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 Statement at Luxembourg European Council – 29 June 1991

Below is the text of Mr Major’s statement at the Luxembourg European Council meeting on 29th June 1991.


I think we have seen again with this Council the Community’s capacity to act in agreement at the time of an international crisis. In April we took a decision to set up safe havens in Iraq, yesterday we decided to put Yugoslavia at the top of our agenda. As you all know, the Troika returned here this morning and reported to us. We have invoked the emergency procedures of the CSCE to provide a framework in which dialogue can take place but the situation in Yugoslavia is and remains very fragile indeed.

Jacques Santer has provided excellent chairmanship throughout this meeting, as indeed have he and his Luxembourg colleagues throughout the six months of what I believe can be seen as a very successful Presidency. A great deal of progress has been made, made in both the inter-governmental conferences and the careful preparation for this particular meeting has clearly paid off. Prime Minister Santer has himself visited London twice and in preparation for this Council I had preliminary meetings, substantial preliminary meetings with President Mitterrand. Chancellor Kohl, Mr Lubbers, Sr Gonzales, Mr Haughey, as well as conversations with other colleagues. And I saw both Mr Lubbers and Chancellor Kohl again yesterday morning.

This European Council was a stock-taking European Council. It was not the occasion to take decisions but we have registered the very considerable progress made in the Luxembourg Presidency and we are all aiming to reach an agreement at Maastricht in December.

The text of the conclusions, which I imagine you will now have seen, incorporates a number of points of importance to the United Kingdom. Firstly, I made clear that I welcomed the structure of the present draft of the treaty, that is to say the three pillared approach which means that some things are done on the basis of Community treaties and others on the basis of intergovernmental action outside the Treaty of Rome and the competence of the Commission, but within the framework of the union.

I welcomed also the concept of a common foreign and security policy set firmly in the context of the Atlantic Alliance. There is also agreement on the preparation of proposals to improve the implementation of Community law and that reflects particularly a British proposal, a proposal that will enable the European Court of Justice to fine member states who fail to comply with Community legislation. We have argued for a long time for a level playing field and for full respect of the rule of law and we are determined to get it in this treaty.

The conclusions also give new impetus to the single market which has always been a very high priority for us. They cover issues such as insurance, air, sea and road transport. They also contain in the conclusions a very strong reference to strengthening the Community’s links with the countries of central and Eastern Europe.

I made perfectly clear in our discussions that there were things in the present draft treaty with which I could not agree and it was understood that nothing can be agreed until everything is agreed, hopefully by the time we have concluded our meeting at Maastricht in December.
On the political union IGC I explained that federal union was a term capable of misunderstanding. We will insist on its removal before we are able to sign any treaty in December. Most of our partners interpret it as decentralisation rather than centralisation but in any treaty we have to be clear what we mean. It would therefore be far better to use the term in the original Treaty of Rome – ever closer union among the peoples of Europe.

We looked in depth in our discussions at the role of the European Parliament. I explained our view that there are a number of areas where the authority of the European Parliament should be increased, including audit of expenditure, control over the Commission and the appointment of a European ombudsman. But I said that the present proposals for co-decision about the European Parliament were not proposals that we could accept. Apart from the basic issue of whether or not we want co-decision, the complicated conciliation procedures in the present Presidency text are not a way of giving the European Parliament a satisfactory role or of improving Community decision-taking. All that will have to be looked at further in detail before we get to Maastricht.

In the discussion on economic and monetary union, I made it clear that we still wish to maintain our firm reserve on a single currency and a single central bank. We need to be clear about the importance of economic convergence before any of us could take the considerable economic risk of moving either to Stage 2 or to Stage 3. And I again explained that one of the advantages of Britain’s proposal for a hard Ecu is that it would allow that convergence to take place and for a single currency to emerge because it made economic sense, not regardless of whether it made economic sense. So the issue of hardening the Ecu is a very current one and will be pursued further in ECOFIN.

The Council has agreed a text on human rights, a British initiative, and the first such declaration ever adopted by the European Council. That text affirms our determination to use the community’s influence to promote human rights through the economic and cooperation agreements that we make as a Community with third countries. We welcomed also in the declaration the abolition in South Africa of the Land Acts, the Group Areas Act and the Population Registration Act and have declared our support for the renewal of sporting links with South Africa on a case by case basis where unified and non-racial sporting bodies have been established. We have also welcomed South Africa’s adherence of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, a significant gain for which we have been working for some time.

We have also condemned the attempt by Iraq not to reveal nuclear equipment held by Iraq and which has to be removed under United Nations Security Council Resolution 687. The Community has also endorsed a British and German initiative to improve the coordination of disaster relief within the United Nations system. I think this is an important initiative, it would involve the appointment of a high level coordinator who would pull together the whole disaster relief operation and have direct access to emergency funding.

Our discussion has also looked forward to the Economic Summit which I will be chairing in London in a fortnight’s time. We have urged a conclusion in the GATT round before the end of this year, we have given an impetus to non-proliferation of weapons of all kinds, the Council endorsed also an initiative which I took in April to establish a United Nations register of conventional arms transfers and we will together table a draft resolution on this at the UN General Assembly. Over the dinner we had last evening, we discussed our approach to President Gorbachev’s visit to London. Both in our analysis of what is happening in the Soviet Union and in our assessment of what we can do to help, our positions in the Community are very close.

I believe in summary that this European Council has shown the Community working as it should, we faced up to the crisis in Yugoslavia, we have dealt with our own business in a friendly and businesslike way, looking for solutions. I have no doubt there are still difficult negotiations to come but I think the Dutch will start their Presidency knowing that everyone in the Community wants to reach agreement by the end of the year. With good luck and goodwill I hope and believe that can be done.