Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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1990 Feb 23 Fr
Margaret Thatcher

Joint Press Conference with Italian Prime Minister (Giulio Andreotti)

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Document kind: Press Conference
Venue: No.10 Downing Street
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist: -
Editorial comments: 1215-1300.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 3170
Themes: Health policy, Trade, Strikes & other union action, Foreign policy (general discussions), Foreign policy (Western Europe - non-EU), Foreign policy (Africa), Foreign policy (Central & Eastern Europe), Foreign policy (Middle East), Commonwealth (South Africa), European Union Single Market, Terrorism, British relations with Italy

Mrs. Thatcher

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, can I welcome you to this press conference.

We are very glad that Prime Minister Andreotti and the Foreign Minister have come today. They are old friends. Italy and Britain are very old friends, but I have a particular affection and respect for Signor Andreotti because he was Prime Minister at my first international conference after I became Prime Minister, which was in Tokyo in 1979 on the Economic Summit and then very shortly afterwards the first European Community meeting, where we had an interest in common there in the things we discussed.

So we do welcome him both as a very special old friend and also as one of the most experienced European statesmen. Unique, I think he has been a Minister ever since 1945 which is a unique stretch of experience from which we can profit on occasions such as this. [end p1]

We have spent the greater part of the time in discussing what I would call the framework for the new future of Europe following German unification. That new future of Europe of course includes a framework of NATO. There are many things which will have to be settled resulting from the unification of Germany, but it goes wider than that, it goes really to the countries covered by the Helsinki Accords because we are really thinking now much more widely in our agreements than ever before.

We also have to consider what the effect would be on the European Community of German unification. We are at the stage when we know what questions to ask, we are asking some of them. We have already started to find the new framework for the future in that we have set up certain sets of talks, as you know, with the Berlin Four and Germany to get some of those discussions going, particularly on the cross-Atlantic ones and those as they affect NATO.

That is not meant to be a totally exclusive discussion, of course we have to consult with other members who will be vitally affected by it when there are special things which concern them. And then the real changes would have to go to be discussed in full NATO, full Helsinki and of course the full European Community.

But we think that some of these things should get going now. It is not necessary to wait to find some of the answers, we can begin to find them now. And those are the things which we have mainly been discussing. [end p2]

Signor Andreotti will of course have a special duty not only as Prime Minister of Italy but of course as President of the European Community from June to December when many of these things will mature and will need not merely discussion but to find the answers and when we shall have to have a very, very full agenda for such things as the Helsinki Conference of the thirty-five, and of course Signor Andreotti was involved in that original Helsinki Agreement, setting it up, its meaning, and so on.

That has been the big discussion because it is such a big question and as you know, we are each of us having many, many bilateral talks with others affected by it. And this really is the big thing of the moment, getting the new framework, the framework of discussion, and in the framework of discussion getting the new way ahead for the wider Europe, including the United States and Canada and the countries of Eastern Europe.

We have also touched upon other things, we have touched upon the Middle East and Foreign Ministers have discussed it more deeply and extensively. They have also discussed Cambodia. We have discussed the GATT Round, which will finish during Signor Andreotti 's Presidency, absolutely vital that we get a good GATT Round and that some things like agriculture and services and intellectual property are sorted out within it.

We have discussed our approach to South Africa. As you know, two of our voluntary sanctions it has been announced have been lifted this morning, you will know them, after we had had our consultations with Europe. [end p3]

We differ slightly on sanctions but not in the way in which we praise President de Klerk for his bold initiatives and what he has already done.

Signor Andreotti also raised with us the question of UNESCO. We shall hope to continue this very lively and active discussion over lunch because there is still a great deal else to talk about.

Mr Andreotti

I would like to thank Mrs. Thatcher for the welcome which she extended to Minister De Michelis and to myself and also for the very courteous words which she has addressed to me.

We have a political system which is slightly different. Prime Ministers in Italy come and go, whereas here you have this more radical stability. This does not mean that one cannot establish very close, very deep and cordial cooperation and particularly during a period in which we can say that everything is moving and changing, movement in a very favourable sense. So we must try to channel all this, as Mrs. Thatcher was saying, towards the areas in which we are active, like the European Community, NATO, the Helsinki Conference on Security and Cooperation, all these fora to which we also ascribe the great merit of having favoured detente in Europe and in the world, fora to which Helsinki and NATO are working in close touch with the United States of America. [end p4]

Mrs. Thatcher has already listed the subjects we dealt with this morning. I should like to add only that there is a need, something which is keenly felt by all of us, that is the need to make a contribution on the one hand, to make sure on the economic level that the East European countries which have abandoned their old economic models may develop in a healthy, wholesome, economic life and become important elements in the economic and financial field.

But this should not of course damage other developing countries which we will continue to support and make the necessary contributions both in the field of economic cooperation and cultural cooperation.

I think that the latter part of 1990, when Italy will hold the Presidency of the Community, will see that we will be committed in all these fields. These are all commitments which are very important and which we will cope with with great interior feelings of joy because they are meeting the aspirations which we have always felt of a more united Europe, capable of cooperation in a world in which of course let us not assume that it has turned into Eden, there are still many problems around to be solved, but we have shown that if, by seeking agreement, it is possible to obtain results. And many changes can be made in the relationships between nations. [end p5]

Luckily, we have no special problems in our bilateral relations. I can only say we have not talked about it because this does not concern the UK Government that this time we have made available to the School of Civil Architecture, formed by The Prince of Wales, a very beautiful villa, not very far from Rome, Villa Lante Apanhaya (phon) and we are very happy that as of next summer some courses will be held in this very modern institution which also respects all the eternal values of art and with special interest in architecture. [end p6]

Question

Prime Minister, are you now happy with the structures for the progress towards unification?

Mrs. Thatcher

We are getting the structures on the external and wider aspects ready, which we have to because you cannot just look at German unification in isolation, it has a great effect on NATO, it has a great effect on the European Community, we wish to involve other countries with it in the Helsinki Accord. These things cannot wait to be discussed. We felt there was a feeling that the unification could take place and then we could just adapt afterwards. There are very fundamental questions to be asked. This has been the great effort of the Douglas HurdForeign Secretary and myself for some weeks now, that we cannot just look at this as a matter of the unification of Germany. It is going to alter the whole future, alter our present Alliances, it will alter Europe in many ways. We must get the framework for the future worked out. And the Foreign Secretary went over to see President Bush and discussed these matters then, we had already had a major discussion here, and we do feel now that we are getting those structures worked out.

Also it is very interesting to see how the same views are coming up in every international forum. We must address these questions not in general terms but in specific terms. There are [end p7] only a certain number of options, those have to be identified, and we have to start to prepare answers.

When it comes to the detail of the European Community, that will be massively detailed in almost every aspect of European Community life. Not least also, if there is a monetary union in Germany that will of course have its own problems and its repercussions will have to be worked out.

So really the tremendous feeling and effort that the Foreign Secretary and I were putting in so that we did not go into a period of total uncertainty about the future security arrangements, we did not risk instability, but that we addressed the questions now and so we got answers without having a vacuum. That is coming to pass and every other country is just as concerned about it and whenever we meet, which is quite frequently, we are all talking about it. So it is all going, I think, in the right direction. We cannot give you a whole posse of answers yet but we are well on the way to addressing the questions and identifying some of the possible answers.

Mr Andreotti

I think that the platform from which we must deal with these programmes is very reasonable and something which has been thought out carefully. In this event, we see that we are overcoming a post-war period which has seen a good deal of antagonism between the different parts of Europe and so long as the situation prevailed, we could never have thought of considering even the [end p8] problem of the unification of the two Germanies. The climate is different and the climate of perestroika and this search by all the Eastern European countries for their own real identity and their own ways. Now the problem that Federal Germany is very authoritative and an essential and original member of both the European Community and of NATO, so therefore it is obvious that we, as members of both these institutions, are greatly interested in trying to study together all the consequences of the innovation of these new developments. And this on the whole is going to strengthen the balance in European detente, it is not going to create new problems.

Question

Would you respond to the suggestion that the Ambulance workers' settlement imperils the Government?

Mrs. Thatcher

They think that you are trying a bit of one-upmanship on the rest of them. Let me say, I am very pleased that agreement has been reached. I hope it will be followed by a return to work and acceptance of the agreement so we can now continue to address ourselves to how better the Health Service can serve the patient. That is as much as I shall say about it. [end p9]

Question

Mr Andreotti, I would like to ask you if you agree with critics of Mrs. Thatcher in this country who suggest that she is out-of-step with the rest of Europe on German unification and on South African sanctions?

Mr Andreotti

I am not writing Mrs. Thatcher's biography so I do not have to say anything. But I feel that what she said earlier about the unification of the two Germanies represents a statement made with a great sense of responsibility and setting this problem within the broader framework of many other problems on which we have all been working together within NATO, within the European Community, and within the framework of the Helsinki Conference.

So from this point of view I do not see that there is any criticism to be made as regards South Africa. I must say that we greatly appreciate what Mr de Klerk has done. He has taken some extraordinary steps, and I think the next step which Mr de Klerk explained to me a few months ago, just before he became Prime Minister, when he came to Rome, the next step is to draft a programme for economic cooperation with all his neighbouring countries. And this is very important and this requires a great deal of sympathy from all of us, encouragement, and I think that what we had asked him to do—that is to allow the ANC to meet freely, to release Mandela, to eliminate apartheid on the beaches—all these things are very important and which were done, and it was very easy to provide this advice from a distance but not very easy [end p10] for the Prime Minister of South Africa to adopt these measures. He has provided proof of great courage and he should be supported.

Mrs. Thatcher

Can I just have a word, even if television do not take it. I am often being accused either of being out-of-step or of being isolated. I can only say that it is a pretty cosy isolation and a pretty crowded one judging by the numbers of foreign statesmen whom we are always talking to, either of those who come in here to see me, you know full well, you are here practically every day, so it is a very cosy and very crowded isolation, if isolation be the right word, which it is not.

So many of our views, as you know, are those which are also expressed when we get together on these occasions by others. And I would say that we are very much together in searching for the right way to tackle the future, and on South Africa you have already heard how very little difference there is.

Question

On that point, could I ask you both whether you would agree with the current President of the Community that Britain's action on investment, tourism, has set a precedent in consensus breaking and how you would react to suggestions that the rest of the Community might then press on a unilateral basis to drop sanctions against other countries, notably Libya? [end p11]

Mrs. Thatcher

The only sanctions that we have lifted are the voluntary bans on investment. Those that remain of course are the ones with the United Nations on an arms embargo, which we would not dream of asking to lift at present, and also the ones with the European Community which are enforced by order, those are the ones on bans on imports of iron and steel and also on the import of krugerrands. Those remain and will continue to remain because they could only be lifted by agreement between all of us.

The voluntary ones are in a quite different group. We have no government to government agreements on money or investment with South Africa but it is now entirely for the private sector to decide whether they wish in fact to invest. It was legally before, it was just that we asked them not to.

We did feel very strongly indeed that as President de Klerk had done more, more quickly, and with greater boldness and courage than any other previous President, that this warranted real encouragement by practical means because he had been doing the things which I and many others, but we in particular, had urged him to do and which we had indicated to him if he did them he would meet with a positive response. It is a comparatively small response but it is a positive response.

Libya and Syria are states that have practised terrorism. We believe that Libya is still helping the IRA. Terrorism is always on a level apart from many many other things and I hope the rest of us will continue to maintain sanctions against states who practise terrorism which is killing and maiming innocent men and [end p12] women so that those who practise terrorism can impose their own way. Democracies should have no truck with that and should be seen to be totally and utterly opposed to it.

Mr Andreotti

As regards South Africa, as the part which does not concern the Community, obviously everything decided by the Community, the bans we all respect. We do not have many decisions to make because since we have always supported the opinion of the largest group of blacks in South Africa, that is the Zulus, Buthelezi.

As regards Libya, we do not supply armaments to Libya. Our relations are not very numerous. We do represent British interests in Tripoli because you have no diplomatic links with Libya. But I must say that as regards the people who are actually working there, the Italians, who were 17,000, the number has now come down to 2,000. Whereas I think there are four times as many British citizens in Libya. So everything considered, we hope that there will never be any occasion for disagreement and we have not neglected any occasion for disassociating ourselves with terrorism.

Recently we saw that Mubarak and Gaddafi have exchanged visits so I think that we are going towards a certain more serene atmosphere in Africa. [end p13]

Question

German unification could accelerate or slow down the European integration process?

Mr Andreotti

I think that we must respect a very precise term, that is 1992, by which time we must complete European integration. Before us we find this monetary negotiation, which is all the more important bearing in mind that if we adopt monetary measures between the two marks, outside the European system, this will help nobody, it will creat difficulties. So I hope that what is going on will not only not weaken the Community but if anything strengthen it. Because all the more strong will be the Community, and the same applies to NATO, and this means there will be fewer negative consequences whereas we are aiming at purely positive consequences.

Mrs. Thatcher

The way in which that word is usually used is the one resulting in a full Common Market which should be reached by the end of 1992. There is a long way to go. We have in fact a considerable number of directives and the most difficult ones have still to be negotiated. So there is quite a long way to go in achieving that and in implementing fully and properly all those directives. That is a very, very big task and will probably change Europe more fundamentally than anything which we have had in the past. [end p14]

Should German unification go ahead fully and what is now East Germany would therefore be absorbed into the Community, obviously there would have to be considerable derogations for East Germany because her economy is not a free economy, there are enormous subsidies, she has no costs or price or the system that we know about. So that would have to be negotiated and in a way would slow things down in that respect. But many many other things would have to be negotiated as well and those negotiations would, of necessity, be lengthy because they are so complex.

But as far as the rest of us are concerned, the territory of the present Twelve, I hope that the full Common Market will be completed on time.

If you have no more questions, I would just like to announce that the State Visit from Italy to our country will go ahead this October. You will recall that the previous one was not able to take place and we are very very glad indeed to announce that it will be happening this October when President Cossiga will be coming as our honoured State Guest, the guest of Her Majesty The Queen, to our country and he will receive a very very warm welcome.