Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Joint Press Conference with West German Chancellor (Helmut Kohl) (visiting Bonn)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Federal Chancellor’s Office, Bonn
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Editorial comments: 1630-1725.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 2697
Themes: Commonwealth (South Africa), Energy, Trade, Foreign policy (Africa), Foreign policy (development, aid, etc), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU), Race, immigration, nationality, Terrorism

Chancellor Kohl

Welcome for our Press Talk. I apologise to you for being a little bit late, but as you know, the Foreign Ministers have only just come back from Brussels and this has caused a slight delay.

This afternoon, we had a very full agenda and it is a great pleasure to me to have you, Mrs. Thatcher, and your colleagues, here in Bonn once again. We have interrupted our talks in order to meet you now. Of course, we will go on after this meeting and will have the Plenary Session and then continue our talks in the evening.

We have discussed East-West relations and we have agreed that US Europeans, we will make use of the dialogue which is going on safety and armament to make the European position felt.

We know perfectly well that European security interests can only be safeguarded in close cooperation with our Alliance partners. We have also, in this context, discussed the Stockholm Conference, which will come to an end this Friday. We agreed that it is absolutely necessary that at this closing phase the western side must operate in close harmony. We know that success in Stockholm will prepare the ground for further progress in conventional disarmament at the conference in Vienna. [end p1]

Of course, in today's talks, the question of the South African policy of the Twelve has played a great role. I propose that we set this point aside from my little report now and let the Foreign Ministers speak to you about that later, and of course, after that, the Prime Minister and I will have our comments to make.

Then, the Prime Minister and I talked in great detail about the special conference of the AEEU on reactor safety, which will begin next week. I thanked the Prime Minister very warmly for having so effectively supported my proposal for calling such a conference. We are wholly agreed that it is necessary to make substantial progress and obtain substantial agreement and cooperation on the exchange of experience and safety standards and such-like, and I would like to point out in this context that the statement that the safety and health of the citizens must have priority over all considerations is also the view of the British Prime Minister.

We will go on continuing about this but, briefly, we also discussed the European Community of which, as you know, the United Kingdom is in the Presidency at this time.

I once again supported our British friends in the context of further development and in the extension of the internal market, and so far as the Federal Government and I personally are concerned, we will do everything that we can in order to ensure the success of the British Presidency.

Particularly, I would like to thank the Presidency for having taken up a suggestion made by Prime Minister Chirac and myself for calling a special conference on internal security. This conference will now take place on 25th September and will deal, in the first place, with cooperation in anti-terrorist activities. [end p2]

Naturally, we also spoke about the economic and social development in our two countries and let me also say that the Prime Minister and I will tomorrow jointly visit for a whole day the British Army of the Rhine. I am looking forward to this joint visit to the British Army and I want this to be seen as a demonstration for the British soldiers here in Germany and I want to emphasise by this visit how much we in Germany appreciate the fact that Great Britain, by stationing her soldiers here, makes a contribution to our security. This is an example, if you like, for showing that German-British relations are excellent and based on confidence and friendship, and this makes me very happy, and I think, Margaret, I can say that this also is to some extent due to the fact that we cooperate so very well together.

Shall we now first ask the Prime Minister and then perhaps the Foreign Ministers. [end p3]

Prime Minister

Thank you, Chancellor Kohl.

Just a brief word. As you know, this is the tenth time that Chancellor Kohl and I have had bilateral talks, though it is only the seventh formal summit that we have had since 1982.

As Chancellor Kohl has indicated, relations between the Federal Republic and the United Kingdom are excellent and our relationships and that of our two countries will be heavily underlined tomorrow in our tour together of British Forces, Germany. This will help to demonstrate the British commitment enshrined by treaty to the defence of the Federal Republic which is of course the forward defence of the United Kingdom.

Meanwhile, Chancellor Kohl and I have had very full discussions—a long tete-a-tete of about two hours—before Foreign Ministers joined us on their return from Brussels.

I confirm what Chancellor Kohl told you about our talks and would like to underline that I congratulated the Chancellor on his initiative in proposing a conference on international cooperation in nuclear safety.

We had quite a long discussion on South Africa, about which you will hear more from Foreign Ministers about what happened at Brussels.

We talked about economic developments in our respective countries and the prospects for the future.

We confirmed that both our governments would continue to rely on nuclear energy for a substantial part of our energy needs and stressed that it would be absolutely vital for the Third World if it is to have enough energy supplies also to have some nuclear energy.

We discussed East-West relations and the prospects for a Summit and for arms control agreements and we reviewed the [end p4] situation reached at the CDE Conference in Stockholm, which we both want to see brought to a successful conclusion and our talks will be carried forward in more detail at the Plenary which follows this press conference after you have let us escape from your questions. [end p5]

Geoffrey HoweForeign Secretary

I do not want to repeat the whole contents of the communique on South Africa agreed in Brussels. If I may, I shall just give you the highlights quite quickly.

Community Foreign Ministers reviewed our policy towards South Africa. We did that in light of the decisions agreed at The Hague European Council in June and on the basis of a report by me on my mission to South Africa in the following month.

On the situation in South Africa we expressed our grave concern in terms that you can find set out in the communique.

On positive measures, we underlined the importance we attached to the strengthening and effective coordination of the measures being taken to assist the victims of apartheid.

We reaffirmed the urgent need for genuine national dialogue, deplored the fact that the South African Government was not yet prepared to take the steps necessary for that, and we described those steps, and we undertook to work towards a programme of political action designed to promote the achievement of those objectives.

In view of the South African Government's failure to respond, we decided that the Twelve should now proceed to adopt a package of restrictive measures consisting of bans on investments and on the import of iron, steel and gold coins from South Africa.

We concluded with the following paragraph:

Most partners were also willing to implement
a ban on the import of coal from South Africa
if a consensus on this could be achieved.

On this question, the Presidency will continue to seek consensus on the basis of the statement made by The Hague European Council. [end p6]

And I add a sentence of explanation about the United Kingdom position and the position of the Federal Republic:

The position of the United Kingdom was agreed at our meeting with members of the Commonwealth in London in August—that we would be ready to take part in whatever was agreed in the Community discussions. It was therefore my job at those discussions to establish the extent of that agreement and it was to that extent that we were prepared to take part, and it was on that basis—on the basis of the statement made by The Hague European Council—that we reached the conclusions that I have described to you.

The Federal Republic, at the proceedings in Brussels, made plain that it would not agree to a ban on coal imports and that was, of course, an important component of the conclusions which we reached. [end p7]

Herr Genscher

It was important for the Federal Republic that today's declaration is composed of three elements:

First, the aid—both Community-wise and national—for the black population, largely with regard to training.

Secondly, that a political initiative should be organised with the aim to attain the goal of The Hague Declaration, which was to establish dialogue on the basis of the release of political prisoners, including Mr. Mandela, and the unbanning of the ANC and other black political parties.

Despite our continued doubts and objections to the purpose and efficacy of economic sanctions, we have, in the interests of the unity of the Community, agreed to four types of sanctions:

A prohibition on the import of iron and steel and the import of gold coin and also a ban on new investment; that is not to say substitute investment.

As to a ban on the import of coal from South Africa, we feel that if such a ban were effective it would have disastrous consequences on tens of thousands of black miners who work in the mines there and not only those who live in South Africa, but also those who go to South Africa to work in the mines from the neighbouring countries. On this point, the Portuguese delegation were of the same opinion.

In the context of yesterday's meeting, it was necessary to explain that, contrary to other statements that were made, in The Hague, no automatism about sanctions was agreed. On the contrary, it was very clearly stated at the end of The Hague that there was no commitment on the part of anybody and that all the states simply undertook not to exclude sanctions if they were agreed by all. [end p8]

Because of such misunderstandings, I had to say today that the Federal Republic would not be able give a commitment to agree to such an import ban on coal, and had to explain that our reasons for this were not tactical, but were based on the reasons that I explained to you earlier on. [end p9]


I would like to ask both the Prime Minister and Chancellor Kohl if they feel that the measures adopted in Brussels today would lead to a relaxation of apartheid.

Chancellor Kohl

I have never hidden my sceptical attitude towards sanctions. We had long discussions in The Hague on this subject. We looked back over history, right back to the continental blockade. I pointed out in The Hague that such sanctions are always the golden opportunity to do good business by avoiding and evading them and Mr. Genscher has quite correctly reflected the reasons why we have now agreed to what we have agreed.

We are part and parcel of the Community and this compels us to cooperate and work together, particularly so long as you can really do so from within your own views.

So far as coal is concerned, Mr. Genscher has described our position. I am really worried about the fate of many many thousands of not only coal-miners, who do not get any unemployment benefit as they do in our countries, but also of all the family members.

The most important point for me is that we should not let up in our efforts to talk to the South African Government and try to aid them to bring about a peaceful settlement of this dreadful situation, because the danger of enormous tragedy is already written on the wall. And that is why—and I say this for myself personally as well—the decisions of today do not in any way relieve us from the duty to do something positive and, of course, this also covers the help and aid that we can give for the training of young blacks in South Africa. In other words, we clearly extend [end p10] a helping hand.

Prime Minister

I agree with what Chancellor Kohl has said. I do not believe that sanctions will help to bring apartheid to an end. They may, however, cause poverty, unemployment and starvation among many black South Africans, which is why Chancellor Kohl and I recoil from many of the suggestions which have come before us with regard to sanctions.

I agree with Chancellor Kohl that positive measures which have been indicated in the Brussels communique, which were previously indicated in The Hague communique, coupled with political action, are a more effective way of reaching our objective of bringing apartheid to an end.

Herr Genscher

I would like to add just that it was the manner in which our British colleague conducted the negotiations which made it possible to get this decision. Unfortunately, there were some countries who, on the method of all or nothing, wished to delay such a decision, which would have been very bad for the credibility of the Community and which would also have meant a delay in the decision on the initiative for positive aid measures.


On the question of terrorism, I wonder whether the Prime Minister or the Chancellor, in their discussions, have raised the possibility of going down the same road that the French have gone down and imposed visas on non-EEC country nationals. Has that thought been addressed or is there any question of addressing it? [end p11]

Chancellor Kohl

We have not discussed this in such detail. The Ministers are meeting. Nor have we in the Federal Government discussed taking such measures as have been adopted in France.

In the light of today's situation, I think it is unlikely that we will take a comparable step.

Prime Minister

May I just explain our position on visas:

We put on a requirement for visas for operational reasons. That is to say, when so many people are coming into our airports from a given country that we cannot deal with them properly. For that reason, we have recently required visas from five countries, but that is nothing to do with terrorism.

As far as Libya is concerned, because of our previous experience with Libya and the murder of Policewoman Yvonne Fletcher, we already very strictly limit people coming to the United Kingdom from Libya. That was as a direct result of acts of terrorism in Britain.



Geoffrey HoweForeign Secretary

It was not only the Federal Republic that expressed firm opposition to the ban on coal imports. As Herr Genscher has explained, Portugal was in the same position in that respect.

The position of the United Kingdom was as agreed at our meeting with the Commonwealth Heads of Government in London at [end p12] the beginning of August, that in the context of further consideration of the statement made by The Hague European Council, we should not argue against any of those measures. If they were agreed by unanimity amongst our Community partners, we would be prepared ourselves to adopt them. That is why, as I said earlier on, my job in Brussels was, as President of the Council, to establish the extent of that agreement. I am grateful to Herr Genscher for his kind words about my role in that respect and grateful to him for the part that he played.

Question (second part of inaudible question above)

I would like to ask you whether you fear that the Federal Government will now be internationally made the scapegoat for the fact that no effective sanctions against South Africa have been agreed.

Chancellor Kohl

I will answer quite frankly. When I look back at the discussions at The Hague and what has happened until today since then; when I consider all the people that have talked to me and that I have talked to, both Europeans and black Africans, then I have come to the conclusion that we are not at all alone in our view. We simply expressed and did what many people think and let me raise the social issue again and when I think of the social position of mineworkers and their families then I am sure that we have taken the right decision.


On terrorism, and aside from the visas issue, were there any discussions on specific measures to combat international terrorism [end p13] that might form the basis for proposals next week at the meeting of Interior Ministers in London?

Chancellor Kohl

It is the purpose of that conference, in view of the increasing terrorist activities—and all we have to do is to look at what has happened in Paris—to get together to consider what can be done to combat terrorism and, of course, there are quite a number of things that are being considered, but they are not a suitable subject for a press conference.