Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Press Conference after London European Council

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, Westminster, London
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Editorial comments: The Press Conference was scheduled to begin at 1430.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 4214
Themes: Commonwealth (South Africa), Defence (arms control), Trade, European Union (general), European Union Budget, European Union Single Market, Foreign policy (Africa), Foreign policy (Asia), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Health policy, Race, immigration, nationality, Science & technology, Terrorism

Prime Minister

Ladies and Gentleman,

This European Council has been very constructive and very practical. Although no dramatic decisions have been required, it has been a very workmanlike Council.

The communique, which is extensive, and the other conclusions will demonstrate, I think, two things:

First, the relevance of the Community to ordinary people in Europe. We have discussed many things affecting them, including business and jobs, and how to get down the many barriers which still exist to trade and to movement within the external borders.

And secondly, I think the communique will demonstrate the increasingly successful cooperation within the Community on dealing with terrorism, and that cooperation has now been extended to things such as dealing with drugs and health problems and the coming year, which we are designating as being a Year on Information on Cancer.

We started off by pointing out that our colleagues, looking back over the five years since we last met in London, took some satisfaction in the distance we had travelled since then, and all of us recognise that this is a time when we need to demonstrate our stability and solidarity as a community. That is what we have done. [end p1]

Can I now just briefly record what we have done these last two days.

On business and jobs, we have launched an action programme to increase the number of jobs in the Community and to foster the birth and expansion of new businesses.

We have given new impetus to the completion of a single internal market by the end of 1992, and here can I say I am very pleased with the acceleration the Dutch and British Presidencies have managed to achieve. I think we have managed to get, on the internal market, some thirty-two agreements in our own Presidency on steps to improve the internal market.

On safeguarding our open society—the freedom we all enjoy in the Community—we have agreed three principles to govern our fight against terrorism:

no concessions under duress to terrorists;

solidarity in preventing terrorism and bringing terrorists to justice and concerted action against attacks and those who sponsor them;

further, we have asked our Home Secretaries to concert a major programme on extradition, on theft and forgery of passports, on abuse of asylum and on illegal immigration—all this to secure the external frontiers of the Community while allowing its citizens again to move more freely within them.

We have endorsed a big drive by Home Ministers against drug trafficking and we resolved to keep following it up so that we make sure that each country learns and implements measures found effective elsewhere. [end p2]

On public health matters, which are also concerned with safeguarding the open society, we have designated 1989 as European Cancer Information Year.

We have sent in hand an exchange of information about the new scourge of AIDS, information about its spread, prevention and treatment and research, with the aim of developing a cooperative drive against it. We feel this is the single most effective action we can take at this stage.

We have had a good discussion on East-West relations and, of course, those of us who belong to the NATO alliance, which is most of us, are very much aware that we had a communique as Defence Ministers met this week and Foreign Ministers will meet next week, so we have not ourselves produced a separate communique. It is not necessary. We have confined our actions to producing a communique on Afghanistan because, as you know, it is coming to the end of the seventh year of occupation and we felt we had to mark it by indicating that and calling for the end to the occupation and the withdrawal of troops.

There is one other matter. Jacques DelorsThe President of the Commission spoke to us about how he saw his task in responding to the duties laid upon him by virtue of the Fontainebleau Agreement, namely, to report to us on financial matters, on agricultural matters, and on cohesion. Before he reports, he will be making a tour of capital cities and Heads of Government, taking with him a series of options which we can consult with him and discuss before he finally presents his report to Heads of Government at a future Council.

I think perhaps that is enough on general matters. Now, your questions. [end p3]


Mrs. Thatcher, we were all in fact expecting that communique on East-West relations. We understood that it was in an advanced state of drafting; that up to a late stage a majority of the members of Council thought it very relevant to issue such a statement and we understand that it was probably the Irish position which prevented it being agreed, in view of the pending ratification of the Single European Act in Ireland, where neutrality is a sensitive issue.

Could you confirm this impression?

Prime Minister

I am very sorry. I missed the beginning of your question.


Sorry. I was simply saying that we all expected up to a very late stage that there would be a communique on East-West relations and the post-Reykjavik situation, and that it was only stopped at a late stage in Council.

Prime Minister

We had a very good discussion on East-West at the dinner last night and Foreign Ministers also had a very good discussion on East-West.

We are aware that we are not all members of the NATO alliance, so the discussion ranged far more widely than that of arms control and arms reduction matters. We are particularly interested that our relationship with the Soviet Union should include matters [end p4] such as human relations and also include quite close contacts with a number of the satellite countries, which we already have, and as you know, there are the various trading agreements that we already have.

So there is that whole aspect. We do not wish it to be only a relationship on arms control and arms reduction.

When it comes to the arms control and arms reduction, the matter is really governed by the NATO communique, to which we all adhere—those who belong to it—which was issued following the meeting of Defence Ministers and we are very much aware that the Foreign Ministers are meeting next week and do not want you to get all three communiques together, had we issued one, to look at the differences, which I am sure would have warranted quite a number of articles and the differences would have been false. So those of us who are in the NATO alliance stand absolutely by that communique on arms control and reduction.

The other matters, as I indicated, we are also very keen to follow up as well.

John Battersby (South African Morning Newspapers)

Mrs. Thatcher, did the Twelve discuss the situation in South Africa and particularly the question of aid to the Front Line States, both by the Community and individual members?

Prime Minister

It was raised very briefly this morning. We had a great deal to do this morning, which is why you have been waiting, but we have nothing further to add on South Africa to the statements we have already made. [end p5]

We are naturally concerned about the situation and the uncertainties in Mozambique and discussed in general terms southern Africa, but very briefly. I think Foreign Ministers discussed the matter in more detail.

John Dickie (The Daily Mail)

Prime Minister, I understand that at one stage you thought it appropriate to stress the need for your European partners to stand united and demonstrate their solidarity in what was described as “the current problems in the United States” .

Can you explain why this was done? Was this meant to be a vote of confidence in President Reagan in the light of his problems over Iran?

Prime Minister

No. I think it is much simpler than that. The United States has certain problems at the moment. While it is going through those problems, in particular it is important—although it is important at all times—that Europe should be seen to be a very stable centre of democracy; very keen to further its progress as an internal community; very practical; very constructive; very forward-looking; and that is exactly what this particular Conference has been, and that I think is helpful to the whole of the Free World. We were getting on with work we have to do. We were in agreement. It was practical, related to citizens of Europe, and this is what democracy and stability are all about. [end p6]


Prime Minister, did you discuss the Middle East and the possibility of yet another European initiative to solve the conflict in …   . and has the Iranian-Nicaraguan American Israeli connection come up on the agenda?

Prime Minister

We did have a brief discussion, obviously on the Middle East because you are all very concerned about it and we expressed profound concern about the continuing tensions. We emphasised the need for fresh impetus to be given to the peace process in the Middle East and we re-affirmed our commitment to support every effort to promote a peaceful settlement. We did not, ourselves, in Heads of Government get into any greater discussion. The Foreign Minister has discussed it, I think again in much more detail because we do recognise that there appears to be something of a vacuum as far as finding a solution to the fundamental Middle Eastern problem is concerned and are very concerned that things be taken forward during the coming year. There was also, of course, reference to the tragic and wasteful war still continuing between Iran and Iraq, and in connection with that because all efforts to end it have so far failed. We stress the importance of maintaining contact with the Gulf States who are, of course, closest to that conflict and most effected by it.

Question (Turkey)

Prime Minister, in view of the fact that the freedom of movement has been denied to the Turkish citizens, the Turkish [end p7] Government has announced that they are preparing to apply to full membership to the EEC. In this case, what would be the attitude of the EEC and Her Majesty's Government and has this issue been taken up at the conference or at the dinners?

Prime Minister

As far as I am aware we have not received an application and I cannot say what the reply of the entire community would be. I can point out that we have an association agreement with Turkey which we are trying to carry out in a more active way, and I can also point out that I think many states would feel at the moment that having just enlarged to absorb Spain and Portugal, that that is really rather a big enlargement to absorb at present and many many problems, particularly about certain extra agricultural surpluses will arise, and many problems in that enlargement, and I think that we would like to feel that we could digest that first.

Question (Gerry Lewis—BPA)

Mrs Thatcher, you re-iterated your strong stance on terrorism this afternoon. Does that include a policy of not talking to terrorist organisations? Can you re-iterate your previous assurances that there will be no ministerial contacts with terrorist organisations, organisations linked with terrorism such as the PLO?

Prime Minister

Our policy on that has not changed. Cabinet Ministers do not meet with the PLO and will not meet with the PLO [end p8] until they renounce terrorism and accept the United Nations Resolution 242 and recognise Israel's right to exist. There are occasions when Geoffrey Howethe Foreign Secretary meets people from that organisation or from the ANC in his capacity as President of the community. We have not met people from the ANC as Cabinet Ministers in our capacity as Cabinet Ministers of the United Kingdom, so there is no change in our present policy.

Question (Alan Osborne—Daily Telegraph)

There is a feeling, Prime Minister, that the summit has avoided some of the major issues facing the community, notably its lack of resources next year and the excesses of the common agricultural policy. Could you say whether the Heads of Government did indeed discuss this problem over their meeting? Could you say further whether you have any ideas for solving these problems and if and when they might be promoted?

Prime Minister

We are very much aware that major problems will arise on the common agricultural policy and on the financing of the community as well as on cohesion, and we discussed them in a general way, we are aware that every decision that is taken in the specialist Councils now will be relevant to those problems. Before Mr. Delors comes forward with the proposals under the Fontainebleau Agreement he, with our consent and indeed approval, has decided to go round the capitals of Europe discussing the matter with Heads of Government and Foreign Ministers and other Ministers so that we can get [end p9] specific options and details of the consequences of those options before us in discussing these fundamental matters. In the meantime, the work of the councils must continue. The Agricultural Council will meet on Monday, it will have to look at the question of beef and milk and a number of other things besides. But I think it is because we are aware of the magnitude of the task that really very special efforts are being made in consultation and in identifying options before any proposals are brought before us pursuant to the Fontainebleau obligation. Monsieur Delors I am sure you would like to say something about that. If not, would you say it anyway?

Mr. Delors

No, no, I am obliged to such a discretion.

Prime Minister

You mean you can refuse to talk to them? Would you very kindly confirm that what I said was absolutely strictly accurate and that you are looking forward to this and rising to the challenge it represents and you will hope to solve it during your coming two years of Presidency of the Commission.

Mr Delors

I hope.

Prime Minister

I had now idea you were such a strong silent man. [end p10]

Question (Dave Mason—Associated Press)

Prime Minister, I am sorry to return to this subject, but are you at all concerned that the crisis in Washington, which is heavily occupying the US Administration, might have an adverse effect on arms control and general relations with Europe?

Prime Minister

Let me say at the outset that anything that weakens America weakens Europe, indeed it weakens the whole of the free world and therefore it is my great hope that things will soon return to normal in the United States and that in any event constructive forward looking policies will still go ahead because we have need to take matters further in arms reduction and in relationships with the Soviet Union, and in the general matters which concern us all. So just whatever problems there are I hope that the forward constructive looking approach will nevertheless soon re-assert itself in the United States which is a very strong, powerful enterprising country and the world has need of the leadership of America.

Question (Joseph Finkleston (phon))

May I begin first of all by congratulating, if I may say it on the role which you have taken, the lead you have taken to fight terrorism? May I ask, is it possible for the EEC to be credible in its fight when one member agrees, is constantly allowing the PLO welcome within Greece at a time when the PLO is claiming to be continuing with murder? Has Greece given further assurances that it will actually take part in the fight against terrorism? [end p11]

Prime Minister

I cannot answer for Greece's policy on the PLO. I have stated our policy and that it has not changed. Each other country must state its own policy but when it comes to acts of terrorism to preventing them, then the cooperation is being stepped up significantly to preventing them and to apprehending and extraditing the terrorists, then we have a much closer cooperation now than we have ever achieved before and that that closer cooperation was mainly achieved in this building when the equivalent of our Douglas HurdHome Secretary met in this building and put out a very good message indeed, and we have confirmed it. [end p12]

Akio Takahata (Japan)

Good afternoon, Prime Minister. About Japan issue. It was a bit of a shock to hear last night that there has been a 70%; increase in the imbalance in trade deficit between the EEC and Japan.

How much of so-called ‘unfair practices’ on the part of Japan contributed to this big huge increase and also may I ask how serious the Community leaders regard this increase?

Prime Minister

I think we are taking the imbalance of trade with Japan, all to Japan's heightened advantage, very seriously indeed.

We have tried over the years to get the same sort of access to the market in Japan as Japan enjoys into Europe. We have not yet succeeded.

For that reason, for the first time, action has been taken against Japan under article 23 of GATT. We regard that action, which as you know happens to be taken on Scotch whisky, as a kind of test case and, of course, it may be that we shall have to take further actions under that article.

But we do believe in free, fair and open trade, but it must be more open both ways than it is at the moment, and we are making strenuous efforts to resolve this very present and relevant problem. [end p13]

Edwin Roth

You talked …   . you said before, to a colleague in answer to a question on the Middle East …   . hope, impetus, new impetus—I will quote you from the transcript afterwards. In fact, Prime Minister, what in your opinion can the European Community possibly do? What can anyone do, but especially, what can the European Community do as far as impetus, hope, etc., is concerned?

Prime Minister

I think as far as the Middle East and fresh impetus is concerned, we know that further advances tend to founder on two fundamental problems: the first, that I think most people are agreed that there should be negotiations between Israel and King Hussein and the Palestinians but that founders on who should represent the Palestinians. It is not acceptable to some of us that the Palestinians should be represented by the PLO and it is therefore necessary to get a group of Palestinians who could effectively negotiate on behalf of the Palestinians and who would be acceptable as negotiators. So far some progress was made on that but there has never been put together a negotiating team which would be wholly accepted, and so I think we have to try to pursue that direction.

The second point on which it has so far foundered is that it is generally accepted that there should be some kind of inter-national arrangement under which the negotiations could take place, although the international grouping should not have a veto on the negotiations. What that international grouping should be, there [end p14] has never been agreement on, so the structure of how it could go forward, I think, is agreeable. It is trying to translate that structure into practical people and practical times to which we must devote our attention.

Charles May (Sunday Times)

Prime Minister, do you think you can get such a good budget deal when you have to start re-negotiating the Fontainebleau package during the course of next year?

Prime Minister

Well, I am not giving up the one I have got, unless I get a better one, or as good a one! As good a one or better; I doubt very much whether it could be better, but as you will recall, it is virtually enshrined now in Treaty form. You cannot have an increase in the Value Added Tax, for example, unless it is agreed by all Governments and ratified by all Parliaments.

Yes. We got a very good agreement at Fontainebleau, no better than we deserved, but it is a good one and we shall hang on to it!

Question (Turkish Section of the BBC)

We understand that during your talks with the Prime Minister of Greece, Mr. Papandreou, the Cyprus issue was discussed as well.

What was the position of Her Majesty's Government and what will be the position of the EEC with regard to including Cyprus in the customs union? [end p15]

Prime Minister

You know that we are very anxious that Cyprus should continue to be …   . if I say a unitary Cyprus that means under a kind of federal system and that is what we have been trying to work towards for a long time and encouraging both sides, both the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot side, to negotiate under the auspices of the United Nations, and to reach a conclusion, because I think that we would be deeply concerned should Cyprus ever become two separate states. So all our efforts are devoted to trying to keep Cyprus as a federal state and we will just go on trying.

It has been a very long time since it has been de facto separate, but we shall continue to support the efforts of the United Nations and continue to encourage both sides to negotiate under those auspices.


Prime Minister, you talk about progress on cooperation to fight terrorism.

I wonder if you could assess what the Presidency has achieved in terms of resolving the paradox in Europe between the fight against terrorism and the need to maintain barriers against terrorists and illegal immigration and so on, and the move towards the internal market breaking down those barriers? [end p16]

Prime Minister

I think you will find a sentence in the communique somewhere—if not, it was certainly discussed—which makes the point very clearly: that the more you try to bring down internal barriers, the more effective must be your control at points of entry to the Community, namely, at your airports and at your ports and along your coast-line, and we all recognise that, because we are very much aware that the freer movement of citizens must not hamper our being able to catch either terrorists or criminals or illegal immigrants.

So the freeing-up of internal movement must be matched by stronger controls at points of entry, on ports of entry, on ports and on airports and, as you know, many of us now have visas. That is one aspect. And we are also watching very carefully for what we could call an abuse of our willingness to give asylum to genuine cases of asylum.

That is the general proposition.

Robert Walgate (Nature)

Prime Minister, at the outset of this Presidency, Britain expressed the opinion that improvement in technological cooperation in Europe and its contribution to the future of the internal market was one of its priorities, and yet this is the first summit for some time at which there has not been a strong statement in favour of technological cooperation, and also, in the meantime, Britain among other states has been opposing substantial increases in European Commission spending on the Technology Programme. I wonder if you could comment on that. [end p17]

Prime Minister

There is a sub-heading “Research and Technology” —it is on page 9 on my draft—and it refers to the meeting on 9 December to reach agreement on the Framework Programme for Community action, research and technological development—whether that is to be over five years or a longer period I am not sure—and it wants us to reinforce the internal market and to have a single market, so that we can compete in the worldwide market for high-technology products, and we also ask the Commission and Council to make a special effort to secure agreement on standards, and the commitment of operators necessary to enable Europe to compete in the development and marketing of digital cellular radio in the 1990s. We selected that thing; we are ahead in it; and really, if we cannot get a system of standards which enables us to be able to pick up a mobile radio in this country and get right through to anywhere in the Community, it will be a great pity. We simply must get agreement on standards to enable that to happen.

John Eisenhammer (The Independent)

A few minutes ago, President Mitterrand in his press conference, characterised these two days of meeting as “A summit between important decisions” .

Would you go along with that?

Prime Minister

Let me tell you something about important decisions. They have to be turned into practical effect—the one is no good without the other—and we have been doing the other! [end p18]


About East-West relations, Prime Minister. Has any of the eleven partners voiced any concern about some concessions that President Reagan might have made in Reykjavik without consulting us? Has anybody said that he is worried?

Prime Minister

I think I can best answer that by saying we stand by the NATO communique. You will be familiar with that. It set out priorities, and I think if we tackled those priorities first and achieved some of the things in those priorities we shall be getting much further with arms reduction in a safe and balanced way, and we are all very conscious that any reduction in armaments must be carried out so that we maintain security and we keep balance and we keep effective verification, and I think you will find that all in the NATO communique, and that reduction in one kind of weaponry has its consequences on other weapons, such as conventional and chemical weapons.