Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Margaret Thatcher

Joint Press Conference with Italian Prime Minister (Bettino Craxi)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Claridges Hotel, Mayfair, central London
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Editorial comments:


Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 3892
Themes: Industry, Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (International organizations), European Union (general), European Union Budget, Defence (Falklands), Terrorism, Northern Ireland, British relations with Italy

Prime Minister Craxi, Ladies and Gentlemen,

This is part of a series of regular meetings between the Governments of Italy and of the United Kingdom. This was a particularly important one. Prime Minister Craxi brought with him some five Ministers, Giulio AndreottiForeign Minister, Treasury Minister, Agriculture Minister and Industry Ministers, and all have had very successful discussions with their opposite numbers. Throughout, the atmosphere has been very friendly indeed and very constructive. We are very much aware that the meeting takes place just as Italy takes on the Presidency of the Community and it is at a time when many of the older problems of the Community have been settled and therefore we have a great opportunity to go forward into the future under the presidency of Italy, commencing at the beginning of January.

Prime Minister Craxi was last in London at the London Economic Summit and we are very pleased to see him again. I would like at the outset to thank Italy for the way in which she represents British interests in Libya. We are eternally grateful to her and for the way in which she tries to secure liberty for the four British subjects who are detained in Libya without charge against them and for every way in which [end p1] Italy represents our interests in Libya since diplomatic relations were broken off.

We have also, on a very special subject, had a talk about the Falklands and of the vote at the United Nations and I have made it very clear that it is extremely important to us when the wounds are still so open on the Falklands, that there should be no change at the United Nations in the European votes which took place on the last occasion.

We have spent a considerable amount of time on industrial collaboration, of which there are many many projects. Perhaps the best known is of course the EH.101 helicopter. There are also many links established between Plessey and Electronica and Racal and Selenia and we discussed a long list of projects, both military and civil, which are either in train or which might develop in the future.

We went on to discuss the future of the Community. We both believe that agriculture is too large a proportion of the Community's programme and that we should concentrate especially during Italy's presidency on working up both industrial collaboration and the industrial side of the Community with all that it offers with high technology in the future, so much high technology which has gone to Japan and also to the United States. So we should concentrate on working up our future technological industries, with as much collaboration as we possibly can, and also on the commercial side, because as you know, there is not yet a full Common Market on insurance, on finance and on things like air fares and services. So I believe that it is [end p2] Prime Minister Craxi 's ambition to work up both the industrial and the commercial side of the Community to give a very much more balanced Community.

We have had extensive discussions on what I might call foreign affairs matters outside and beyond the Community. We have both taken a very active part in trying to keep the East-West dialogue going at a time when the United States is coming up to her election. We have both, for example, been to Hungary, and we share similar views on East-West relations and believe we must keep that dialogue going and hope and believe the time will come, after the American elections, when it will be possible for disarmament talks to get going again.

Among other subjects we have discussed we are greatly concerned about matters in Cyprus and the situation that is developing between Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots and will do everything we can to support Perez de Cuellar 's initiative on Cyprus.

We have also discussed the Middle East, which has been a continuing problem and in which Europe has taken a continuing interest, starting with the Venice Declaration. We hope, again, that after the United States elections, there will perhaps be a new initiative and approach to the Middle East.

Gentlemen, we have discussed very many things, including on the economic side, how to try to reduce unemployment in Europe and Prime Minister Craxi will be giving special attention to that with a conference in Italy during his presidency.

A very happy and successful conference and we welcome and thank our visitors.

[end p3]

Prime Minister Craxi

Our meeting has been highly productive because as the time was considerably limited we have had to concentrate as many questions as possible in this limited time. We have managed, nevertheless, to have an overall look at the international situation with, I must say warmly, hope and faith in the future; hope and faith which we have in common in the fact that next year will be a year of negotiation.

The British and Italian Governments I think have contributed in the course of this year to keeping open all the ways of communication between East and West and a dialogue with countries of Eastern Europe, a policy which we mean to consolidate and develop, as a factor which might concur to creating a more serene international situation.

As Mrs. Thatcher just said, we have had also a general look at the present and future problems of the Community. There is a certain dissatisfaction which is common to both of us on the delay in the process of economic integration. The accent has been put on the necessity for creating the most favourable situation for developing industrial cooperation on research and technological development.

We have also had a look at bilateral problems, discussing some concrete projects which we both consider as satisfactory; just as our relationships in this field are satisfactory. And also we have looked, as Mrs. Thatcher said, on those critical points where maybe a word from us might be useful inasmuch as we could press upon the conflicting parties towards negotiations and pacific (specific?) perspectives, peace. [end p4] I mean to refer to the old Middle Eastern crisis and other crises which have opened up in the Mediterranean area and which are worrying. They are a fire hidden under the ashes, we might say, and of course, one of these critical situations is the Turkish-Greek relationship as regards Cyprus. They both belong to the Atlantic Alliance these two countries.

We, myself and my foreign minister, have once again told the British Prime Minister that we are fully open to giving any help to British subjects in Libya and, as concerns ourselves, we will do the very best to keep to an attitude of great objectivity on a problem which still sees on two opposite fields, albeit in very civilised terms—Great Britain and Argentina—the idea being that in the framework of the United Nations it would be nice to see a common position. [end p5]

Question (In Italian)

May I start with a message from my Italian colleagues of any political belief and creed? May we all express to Mrs. Thatcher our full solidarity in such a dramatic moment as the one following the Brighton outrage and may we all say how very happy we all are for her. She has got such exceptional qualities of leadership and firmness and more than ever on such a situation they are needed.

Now, a question on terrorism. May I ask whether there have been any discussions on the international dimension of terrorism and what are the possibilities to see a link between the IRA, the Red Brigades and the Libyan terrorists?

Mrs. Thatcher

Thank you very much for your kind expression. It is very gratefully received.

As you will recall, we went very thoroughly into the matter of international terrorism at the London Economic Summit and indeed, we issued a communique about it, the main thrust of which was that we were proposing an even more intimate international cooperation than we had hitherto known. That international cooperation is in existence, whether it be in intelligence matters, whether it be with regard to personnel. All of that is in existence and will continue and we are very grateful for the cooperation we receive and we are very much aware of the great experience [end p6] Italy has on these matters and may I make it quite clear that Italy's messages were some of the first which I received after last Thursday night's bomb outrage.

So there is nothing more, I think, that we can do in addition to what is already being done. The cooperation is considerable and is valued, and if there were anything more we could do, I assure you we would do it to help one another.

Prime Minister Craxi

I wish only to say that I am not in a position to assess all the way elements which I do not know well enough. The Brighton outrage that is against Mrs. Thatcher which has caused victims here in Britain. I must observe that we are faced with an escalation in terrorist techniques. There is a precedent of this same technique, that is the one in which President Gemayel was murdered. I think, however, that all the various security organizations are examining in depth this new problem. They are not worrying about people only when they walk-abouting, but also when they are literally sleeping in their own beds.

Terrorism has taken a great deal of punishment of late in many parts of the world, including our own country. We do have considerable experience because we have been in many ways the focal point for a terrorist phenomenon, which was widely diffused, which so implicated thousands of terrorist elements. We have managed to make great progress without having to follow any method which might be described as far too strong. Our methods for combating terrorism are fully available. They have always been and they always will be to our friends and allies. [end p7]


Mrs. Thatcher you mentioned bilateral cooperation in the field of industrial projects and particularly military projects between the two countries. Is it possible to give us any details about the sort of progress you have made on the joint helicopter EH.101 project on which an agreement in principle was signed between you earlier this year?

Mrs. Thatcher

As far as I am aware, the cooperation on EH.101 is already going well and we are asked now to consider further helicopter development particularly, which we will consider and are considering, an anti-tank helicopter. But I have nothing to add on EH.101. It is already going very well indeed.


On the anti-tank helicopter, have any steps been taken towards … I mean, has Britain made any statement on whether it is likely to be interested in this project?

Mrs. Thatcher

No, we are actively considering the matter now. [end p8]


The discussions held on these specific questions, have they been concluded with a statement of satisfaction from both parties? No answer transcribed.

Question (Michael ???? BBC)

Is there any news on the discussions and negotiations on enlarging the Community, bringing in Spain and Portugal? Are we closer to agreement on that and if not, what is actually holding it up? Is Italy worried about its own Mediterranean agricultural products? Can we have a statement on that?

Mrs. Thatcher

We are both concerned that the enlargement negotiations should be concluded in time to be ratified at the pre-arranged date. There are some things which are holding it up, one of which is fish. Another, I think is negotiations on wine, but both Prime Minister Craxi and I wish those negotiations to be concluded with all possible speed and will do everything we can to expedite them.

Prime Minister Craxi

This is also our opinion. It still is. All along it has been. The Community promised that by September 30th they would have concluded. Alas, it has not been so as yet and we do consider that it should be concluded as soon as [end p9] possible. There are no obstacles at all on our part. On the contrary, we have pressed all along for the solution of this problem and to see two great European nations, Spain and Portugal, into the Community. There cannot be difficulties as concerns produce, for instance wine, provided one ascertains whether it is wine or sugar one is talking about.

Question (Bush, Press Agency)

Mrs. Thatcher, can you give us some more details of your intention to have a new initiative on the Middle East? Is it to be a European initiative on the Middle East or in conjunction with the Americans?

Secondly, could you answer the simple question: do you believe that the terrorist attack against you and your Cabinet last week was one of IRA origination or was it one of international terrorism?

Mrs. Thatcher

With regard to the Middle East, what I said was that I thought that after the American election that there would at some time be a new Middle-Eastern initiative coming from the United States. I would expect that. I do not expect a new Middle-Eastern initiative from Europe. As you know, we said what we thought at the Venice Declaration and obviously we shall continue to be as helpful as we possibly can, but I do not expect a new European initiative, but I hope that there will be one from the United States not long after the election. [end p10]

I have no inside knowledge. It just seems to me reasonable to assume that there will be.

With regard to the attack last week, I believe that the IRA accepted liability and I think that it is right to assume that that was correct.

Prime Minister Craxi

As concerns the Middle East, all I know is that experience teaches us that so many plans, the initiatives, mediations, could not just raise their heads in time for the head to be chopped off. Therefore, the first thing to be ascertained is whether in the new situation in which the parties more closely interested are, if in this new political situation, what the real possibilities are in this situation before triggering international initiatives for concrete and durable solution. It is not up to us to say the first word on this, even though of course we can expect to have a role of influence in every negotiation towards peace.

Question (In Italian)

May I ask you, Mrs. Thatcher, you mentioned a good future perspective for the Community, the European Community. May I ask you whether the problem of financial resources which is the basis of it, whether you consider it is overcome? That is, are you prepared to do something as concerns own resources advances to help the Community with its financial problems? [end p11]

Mrs. Thatcher

I am not quite sure that I have got the significance of the question. At Fontainebleau, as part of an overall settlement, we agreed that if certain circumstances came to pass, including strict financial guidelines, then we would agree to an increase in own resources from 1%; Value Added Tax up to 1.4%;. That requires a change in the Treaty. We have to agree that the terms of the change in the Treaty. We have reflect what was agreed at Fontainebleau and we agreed to that.

We are trying now to sort out the remaining problems, such as the strict financial guidelines and our refund of 1983 own resources and the arrangements for 1984.

Now, what is your problem?

Question (Same Man In Italian)

I can be more clear. The problem is that the Community has a deficit of 3,000 billion lira. The Community has only been able to pay half of this debt. Now, with what money are we going to carry out the new policies you wish to see?

Mrs. Thatcher

Please, could somebody just tell me what that was? You were talking about which year, 1984 or what? I thought I heard you say 3,000 million ECUs. It is not a figure I recognize. Insofar as it was supposed to relate to 1984 shortcomings, it has been got down way below that and so it should be because we simply cannot go over and above the [end p12] allotted expenditure without very good cause. There was a great deal above, but it has now been very substantially reduced and I think it is nearer something like 1,000 million ECUs and it is proposed that there should be special intergovernmental agreement to meet that 1,000 million ECU deficit. But the 3,000 million ECU which I thought I heard you mention is totally new to me and if it is 3,000, it has got to be got down, but quick, to 1,000 million ECUs.


He says he was speaking in Italian lira.

Mrs. Thatcher

Well, I am in ECU.

Question (Allan Cochrane, “Daily Espress”

Returning, if I may Prime Minister, to the events of the last week. We had Prime Minister Craxi, a moment ago, suggesting or offering that the experiences of the Italian Government in relation to terrorism would be freely available to the British Government. In relation to that, can I ask you: is there any way in which British public life can now carry on as it did before last Friday or do you now envisage a situation where British people in public life, like yourself, will now have to take a much more protected shelter stance when they appear before the public as a result of last Friday? [end p13]

Mrs. Thatcher

Well, do you notice any difference between the way in which our last public press conference was conducted and this one, save that this one is in Claridges? No, British public life will continue to go on. Obviously, we shall watch security matters. I think every politician does do that. Obviously, we shall watch them a bit more carefully, but here we are seeing you. I hope you think that that is evidence that British public life is carrying on. It certainly seems so to me.

Question (La Nazione, Florence. In Italian)

May I ask you Mrs. Thatcher and President Craxi, you have both met Dom Mintoff recently. Have you discussed Malta at all and in what terms?

Mrs. Thatcher

I do not wish at this conference, which is about Anglo-Italian relationships, to turn it into an Anglo-Maltese conference. Yes, I did meet Mr. Mintoff recently. I think we put out a statement at that time. He discussed with me some of the problems which arise from wrecks and bombs off the Maltese coast and I said that we were willing to consider another survey in much more detail to find out about those matters and presently, I have received, just the day before came many representations from people here about the education position in Malta …   . has been changed recently … and I felt bound to put those representations vigorously to Mr. Mintoff, which I did. [end p14]

Prime Minister Craxi

I have met Dom Mintoff in Rome recently. We discussed many things, but I do not know what in particular might interest you.

Question (In Italian)

I think you mentioned in particular education in Malta.

Prime Minister Craxi

Education in Malta concerns Malta and the Church and the Vatican. It does not concern the Italian State.

Question (Il Tempo, Rome. In Italian)

Mrs. Thatcher, seeing as terrorism unfortunately concerns all of us in Europe, can you tell us with what spirit and with what perspective forecast you are preparing yourself to meet the Irish Prime Minister next month?

Mrs. Thatcher

I shall meet Garret Fitzgeraldthe Irish Prime Minister before the end of the year in two different guises; first, in pursuit of our bilateral conferences, our bilateral talks which we have from time to time, and we expect to have one this side of Christmas. We are neighbours and it is important therefore that we have as much cooperation as possible, and that is the spirit in which I meet him.

I shall also meet him as part of the Community Summit and again, we meet and cooperate well in that respect. [end p15]

Question (In Italian)

Mrs. Thatcher, can you tell us something more on technology, as concerns Europe vis-a-vis the United States and Japan?

Mrs. Thatcher

I cannot tell you a great deal more. You will be aware …   . I cannot tell you a great deal more than that which you already know. You will be aware that the new technology has developed much more quickly in both Japan and the United States than it has in Europe and that whereas ten years ago Europe used to be a main exporter of new technology, the new electronics developed more quickly overseas and Europe is now a very considerable importer of those things.

When we discussed this matter at the London Economic Summit, we noted that both United States and Japan had somehow become much more ready to adapt to change and to new products than was so in Europe. It is a thing which we wish to remedy in Europe. It may also be associated with the much sharper increase in the number of small businesses that occur both in the United States and Japan than in this country. It is really observing what has happened and trying to rectify it.

At the moment, the new electronics are developing quite fast in this country and providing quite a lot of jobs. I believe that that is so throughout the rest of Europe and you will recall that in my opening comments I referred to [end p16] cooperative schemes that are taking place now between electronics companies here and electronics companies in Italy. But it is going to be quite a long haul to get back to the position that we ought never, in fact, to have lost and for that we shall need the full cooperation of everyone who works in industry, because if we do not have the new technology other countries will and then they will get the business and we shall not.

Question (In Italian)

May I ask you, Mrs. Thatcher and Signor Craxi, whether you have examined Mr. Chernenko 's interview and what kind of assessment can you give on this text?

Mrs. Thatcher

Yes, I did see it. I noted that it was couched in very moderate language which was encouraging. I do not imagine that it heralds any change in policy, but so often the tone means as much as the policy and I thought, therefore, that it was encouraging, and I hope and believe that after the American elections there will be a return to disarmament talks.

So, broadly speaking, the tone was encouraging.

Prime Minister Craxi

Yes, I think exactly the same. I should answer you the way Galileo spoke. “It seems it is standing still but actually it does move” . [end p17]


Italy is taking over the presidency of the European Community on 1st January. How do you see, and what are your particular priorities during this crucial period of the European Community's development? In what way is Italy going to give a new impetus to the development of the European Community?

Prime Minister Craxi

Italy by itself is in no position to give a new impetus for those who know how the Community dynamics work, know perfectly well that with best will in the world one cannot act alone. The important problem, therefore, is to see whether we have reached a point at which all the nations involved do realize the necessity to look at things in a wider way and to collaborate more closely. This is the true problem. If this will exists, which is a political will, then we will go forward in the most important direction which, as I said earlier on, is the one of creating the conditions whereby great industrial nations might commit themselves totally on the problems of the future. We are not a group of rural nations; we are a group of great industrial nations who also happen to have some good agriculture, but we are great great industrial nations.

There are many things we are not sure about as yet; many things we have been going too slowly on. This is a perspective which faces us all and the Italian chairmanship, similarly as the ones before it, will do its best to help this important process.