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 Mr Andreotti – 27 November 1991

Below is Mr Major’s press conference with Mr Andreotti, held in Rome on Wednesday 27th November 1991.


Within the framework of the preparation for the European Council, we had the pleasure of meeting this morning the British Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of the United Kingdom and this falls within the framework of an intense activity of meetings and contacts which will be furthered in the days which still have to pass before the Maastricht meeting.

Prime Minister Major will fly this afternoon to Bonn to have a meeting with Chancellor Kohl and on Sunday will have a meeting with the Dutch Prime Minister, Mr Lubbers, and on Monday with President Mitterrand. I myself had the possibility yesterday to participate in Brussels in a meeting of the six Prime Ministers who belong to the popular parties, the Christian Democrat parties, and tomorrow I will fly to Bonn to meet Chancellor Kohl.

And of course the final rush will be entrusted to the Foreign Ministers who in the preceding days of the meeting in Maastricht will set out the text upon which discussion, the debate will be carried out between Heads of State and Government.

We had read with the utmost interest the statement that Prime Minister Major made in front of the House of Commons, pointing out that the Community certainly involves some sacrifices, everyone has to give up something. Each one of us has his own view points and interests but for each of our states the EC provides a positive opportunity because they extend our possibilities and provide us with a set of opportunities that otherwise would be lacking.

We had a chance with the utmost frankness to consider those issues that are still being discussed, but I think that we can say that in spite of the fact that there is still a lot to be done in order to arrive at a convergent position on all issues, the position of Prime Minister Major is clearly positive as far as the possibility is concerned to reaching an agreement at the end of the two inter-governmental conferences which will be an agreement that helps the Community to stride towards greater forms of union.

Therefore, setting aside that very useless way of saying if you are optimistic or pessimistic, we say that the work which has been carried out up to now is very serious and that we have to bear in mind all positions and that we have the reasonable expectation that the inter-governmental conferences may conclude in the best possible way for the development of the European Community.

For our part, I have confirmed that Italy is committed to honour what have been the positions we adopted also within our nation and in particular as far as the convergency plan of our budget and public expenditure, and in this respect it is my chance that the discussion of the budgetary law occurs in the same month when we have to conclude the European conference in particular as far as the monetary system is concerned which is marching towards this monetary union. For us it is an absolutely indispensable precondition of abiding by those guidelines that the Community has already appreciated and the indispensable passport in order not to be left out of this common path.

I believe that none amongst you will be surprised that if in this stage when we are still discussing and debating the unresolved issues we keep a certain confidentiality so that through this work carried out in these last days our positions may further come nearer.


Prime Minister, thank you very much indeed and thank you for what you said over the last few moments.

I am very pleased to be back again in Rome with the Foreign Secretary so very soon after the NATO Summit. Not only was that an extremely successful summit in every respect, it was also an opportunity a few weeks ago that you and I had to have a look at the whole catalogue of matters that need discussing and agreeing if we are to reach a conclusion in the two inter-governmental conferences at Maastricht next month.

I was very pleased that we were able to return to those matters in a very frank and worthwhile way this morning as we try and bridge the differences that still exist in the negotiating positions of the various partners in the Community.

As you set out, this is part of a wide ranging preparation for the discussions in Maastricht next month. I will, as you say, be meeting Chancellor Kohl later on today, Prime Minister Lubbers on Sunday and President Mitterrand on Monday, and I will have further meetings later on next week with other colleagues in the Community. I think that is both necessary and desirable as we deal with the matters that are still yet undetermined.

And the Foreign Secretary of course, with Signor de Michelis, will be attending the Conclave next week where many of these matters will also be discussed.

We had no difficulty this morning in agreeing upon the desirability of a satisfactory conclusion at Maastricht, we are all working for that and I reiterate the points that I made in my speech at the House of Commons, I need not set them out, they were there perfectly clearly, about the desirability of an agreement and the areas where we believe an agreement presents difficulties and those where we are prepared to meet the general wishes of some of our colleagues.

I believe an agreement is possible, but it has to be said there are still a lot of difficult issues that need to be resolved. We will continue to discuss those and it may be such is the nature of the negotiations upon which we are embarked that many of those issues will not be solved until a very late stage in these discussions.

We did this morning have the opportunity of reinforcing our agreement on defence matters, that we will continue to press the ideas set out in the joint Anglo-Italian paper that was published some time ago, and we also agreed on the need for a strengthened cooperation on foreign policy. It has worked very well in the last few years and it seems to us to be collectively in the interests of the Community nations to maximise their authority on foreign policy matters where that is appropriate.

We also discussed the areas of difficulty and as the Prime Minister said, it is not appropriate to go into those in any detail except to say we had a very free and frank discussion about those areas of difficulties, what lies behind them and whether in certain circumstances they may be capable of being bridged.

I am grateful for the opportunity of these discussions today, I have no doubt whatsoever that in one way or another, whether face to face or perhaps over the telephone, the Prime Minister and I will talk again before we come to the conference next month. But I do not think in terms of introductory remarks there is anything else I wish to say about Maastricht this morning.

We did discuss some other bilateral matters as well and we also had a brief discussion over lunch on matters of mutual international concern and it may be that those will turn up in questions but I do not think I need elaborate on them now.



Do either of you see room for a possible compromise on political union based around the idea of dropping the federal goal from the treaty in exchange for fixed milestones making a commitment to greater political union in the future at set times?


Adam, our position on many of these matters has been set out perfectly clearly. We have had the opportunity of discussing those today. I don’t think from what the Prime Minister has said and what I have said this morning that either of us are going to go into details of our discussions this morning. It is not appropriate and I am not proposing to do it.


Probably in your discussion on international affairs you also touched upon the issue of Yugoslavia and I would like to ask the two Prime Ministers whether an agreement has been reached on the fact that a UN peacekeeping force should be sent to the area and whether there have been any steps towards a recognition of Slovenia and Croatia on the part of Germany and Italy as opposed to what the British position may be.


We strongly supported the initiatives and debates in course in the Security Council of the United Nations where both Great Britain and France as Permanent Members are pushing towards a solution. We believe that this is in favour of the possibility of reaching the sending of the UN peacekeeping force to the area which should allow a resumption of dialogue and the beginning of a settlement post-federation in Yugoslavia which might correspond to the wish and aspirations expressed by the peoples of each single republic.

As far as recognition is concerned, our hope is that it might occur within the unanimous framework of the EEC and for the time being we do not wish to add anything more and certainly both Croatia and Slovenia know that there are for us no doubts as to their recognition.


On recognition and on a peacekeeping force, we have been looking at recognition there for some time and by “we” of course I don’t just mean the United Kingdom, I do mean the European Twelve, because I think when we come to the question of recognition we will do it together – that is desirable – and indeed I think it is now inevitable that we will do it together.

The question really now is substantially a matter of timing. What we need to consider is whether recognition will complicate the task of peacemaking or assist the task of peacemaking and that is a crucial decision for us to take. Up until now, our view – and again I mean our view as the Twelve in the Community – is that we should hold off, that we shouldn’t yet recognise Croatia and Slovenia because we believe that would actually complicate the prospects to making peace which must be the first priority but in due course things will change and then no doubt we will move to recognition.

On the subject of a peacekeeping force, there is of course an essential preliminary to a peacekeeping force and that is that you need a peace if you are going then to keep it and we don’t yet have that peace. If in due course we have that peace and if there is a clear and evident wish amongst those forces that have been in conflict that there should then be a peacekeeping force, the circumstances have changed, it may then be right to have one. Indeed, it may even be right, as parts of the country become peaceable, for a peacekeeping force to move step by step into those parts of the country in which conflict has ended in an endeavour to ensure that conflict does not re-ignite. That is a possibility that no doubt will be discussed over the weeks ahead, so that I think is largely precisely where we are on peacekeeping at the moment.


Mr. President, I understand your invitation to acknowledge confidentiality at this moment but could you just at least mention the issues upon which the frankness of your discussion was particularly important?


I believe that since the speech made by John Major in front of the Commons was public and you too have edited the document that was thereupon issued by the House of Commons, the issues were reiterated that we shall seek through the work in these weeks to clear our positions and see how to find satisfactory solutions. There are some issues which concern other countries of the Community and also these we have discussed for the very reason that we have to try to arrive at Maastricht with the clearest possible ideas and the fewest points to be still solved.


You may safely presume that we discussed all the relevant as yet undetermined points in the treaties. we ran through them very comprehensively.


Without asking you to comment in any way on the details of negotiation as I know you don’t want to, could you just tell us whether yesterday’s meeting in Brussels of the Christian Democratic leaders – which I know you didn’t attend – is significant in helping find a solution?


There is no doubt in my mind that the Christian Democratic leaders of the Community want an agreement at Maastricht that carries with it every member of the Community – they all understand that very well. Individually, I have spoken to them all. I had the pleasure of being here this morning with Prime Minister Andreotti and it is their intention, I am sure, to try and assist in reaching an agreement next month – that is our wish too. I will discuss with them what was said there and what the implications of what was said there may be but as to their objective, I have no doubt.


Could I ask you to give in broad brush terms an outline of what you see as the main differences that you will have to bridge in your talks with Chancellor Kohl this evening?


I did so, Geoffrey, in very great detail, in the House of Commons last Wednesday and the situation is still the same.


Has that not changed at all following the announcement in Brussels?


You asked me to set out what the broad areas were. They are the broad areas that I set out last week. I am not going to touch on detailed discussions today.


Can I ask you one other thing not to do with the EEC? In your bilateral talks, did you talk about Lockerbie and possible sanctions against Libya?


We had a general discussion about Lockerbie and about the investigation, yes.


But you are not prepared to say whether you are taking any steps?


We had a general discussion about Lockerbie this morning most certainly. I think there may be an announcement from elsewhere later on today but not one I can anticipate now.