Speeches, etc.

Margaret Thatcher

Speech to Ukrainian Supreme Soviet

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Kiev, Ukraine
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Editorial comments: Between 1700 and 1735. MT took questions after her speech. The opening of the speech was not recorded.
Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1708
Themes: Parliament, Civil liberties, European Union (general), European Union Single Market, Foreign policy (Central & Eastern Europe), Foreign policy (USSR & successor states)

Prime Minister

[Beginning of speech not recorded].

… before he was President, of what you have set out to do. Set out to have a different constitutional arrangement between the Federal Government and each of the Republics. That is a big task in itself as you draw the limits of the powers of one at the extent of the devolution of powers to the Republics. You have also set out to have a different political system—a system which gains the world over, the system of democracy under a multi-party system. That, too, would be an enormous change.

It is a very vigorous change, as I know only full well from the debates in our Parliament. I have to answer questions from our Members of Parliament from all Parties twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The whole proceedings are televised and shown on television the world over. So if you have seen it, you know that they are very very lively sessions indeed.

And perhaps I should warn you, those Ministers who have to answer, that sometimes it seems as if those who ask the questions are more interested in tripping up the Minister who answers than in the actual answer itself, though we are very quick on our feet in thinking in debate. [end p1]

But yet I must say to you that in spite of all the difficulties of the system, the fierceness of debate, that if we have differences of view on the way forward it is right that we should debate, put all of the varying views and facts on the table and then find a way forward which the government of the day will then carry through.

As we come up to elections we set out our policies and our programmes in a manifesto. That way, the people genuinely choose. That way, they know where they are. We have watched this system grow in the Soviet Union with admiration and we wish you well. It is a very vital system, it enables everyone to hear the arguments and it is essential to the system of the consent of the people to the policies which are then being carried forward, knowing full well that the time comes when they can vote again on the policies and change them if they wish.

And then thirdly, you are changing the economy and the way your industries are run. Any one of those changes would be enormous. All three together, in a highly sophisticated economy like yours, is a greater change than anyone has ever tackled.

I used to be told when I first started in politics as a Member of Parliament, which is now thirty-one years ago, that there were two sorts of Members of Parliament: one sort would always see the difficulties; and the other sort would always see the opportunities. It seems to me important that we have more politicians who see the opportunities than we do those whose actions are stopped by the difficulties. [end p2]

On the international scene we are all making great strides towards a peaceful world. I have just been round your great city and seen and heard of some of the terrors and tragedies that you suffered during the Second World War. I am old enough to remember those days and I think that those of us who do have a duty to future generations to try to see that such a conflict never occurs again—never—because peace, stability, security, and knowing that you can live your own lives according to your own customs and traditions is vital for raising the quality of life for all our citizens.

I believe that the nations of the world are making great headway to have a peaceful future. I believe it is the single most valuable thing we can do. The closer relations between East and West, cemented by frequent visits between the leaders of countries, frequent visits between the peoples of Europe, and we never forget that Moscow and Leningrad and Kiev are, if I might say so, European cities too, those visits all help to build the necessary goodwill and understanding which takes us forward.

I am very happy to be part of that process and fervently believe that we are building a better world for our children than any we have ever known. That is part of our duty, it is part of the honour of being a Member of Parliament. And I would like to say how very much I have enjoyed this visit to your great city and your great Republic and how much I wish you well in all your endeavours. [end p3]


I would like to welcome you to our Parliament and I would like to greet you on behalf of the first opposition which was created in the Ukrainian Parliament and which is called Narodna Rada, which is the People's Council. Our main aim is the sovereignty of Ukraine, this is our national goal which we try to pursue in the framework of the restructuring which is being led by Mr Gorbachev. This sovereignty that we are after will lay the foundations for negotiations with other Republics when we formulate the now union agreement, this is the sovereignty that will allow the Ukraine to establish relationships with the whole world.

Dear Mrs Thatcher, a civilisation has always been characterised by the increasing impact on all countries of the world. Both Great Britain, as a country of great civilisation, will beyond any doubt I believe be ready to expand its good impact on our country—Ukraine. We would like to hope that days of British culture in Ukraine will become the first days of these intense contacts between England and Ukraine and we would like your country to receive our engineers to study. We would welcome a big exchange of scientists between Great Britain and Ukraine. And we also hope that you will be able to solve our national tragedy, which is Chernobyl.

Dear Mrs Thatcher, I sincerely greet you not only as a great political leader who brought a lot of good to Great Britain, but as a wonderful woman, a wonderful mother and a good example for all our women. I would like to wish you happiness and success. [end p4]


(Not interpreted).

Prime Minister

Mr Chairman, I can see you are trying to get me involved in your politics! Embassies are only for countries which have full national status. Therefore, we have Ambassadorial diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union, with the United States, with Canada, with Australia. We do not have Embassies for California, for Quebec, for states in Australia. The formula we use is that the Embassy is for the national central government and if we wish to have relations with particular states, they have what are called Agents General. So each of the provinces of Canada or each of the provinces of Australia has an Agent General in London. I trust that is clear.

With regard to Lithuania and the Balkan states, particularly those which were handed over by virtue of a Protocol between Hitler and Stalin, we recognised the right of each of those particular states to self-determination. So, I understand, does President Gorbachev and the Federal Government recognise the right of those particular states to self-determination. There is thus no difference in principle, and that is a good thing, no difference in that principle. It therefore should be possible to resolve any differences before talks can get started on the details. And talks on the details will take a long time because obviously there are many many complicated matters to be resolved.

That is how I would have answered your question in my own Parliament—I hope it will do here. [end p5]


The Ukraine is a member of the United Nations organisation and correspondingly, according to Soviet and international law, it is a subject in international relationships. How would your government feel about the proposal of the direct participation of Ukraine in the general European process and also about Ukraine joining the EC?

Prime Minister

I think at the moment we would not think it likely that we would go ahead with any special agreements. Our policy at the moment is that we consist of twelve nations in the European Community, that we are undergoing very great changes and that we are having a common policy for trade and making the conditions for trade equal in all of the twelve nations in that we have to obey the same safety standards, the same standards for electricity, and that each of our professions can practise in each and every country of the Common Market. This is a great economic integration. It is perhaps the biggest change we have had, it will take place by the end of 1992 and so we are not thinking of enlarging our borders as a Community at present.

Nevertheless, we are very much aware that the Eastern European countries—Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary—will wish to have a relationship with the European Community. They are going to do that by having with each of them a special Association Agreement, which is more than a trading agreement, it will involve a certain amount of know-how arrangements, of help to those countries in changing from their former kind of economy to a market economy. [end p6]

We are also, I think, as separate countries, quite prepared, and indeed do help with some know-how agreements with the Soviet Union and indeed I have handed out some scholarships to young people from the Ukraine this morning to study in our universities.

So we can have these informal arrangements just as part of our national status [sic] with various states. But we would not go to a full-blooded Association Agreement.


You should know that there are ten Deputies in this Parliament who used to be political prisoners. We greet you here and we know that due to your efforts and the efforts of President Reagan we have been able to see you here today. Due to you, and the process of liberalisation is going on and the fact that you found time to see us here, we are very thankful to you and will never forget. When we languished in labour camps, we will never forget your support. I am speaking now on behalf of the ten people who were former political prisoners who greet you here.

Prime Minister

May I just thank you for what you have just said and make one very important comment. It is necessary for democracy to be underpinned by a rule of law. By that I mean laws clearly drafted, rights and duties clearly stated, infringements also clearly stated, and that law to be impartially administered by independent judges. That is vital if people are to get redress for their grievances, regardless of their status in society, they are treated as equals before the law. [end p7]

We are lucky, we had the development of such a law over centuries and it is absolutely vital for the freedom of the people. May I thank you for what you said about prisoners of conscience and I am sure that your welcome to them here is very warm indeed.