Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Joint Press Conference with French President (Francois Mitterrand)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Elysee Palace, Paris
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Editorial comments: 1145-1215.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 3042
Themes: Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Industry, Energy, Trade, European Union (general), European Union Budget, European Union Single Market, Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU), Transport

President Mitterrand (Verbatim transcript of simultaneous translation)

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have just finished the work of this meeting between representatives, besides being led by the Prime Minister on the one hand, and by myself.

A lot of work has been done and it has been possible to reach conclusions and bring to their term activities and discussions which in some cases started a long time ago. And we have been able to note that a particularly large number of decisions have been able to be taken and definitive decisions, bringing therefore to fruition conversations that were already in progress as well as at the same time other initiatives have been started.

I think a list of cooperation projects will be able to be circulated to you, projects which are at present underway and under study, and this will indicate the degree to which this particular … these particular meetings today and yesterday have made it possible to achieve a successful outcome … the Airbus 320 project, cooperation on fast breeders. The first decision concerns … was the beginning of 1984 … that is when it was taken; and then there was the agreement made by several European countries, including our two countries, in January 1984, and it was the first matter. [end p1] This has continued and the agreement between our two countries is turning out to be an ever closer agreement.

In the field of armaments, France and Great Britain are taking part in the tripartite programme with the Federal Republic of Germany for the third generation anti-tank missile. Also a quadripartite programme; there was also the United States for what is known as the multi-layer rockets.

We are still working together with the Chinese Government on the Guangdong power station. We are still in negotiations there because the basic decisions on principle have already been taken.

On the European combat aircraft, a feasibility study is to be submitted to the Governments in March 1985. And a fair number of large scientific equipment projects, European in particular. The Synchrotron (phon.) Laboratory, the European Transonic Wind Tunnel in particular.

I will give you a document that was drawn up concerning the Channel Fixed Link. This is a document which will be published and the Prime Minister and myself have given our agreement to this document, and I will summarise this.

A Franco-British working group has been entrusted with the task of the conditions that will have to be met by the participants in such a project and also on the nature of the commitments for the two Governments which they will be entering into. All these matters are to be put together in a report within the next three months, it being understood that we recognize today the importance that such a Channel Link could have as a very important element in the European transport network, a large-scale project. And, therefore, we consider this should be technically feasible and financially should be an economic proposition. Therefore, we are in fact taking a [end p2] step forward in the step that I have just mentioned.

Joint working meetings on satellites will take place between British Aerospace and MATRA (phon.) in particular; then for the helicopter engine, RTM 322, Rolls Royce and ???????? [sic] will be involved and were all part of the Employment Technology Group and our two countries are co-pilots in that particular group. This is part of the plan that I had suggested in Versailles in 1982, so we are co-piloting for the bio-technological project and also for food technologies. We are working on this, whereas the spirit programme is developing and together we are attempting to define areas of cooperation for computers, in particular new-generation computers and artificial intelligence.

For outer space—joint action there. A new European Space Agency programme, in particular Artienne (phon.) 5, and the manned space platform, Columbus, project as well.

For scientific research, we have been looking at the possible setting up of a Franco-British association for development research. We want to encourage industrialists on both sides to seek new areas of cooperation in that particular advanced high-technology area, pyrenetics (phon.) and telephone technology. In that connection, we have considered what areas of non-cooperation there were and we have looked at a certain number of proposals in a neighbouring sector. I would here mention in particular what is known officially as energy interconnections, energy links.

As to multi-lateral cooperation on armaments, I want to come back to this, to be precise. In addition to helicopters, communications satellites and electronic components, …   . of radars, etc. there is all this as well. [end p3]

There are also negotiations on common standards for direct television and also to be conversations on oceanography.

Now, as far as external relations are concerned, there is not only all that I have just been talking about, but there is also perhaps an approach to this relationship from above, as it were. Research, security problems: regular discussions are taking place between Ministers of Defence and Foreign Relations and there are exchanges of view also between the Ministers of Finance on general monetary considerations, indebtedness and also preparation for international meetings, and such matters.

The Community stance has been considered also. Rather, this was in the framework of OECD.

We also mentioned the problem raised by UNESCO, the problem which UNESCO has to contend with. We, the French, feel that it is absolutely essential to maintain the universality of the Organization and we discussed this with our British friends.

Then, of course, there was a very topical problem because next Monday we will be meeting in Dublin. We also took stock of the European negotiation. You know that the dominant theme of this particular meeting will be the enlargement.

I think that the agreements that we reached in June in Fontainebleau have already considerably cleared the ground and there is no question of coming back on the issues and disputes that were settled, so that now we are moving towards the enlargement issue, which is linked to certain commitments entered into and met concerning budgetary discipline in particular. Also the need to increase the VAT proportion, but these problems are linked. They are linked to [end p4] enlargement, but on enlargement the area has been considerably narrowed. There is one important issue still outstanding—wine—and wine is something that will be tackled in Dublin. In that connection, I would say that as far as France and the UK are concerned, our position is identical.

We also talked about the reports of the ad hoc committees, in particular the committee on the institutions. On that, of course, we each continue our discussions but there will be a report—Mr. Maurice Faure 's Report—and from Dublin onwards this will become a topical issue.

We also considered that it was necessary to develop and make greater use of the European Investment Bank. Again, another word on budgetary discipline. Sometimes it is brought into question, but not by us, and we are absolutely determined to see that the decisions already taken are actually put into effect. Certain comments on this have been made by the Finance Ministers. It will be for the General Affairs Council to take the final decision.

There were conversations of all kinds on industrial capabilities, production possibilities and I do not want to dwell on all these subjects.

Beyond the question of budgetary discipline as such, we had conversations concerning the Europe of a common market and we agreed on that the overall envelope for Fielga (phon.) should be of the order of 5½ billion ECUs for five years. We talked about the falling interest rates, the decline in interest rates, and it seems that the movement has started anyway, the Ministers concerned certainly intending to encourage the trend downwards. [end p5]

We entered into conversations on a special African Fund and, as you know, France is prepared to participate in order to finance to the tune of $150 million over three years. Already $50 millions have been earmarked in our Budget, the French Budget, but we think for the fund to be useful it should be at least $1 billion. The United Kingdom is considering the matter and thinking about the possibility.

There was also a discussion, which is not finished, concerning mixed credits, on development.

I think these were the main points. I would simply add that conversations on cultural problems have put a very excellent finish to the conversations between our two countries. We have already noted the multiple important exchanges in this area, and on the French side, we have insisted on the importance of having as many possible translations of French works into English. All this has been looked at in an excellent spirit of cooperation.

A moment ago, I was talking about the various links and interconnections. A pipeline would also be perhaps a possibility. You see I am taking cooperation between our two countries to the extent of using speaking English and using the English word “pipeline” which is a mistake. A pipeline, because this would make it possible for gas to be moved across the Channel. So much for that.

In the cultural field, both sides are very interested in the European Year of Music and very fruitful cooperation is developing among the great national libraries on the two sides.

I probably omitted a number of things, but that is a good thing as you will be able to look at the actual document which will be circulated and this will give you the full gamut of the things that we [end p6] have been doing since yesterday.

I would say that France is very happy to receive here Mrs. Thatcher and the Ministers who have accompanied her, following on the State visit by myself made to the United Kingdom recently and we were able to note that relations were really constantly good. Thank you. [end p7]

Mrs. Thatcher

François MitterrandMr. President, if I might follow up briefly what you have said, because you have given the full detail of the discussions of our several Ministers and ourselves.

First, may I say that this is the first bilateral meeting between France and Britain which has not been dominated by discussion of the Community Budget. That is very good. It comes about because of the excellent agreement achieved at Fontainebleau, I think due largely to the leadership of President Mitterrand on that occasion and to his firmness. I would like to thank him for it and say how much the people of Britain realize and are grateful for the role which he personally played in that agreement.

That occasion has been followed up throughout the Community in translating what was agreed there into details. That Fontainebleau meeting was followed up by President Mitterrand 's very successful State visit to Britain. All of this has contributed to a new atmosphere of cooperation and constructive discussion on this bilateral occasion.

You heard the details from the President. May I just point to one or two highlights?

The extent of the collaboration between us, both in the military sphere, in projects in the military sphere, because it obviously makes sense for us to collaborate in military equipment, not only between France and Britain, but with other members of Europe; it gives us a larger market and that means that we not only have larger sales at home in Europe, but it gives us a better base for competing for sales abroad. So there are a lot of projects [end p8] of military collaboration.

The second sphere in which we collaborated actively are industrial projects, particularly in high technology, sometimes between our two countries, sometimes in the Community. But high technology is crucial for the future employment of our people in the Community, and there are a lot of projects which come under that head, whether it be the Esprit of the Community or telecommunications in which we have collaboration between Britain and France.

The third sphere was of course energy. We were both very interested in the fast breeder reactor. We are both interested in the nuclear power station at Guandong and shall hope, both of us, to get substantial orders for that power station. We hope to go ahead and negotiate more closely with China.

And the fourth and very obvious place where we are hoping to collaborate even more closely is the Channel Tunnel. We had a number of discussions on this. Can I say that we are cautiously optimistic? We are exploring the details and we are giving a new urgency to that exploration. We obviously have to lay down details so that the private sector would know exactly the parameters within which it would have to work in order to finance what could be a very exciting deal.

Those are four spheres of active cooperation. All have been taken ahead at this very important bilateral meeting.

President Mitterrand referred to the Dublin meeting. 1984 will have proved to be a very important year for the Community, an important year, in that we set out to tackle the underlying long-term [end p9] problems and we are succeeding. First, the finance—which I have indicated. Secondly, the enlargement. Many details still remain to be sorted out, but Mr. Garret FitzGerald is doing all he can to get them forward to Dublin and it would be wonderful if we could take the final decisions there. Then we should have had a great year of achievement for the Community as a whole.

The longer-term projects, again, which were set in hand at Fontainebleau, the Dooge Committee and the Faure Committee, of course we will take forward. They do offer great promise for practical steps forward in the completion of the common market in the Community as well as practical steps forward in other forms of cooperation.

We have, of course, also discussed East-West cooperation. Both of us wish great success to the disarmament talks between President Reagan and the Soviet Union. Both of us have an independent nuclear deterrent which of course will not be included in those talks. Naturally, they are very small components of the strategic ballistic missiles in the world. Ours is about 2½%; of the strategic ballistic missiles and it is important first that great reductions be achieved in those strategic missiles, and if they are achieved, then perhaps later one can consider other things.

I have one point to make in particular about disarmament. It must be achieved at every stage keeping the security of the West and the security of our own nations, and I am sure that the Soviet Union takes the same view. That means it must be balanced. [end p10]

We discussed also many other economic matters. The United States obviously has a great effect on our economies in Europe. We discussed credit terms and international credit, as the President has indicated, and we also discussed, with some considerable concern, a tendency towards protectionism. We want the barriers down, but if the barriers are to come down we cannot have them coming down in one part, without them coming down in other parts of the world. We want fair competition the world over and are working for reduced protectionism.

I think that would complete what I would wish to say, save to thank our hosts, the President and our host Ministers, for this very constructive meeting. What has been evident is our common purpose, our common interest and our constructive cooperation. We thank you very much for a very pleasurable meeting and for your excellent hospitality. [end p11]


Could you tell us, Prime Minister and Mr. President, something about whether you are considering the possibility of political activities, of further activities, for Europe, and what will be done in Dublin on the subject?

President Mitterrand

The position of France, subject to specific aspects, will appear in fact in Mr. Maurice Faure 's Report on Political Cooperation, but I am prepared to talk about it with our partners, of course. We do not want to rush them into anything, more than would be appropriate, but all the same, we would like to manage to achieve something reasonable because it is important that Europe should sort of keep its stamina and even develop it and I think it is important that Europe should be of greater interest than it is now to the Europeans themselves. But I am sure Mrs. Thatcher will make this point, but this does not mean that on this matter we have reached the end of the road—we are rather at the beginning of the road.

Prime Minister

Can I add just one thing? Political cooperation is already close. The question, I think, that the Faure Report raises is whether it should be put on a more formal basis and if so, what? That, of course, will continue to be discussed, but please do not underestimate the achievement we already have made in political cooperation both bilaterally and in the European Community as a whole. [end p12]

Question (Financial Times)

Do both Governments therefore attach the same importance to institutional reforms in the Community?

Prime Minister

Mr. President, shall I go first on this occasion? I attach great importance to practical results and that is the test by which I judge all institutional reforms. In the two committees which have been set up, there are enormous possibilities for practical results. I mean, the internal market is one; having far fewer barriers to movement of peoples and capital and goods are another. It is those practical reforms I think that give the Community its life.

Institutional reforms, of course we consider, but the importance of an institutional reform is, does it contribute to the achievement of greater practical results? And that is the approach which we shall make to institutional reforms.

President Mitterrand

I would, in fact, say that I can go along with what the Prime Minister has answered, and I would say that France thinks that Europe must constantly strengthen her common political capabilities and in that connection proposals should be made which will of course have to be understood by the whole country and should therefore be based on practical considerations related to the day-to-day activities.

David Angleman (CBS News, American Television)

Mrs. Thatcher, when you meet with President Reagan, will you [end p13] be bringing any joint proposals you and President Mitterrand would like to see raised in the Gromyko-Shultz discussions in January?

Prime Minister

I will not specify particularly what I will be talking with President Reagan about, but obviously that subject will take up a considerable part of our discussions. That and the future development of the economy.

President Mitterrand

Well, the meeting is adjourned. Thank you very much!