Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Speech at dinner given by Spanish Prime Minister (Felipe Gonzalez)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Moncloa Palace, Madrid
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Editorial comments: Around 2105 local time.
Importance ranking: Minor
Word count: 1399
Themes: Defence (general), European Union (general), Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU), Terrorism

Felipe GonzalezPrime Minister, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen:

First, may I thank you, Prime Minister, for your kind words and for the very warm welcome which you have given to me and my delegation. I am delighted to be in Spain once more and very impressed by the enormous changes which there have been since my last visit here nearly ten years ago.

I agree with you about the historic nature of the occasion. The first ever visit by a British prime minister to Spain; next month it will be followed by the first ever state visit by a British monarch to Spain; and, of course, we recall the extraordinarily successful state visit of Their Majesties King Juan Carlosthe King and Queen SofiaQueen of Spain to Britain two years ago.

I hope and believe that these visits will put the seal on a new epoch in relations between Britain and Spain, an epoch in which we look to the future rather than to the past—not that either of us would wish to forget the past. The history of both our countries is marked by great achievements, of which wse are both justifiably proud.

Spain's exploits in discovering distant lands and opening up the New World constitute one of the most remarkable chapters in Europe's history. The fantastic riches of your culture; the paintings of El Greco, Goya, Velasquez; the writings of Cervantes; the plays of Lope de Vega, are among the greatest of Europe's treasures.

The British people have long felt a deep attachment to Spain. It was nearly two centuries ago that Lord Byron wrote: “Lovely Spain, renowned, romantic land.” Today, that attachment takes the rather different form of the millions of visitors who come to Spain every year from Britain, the vast majority of them to enjoy your hospitality and your climate in tranquillity. The small minority who do behave badly are a source of shame to all decent British people and we fully support you in dealing very firmly with them.

Of course, there have been times when we have been in conflict. That was inevitable between two great, proud nations, each thrusting out into the wider world. I prefer to recall the occasions when Britain and Spain have been allies, where we fought together—as in the time of the great Duke of Wellington—to liberate Spain from foreign occupation.

Working together is not just in Britain's interest or in Spain's interest—it is in Europe's interest; and our discussions today have concentrated on the issues where we can cooperate in practical ways. May I pay tribute, Prime Minister, to your personal contribution to the new spirit in our relations. Your commitment to that was already clear when we first met, before you assumed office. I also remember you telling me then of your dreams for your country and may I congratulate you on your success in bringing so many of them to reality, in particular for achieving for Spain the [end p1] highest growth-rate in Western Europe and on the successful referendum which brought Spain to participate in the common defence of Europe through NATO. You have shown enormous courage and we are very grateful to you and honour you for it.

You and I, Prime Minister, have both welcomed the bold and courageous changes being made by Mr. Gorbachev in the Soviet Union. They hold out hope of a better and more peaceful world for our young people, but we have always to keep our defences strong and sound, and that is where NATO is so important, and I am glad that Spain now plays its part and will eventually, I hope, do so in the WEU as well. As you know, we support Spain's application to the WEU.

May I also say how much I hope that we shall shortly see Spain confirm its participation in one of the biggest and most ambitious defence projects on which Europe has embarked—the European Fighter Aircraft. That would be a tremendous step forward in our industrial cooperation, as well as making a vital contribution to our common defence of Europe.

I also remember our first meeting after you became Prime Minister. It was at one of those events described delicately as “working funerals” in Moscow. We met in the basement of the British Embassy, perhaps the first recorded Summit example of a meeting between leaders taking place below ground level! It was a telling meeting. We achieved quite a lot. We concentrated on the completion of the negotiations for Spain's membership of the European Community which throughout had Britain's full and active support. We shall see the final act in that dream when Spain assumes the Presidency of the European Community in the first half of next year. We look forward to it and have great faith in your personal Presidency.

You have always shown a very practical approach to the Community's problems, something which we in Britain share, and it has produced great benefits for Spain, particularly in the form of the very substantial increases in the Community's Regional and Social Funds, and I am sure that under your leadership the Community will also make further progress towards the very important practical target of completing the Single European Market by 1992.

Indeed, 1992 will be the “annus mirabilis” for Spain—the 500th anniversary of Columbus discovering America; the year in which you host the 25th Olympic Games; and also the great Expo 92 in Seville, about which we have talked today, and I am very pleased to announce tonight that Britain will participate in Expo 92. We intend to have a first-class pavilion—quite the best—to reflect the importance we attach to it, and show the scale of Britain's resurgence and leadership in many areas of technology and services.

May I also thank you, Prime Minister, for your warm support for the Anglo-Spanish meeting which is to be held in Salamanca in November. This will bring together leading citizens from every sphere of national life in both countries to talk about the problems which face both Britain and Spain in modern societies. It is the kind of meeting which has proved very successful in our relations with Germany and I promise you the participation on the British side will be of a very high quality indeed and I know the same is true of participation on the Spanish side. The meeting will be further evidence of the new spirit of which I talked earlier.

Both Britain and Spain have to confront a very serious problem from terrorism. There is no difference between us in our absolute determination not to give way to those who bomb and shoot and indiscriminately kill innocent people, and I am very grateful for the excellent cooperation which we have had from your security forces. [end p2]

All in all, the progress made during these last few years in bringing Britain and Spain closer together has been remarkable. We have achieved it because we both set our minds to overcoming the problems of the past and concentrating on what the future could hold for us.

I believe we both want to approach the last remaining contentious issue—to which you have referred—in our bilateral relations in the same constructive spirit. There are longstanding differences of view between Spain and Britain over the issue of Gibraltar; there are also deep emotions on both sides. It is not realistic to expect an early resolution of these differences, but our common interests in so many areas are so strong that we cannot allow our relations to be determined by one area of dispute, however deep-seated. The Brussels Agreement in 1984 established a framework in which to work together to resolve our differences and is already proving its worth. That is the path on which we should and will continue.

Prime Minister, I come to the point which I made at the beginning of my remarks. It is time to look to the future, a future in which Britain and Spain are both members of Europe's family of nations, having better acquaintance with each other's language and customs but relishing our individual identity; a future in which the barriers against individual enterprise and initiative are brought down, to create one real Common Market; a future in which Europe looks outward in the way which has so long been natural for both Britain and Spain. My visit has made me more confident of that future and more determined than ever that it should be achieved.

Prime Minister, may I reply to you? We are enormously pleased to be here today. Our stay in Spain is very pleasant, is letting us get to know Spaniards better and we feel a deep-seated admiration for the history of your country and we feel a great respect for its leaders.

May I ask you all to rise and drink a toast to His Majesty the King of Spain, to the Prime Minister and his leadership and for an ever closer friendship between our two countries—Britain and Spain.