Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Press Conference after Paris European Council

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Elysee Palace, Paris
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Editorial comments: 1250-2350.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 3384
Themes: Defence (general), Monetary policy, European Union (general), Economic, monetary & political union, Foreign policy (Central & Eastern Europe), Foreign policy (International organizations), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states), Northern Ireland, Terrorism

Prime Minister

I understand that so far you have had very little report of what has gone on so can I perhaps set the scene?

We met for about twenty minutes before dinner and discussed how we should conduct the matters that we wanted to talk about during the evening. We then went and had dinner and over dinner M. Mitterrand began for about fifteen minutes with questions that he thought we should answer, followed by Chancellor Kohl who spoke for quite a time, which we were very pleased about, naturally giving us a first hand report of what had happened precisely. Mr Gonzales followed and I followed and that was the end of dinner.

And then we went into a side room to continue our discussion which we did until just about eleven o'clock and then we were joined by Foreign Ministers who had had a similar discussion and we compared notes and they compared very very favourably and obviously reached very very similar conclusions. [end p1]

Now may I tell you may I tell you as quickly and as briefly as I can what those conclusions were. First, we wish to do everything we can to encourage reform and the process of democracy throughout the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. We are very pleased that these events have happened. We believe they happened partly because of Mr Gorbachev himself who started the reform. We believe that would not have come about but for the staunchness of NATO and its defence and also for the constructive way in which Europe has expressed its solidarity, one country with another, and has steadily worked in closer and closer cooperation together.

It is those things and our staunchness in defending freedom which have brought about this move towards democracy and we must do every single thing we can to encourage it. And the completion of democracy, a genuine democracy with multi-parties and full human rights and secret ballots is the single most important thing.

Second, the question of borders is not on the agenda. They should stay as they are and all military matters must continue to be conducted through NATO and the Warsaw Pact. We felt this arrangement had suited us all very well and at a time of great change it is necessary to keep the background of stability and security.

Thirdly, with regard to practical measures, it is important that practical help should be in return for proper democracy and therefore there should be some conditions about it. But as far as Hungary and Poland is concerned, they have really fulfilled the required conditions, their plight is urgent, we are already [end p2] giving some aid, we feel we must give more aid—they have to get through the winter—and we feel it is very important that the negotiations they are undertaking with the IMF should be completed as quickly as possible, really by the end of the year because once those negotiations are completed quite a lot of aid is triggered and quite a lot of funds and help becomes available. But in the meantime we shall step up our aid further because we really believe that their situation is such that it cannot wait for these further matters.

Now we shall not necessarily wait until Strasbourg to do that, although we shall be taking matters further at Strasbourg. But there is a meeting which arose out of the last Economic Summit. If you will recall, we agreed at the Economic Summit here in Paris that the Summit Seven would give aid to Poland and Hungary plus the Community and that the Community be charged with the duty of making the practical arrangements. For that purpose there is now actually a group of twenty-four countries—the OECD countries—and they will be meeting on 13 December, after Strasbourg, to take matters further forward.

With regard to some other matters, it was thought that countries like Hungary and Poland could perhaps profit from certain other of the Community programmes, things which already spill over to other countries, some training and some education programmes and some of the technology programmes. And it was thought that we could perhaps consider whether the time was right for them to join the Council of Europe. [end p3]

We also considered training in management very important for Hungary and Poland and for other countries as they come along because they have very little experience of a market economy and of taking the kind of decisions and operating in the way which we do.

We obviously were disappointed at the events in Czechoslovakia which we had witnessed and hope that too will come to democracy before very long.

We considered the longer-term, the possibility of a European Development Bank, but that is very much for the longer-term. The immediate thing is not more loans, indeed you could say that some of these countries already have more loans than they can repay and need rescheduling in the Paris Club and we have already scheduled some of the payments due this year through the Paris Club and what they need is aid.

But for the longer-term we will consider the practicalities and make a study of the possibility of a European Development Bank. But that is longer—term and other things are much much more immediate.

Foreign Ministers came to the same conclusions and we also considered one further matter. There are many many ways in which we can have extra cooperation with the European Community, you will be aware of some of them. Some countries have trading agreements, some countries have other cooperation agreements, some countries like the EFTA countries have a special arrangement with the Community which is coming up for renegotiation, and other countries have association agreements. They are not a category of agreement, [end p4] the association agreements, each one is done individually, as indeed are the cooperation agreements.

So all of these matters can be considered in relation to each of the Eastern European countries as it comes to democracy but we need to tailor each agreement to the requirements and needs of the country concerned but the framework is already there for going ahead.

The practical work will be taken forward by what is called the Troika, which is the present Presidency, the past Presidency, and the future Presidency working together with the Commission and they will report to the Strasbourg meeting.

I may say that this was an extremely good meeting, we all felt it was an historic meeting, we all felt the sense of history of what is happening in Europe. We were very much aware of the responsibilities that rested upon us, that this movement must succeed—this movement towards democracy.

Everything was beautifully conducted, as you would expect, and I think we felt very satisfied and very pleased with the evening's work and with the harmony and indeed unanimity of view.

Douglas HurdForeign Secretary

We went into the actual situations in Poland and Hungary and the GDR in some detail and some of that was confidential. But I think everything we heard and everything I said from our information reinforced this feeling that there is a serious economic situation, combined with the exciting political [end p5] situation, in both Poland and Hungary and that therefore we did need to pull together as a Community and with the wider group the Prime Minister mentioned; all the efforts we propose to make under the headings of aid and trade and the political framework, the possibilities the Prime Minister mentioned for the linking of these East European countries with the Community. And I think our discussion worked very much in parallel with the Heads of Government though entering, as is right, into rather greater detail on particular points. [end p6]

Question (David Buchan, Financial Times)

Two questions: one, what forms of immediate aid might go to Poland, Hungary; and secondly, do you believe that it is possible, as M. Delors has been suggesting this week, that some countries like Poland and Hungary could perhaps acquire associate status to the Community without necessarily first leaving the Warsaw Pact?

Prime Minister

First, we already supply very considerable food aid to Poland, that is coordinated through the group of twenty-four. Secondly, in a bilateral way, we have a Know-How fund for Poland, I think there are already something like forty agreements under that where we make arrangements for training and for management training. Thirdly, we in fact have rescheduled bilaterally the interest rate which was due this year on Poland's debts, we have rescheduled to give a period of five years grace and then reasonable returns after that.

And now we really think that we must give further aid, there are various joint ventures as well, and we have a trading agreement with Poland through the Community and we broke down some of the previous quota arrangements because obviously Poland must pull herself up by trading. [end p7]

As you know, George Bush had asked for a billion dollar fund, stabilisation fund, for Poland and originally the United States was going to supply $200 million. I have the impression that Congress put that up considerably the other day.

We in the European Community had agreed that we would supply another $200 million dollars and I think we thought this evening that we needed to step that up really rather more because again we must get Poland somehow through this very difficult winter and must keep her going until the aid comes in after the IMF agreement.

Hungary, we shall continue to help Hungary really through arrangements which are worked out through the Community. But we were conscious you know, both at the Economic Summit and this one, that Hungary sometimes felt that her wants, although in a way she had been one of the first to do economic reforms, were not receiving enough attention. So we are very much aware of the need to help her. Again, it would seem that the training and education and know-how and how to run a market economy is very very important to Hungary.

On your second question, there is no such thing as associate status, that is to say there is not a Table A for associate members. There is a negotiation with each country and sometimes, as with Turkey, that worked out to what we would call associate status—that was a specific one. [end p8]

Others it works out with a cooperation agreement, as for example with Yugoslavia. We are also very aware of Yugoslavia's needs too at the moment. She has a cooperation agreement but there is no such thing really as associate status. Some of them have an association agreement but the association agreement is not a model agreement, they are varied agreements. In other words, it is association with a small ‘a’ and not with a big one.

Question (John Palmer, Guardian)

I think there was a further element to my colleague's question which is whatever form of association Hungary eventually negotiates with the Community, could you contemplate it remaining a member of the Warsaw Pact?

Prime Minister

Yes of course, the Warsaw Pact is indeed a military arrangement and I do not think that the kind of agreement that we would negotiate with Hungary or Poland would infringe that arrangement.

Douglas HurdForeign Secretary

Full membership would be a different matter I think, but we are not talking about full membership. [end p9]

Question (Mr Palmer)

My own question was following on that, would it be possible to conceive a full Hungarian membership while retaining a neutral status?

Prime Minister

With all due respect, that does not arise at the moment so let us get on to the next question.

Question (Mr Palmer)

And secondly may I just ask you whether the Polish Prime Minister's appeal for debt forgiveness which he made at a press conference some of us were at this morning in Warsaw is under consideration as well as interest relief?

Prime Minister

No we did not get on to that in detail. We are very much aware the first thing is in fact to get the IMF agreement. We have rescheduled 1989, we know that we will probably have to have a look at 1990. But we did not get on to that kind of detail this evening.

What the commercial banks do of course is a matter for them and whether in fact they put extra reserves against the debts, as they have done with other countries, that is a matter for them. [end p10]

Question (John Dickie, Daily Mail)

In the context of the changes in Eastern Europe, was there any discussion this evening of the need to accelerate the integration of Europe and if so what is your response to that?

Prime Minister

We did not discuss internal European matters this evening at all, it was not the occasion. We did not that the steady, increasing cooperation we felt had been a factor as an example to other countries, a factor along with the staunchness of NATO and the staunchness of the Alliance and the Cruise Missiles and all of that and of course with Mr Gorbachev 's lead in the Soviet Union which really started off the whole thing.

Question (David Usborne, Independent)

One assumes that the developments in Eastern Europe will be discussed by Presidents Gorbachev and Bush at their Summit at the beginning of next month. Was there any feeling tonight that the European Community should be seeking to put its pennyworth, as it were, into that Summit by possibly arranging a meeting between the President of the Council and either of those two Presidents either before or possibly just after Malta to report to Strasbourg or did you not discuss that? [end p11]

Prime Minister

No, that was not discussed but in fact you know most of us on the ordinary diplomatic network, and sometimes personally, keep fairly close contacts both with Mr Gorbachev and with President Bush, most of the larger countries do that automatically. And of course Eastern Europe will be on the agenda but it is just a matter for M. Mitterrand to consider. The matter was not raised as to whether he should make a special visit. I am sure that there will be a full and proper report through the diplomatic network.

We do expect you know a NATO meeting, Heads of Government, it is possible that there may be one just after the Bush-Gorbachev meeting, possible.

Question (Julia Langdon, Sunday Telegraph)

You referred to the possibility of the development of the Council of Europe in connection with Poland and Hungary. Can you say how you think that might happen and whether it would be wider than just those two countries?

Prime Minister

It is thought that Poland and Hungary both are coming up to full human rights, full elections, full and genuine democracy and therefore the conditions for Council of Europe would be more or less fulfilled and it would be a matter both for Hungary and Poland and for the Council of Europe as to whether they should consider joining the Council of Europe. But the possibility was noted. [end p12]

Question (Bulgarian Television)

Could you tell me how you evaluate the recent changes in Bulgaria and how they might influence the relations between the Community and Bulgaria?

Prime Minister

I would not like you to think that we forgot about Bulgaria, we did not, we noticed what was happening there. We believe every move towards more liberal reforms is very very welcome and we hope that the changes in Bulgaria will go further and that they too will come to what we understand by a genuine democracy.

Question (David Walter)

Given that you did not discuss integration at this Summit, is it possible that also at the Strasbourg Summit events in Eastern Europe might dominate your discussions there and that integration is pushed down the agenda there too?

Prime Minister

No I do not think so. The Strasbourg Heads of Government Summit is quite a long Summit and there will be plenty of time to discuss both but there was not plenty of time tonight and we met for the specific purpose of discussing events in Eastern Europe tonight and so we did not, and did not intend to, discuss the other matters. But the others will not be pushed down the agenda at Strasbourg. [end p13]

Question (Joseph Albright, Cox Newspapers)

What conclusions did your group make as regards East Germany?

Prime Minister

Chancellor Kohl gave us a very detailed account of what is happening and was quite emphatic that the main portion of their aid, although there might be some small immediate aid, the main portion of their aid would depend upon full democratic process being achieved in East Germany. But in the meantime they are of course helping in some ways but the full aid will not be given to East Germany until the human rights conditions and the democratic conditions have been attained and he expects that to take a little time.

Question (Mr Albright)

So the Community is not going to be doing anything in the immediate and short-term to help East Germany?

Prime Minister

We did not discuss details with regard to East Germany because we accepted Chancellor Kohl 's conclusion on that, and of course on other countries as well. But they really must not only say they are going to move towards democracy but they really must move towards democracy but they really must move towards democracy and in fact Hungary and Poland have already done that, had their elections and are moving towards a much more liberal economy and the human rights as well. [end p14]

Question (Tim Marshall, IRN)

Could you precis what Chancellor Kohl said during dinner and what you think about what he said please?

Prime Minister

No, that would not be right. I have given you in general terms that Helmut Kohlhe gave us an account of what was happening and of the feeling of excitement obviously that we witnessed on television and heard about on radio. But I am not going to give you in detail who said what.


Do you consider that the events in Eastern Europe will in any way help you in slowing down the monetary and economic integration of Europe?

Prime Minister

I think that with regard to the monetary and economic union there are two different ways of getting there and one is the way which makes the economic and monetary reform totally unaccountable democratically, it is moving powers over monetary reform and moving powers over the economy away from national Parliaments and those bodies are not democractically accountable to anyone. That, as you saw from the debate in Parliament, was totally unacceptable to our Parliament and you saw that view coming from all sides of Parliament, whether it was from the opposition or from the minor parties or from the Government benches. [end p15]

We have put in an alternative way of reaching economic and monetary reform. We have had quite a number of compliments about the paper. So yes, we will have economic and monetary reform, it is a different definition, it is a different way of reaching it. Ours, we believe, is more in accordance with the true traditions of the Community which is not an attempt to tie people up in a bureaucracy and not an attempt to take things, or should not be an attempt to take things away from democracy, but to keep them fully within democracy.

It really would be very ironic if while we are insisting that East Europe moves to full democracy and full human rights as a condition of aid, we ourselves take what is the heart of Parliamentary control out of democratic accountability.

It would not surprise you if I say that I think we are right.



Prime Minister

Yes of course. We were deeply upset by the events in Northern Ireland and also by the bomb at Colchester and again wish to express our deepest sympathies with the relatives who must endure so many worries and now this terrible thing has happened to their soldier relatives in Northern Ireland and some are seriously injured. [end p16]

Mr Haughey also expressed his sympathies and concerns to me and I said the absolute vital thing was that the IRA find no safe haven anywhere and that we both take all steps possible to catch them and others who have perpetrated these terrible deeds.