The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

1992Prime Minister (1990-1997)

Mr Major’s Joint Press Conference with Chancellor Kohl – 11 November 1992

Below is the text of Mr Major’s joint press conference with Chancellor Helmut Kohl, held at Heythrop Park in Oxfordshire on Wednesday 11th November 1992.


Can I say firstly that the Chancellor and his colleagues are very welcome indeed here at Ditchley, we know each other so well now we were able to get down very rapidly to business and it has been a very productive summit for both of us.

I think everyone will know the length to which I and the Chancellor have both gone to persuade the Community and the United States to negotiate to reach a successful conclusion in the GATT round. I am delighted that the Commission have today announced that they intend to restart talks again next week. I think that is vital. What the world economic situation calls for at present is calm discussion and not sabre rattling and we do need that GATT settlement comprehensively and as speedily as possible. I have no doubt whatsoever that a very valuable prize in the form of that GATT settlement is within our grasp and it will bring with it a boost of some 200 billion dollars to world incomes.

And I think there is a further point about GATT that the Chancellor and I have been able to discuss this morning and it is simply this. The rich countries of the world owe it to the developing countries of the world not to hold up a deal, the poorer nations would gain around 90 billion dollars from the GATT round and that is of course twice the level of total official aid and I think that does place a very considerable impetus on the need to secure a successful outcome for the Uruguay Round.

On bilateral and European matters, the Chancellor and I discussed in detail the agenda for the forthcoming Edinburgh summit and I explained how, in our Presidency role, we intended to handle the Danish proposals. We agreed specifically on the need to take firm decisions at Edinburgh on subsidiarity. By that I mean the Community only doing what the Community needs to do and with greater openness. And we agreed also that we needed to make progress on enlargement of the Community, starting with the EFTAN states. Both of us want to see the early accession of those EFTAN countries into the European Community.

We discussed also this morning the difficult question of the Community’s budget. Germany of course is the largest net contributor and the United Kingdom is the second largest. We both agreed that it is necessary to keep the Community’s finances under control and to ensure that we get the best possible value for money for the money that is spent communally by the European Community.

One of the many positive aspects of the Maastricht Treaty is that it will help achieve that goal and whilst I mention the Maastricht Treaty let me commend to you the booklet produced today by the British Government which translates some of the Eurocomment into English and copies will be available for people and I hope they will find it very useful.

At the plenary session with our Ministerial colleagues we discussed a number of matters, amongst them the European Fighter Aircraft, a very important European collaborative project. The recent four nation study has shown that we can cut the costs very substantially and I very much hope that future studies will confirm that we have a basis for going ahead with such a new fighter aircraft, we have not reached that position yet but the discussions will continue between our Defence Ministers in the weeks ahead.

Ministers also discussed the former Yugoslavia, we welcome the news of a ceasefire although we remain cautious about how lasting it will prove. Douglas Hurd can respond to that in greater detail if there are specific questions on it.

Let me also report straight away some excellent progress in combating international crime and drug smuggling. Community member states are working together on an intergovernmental basis to establish the first stage of Europol by 1st January next year and this stage will include a drugs intelligence unit which will involve officers from all member states of the Community. They are expected to work in support of national police forces to strengthen the hands of the police in the battle against organised crime.

Those are just a few of the matters we discussed this morning, by no means a comprehensive list. A few examples are the areas of cooperation between Britain and Germany and very clear proof that relations between our two countries remain extremely good. I was very pleased this morning to be able to tell the Federal Chancellor how much The Queen had enjoyed her recent state visit.


John, Ladies and Gentlemen. First of all I should like to thank you most warmly for the friendly and hospitable reception which we have received here today and I am thanking you on behalf of the German delegation also. These consultations have taken place in a very warm atmosphere and I think this is an atmosphere which reflects the relationship between our two countries and indeed reflects the friendly relations which exist between John Major and myself.

I should like to take this opportunity before the British public here also to explicitly and expressly thank you for the State Visit of Queen Elizabeth II to Germany. We were especially pleased that the focal point of this visit was in the new Federal states which reflected the particular interest which Great Britain has shown in the development of the new federal states and I think the programme of the visit also shows that today, and this has been mentioned, Great Britain has moved into second place amongst foreign investors in the new federal states of Eastern Germany.

At the forefront of our consultations, the Prime Minister mentioned this of course, were the preparations for the European Council in Edinburgh. It is in our joint interest for this meeting in Edinburgh to be a great success, In the course of the special meeting in Birmingham we conducted much useful preparatory work and we agreed that it is now time to ensure in these few weeks in the run up to Edinburgh that we lay down clear guidelines and above all criteria for the application of the principle of subsidiarity, we need to develop these criteria, this is going to be a most decisive point for our consultations in Edinburgh and this also corresponds with the wishes of our population.

The Prime Minister and myself agree, and I think almost all our colleagues in the Community agree, that we also need to discuss in Edinburgh the wrong developments which took place in the past and we need to correct these false developments.

Against the background of the discussions which have taken place over the last few months in connection with the Maastricht Treaty it is now time for us to do everything we can in order to ensure that we develop the picture of a democratic Europe which is close to its citizens and in which we respect national identity and culture of all member states. Maastricht is not, as occasionally is said here in Great Britain, the starting point for the development of a centralist Europe, nobody wants this. We wish in future with the Maastricht Treaty as Germans, Britons, Italians and French, we wish to remain within our national identities.

We agreed that at Edinburgh we shall discuss the question of new states, of EFTA states, to the European Community. I hope that we will be successful in ensuring that at the beginning of 1993 negotiations can begin, and this is another area where we agree.

A further focal point of our discussion of course concerns ratification and the implementation of the Maastricht Treaty. Prime Minister Major explained to me once again the reasons why the ratification procedure in Great Britain has been postponed to the first half of 1993. I wish to state quite clearly that I of course respect this decision, this is a British decision, l have much comprehension for the problems and the difficulties which have been encountered and which have led to this decision. I am quite sure that the Prime Minister will undoubtedly ensure that the treaty is ratified and this is my particular wish and that of the German people.

What is decisive for us is that the treaty should remain unchanged and should be ratified by all states within the Community so that it can then come into force in 1993. As you know, but I will repeat this once again, we shall be discussing the treaty and ratifying the treaty at the end of November in the Federal Parliament and then the second Chamber will discuss this in the middle of December and ratify the treaty also.

We also wish to undertake all we can and we agreed on this point, the Prime Minister and myself, that we must find a way for our Danish friends to ratify the Treaty of Maastricht for as far as the German position is concerned I would emphasise once again that we wish to move into the future with all Community states, it is not our objective to create a Europe with two or three speeds, but we also do not want to have a Europe a la carte.

Prime Minister Major, just to mention the GATT round, and I can only support everything that he said, both of us over the last few weeks, I think up to the last few hours, have been conducting joint work on this subject and trying to ensure that the GATT round comes to a successful conclusion. The situation of countries of the Third World, the situation as regards a recession in our economic development should force us to sensible action and should then help us to move towards a compromise.




Can you tell me, Chancellor, how the negotiations on the EFA project went on and whether the two Ministers came closer together?


This is a question I would like to reply to. I am very keen that we speak to all our partners, with the UK, Italy and Spain, and achieve a sensible agreement. We have found that the project as it is at present has become too expensive in its general configuration and we made great savings and intend to make great savings and now new calculations are available and I am certain that we will have a sensible result. For the German side I would say very clearly that we wish to have a common European solution but no lack of confidence vis a vis our American friends are quite incapable of having that, but it is a precondition for our future development in Europe and there is a performing aircraft and aircraft industry and that is why I think we will achieve a sensible solution here.

QUESTION (Edward Stourton, ITN):

Could I ask the Chancellor whether he was upset by what the Prime Minister has said recently about the ratification process of Maastricht and whether he thinks it will threaten the Danish referendum or the outcome thereof? And the Prime Minister whether he agrees with what the Chancellor said about Maastricht remaining unchanged?


Let me answer the second point. We certainly do not want to change the substance of the Maastricht Treaty, that is the Treaty that I agreed to in Maastricht and we do not wish to change that. What Denmark wants to do is to make some amendments outside the Maastricht Treaty and that is what we will be examining in the discussion at Edinburgh and no doubt beyond Edinburgh. But the substance of the Maastricht Treaty is the treaty that we agreed before.


Would you allow me a frank comment concerning the whole of the subject after the debate in the UK? When I became Federal Chancellor, Ladies and Gentlemen, 10 years ago the most used word in Europe was Eurosclerosis, it was the concept of a bad illness going together with the concept of Europe. If 8 or 7 years ago we had held a press conference here and we had said we are able to work out the Maastricht Treaty, most of you would have commented that they must have gone quite mad, there is no chance at all.

Now we drafted the Maastricht Treaty together, of course the Maastricht Treaty is a compromise, all sides of course have made efforts to achieve this compromise and we now have a new situation, it is a new milestone in the life of European peoples. Although in spite of the Maastricht Treaty we will remain Britons and Germans, we are not going to give up our homeland, our mother tongue, our nationality, we remain Britons and Europeans and Germans and Europeans. But particularly on a day like this, which is an historical date if we look at this century, we will have to look back at the long way we have come and I would put it to you quite simply, if one of our friendly countries, the UK, has for its own reasons the wish to say please give us a few months time, why should I criticise the British for that? I have every confidence in the Prime Minister that he will achieve his objective. I also have all confidence in the fact that the majority of the British understand that the future lies in a peaceful and economically successful. Britain in Europe. So if it is a matter for us to give some time to the UK, I would quite agree to say OK, proceed like that, I am quite confident that things will be successful and I have no reason to get excited about that.

QUESTION (Hans Slegermann):

Chancellor, did Premier Major ask you to exercise more pressure on the French as regards the GATT round of negotiations?


Not at all. That would have been a quite nonsensical activity, quite nonsensical if John was to exercise pressure on me and it would be just as ridiculous if I were to try to exercise pressure on the French. Anyone who understands the psychology of nations knows that this is the worst recipe for action that you can imagine.

We are both convinced of the same thing and this I think is a conviction which is largely shared by our French friends. We need to conclude the GATT Round. It will be a compromise because without free world trade, positive development of the world economy is unthinkable.

Before I look at the industrial countries, I would name the Third World as an example. If for example GATT is not successfully concluded, if we withdraw into a fortress mentality with declarations of a trade war, we will not be able to move forward into the future. It won’t be mainly the French, German and English who will pay although they will be paying – it will be the countries of the Third World who pay the most and if you look at the sums of development aid in the budgets of all the industrial countries and lump them all together then you still won’t get anywhere near the sum which you might achieve if you can guarantee free trade through GATT.

We need to exercise international solidarity and we must have a commitment towards GATT and we need Free World trade if we believe that jobs in Germany, Great Britain or France can be secured and new jobs can be created. If we withdraw into Fortress Europe and the Americans withdraw into Fortress United States, then this would be an idiotic form of politics. That is quite simply a fact. We need GATT. We need a sensible compromise.

I can only say quite critically that over many months we have been prepared to compromise and have wished for a compromise. I don’t want to place blame upon anybody involved but if the acting President and the future President of the United States are listening, I would like us to reach a conclusion and this is the vote we have put to the EC Commission in Brussels and I think we have a good chance of achieving this.

As far as the French are concerned, France is an exporting country as we all are; they have agricultural problems as we do too but I am absolutely against now pillorying the French, which has happened occasionally over the last few weeks.

QUESTION (Paul Reynolds – BBC Radio):

Prime Minister, do you feel in any way weakened in your negotiations by your domestic problems? You have had problems with monetary matters, the miners, Maastricht and now munitions for Iraq. Do you feel that you are reversing the Teddy Roosevelt dictum about speaking softly and you are speaking loudly yet carrying a small stick?


The answer to your question is quite straightforward and quite simple – no. You asked me a direct question; I gave it a direct answer.

No, I don’t. The negotiations we have carried out in Europe have been clear-cut and crystallised from the beginning by a clear set of objectives. That was the position and remains the position and I think on many of those matters we have negotiated very successfully with our European Community partners.

In any negotiation there is always a degree of give and take. If there is not, it is not genuinely a negotiation. That is what has happened. I think our European partners have seen that we have negotiated with them in a straightforward and satisfactory way and I believe we have received a very satisfactory result as a result of those negotiations.


May I add one comment, John, although the question was not addressed to me.

I must say frankly that I think it would be bad policy if one of us were to have difficulties internally and we were to try and exploit those difficulties. The Europe which I wish to achieve must always be a Europe which comes together and those who want to really make the last possible calculations on this will fail.

QUESTION (David Foley – BBC Newsnight):

Prime Minister, how much damage did the withdrawal from the ERM cause to Anglo-German relations?


I don’t think it has caused damage to Anglo-German relations and I think you can probably see that quite clearly today. I didn’t seek a withdrawal from the Exchange Rate Mechanism; market compulsion made it necessary but I think that is well understood amongst our partners in Europe and I believe it has done no damage whatsoever. It is fully understood.

QUESTION (George Jones – Daily Telegraph):

Prime Minister, the German Chancellor appears to have suggested that he is willing to see several months delay and understands the need for that over the Maastricht Treaty. Can the Prime Minister now give us an assurance that if the Danish referendum is delayed beyond May, perhaps to the summer or even the autumn, that he will proceed with the Third Reading of the Maastricht Bill in the spring of next year?


I have made the position perfectly clear about our proposals on the Bill. What is now clear as a result of the vote last week is that there is no way in which the Government can in future rely in any sense on the Labour Party supporting the passage of the Maastricht Bill. We cannot be certain that they will do that. Their vote and their tactics last week make that perfectly clear.

That means that to ensure the passage of the Bill, which must be my first priority, I must win the arguments in the House of Commons and that will mean encountering a great degree of opposition from some and it will mean countering at length the arguments of those opposed to the Maastricht Treaty. They have already put down a large number of amendments so it will be a lengthy process and I would not expect the Committee Stage to be finished by May but we have said repeatedly that we are determined to ratify the Bill during this session of Parliament and I am happy to repeat that today. I believe we will have the Third Reading some time after the expected date in May of the Danish referendum and I expect to ratify the Bill during this session of Parliament.

QUESTION (Michael Insted – BBC German Service):

Did you discuss at all the question of Britain taking more refugees from Bosnia?

May I also put a question to the German delegation? Are you satisfied so far with the number of refugees accepted by the UK?


I will ask the Foreign Secretary to respond to that. Although the Chancellor and I discussed it, the Foreign Secretary and Herr Kinkel had more lengthy discussions on the matter as indeed did the Home Secretary.


You may have followed what the Home Secretary announced last week, that after a period during which many thousands of Yugoslays have come here but in an uncoordinated way to the UK, there is now a visa regime except for Slovenia and Croatia and we have expressed our willingness to accept particular numbers of people identified by the humanitarian agencies as requiring a home beginning with an offer of 150 – that is heads of families so maybe 4/500 with their dependants – an offer which has not yet been taken up but which we are discussing. Over and above that, we have expressed our willingness on that basis to do more.

At the Foreign Affairs Council on Monday, Klaus Kinkel, sitting at the end there, made a very eloquent plea from Germany that all of us in the Community and the Americans, Canadians and other friends should rally round and make it clear that between ourselves we are willing to accept those 6,000 who have so far been identified from the camps as requiring places outside the former Yugoslavia and we as Presidency are now taking that up and identifying country by country who is able to do what.


Perhaps from the German side I may add that the Twelve discussed the problem of refugees from the former Yugoslavia very intensively in the last few weeks and also the question of the camps.

As regards the refugees – and this is no secret – we certainly had to bear the main burden in the Federal Republic. We had to take more than 135,000 refugees and at last Monday’s Council we said that in any case we want to take on those people from the camps in Bosnia and other areas before Christmas who have to live under terrible conditions there. According to indications received by the Red Cross, there are about 6,000 people. As Europeans, we have committed ourselves to taking these people and for the Federal Government, with the help of the Federal Chancellor I have been able to say that we will be able to take 1,000 of the 6,000. I think this is a humanitarian gesture, to see that before Christmas, before the winter comes, the camps are emptied if this is at all possible.

QUESTION (Adam Boulton – Sky TV):

John Smith, the Labour leader, today told a meeting of the TUC that Britain opting out of the Social Chapter of the Maastricht would mean that British workers were better placed to compete with the Taiwanese than with the Germans. As right-of-centre politicians who disagree on this matter, I wonder if you could both comment on that observation.


I have not seen what Mr. Smith said but if Mr. Smith is so concerned about the Social Chapter or indeed any part of European development I am rather puzzled that he should have asked his party to vote against the motion in the House of Commons last week. There is no doubt that he put at very great risk the future progress of the Bill. As it happens he lost the division and lost a great degree of credibility, not only at home but in Europe.

The Labour Party said they had consulted their European socialist colleagues about how they voted. It turned out that Mr. Cunningham had had a conversation with Jean Pierre Kot [phon], the leader of the socialists in the European Parliament, but if that was the position it is rather odd that Jean Pierre Kot subsequently seems to have contradicted him by making the point that the Labour. Party were playing with fire in the way in which they voted on Maastricht so John Smith may be going to a great deal of trouble to try and save his reputation but it is a little late. He threw his European reputation overboard in his tactical vote in the House of Commons a week ago.


Chancellor, may I put a question to try and overcome a few misunderstandings concerning monetary policy and currency policy.


Well don’t write a book about it!


Two months ago, from the German side we heard that Great Britain had been made an offer that they could devalue together with the Italians on the 12/13 September. Mr. Kurda said that, the Secretary of State. On the British side, it was said that no offer was made. Could you perhaps help us and say which version corresponds to the truth?


I can’t help you.


I beg your pardon. You were involved with the Bundesbank on the matter.


I still can’t help you, I am afraid, in spite of that. The question is simple. I don’t think there is any point in discussing the past weeks in this context and continuing the discussion which won’t get you any further anyway. All sorts of statements have been made and all sorts of statements have not been made. I see no point in now writing a history book about it. When you are pensioned off and me too, then we will get together and write a third book about the subject together.

QUESTION (Nick Gowing – Channel 4 News):

Chancellor, you indicated earlier that you had full understanding for the British position. How much do you fear that the longer the debate about Maastricht goes on, the less the will and the public support there will be for whatever emerges eventually?


I don’t think so. We have all learned more. I have too. The Maastricht Treaty is a milestone in the century towards the development of Europe and certainly as Heads of Government and others have to realise perhaps we have done too little in the field of psychology to really make people understand what a tremendous development this is and even in politics one can learn from the mistakes one has made.

If I look at the asset side, I must say it is a tremendous thing that at this moment we are capable of going towards this development in Europe, that Europe is growing together, that we will be strengthened vis-a-vis other combinations in the world. In eight years it will be the year 2000 and that will undoubtedly see that in the North American area, the United States and Canada associated with Mexico will have a tremendous region of association. You will see associations like that too in Latin American. We see similar things in Asia if we just refer to Korea and Japan. We act in Europe as if the world is simply passing us by. The achievement at Maastricht of monetary union, economic union and political union really pulls the people of Europe together. It is time that we understand that we are not in 1902 but in 1992 and we have to draw the conclusions from that.

Our British friends have their own history and their own traditions, and we only have to look at the history of the British Parliament which is not without reason called the “Mother of Parliaments” to see that we have to take account of this. The essence of friendship is that we make concessions to each other and the basis of my friendship with John Major is that we aim at helping each other, not obstructing each other. That is my view of European solidarity and European policies.

QUESTION (Hella Pik – The Guardian):

You have both today emphasised the unity of purpose and have obviously sought to minimise any differences. What Chancellor Kohl has said is somewhat in contradiction to what was said in Bonn on the eve of your visit here. You and your Foreign Minister were reported as being rather critical of the British delay in the ratification debate. I am just wondering whether you feel you have for presentational purposes today emphasised the positive and ignored the negative and whether you have any comments on that?


I don’t know who said that to you in Bonn. I didn’t say it and under the German constitution it is I who decides the policy line and nobody else. I am not sure if you read some sort of magazine on the subject but you should stop reading them I think.

Such a statement was not made by me and neither legitimised by me. I don’t know who else could have said that in Bonn and that is all I have to say on the subject.


I don’t think there is much to add to that.