hungary is no exception. That was the question. Wasn't it—at any rate that's the answer …   . (laughter)

Reporter

Excuse me Prime Minister I will put the question in Hungarian because I don't know well English.

Interpreter

What is your view, Prime Minister, of the recent proposals made by President Kyprianou of Cyprus and how do you see the prospect of a solution to the crisis in Cyprus which came about and became even more complicated following the declaration of the independent Turkish'Cypriotic state?

Mrs. Thatcher

We have made our view on that declaration, purported declaration, very clear indeed, we were against it and we were prominent in promoting the resolution of the United Nations which calls for its reversal. I believe now that the future, and I'm very much aware of the proposals that President Kyprianou has put forward because he told us about them when he came to London, that the future of the island, as a unitary state, must be pursued through the good offices of Perez de Cuellarthe Director General [Secretary-General] Of the United Nations, he is very skilled in Cyprus matters and I believe that we must put our hopes on him to try to bring the two communities together so that Cyprus can continue as a unitary state.

Question inaudible.

Mrs. Thatcher

No, I don't believe there are differences between the United States and the United Kingdom and I made it perfectly clear in my opening statement that we are loyal members of the NATO alliance, President Reagan is absolutely sincere in his desire to seek disarmament agreements so long as they're achieved in a balanced and very powerful way, which keeps our security and of course we have to have in those disarmament talks they have to be such that they will keep the self respect of all nations. So I do not believe that there are any differences between the United States and the United Kingdom. We are loyal and devoted members of the NATO alliance.

Question inaudible

Mrs. Thatcher

We're looking forward very much to the prospect of that cultural forum in 1985, in Budapest, I think we will need to know first the kind of framework which the Hungarian government has in mind, before we decide precisely what contribution each of us can make, we could of course make a number, so we shall look forward to being here to showing our contribution to culture and to show here in Budapest. [end p4]

Question inaudible

Mrs. Thatcher

The question—can the British government help? I think we mostly help indirectly with regard to cultural arrangements, which take place usually through the arts council, the arts council has, as it needs to have, a very considerable funding, from government, and it makes a choice as to how best to use that funding, we do like cultural contacts and we should welcome more cultural contacts between Hungary and the United Kingdom, we also have a number of scientific contacts as well, science of course is a form of culture.

Reporter

Do you believe, Prime Minister, it will be possible to persuade the Soviet Union to return to the negotiating table in Geneva without any gesture by the NATO side such as the reversal or the freeze on the deployment of Cruise missiles-?

Mrs. Thatcher

I don't believe we are able to reverse the decision and we certainly cannot reverse the actual deployment of Cruise and Pershing missiles, as those are in response to the deployment of the SS20s by the Soviet Union, so we are merely evening up the position. I hope that we shall be able to get the Soviet Union back to the nuclear disarmament talks in Geneva, I think you're already aware that it would seem they intend to come back to the convention talks in vienna and of course we continue on the confidence building measures to which NATO has now tabled concrete proposals in Stockholm. I do not yet know the circumstances under which they will come back and I think there are probably two broad views and it's possibly best to pursue them both at the same time. The one is that in order to get detailed talks going it is best to seek a better understanding first and then you might get the detailed talks going. The other is of course that you've got to work on the details in any event so start with the details and then you might go for a better understanding. I tend to believe that it is easier to get down to details when you have a better understanding and I think that there is an awareness, if I might put it no higher than that, on both sides of the political divide, for a need for a better understanding. I know that on our side there's absolute sincerity in seeking successful disarmament talks and I would hope that there is on the side of the Soviet Union too.

Reporter

(Moncrieff press association, London) does the Prime Minister think her visit has been adversely affected by events in London involving the Foreign Secretary?

Mrs. Thatcher

Sir Geoffrey HoweNo, sir next question.

Reporter

Can Britain help Hungary in relationship with the Common Market?

Mrs. Thatcher

Did everyone hear the question? Can Britain help Hungary with her relationship with the Common Market? We do strive to do just that, we are a very active member of the European Economic Community, we are also by virtue of our history both distant and comparatively recent, an outward looking country, all our history is that of a people who've been outward looking, and who've taken some of their beliefs from their trade the world over, so our natural tendency towards the European Community is not to turn it into a protectionist club in any way but to try to use it to break down some trade barriers and of course that is right in keeping with the Treaty of Rome, when it was initially signed. Yes we can help and we will try to help. [end p5]

Question inaudible [prospects for disarmament]

Mrs. Thatcher

I cannot tell the timespan, I hope that it will be as soon as possible, as I indicated in the speech at the dinner last night, this is no time for empty chairs, there have been a number of detailed proposals put before the ‘START’ talks and the IMF talks, both of them and it was not the West that left the negotiating table and I hope very much that the Soviet Union will soon return to it. I could not tell you the time but as I indicated I think we've got to try to seek an understanding that the peoples of the world, I believe, want genuine balanced verifiable disarmament.

Question inaudible [prospects for a summit]

Mrs. Thatcher

I think it is much too soon, I think if you have a big summit meeting, a lot of groundwork needs to be done and one needs to have got a long way with improving understanding and perhaps back on disarmament talks with some progress made on them, before one approaches a summit meeting, you know what would happen if one were announced, I should think there'd be anything between 2/10,000 of the world's press there, all having to write stories, expectations would be enormously high and they would only tend to be dashed, that's not the kind of summit I want eventually, it has to be a very well prepared one with progress already achieved before one comes up to a summit meeting.

Question inaudible [what can UK do to help Hungary with EC]

Mrs. Thatcher

I don't think I got it quite all but I'll give you the answer to what I think your question was. The Community of course is the trading unit, we by virtue of belonging to the European Economic Community, do not negotiate individually on trading arrangements, it is all done through the European Economic Community, the Community therefore has a large number of trading and association agreements, with other countries, there is nothing unusual about that, indeed many countries seek such agreements, Hungary has recently sought such an agreement, it seems to me absolutely in keeping with the Community that she should and we would hope to using that agreement about. But again it's part of the Community, of possibly the biggest and most powerful trading bloc in the world, in terms of the amount which it imports, trying to use its very considerable power not only to help by virtue of trade but also to help with improving political contacts.

Reporter

(Times) Prime Minister, last night your host at the banquet blamed the deployment of American missiles for the increase in East/West tensions, you didn't reply to his point, was that because you had no answer or you thought the reply would serve no purpose?

Mrs. Thatcher

I think I did reply if you read my speech, I said quite clearly this is no time for empty chairs in Geneva, that was a direct reply, that they should return to the negotiating table as soon as possible. [end p6]

Question inaudible

Mrs. Thatcher

We have a very clear economic strategy to do just that, it consists as far as government is concerned in keeping inflation down, running our financial affairs prudently—giving help to launch the latest technological products and also giving help to people to start up in small businesses. It also consists of reducing the number of regulations and clearing the way to enable the spirit of enterprise to flourish and also to reducing overmanning as we have done and increasing productivity, so that you will find we now have record productivity per manhour. The only way in which to increase the number of jobs is to win customers the world over, that's a policy we're pursuing vigorously. One more.

Question inaudible [what is the next step]

Mrs. Thatcher

I have no further visits arranged yet, this was a very considered first step, I've been very very pleased with it and I think further steps need careful considering. Thank you very much,

Thank you for coming.