Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Complete list of 8,000+ Thatcher statements & texts of many of them

1988 Nov 30 We
Margaret Thatcher

Joint Press Conference with French President (Francois Mitterrand) at Mont St Michel

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: Press Conference
Venue: La Salle Belle Chaise, Mont St Michel
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1615-1640.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1806
Themes: Monarchy, Civil liberties, Trade, European Union (general), Economic, monetary & political union, Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU), Terrorism

Prime Minister

François MitterrandMr. President, may I say a few words, only a few, because you have summed up so brilliantly the subjects of our discussion today. I think we shall both treasure the meeting in this unique island and also the memory of this press conference—we shall never have one in surroundings such as this again.

On East-West relations, we both share a very similar view, namely, we believe in strong defence of freedom with justice and that strong defence is the basis for very active negotiations for a wider relationship between East and West.

On European matters, we expect a very friendly meeting at Rhodes, when we can discuss the larger question in a very relaxed atmosphere because there are no immediate decisions to be taken and we took a very practical view of the way ahead.

I think, Mr. President, their questions now! [end p1]

(Note: Questions often Scarcely Audible)

Question

Prime Minister, on the question of active dubellip; negotiations …   . returned from Moscow, President Reagan has been there for the United States, King Juan Carlos for Spain, but the smoke signals from Whitehall seem to suggest that …   . our own Head of State, it would not be an appropriate time yet for her to go.

Prime Minister

As I indicated in the House of Commons, the matter has not even been discussed yet.

Question

Prime Minister, I think you will agree that there have been signals from Whitehall, front-page headlines …

Prime Minister

I am not responsible for front-page headlines. I am responsible for telling you what the facts are and the facts are that the matter has not been discussed yet. I hope the facts might one day make a headline! [end p2]

Question

Mr. President, after discussing your visit to the Soviet Union, do you think that you have the same diagnosis as Mrs. Thatcher on the Soviet Union?

President Mitterrand

Yes, that is my feeling. In fact there is in the air a sort of feeling of freedom or possible hope, without exaggerating this, of course. But things are moving in a certain direction and it is important that things should continue moving in the same direction, but we did not hide ourselves from the fact that the government position would be difficult. It was going to be difficult actually to implement all the …   . without forgetting also the problems that arise in a certain number of republics of the Union of Socialist Republics.

But there we have a partner; someone with whom it is important that we should talk—which is what we are doing.

Question

(inaudible)

Prime Minister

We did not discuss that at this bilateral meeting. [end p3]

Question

(inaudible)

President Mitterrand

What I said was we had started to talk about such problems but we had decided to continue our conversation in two days time in Rhodes.

Prime Minister

On the two particular points you mentioned, we are awaiting a Monetary Report when we go to the Madrid Conference—that is, at the end of the next six months—and so we said little further, except to note that Britain was already dealing in Ecu and had issued some securities denominated in the Ecu. We got no further than thinking that there would be some discussion on what is called the “social dimension” , mentioning in particular training and, as you know, we are already well advanced in our own training policies.

Question

(inaudible)

Prime Minister

As I have already said many times on such occasions, we have marvellous cooperation on anti-terrorist matters with France. That has already been very obvious when France apprehended the “Eksund” with so much weaponry on board. [end p4]

President Mitterrand

We did not actually talk about that particular issue and this press conference is supposed to be about what we did talk about and not a press conference on every subject under the sun, because otherwise we would have to be like the monks and stay here for quite some time!

Question

(inaudible, but re human rights conference):

President Mitterrand

Yes, we did tackle that subject. We decided to pursue what we started, in other words, consultations with all our allies.

We talked about the possible approach to a possible human rights conference in Moscow following the human rights conference in Paris and the one in Copenhagen, a conference of course on the implementation of the Helsinki Agreements.

We reached no conclusive position on such matters and I think we should bear in mind that we are not really faced with anything particularly specific by way of a proposal on the subject. It is clear that our countries will continue working on the idea of human rights conferences with perhaps the possibility of one day one in Moscow. The proposal that has been mooted concerns 1991 or later and there is nothing mandatory in the date anyway.

With regard to the actual question of negotiations on conventional arnaments, those negotiations could start in the next few weeks. [end p5]

Prime Minister

First, if I might reply briefly, it would seem as if that matter is not going to have to be resolved at Vienna and therefore it is not tied up with the conclusion of that particular conference.

Second, you know my view—it has not altered—that before we could agree to a human rights conference in Moscow there would have to be enormous improvements in human rights and we should set reasonable criteria for that before agreeing.

But the matter does not now seem to be as urgent as it was for a decision.

Question

(inaudible)

Prime Minister

I have indicated to you what I believe to be the case. It is not for me to speculate on the reason.

Question

(inaudible)

Prime Minister

I indicated that I believe that the matter is not being tied to a Resolution of the conference in Vienna. [end p6]

President Mitterrand

There is nothing unrealistic in Mrs. Thatcher's reasoning. The two things are not linked—the question of the human rights conference and the Vienna conference, but it is clear, as Mrs. Thatcher said, that the Soviet Union must continue its present process with regard to human rights. On human rights, the people we talk to are of course the Soviets, like on many other subjects.

There is no question about the fact that a human rights conference in Moscow has a symbolic value, but the fact remains that the people we talk about human rights to, whether it is one place or another, are the Soviet Union. We cannot hide that fact from ourselves.

You are very fortunate, Mrs. Thatcher, in having such an active British press!

Question

France is competing with selling submarines to the Canadians. Did you discuss this?

President Mitterrand

Canada is a sovereign country and makes its own decisions and that is true of all contracts. Companies, countries, tend to bid for contracts as much as possible and there often is competition between best friends, as our two countries, and it is for each side to put forward its best arguments and then it is the purchaser that [end p7] finally makes the decision. It is not something we have to decide for ourselves because I would of course then set out to explain to Mrs. Thatcher in what way perhaps our submarines are better than the British ones, but I am not altogether sure that I would have convinced her.

Prime Minister

No. Ours are quieter! (laughter)

Question

(inaudible)

President Mitterrand

At the very beginning of the meal we did. Mrs. Thatcher actually was the one who raised the subject.

My reaction was that that was perhaps not a bad idea because if one is present at level a) or level b), after all why not, but I need time to think this one over.

Prime Minister

It is being considered, yes.

Question

Does the President share Mrs. Thatcher's assessment of the way the omelette was prepared and also the way the lamb was prepared? [end p8]

President Mitterrand

We did not compete on submarines—we did not compete on food either!

Prime Minister

It was very good. The food was very good.

Question

Mr. President, recently Mrs. Thatcher has had some very serious labour problems to deal with; you yourself are at present contending with labour difficulties. Did you discuss how these problems could be solved?

President Mitterrand

The answer is no.

Prime Minister

No!

President Mitterrand

But I promise you I will continue my discussions with the Prime Minister of the French Republic.

Question

Mrs. Thatcher, are you going to open a credit line for Mr. Gorbachev when he comes to see you in London in a few days time? [end p9]

Prime Minister

But we have already a certain credit line with the Soviet Union because we agreed last time I went to Moscow that we wished to enhance trade. We still wish to enhance trade and shall be pursuing that.

We have already established a credit line. A credit line is not something that is used immediately and I think sometimes you are just adding everything together and assuming it will all be used very quickly. A credit line is something which they can use as quickly or as slowly as they wish to use it.

Question

Did you discuss possible cooperation on the air-to-ground long-range missile?

President Mitterrand

We have talked about that in the past, but not today.

Prime Minister

Not today, no!

There were only four courses! [end p10]

President Mitterrand

But we do meet fairly frequently and we will be meeting again. We did want to leave something to talk about during our two days together in a few days time. If you are good enough to join us in Rhodes, we will be able to continue our present conversation in Rhodes.

Thank you very much!

Prime Minister

It has been a very happy meeting. Thank you!