The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

1991Prime Minister (1990-1997)

Mr Major’s Joint Press Conference with Chancellor Kohl – 11 February 1991

Below is the text of Mr Major’s joint press conference with Chancellor Kohl, held in Bonn on Monday 11th February 1991.


It is a great pleasure to me, dear friend, to welcome you here today to the Federal Chancellor’s office in Bonn. It is your first official visit, Prime Minister, to Bonn and it was a further very intensive talk in a series of intensive talks that we have had since you assumed office and I am very happy that you have been my guest here today, if only for a few hours, and we have agreed that these talks are to be continued at regular intervals; our next meeting will take place in the first half of March. I also should like to express my gratitude for the fact that in these very difficult times we have kept in regular contact on the phone at least once a week and that we intend to continue to do so.

For us and for me, it is of the greatest importance to develop the very close and friendly relationship existing between the United Kingdom and Germany as intensively as possible.

We owe a lot to Great Britain; together with our American and French friends, they have over four decades guaranteed freedom and peace for the larger part of Germany; this is especially true for Berlin and we will never forget it. We are fully aware of what it means when British soldiers now stand in the Gulf to fight for freedom and international law also on our behalf and it is especially in these difficult hours that I should like to assure these soldiers of the United Kingdom and the Alliance as well as their wives and children, of our utmost sympathy.

In the few hours at our disposal today, we discussed quite a number of subjects and touched upon a further few; allow me to mention just a few.

Understandably, the subject of the Gulf War was one of the central issues that we discussed today. We all wish that international law will be restored as quickly as possible, that the occupation of Kuwait, which is in violation of international law, be ended and that international law will then see the light of day and it is now exclusively in the hands of Iraq and of its President to restore peace as quickly as possible. I should like to tell you, Prime Minister, that we, the Germans and the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany, stand at the side of our friends and allies in the Gulf and we know that the Allies have assumed a very difficult and important task on behalf of the international community. We hope that the war can be ended soon and that the decisions of the United Nations are fully respected and implemented by Iraq.

Secondly, we discussed the situation in Central and South-Eastern Europe and the situation in the Soviet Union. We both share the view that it is of the utmost importance that the Soviet leadership continues to pursue the policy of perestroika, a policy of openness, and that problems that have come up will be solved in a peaceful manner without the use of force.

We also intensively discussed further work within the European Community, on the continuation of the work of the two Inter-Governmental Conferences, on political union and on economic and monetary union. We have cooperated closely, as was agreed on the day of the inauguration of these conferences in London, and we intend to continue this cooperation.

We also touched on a number of other points – I would simply like to name but one.

We share a great interest in a successful outcome of the GATT Round and that the time is being used in the best manner possible, for example by the EEC delegation now present in Washington and then afterwards, in order to keep within the time framework. We are very much interested in the success of the GATT Round.

Mr. Prime Minister, you have the floor!


Chancellor Helmut, firstly may I thank you for your hospitality today and for the warmth of your welcome.

We have had the opportunity in the last two months or so of having a very large number of conversations on the telephone and the occasional meeting and I am delighted that we have been able to agree today not only more meetings in March but to retain and expand the very close relationship that I believe we have been developing over the last two months in the future.

I was particularly pleased that the Federal Chancellor was able to accept my invitation to join me for a week-end in the United Kingdom at some undisclosed date when the weather is a little better, when I might have the opportunity of showing him rather more of England.
I was encouraged by the large number of policy areas where we share both a common objective and a common assessment of the problem.

There is, for example, no difference in our assessment and objectives insofar as the Gulf conflict is concerned and I was able to express to the Federal Chancellor my very warm thanks for the most generous donation that the German people have made towards the costs of that conflict that are currently being borne by the United Kingdom. We both share a complete commitment to meeting all of the Security Council Resolutions in this present matter.

We also found a remarkable unity of view in our perception of the present difficulties in the Soviet Union and in particular in the Baltic States. Both Germany and the United Kingdom are very strong supporters of perestroika and we agreed that we wish to see perestroika continue and Mr. Gorbachev to continue with his reforms.

We were also very pleased by the developments in South Africa and the further reforms proposed by President de Klerk. It is our view that these should be encouraged in the hope that in the not too distant future South Africa may be brought back within the African community of nations and the world community of nations.

As the Chancellor said, we were also able to discuss a wide range of Community matters, both the Inter-Governmental Conferences and, of course, the very great importance of a successful outcome to the present GATT Round.

There were a wide range of other matters we discussed, including the desirability of as close as possible a relationship between the CDU and the Conservative Party in the United Kingdom. These are all matters that I look forward to developing in our continuing contacts.

The list we have given you of the matters we discussed is not, I think, exclusive but it does indicate the very wide range of matters that we were able to touch upon in our discussions today.

I would like to conclude, for the moment, by reiterating my thanks to Chancellor Kohl for the very warm welcome and the most useful and friendly discussions that we have had today.



Prime Minister, you said there is no difference in your views on the objectives of the Gulf War. Is the aim of the Allied Forces now not only to free Kuwait but to drive Saddam Hussein out of government and maybe into another world?


No. Our objectives are as they have always been. I think one needs to recall that the Allied Forces are there under the international authority of the United Nations and we set out our objectives in the Security Council Resolutions that the United Nations have approved. Those are our objectives, those and no other.


Mr. Chancellor, was the subject of specific German financial assistance to the countries involved in the Gulf war discussed?


You may have heard that the Prime Minister expressed his gratitude but we do not know what the future will bring. If the future brings further financial necessities, we will speak on them. I do not think you can deal with solidarity on a monthly basis.


Could I ask you both, on the issue of political and economic union, do you not still find yourselves far apart on the ultimate aims of both?


Of course there are differences in views between us but what does that mean? We have come here in order to fight for a very important objective and if that question had been put to us ten years ago, we would have considered it completely impossible to imagine that ten years from that point in time we would have gone so far in the process of European unification.

It is important now that we understand each other, that we work on the objective together, that of course we do not leave out the differences in views but that we try to find means and ways of getting together. You cannot expect things that have developed away from each other over a period of three hundred years to develop towards each other in a period of only thirty years.

There are two things that are important for me:

– that the obligation that our constitution places us under is taken seriously, to achieve German unity and European unification;
– and second – this is also the policy that I pursue – not to box any party into a corner in European politics and least of all our British friends.

I should like to walk along this path together with our British friends. Maybe we will have to make a detour but in politics detours have very often turned out to be the short cuts.


We have a saying by a very famous British politician that total unity is the unity of the graveyard and even though he was a Socialist politician, it is quite a good comment! [Laughter].

So yes, there are differences of emphasis and concern in some of the IGCs at the present time but we are only just beginning to discuss all these matters in the Inter-Governmental Conferences. There is a very long way to go yet and there are very many things that need discussion.
I am optimistic that at the conclusion of these Inter-Governmental Conferences we will have been able to reach a conclusion that is satisfactory both to the United Kingdom and to our European partners and there are many areas of agreement upon which we can build. So we will enter into those Conferences in a very constructive frame of mind with some very clear ideas and we will bring those ideas before all our partners in the Community.

The prize of an agreement in those Inter-Governmental Conferences between all the Twelve together is a very considerable prize. That may mean, therefore, as the Chancellor said, the occasional detour but that, of course, is what we have the discussions in the Inter-Governmental Conferences for and I remain confident that at the end of it, we will have an agreement that each member state will be able to present to its domestic parliament and invite them to approve. I very much hope that that will prove to be the case.