The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

1994Prime Minister (1990-1997)

Mr Major’s Press Conference in Naples – 10 July 1994

Below is the text of Mr Major’s press conference, held in Naples on Sunday 10th July 1994.


Let me say at the outset that I think Naples has been a very spectacular setting for the summit and it has been a very lively and refreshing summit in many ways, some of which I will set out for you in the next few minutes. Prime Minister Berlusconi certainly set a very fast pace with what I thought was an extremely adept chairmanship.

Let me take a whole series of issues, but firstly let me say, I believe on this occasion we took a very substantial step towards the sort of summit reform that I first advocated at Munich two years ago, we were more informal this year, and next year we have agreed, and clearly set out in the summit communique, that we will extend that informality yet further.

As far as the summit process is concerned, we also took a decision on this occasion to look at world institutions over the longer term and I will say a word about that in a moment, and also a word about both economic and political issues.

Perhaps I can start firstly with the summit process. There has been a sea-change in the way in which the summit has been conducted and will in future be conducted. We had on Friday evening over dinner I think the most stimulating free debate that I can recall in any of the summits I have attended over the last four years or so, and that debate over dinner on Friday evening set the tone for a genuinely informal series of meetings. Everyone, if they had set-piece pieces, certainly seemed to ditch them. We sat around the table and covered a very great deal of territory. But perhaps most important of all, we addressed some of the strategic questions which I have always believed really should be the purpose of summits like this.

One other substantial change this year in the process was to have the political meeting conducted between eight Heads, including President Yeltsin. I pressed for this last year, I discussed it with President Yeltsin when I was in Moscow, I thought and continue to think that it is vital to have Russia as an equal partner in our political work. I believe it proved its worth this morning.

We are going to continue to change the format next year at Halifax, the Canadian Prime Minister is committed to that as well. What in practice that means is we will allow for even more free unstructured discussion, there will be the minimum amount of pre-scripting and the maximum amount of free ranging debate, that is the value of the summits, there may well be other changes as well that will be discussed between Heads as we approach the summit process itself.

Let me say a word about the international institutions. Over the last few years, economically and politically, the world in which we operate has changed at a quite bewildering speed, I doubt that anyone in peace-time can recall its equal. And I think that means we have to look at the institutions that have served us so well over the past 50 years, in many ways they may have to adapt and to some extent that process has already begun, I offer you the illustrations of NATO of course and the development of Partnership for Peace; the enlargement begun, to be continued, of the European Union; the transformation of GATT, originally a temporary structure, into the World Trade Organisation. Those are changes we have seen or are seeing at the present time.

But we took the view that we now needed to look even further ahead. What we need to think about is how the world economy is going to change as we move into the next century, how are we going to tackle the problem of jobs, it exists not just in the United Kingdom but right across the developed and the developing world. How are we going to enlarge free trade beyond the GATT process we have agreed, how are we going to help the developing countries both with their existing debt and in entering into the free trading system as equal partners? They are questions that we are going to have to develop and as we do that we may have to look at the institutions that deal with them.

Let me turn for a moment to some economic questions. The economic programme and the conclusions of the summit discussions will be familiar I think to many of you, they have the same emphasis as the policies that we have been following in the United Kingdom for some time – labour market reform, higher standards in training and education, encouraging the creation of new jobs, and reducing the burden of regulation on businessmen. On trade we want to see the Uruguay Round ratified and then fully implemented as speedily as possible. And crucially at this summit everyone committed themselves to continuing with trade liberalisation.

In the communique there were two objectives that I would draw your attention to particularly. Firstly, in the information sector, we want to see obstacles to competition removed, protected monopolies should be a thing of the past, that was broadly agreed. And secondly, Britain supports both inward and outward investment and the summit has called for the removal of obstacles to direct foreign investment.

One other area of considerable concern to the British for some time was help for the developing world, another vital responsibility for those people gathered at the summit. Nearly four years ago at Trinidad I launched an initiative to relieve the burden of debt which lies most heavily on the poorest countries. On this occasion at this summit the summit has called for further action, for a reduction in the stock of debt and for more generous terms for countries facing special difficulties, that is very welcome and is a process that will need carrying even further.

On the political questions, we spent a lot of time, as did the Foreign Ministers who were gathered here, on Bosnia. And as you will see in the summit communique we have issued a fairly stark warning. If the parties do not take the opportunity for peace that has been created by the work of the contact group, there is a grave risk of war on a large scale. I do not say that lightly, it is the considered conclusion of the discussions that we have had, not only over the last couple of days but over recent weeks.

Next week Douglas Hurd and the French Foreign Minister, Alain Juppe, will be going across the former Yugoslavia together next week and they will be seeing the leaders of all the parties and they will impress upon them that they cannot afford to let this chance of peace slip. If the war intensifies, no-one is going remotely to gain from that, but the peoples of Bosnia yet again are going to be the losers from that intensification of war and the risk of that war spreading is a real risk and that point will be made very clear in the Foreign Secretary’s tour next week. We were agreed, without any dissent whatever, to press the parties as hard as we possibly could to go for peace on the basis of the contact group report.

We spent sometime also looking at the very difficult situation in Ukraine. As you will know, Ukraine is holding the run-off in its Presidential elections today. We very much wish to help the in-coming Ukrainian leadership tackle the problems they face, and in particular restructure their economy, we would like to see a stable and a prosperous Ukraine over time. We agreed that our help would include a new energy strategy which does provide for the complete closure of Chernobyl, I will expand on that later if you invite me to do so.

In Yemen we have just seen a particularly brutal civil war, less publicity perhaps than other conflicts, but nonetheless a very serious conflict. What in practice has happened is that North Yemen has used force to suppress the south and a new humanitarian problem has been created within Yemen. We propose to pay very close attention to developments there, we would like to see reconciliation, we would like to see dialogue, we do not wish to see repression within Yemen and we do wish to see Yemen living at peace with her neighbours, Saudi Arabia, Oman and other countries with whom we have a long and very deep relationship.

I have just in these last few moments only touched upon some of the key points of our discussion on this occasion. Because of the nature of the debate, because of the informality of much of the debate, it spread a good deal wider than many of the summits I have attended in the past, and hence not everything is included in these brief words I have had to say to you.

I do believe in that unstructured way that we are returning to the real purpose of the summits and we are likely to get the best value out of the summits by proceeding in that way.

We focused here on some very specific issues, but we have also used the time for thinking more strategically than is often the case about the longer term and I think as a result of that, I can speak for myself but I think probably for the other. Heads of Government who have been here as well, we think it has been a thoroughly worthwhile summit and we find ourselves refreshed at the thought of continuing in this vain when we meet again next year at Halifax.



QUESTION (Robin Oakley, BBC):

Prime Minister, could I ask you something about a question you did not mention, the discussions in the sidelines here about the successor to M. Delors as President of the European Commission. Obviously you and three of the other Heads of Government here were interested in this question, do you expect the summit on Friday now to produce a solution to this problem, do you expect a single name to be figuring there or possibly a shortlist?


I do not think that is yet clear. No decisions could possibly be made here. One of my concerns about what happened before was that there was not proper consultation amongst the Twelve, I made that perfectly clear at Corfu when we discussed the matter.

Plainly there cannot be discussions among the Twelve when only a small number of members are here, so there were some fairly general bilateral discussions. But on the general point of whether there will be a conclusion. Our European partners know that I did not lightly use the veto at Corfu, it is not something you do without a great deal of thought. They also know that if necessary, and I hope it will not be necessary, I would not hesitate to use it again if I thought that was in our interest or in the wider interest of the European Union.

What is happening at the moment is that the German Presidency are consulting partners extensively and I see no reason at the moment why the matter should not be satisfactorily resolved, I hope that it will be possible to do so by the end of this week.

QUESTION (George Jones, Daily Telegraph):

You have spoken about the threat of the war intensifying in Bosnia if this peace initiative fails, are you now ready to pull out British troops rather than have them bogged down in another winter, particularly if the arms embargo is lifted?


I think you jump over several hurdles in asking that particular question. Certainly we do take the view that the situation is very dangerous, there is a chance of peace as a result of the work of the contact group, we hope it will be taken. We are by no means certain that it will be taken, the Foreign Secretary will be pressing people very hard and I think we cannot at this stage go from that to a judgment of what the situation may be like in a month, two months or three months time, I do not think it would be wise for me to enter into those judgments at the moment. But I do want to make it clear, I hope we have made it clear, that we do think the situation is serious and I cannot indicate what we may be in a position to do in a month, two or three months time, I think we must wait and see what happens. The first thing to do, self-evidently, and the most important thing to do in the short-term is to make it absolutely clear to the parties involved that we expect them to reach a settlement and that the consequences of not reaching a settlement are very serious. All the parties to the discussions over the last couple of days will be doing that. The Foreign Secretary, as I have said, will be in former Yugoslavia next week and he may wish to add a word.


I have nothing to add. I think everybody, the Russians, will do their bit, I think everybody represented round the table were at one on the need to seize the opportunity of these next weeks and try to make the best of them. The choice is not between the present situation which is half peace and total peace, the choice is between total peace, accepting this plan, and sliding back into the kind of savagery which was the state of Bosnia a year ago, and that is one point I think we should all be making to the parties.

QUESTION (Paul Reynolds, BBC):

How do you reconcile the Bosnian peace plan with the principles of the London Conference, which you chaired, the high principles about the inadmissibility of territory acquired by war, the right of refugees to return home, both these principles will be violated even if the Bosnian peace plan is implemented? What do you say to the Bosnian people as you make it clear to the parties that they must make settlement, when they say well what about the London Conference which you chaired?


I do not think continued slaughter of the Bosnian people is something the Bosnian people or anybody else would wish to see. We have to deal with the realities of what exist and the danger potentially to the Bosnian people and everybody else of a renewed outbreak of severe conflict are self-evident. During the ceasefire period there have been outbreaks, it has not been a complete ceasefire, but the danger of that conflict reactivating, not just to the Bosnians but also with the added risk that as a result of that it will move further south and create a wider conflagration, is something that we cannot readily overlook. So what we need to do is to try and stop the fighting and continue with the diplomacy to provide the best possible settlement that we can reach, that is what we are seeking to do.


The plan we are pressing is of course a plan which keeps Bosnia with its existing international frontiers. The argument is about the map inside Bosnia of how the Bosnian communities, Bosnian Serbs, Bosnian Croats, Bosnian Muslims, can live together and what kind of map is needed to create a good chance for that.


What is self-evident beyond that, let us take the happy assumption that the map is agreed, and not just a ceasefire but an end to the conflict comes about, of course that does not mean everybody walks away from Bosnia and leaves it, there will undoubtedly at that stage be the need for peace-keeping on quite a substantial scale for a period we cannot yet judge.


You have expressed the support of your government for the trade and investment liberalisation measures put forward here but some of your G7 partners rejected a barter plan that President Clinton brought with him here. Do you accept the reasons put forward by these partners for not accepting it, i.e. that ratification of the Uruguay Round would be difficult if they did accept or is there another motivation there in your mind?


It is an argument. I would have willingly accepted the broader liberalisation. I think it was entirely right of President Clinton to move forward.

The GATT Round was a remarkable advance but there was a lot that the GATT Round did not do; it hasn’t dealt with services for example and there are a range of other areas so there is no doubt that we have to continue with liberalisation.

In the debate around the table, everybody agreed with that. Some of our partners took the view that we ought not to take a further step forward on liberalisation until after the formal ratification of GATT because of the internal political difficulties in a minority of countries of getting that ratification and it was accepted that that created an internal problem for some. I regret that. I would like to have moved further and faster but once the ratification is complete – and we committed ourselves to that ratification by 1 January – there was no dissent from anyone that at that stage liberalisation moves forward so to the extent that President Clinton’s plan was not included in this communique, it was certainly not pushed to one side, it is a subject to which people will return within a very few months to make sure that liberalisation goes further.


I would be very glad if you would give me your personal impression of Mr. Murayama who is a Socialist leader.


I know lots of people of different political philosophies with whom I get on extremely well. I enjoyed meeting Mr. Murayama. He made a very impressive contribution to our discussions this morning and I had the opportunity of speaking to him privately at a bilateral. I have absolutely no doubt at all that with him as Prime Minister of Japan the good relationship between the United Kingdom and Japan will continue. I have not a shred of doubt about that.


Financial markets have been in nearly perpetual turmoil even when you were meeting here on Friday. What do you think is causing the upheaval in financial markets, particularly what is going on between European currencies and the dollar and what have leaders here done about it and what could they do about it once they get back to their home countries?


There was a brief amount of discussion among the Heads of Government and rather more amongst Finance Ministers but I spent a period as a Finance Minister and the one thing that I learned beyond doubt during the period as a Finance Minister is that Finance Ministers or indeed Heads of Government talking about the market is almost invariably counter-productive so I have no intention of responding directly to the question for the sound market reason I just set out.


A brief domestic question, Prime Minister. If, as we now believe, Lord Archer is cleared of any impropriety over share dealings this week, will that clear any impediment to him taking a part in your government reshuffle?


I think you know the situation with inquiries, the statutory position. The Department of Industry had a statutory responsibility. They have set up an investigation – that is an investigation that is provided for by the Companies Security Act. That is being carried out in the normal way at present.

I was informed of this matter first when it came to the DTI’s attention earlier this year but the matter must now rest statutorily with the Department of Trade and Industry and with the investigators who have been appointed. I don’t think it would be at all right for me to offer any further comment on that whatsoever.


Prime Minister, I would like to go back to the question of the successor to M. Delors. Do you think the meeting of next Friday should produce one common candidate or could you eventually accept a short list to be submitted to the European Parliament?


I think the intention is to try and find a successor to M. Delors by Friday. I think that is the way the Heads of Government wish to proceed and that is what I hope it will be possible to do.


Prime Minister, did your discussions today clarify what you think of the situation in North Korea after the death of Kim Il-Sung and is that something where President Yeltsin was able to contribute to the discussions which you said had shown the value of him being here?


We discussed a range of issues which you will have seen in the communique including that. I think the communal wish as far as North Korea was concerned is for the discussions with the Americans to continue and for the conference that has been planned to go ahead. There was a complete unanimity of view upon that. I don’t think I wish to comment beyond that.


Mr. Major, would it be an accurate description of the economic section of this summit to say that the leaders of the seven industrialised countries came here, put jobs and growth at the top of the agenda and created not one extra job?


No, the answer is it would not. You have to consider how jobs are created.

The problem that the world faces at the moment is that almost irresistibly for the last twenty-five or thirty years there has been a steady underlying growth in unemployment. That is true particularly in Europe and particularly in many of the developing countries.

There are many reasons for this, people have different views. In some areas, the reason is the development of technology. Technology creates jobs for people who are skilled that nobody imagined could exist until the technology was developed but the counter-point of that is that it does tend to destroy jobs for people who are unskilled or less skilled and the problem that we perceive is that in many countries there is a larger pool of people who are unskilled or poorly-skilled who are becoming an almost permanent pool of people whom it is difficult to employ. That is a point that can only be addressed in one way.

Firstly, as far as the creation of jobs is concerned, we think there is no doubt that the increasing liberality and flexibility of the markets will enhance world trade and create jobs – that is the first point to make.

The second point is that internally within each country we believe deregulation – I use that in the British sense of removing burdens from business – will also help to create jobs. That was a very novel idea two or three years ago produced primarily though not exclusively by the British. That is now generally accepted as far as jobs are concerned.

Nobody was arguing for large expenditure packages that might create jobs in the short term that would be unsustainable in the long term. As far as the developing world was concerned where the jobless problem is also very serious, we looked firstly at the point I made of the liberalisation of trade but secondly at the elimination of debt to put them in a position where the increasing resources they have can be used for job-creation of one sort or another rather than just the payment of debt.

I don’t think the characterisation you used is accurate. There were some very practical mechanisms reinforced that we believe will create not short-term but long-term permanent jobs.


You said the intention was to try and find a successor to M. Delors by Friday. I wonder if you are prepared to let us into a secret and tell us who you would like to see get the job and if not, perhaps you could tell us what sort of qualities you are looking for, what sort of person, what sort of European Commission President you would like to see.


I am not sure, John, whether that was a bid for the post – I will give it careful consideration if it was!

I don’t propose to share a name with you. I indicated after Corfu that I thought there were a number of people who could credibly do the job and there were some that I would be less pleased to see in-post.

I think in general terms the sort of qualities I would be looking for would be someone who was in favour of free trade rather than protection, Europe needs free trade; it can’t wrap itself up into a little ball and pretend that Japan, South-East Asia and America aren’t there so clearly he needs to be a free trader. He clearly needs to be someone who supports the development of NATO and the Atlantic Alliance. He or she would clearly need to be in favour of enlargement and clearly need to follow the trend the Community has been developing in terms of subsidiarity. Ideally, I would not like to see an idealogue there. I would like to see someone who is experienced in the way the Community works.

That isn’t a composite check-list. It may be we will find someone who ticks off adequately on most of those points and not all. The other important thing I think is that it has to be a President who will work to represent all the members of the European Union. That seems to me to be very important and I am sure we can find a candidate who fits that bill.


You said that it is counter-productive for Ministers to talk about currencies. Is that a new lesson and does that mean a shift in your practice?


I don’t think it is a new lesson, I think it is a lesson that a large number of Heads of Government and Finance Ministers have learned over the years. I certainly have learned it. I don’t think generalised comments about what often are very detailed matters creating currency turmoil are very useful.


Returning to jobs, you came here saying that it would be, you hoped, one of the main themes of the summit. In fact, the communique although it deals with jobs at some length, does not go much further if at all than the OECD jobs report and indeed the Detroit summit. Is that a disappointment to you? Would you have liked to have seen more specific measures included for job creation?


No, I don’t regard it as a disappointment. There was, before we began to discuss international institutions on Friday evening, a very long discussion on the subject of employment and the creation and maintenance of jobs and that was followed up again on the Saturday morning.

What I wished to see here was not a series of tiny supply-side moves or public expenditure commitments. What I wanted to see was a community of view about how the world economies could collectively increase trade and create jobs and that community of view emerged. It isn’t a community of view that would have been readily achievable even a couple of years or so ago and yet today it is clearly there and there was no difficulty whatsoever in agreeing to the terms of the communique so I think that is a very substantial advance. Even the largest economies in the world are no longer immune from external influence, it doesn’t matter how big they are or who they are, we are interdependent to a degree and the extent to which we are able to agree the right prescription for accelerating trade and creating jobs the greater the impact is likely to be upon all of us so I found it rather refreshing that we were able to reach that agreement.


Prime Minister, paragraph 9 of the Political Declaration talks about the international community equipping itself with more efficient means to respond in a prompt way to humanitarian emergencies worldwide, a kind of echo of the Berlusconi idea about a humanitarian task force. Can you flesh out precisely what that is likely to mean, what the British contribution might be and all the rest?


It is Mr. Berlusconi’s idea and he raised it. It has been raised in general terms but it isn’t yet fleshed-out. I think he was responding to a feeling that certainly exists in great measure in Italy and I think exists in many other countries.

The United Nations has a great burden at the moment. It is certainly possible to argue that the burden on the United Nations is a greater burden than the United Nations is at present equipped to bear and many people I think would subscribe to that view. What Mr. Berlusconi was doing was pointing to that and saying that as we consider the institutions we need to see how we can respond more rapidly to problems like the one that he brought before us. He did not have and did not pretend to have a detailed prescription of what needed to be done; he was flagging up a problem that existed, that we know exists, and that it would be attractive to find a way of dealing with.

It was left that if he had further proposals he would put them to us and certainly this is one of the matters that is likely to be discussed as we look generally at the institutions and within the United Nations. We were of course concerned not to cut across the responsibilities of the United Nations. Creating fresh organisations to do something in a new way when an organisation already exists to do it is not what Mr. Berlusconi had in mind or indeed anybody else.


Prime Minister, did you indicate to your summit colleagues that in the event of the Bosnia peace plan breaking down you are now willing to consider the lifting of the arms embargo?


I think everybody recognises the inherent danger of lifting the arms embargo and we did not have a detailed discussion on that. I think our views on that have been made clear in the past and I did not need to reiterate them on this occasion.