Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Joint Press Conference with West German Chancellor (Helmut Kohl)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Institution of Civil Engineers, central London
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Editorial comments: 1200-1245.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 4047
Themes: Defence (general), Defence (arms control), Defence (Falklands), Economic policy - theory and process, Higher & further education, Employment, Industry, European Union (general), Economic, monetary & political union, Foreign policy (International organizations), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU), Terrorism

Prime Minister

Helmut KohlHerr Chancellor, Ladies and Gentlemen:

This, as you know, is one of our regular bilateral meetings, which we greatly enjoy, and today we have discussed the economic situation in both our countries. It has certain similarities, in that we are both growing, the economies are both growing well; they are both creating jobs and, of course, it is a situation we hope will continue.

There are also other similarities: even though we are both creating jobs, the demographic curve has, as you know, increased the number of people of working age in the population, so that the figures have not represented the fall in unemployment that they would otherwise have done.

We have also discussed, at some considerable length, the results of the United States-Soviet Summit. It is, of course, extremely important to us. We were both at the NATO meeting after the Summit. We are both very pleased with the results of the Summit, and very much aware that a great deal of work will now have to be done to translate those confident new hopes into reality. [end p1]

We have also discussed general foreign affairs matters and among them the vote at the United Nations on Falklands, at which Germany has indicated that she will not change her vote and which we are very grateful for.

We have had discussions, as you would expect, about the prospects for the meeting of the European Council at Luxembourg. I think we are both very anxious to achieve results at that meeting and to complete what some of us had hoped would be completed in Milan, but to complete the work we set out to have at Luxembourg. We have discussed some of the details, and we will have further contacts before the Council meeting comes about to see whether we can coordinate our response.

Now, there are one or two particular things. We have, of course, discussed Eureka. The meeting in Hanover was very successful, and we look forward to that developing.

We have discussed, in particular, the prospect of having more contacts between our young people. It is very important and, as you know, I think you will have seen from the press notice, that we have announced new measures to promote Anglo-German youth contacts which is a new discussion forum, and also special bursaries for the Königswinter Conference to enable more young people to attend.

We very much look forward, of course, to the state visit of Richard von Weiszackerthe President of the Federal Republic to this country next year.

Chancellor Kohl and I have had a very good summit. We have also heard reports from our Foreign Ministers, because Herr [end p2] Genscher is accompanying Chancellor Kohl; also from our Defence Ministers, because Herr Werner is accompanying Chancellor Kohl as well; and from our Trade Ministers, Herr Schlecht. So we have had a very wide discussion at this bilateral meeting.

Herr Chancellor! [end p3]

Chancellor Kohl

(Transcript of Interpretation)

Madam Prime Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen:

The first thing I should like to say is that I would say here, before the public in your country, I should like to say a cordial word of thanks for the hospitality which I myself and my colleagues have found here as usually.

This 17th Anglo-German consultation takes place at a very important part in world and European affairs. The Prime Minister has already referred to the events in Geneva. Our moderately optimistic expectations have been confirmed and now and the next few months we will have to keep very close contact with one another, with our European and American partners, and make use of this time to prepare, if you like, the next Summit, which will take place in the United States, between President Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev, and to prepare it in such a way that the voice of Europe, the voice of our countries, will be fully represented there.

Secondly, we have spoken in great depth about the EEC Summit in Luxembourg. This will be a very important date. Just let me mention the three main points: the European internal market—I say at long last, because it would mean the final breakthrough for economic developments in Europe and better arrangement for the voting institutions and all that. You know these subjects. I am perfectly optimistic that we shall manage, after discussions which will be difficult, to make considerable progress in Luxembourg.

Bilaterally, let me emphasise that our relations have become ever closer. We have just agreed that next spring we shall visit BAOR and also, before the public of my country, make it quite clear [end p4] and show how close we cooperate, and particularly on security matters. And let me say to your public opinion here how greatly we desire that your soldiers, together with ours, help to defend our joint freedom and that this cannot be sufficiently emphasised.

What was said about contact with the young generation: well there, I can only support this. It is one of the great chances, at the end of this century, after the trials and tribulations which we have had in this century, to reach a stage where young people get together, learn to understand one another better, for the time when they will bear responsibility, which will be in the next century, so that they can base what they will do then on the experiences they have gained and find the right path for the future.

I would also like to congratulate you on the courageous step you have taken with the Anglo-Irish Agreement and I have said so at home, in fact, quite publicly, and we are pleased and relieved that you have taken this step and I hope—and as an outsider I have no advice to give—but I hope that you will get the broadest agreement also in your country. [end p5]

Prime Minister

I am not quite sure that I made it clear, but I am very grateful to Chancellor Kohl for making it clear, that he is going to visit the British Army of the Rhine, for which we are very grateful, and I suggested that we go together to make a visit to the British Army of the Rhine some time next spring. I think it will be a great demonstration of the solidarity we have in the NATO Alliance in the number of forces we keep on the Central German Front, a demonstration of the appreciation of Germany of that, and of our commitment to the liberty of the whole of Europe, and the whole of the Alliance.

John Dickie

( “Daily Mail” )

Prime Minister, have you managed to persuade the Chancellor that there is no need to have amendments to the Treaty of Rome, and if your answer is no, may I ask the Chancellor why he has resisted your persuasion?

Prime Minister

The matter is still being considered. As you know, we want to do as much as we possibly can without amendments to the Treaty of Rome. A great deal can be done, and we are agreed on some things; some things have still to be resolved. Herr Chancellor?

Chancellor Kohl

There is a little problem here it seems. There seems to be a translation problem. Could we have the translation again please? [end p6]

I just said the Federal Republic and I myself hope for a considerable step to be taken forward in Luxembourg in two or three fields; that is the internal market, the strengthening of the institutions, and the question of parliament, the assembly. Now de facto—not de jure—we are a Community of 12 now—Spain and Portugal will join on the 1st of January—and, of course, we will have to find some compromises in all these matters.

So far as the internal market is concerned, this will be possible. There are differences, not between the two of us, but with others, particularly when we think of monetary policy. I think solutions will be found.

I agree with the Prime Minister that with regard to the question of making treaty amendments on monetary issues, we first of all will have to do what has already been agreed. We have not reached that point yet. Let me just explain it to you. Let us say we are all putting ourselves in starting positions for a 1,000-metre race, but the starting positions are quite different.

Secondly, we have to raise the question as to what extent we already have a convergence of economies within the Community, and here I share the view of the Prime Minister that the monetary problems are at the end of the road, not at the beginning.

We have made progress on questions of economic convergence, but they are not yet satisfactory so far as I am concerned. I think there we must make some more progress. [end p7]

Question (CBS News)

Chancellor Kohl, you have said that you want Europe's voice to be heard at the next Summit. What is the message? What are the points that you wish Europe to make at the next Summit, the one in Washington?

Chancellor Kohl

I think we have already had the chance, and we have made use of it in very close consultation in preparing the Summit with our American friends and we have made our views known.

You know that three years ago, when I visited the then Secretary-General Andropov in Moscow, I raised this issue straight away. I never thought that it could be wise that for six years there was no dialogue at all and that all discussions took place via others. The discussions at Geneva were a risk, certainly, but it was a risk that came off. It was successful. It was a success in the fact that it took place at all; it was a success in the way it took place. Nobody expected great spectacular results, but the fact that discussion will continue, that certain possibilities have opened up and all that.

Let me recall the Anglo-German initiative on MBFR. We had a joint view on chemical weapons and all that and this is very important. The Federal Republic of Germany is prop-full [sic] of arms as hardly any other countries. We have no interest in having any more, and so it is possible to make some progress there.

There is one other very important point: when we were together recently and when President Reagan was there for the United Nations celebrations, we said that disarmament, arms and [end p8] detente should be discussed, but also that there should be a discussion on a broad front. The President took this up and it was done. You must remember that for us Germans, who live in a divided country, this is an existential issue. It is not only a question of armaments being discussed, but also cultural, economic and human relations. This was discussed. I think it was well formulated, wisely formulated. There was not any unnecessary pathos about it. The question of human rights was raised and left open …   . [power failure, break in transmission]

Prime Minister

Shall we carry on with any question to me?

Question (German Television)

Has the question of leaving or reforming Unesco been discussed and has there been any encouragement from the German side to the British to seek reforms within?

Prime Minister

We have discussed the matter briefly and I have indicated our strong views to the Chancellor and pointed out that we gave notice of withdrawal over a year ago, which notice stands unless it were to be rescinded.


…   . [partly inaudible] … is not very happy about those who have the big vision about European Union. I think you said in France no-one has been able to explain to you what it really means. Has [end p9] the Chancellor been able to enlighten you about that and what is actually your idea about the European Union? After all, Britain has signed two documents—the Treaty of Rome and the Stuttgart Declaration—where European Union is mentioned.

Prime Minister

“European Union” means different things in different countries. That is one of the problems. I think if you look at it in the context of the treaty, it means steadily working more closely together on matters of common interest to us all and that, in practice, is what we are doing, and the present phase of development in the Community is trying to work more closely together, as for example in opening up the internal market, which you will recall was actually higher on the EEC original treaty than the CAP, and doing more in political cooperation.

As both the Chancellor and I have indicated, we see no reason at all at the moment—and a lot to be said against—any amendment of the treaty on monetary matters.

To some people in this country “European Union” could mean a kind of United States of Europe. I do not think that would ever be possible. The history is different from the United States of America. I think if you take the lower profile meaning of “European Union” , of gradually working more closely together, then you will find that we are doing just that. [end p10]

Chancellor Kohl

Perhaps I can add a few words on this. I think next week we will have an opportunity to agree on substantial agreement on political cooperation. There are joint British and German proposals there. Talking about the vision of Europe, which was your subject, we need a great deal of patience, because we have to base ourselves on history.

The Federal Republic of Germany is different in this case from Great Britain, if we look at the history of the European Community, but let me say quite frankly I am opposed to those sceptics who believe that we cannot ever reach the goal because we have not made enough progress over the past 25 years. If you look at the history of Europe and if you know the fraternal wars—fratricidal wars—that have taken place in Europe over 500 years or more, then it is not really extraordinary that in 25 years one has not done more. But if I think of what was possible between the Stuttgart Declaration of 1983 until now, Luxembourg, we have made progress step by step. Admittedly, the steps were small, but just vision is not enough. The difficulties are always in the detail; we know that perfectly well in European history.


Did you discuss terrorism, especially considering what happened this week in Tunis, and also considering that Germany and Britain are countries that are leading in civilian air traffic, so that every one of the hundreds of aircraft you are flying is now in danger? [end p11]

Prime Minister

We did not, on this occasion, discuss terrorism. As you know, we are both actively involved and cooperating in defeating it, and as you know, we both subscribe to the statement on Terrorism that were issued by the Summit Seven in the past and we subscribe to the other efforts that have been made through the European Community. But it was not discussed afresh, because I think we are doing everything we possibly can at present.

Wolfgang Kupler (Rheinische Post)

Prime Minister, you mentioned that you want to expand the contacts of youth on different fields. Do you have an idea of how much this would cost and in view of the tight budget policy of the British Government, are you going to provide more money for this?

Prime Minister

Oh, it will cost very little indeed, but most of the bursaries and scholarships will, we believe, be sponsored by private industry and they will be very pleased to it because they take a foremost part in the Königswinter process. When it comes to the new discussion forum, obviously we shall help because the first one will be held at Wilton Park in July 1986.


Could I ask you both whether you discussed participation in SDI research with the United States, whether the Federal Republic has yet come close to taking a decision on that and whether Britain and the Federal Republic will go together with other EEC countries in this matter and also, Prime Minister, could I ask you to repeat your answer on Unesco, because we could not hear it. [end p12]

Prime Minister

I am very sorry. Let me repeat the answer on Unesco first. As I indicated to the Chancellor, we gave notice of withdrawal in November 1984 that we would withdraw from Unesco at the end of this year. That notice of withdrawal stands unless by any chance it were rescinded. That was what I indicated to the Chancellor.

With regard to SDI, we are each making our own arrangements with the United States. I believe we shall have a similar framework for carrying out the work on SDI. We are fairly well advanced with our negotiations. Chancellor Kohl will speak for the Federal Republic of Germany, but it is my belief that we are likely to sign agreements, both of us, before Christmas.

Chancellor Kohl

Our situation is slightly different from that of the United Kingdom so far as SDI is concerned. The Americans have invited Germany companies—a number of German companies which have great interest in contact and cooperation. We have a number of other problems: we have got the budget discussions in the Bundestag this week; but before Christmas we will, within the Cabinet, take a decision as to in what manner we, as a Federal Government, can draw an outline and if we do this, what this outline will be like—the outline agreement with the Americans—and then matters will proceed within that framework.

Nicholas Ashford ( “The Times” )

Could I ask the Chancellor how he views the prospects for improved relations with East Germany in the wake of the Geneva [end p13] Summit and is there a date yet fixed for a visit by Herr Honecker?

Chancellor Kohl

Well, in answering an earlier question, I have already pointed out that we attach the greatest importance to the fact that, as a follow-up of the Geneva discussions, which will continue next year in the United States and in the USSR the year after that, that in all this, not only arms and detente and disarmament should be discussed, but that detente also means that it goes beyond the sector of armaments. It affects economic relations, it affects cultural relations, sports relations, just to mention a very few, and any improvement of the political climate in world affairs has immediate effect naturally on the relations in Germany.

Something which I have quoted often is an old German saying which says that great waters absorb little waters. In other words, if the overall climate improves, there is a chance that the climate will improve between the countries in East and West Europe, and this applies in particular to the Federal Republic and the DDR.

In a number of ways, we have the greatest possible interest in the fact that despite the deployment of Pershings over the past two years, relations with the DDR have improved and it is in our great interest that they shall improve further. This is a matter of psychological importance.

The woods and forests are being ruined on both sides of the Iron Curtain and whatever measures are taken make sense only if they are taken on both sides—in the DDR and the Federal Republic, and in Czechoslovakia, we are highly interested in improving [end p14] traffic relations, transport relations. There is the possibility of a cultural agreement. Cultural relations are doing quite well in fact and I hope that such an agreement will be concluded soon, but the central issue for me and for us in Germany is to get better arrangements for Germans within DDR if you like. The number of visitors from the DDR has improved and all kinds of figures have related [sic] but not sufficiently for us to be satisfied. There is still a rule that only pensioners are allowed to visit the Federal Republic from the DDR or if there are particular dramatic compassionate reasons. My wish is that a larger number of people and perhaps also a reduction in the age, should make it possible for people to visit us from the DDR. This is a very important thing and I shall go on working for that.

So far as your question of a visit by Secretary-General Honecker is concerned, this is a matter for him to decide. The invitation has been issued; he has accepted it. Now it is up to him to agree a date. You will realise that I will not take part in this rather stupid discussion in my own country whether he comes or does not come. It is his business. Nor can I give you a date.


Could I ask you whether you discussed the possibility of a joint reply to President Mitterrand 's suggestion that France should take a share in the European Fighter Aircraft and also whether you discussed the possibility of a European solution in another matter of aviation which concerns Westland Helicopters? [end p15]

Prime Minister

With regard to your first question: No, we did not discuss a joint reply to President Mitterrand. We are, of course, prepared to consult with any further aircraft needs in the more distant future … prepared to consult with France.

With regard to Westland Helicopters, any discussions there took place between our two Defence Ministers and I do not think we are in a position there to report further.

Chancellor Kohl

On the first part of your question, let me say again that President Mitterrand, when he visited Bonn a few days ago for the last Franco-German consultations, raised this issue and the Defence Ministers will talk to their French colleagues as to what the French views are in this context. So we have not really got down to brass tacks yet, but we will do.

Colin…   . (Reuters)

Do your comments about no need for amendments in the monetary area mean that Britain's EMS full participation chances are out of the window?

Prime Minister

What we were talking about were possible treaty amendments by the European Council following the decisions or recommendations of the inter-governmental council. Perhaps it will help if I set out the position clearly: [end p16]

Chancellor Kohl and I agree on the need to get the completion of the internal market.

We agree on wanting to preserve unanimity for all important decisions.

We agree that decisions must remain with the European Council, though there can be approved procedures for the Assembly's views to be considered.

And we agree that there is no need for monetary amendments to the Treaty.

As you know, Britain is already a member of the European Monetary System, though not of the exchange rate mechanism. The decision that no treaty amendments on the monetary field are necessary would not affect any decision on our part whether or not to joint the exchange rate mechanism.

Chancellor Kohl

May I underline what I said early on, which I think is very important. We want in Luxembourg to make progress in three …   . on three issue. First of all, the internal market. I think this is more than due now and ladies and gentlemen, that is an enormous task. It means that in many areas the standards and rules in the 12 countries of Europe will have to be brought into line because there are very many different standards in very many fields and if we want to make progress in Europe this means that everybody will have to move. Those who have higher standards may have to accept that the higher standard is not suitable for all the twelve; those who have much lower standards in certain fields in the internal market must endeavour to raise theirs, and this is all very easily said but has enormous effects on [end p17] domestic politics, on the economies of the various countries.

These matters can now be decided by majority decisions according to the proposals which are now before us, but there are other fields—taxation and such like and other very important issues—where at the present state of affairs it is certainly not possible to do away with unanimity, because they are of existential importance for various countries and I am in favour of a flexible attitude and the proposals on the table are on those lines and so I think we will make progress that way.

Then there is also the modality of voting. There are changes now where majority decisions can be taken, so that is some progress.

Of course, it is true that these developments cannot take place without a certain amount of risk but risks have to be taken.

Another point is Parliament and it must be quite clear that in our developments the last word cannot remain with Parliament. I am a firm support of European Parliament and its development, but the time is not ripe yet for Parliament to have the final word on things.