06 maja 2004
PRIME MINISTER TONY BLAIR: Good Afternoon everyone. First of all can I express the warmest possible welcome to the President of Poland and say how delighted we are to see him here in London for this State Visit, and to say he and Jolanta are good friends of myself and Cherie and we are delighted on a personal basis as well as a political basis to see you here. And the relationship between Britain and Poland is a strong relationship. We have agreed already that we want to see that relationship strengthened still further in the years to come, as I am sure it will do as partners in the European Union. We were champions right from the outset ⦣8364;“ Britain - of Poland`s membership of the European Union, of its swift accession to the European Union and we are thrilled to see you as part of the new Europe that is being created. I can describe very briefly to you the discussions that we have had so far that we will then continue later. They centred around Iraq obviously, where I would like to thank profoundly the contribution that has been made by Poland to the situation there, and we have obviously discussed all aspects of that and no doubt you will ask us questions about it. And secondly in relation to Europe, the forthcoming Intergovernmental Conference, the need obviously to make sure that we get the right treaty that can take Europe forward. But I would just like to conclude my opening remarks really by giving once again a very warm welcome, and also saying that of course the President of Poland, as you probably know, is someone with a long experience of this country, who first came here some 30 years ago as a student, and as you probably know became an Arsenal supporter in the course of that - which everyone can have their views on. But it is a real pleasure to see him here. He is someone who has I think a great affection for our country, and I can say this to you Alex, that people in Britain, we have got a new relationship obviously inside the European Union, but people in Britain will never forget the contribution Poland made in the struggle against fascism, a struggle you then had to repeat against communism, but we remember you as allies, we remember the bravery of your people, those who came and fought alongside us to defeat the Nazis, and that is something that creates a very strong bond and relationship between our two nations. So as I say both personally and politically, welcome here. PRESIDENT ALEKSANDER KWAŚNIEWSKI: Prime Minister, it is a very special moment for me, and a symbolic one too, not only because of the first years I am in London as the President of Poland, as a man who can observe the marvellous reception I was given, the Polish flags on the Mall, this is deeply touching and it confirms how much Poland and Great Britain are together in Europe. It is also symbolic that my first official visit after Poland`s accession to the Union is to Great Britain. We wish to give thanks to Britain for the aid we received from Britain on our pass to the European Union, but it also defines the good prospects for us together for the future. Both sides wish to work for a strong Europe, for a Europe in which we will be able to feel that we as nations, we as states, will have a role in Europe which will be effective, which will be competitive, which will also open towards a huge number of people, almost half a billion people who are of this European space. I am convinced that our cooperation in Iraq will end successfully, this is something which is close to our heart. We would love to end the mission in a way in which power is handed over to the Iraqis so that they can run and administer their own country in safety, and offer that safety to their neighbours too. QUESTION: Mr President, do you see any realistic calendarium for the withdrawal of Polish troops from Iraq? One of your coalition partners in Poland wants such a diary. I would also ask Prime Minister Blair to answer the same question. PRESIDENT ALEKSANDER KWAŚNIEWSKI: We are in Iraq to stabilise the situation and to withdraw, so any question concerning when will we withdraw does not make an awful lot of sense. As far as the timetable is concerned, having spoken to Prime Minister Blair, I believe that a timetable should be possible whereby by 30 June there will be a temporary government which will take partial responsibility for the country. I also believe the UN decision will help to persuade other countries to join the mission to Iraq. But today the question about the timetable, when will Polish troops withdraw, does not make sense. This is an irresponsible question. We need to fulfil our mission, we cannot exchange a stability mission into an instability mission. We are prepared to send the third contingent of Polish troops to Iraq, we are prepared for talks concerning what then, what after 30 June, but we will do nothing which could possibly increase the chaos in Iraq, or to threaten the lives of our soldiers or the lives of our friends. The Poles and the British know very well, when yesterday it was really pouring and I was putting flowers in front of the Polish Memorial, 2,000 Poles who died in the Royal Air Force, and they died for us. An alliance is an alliance. We have certain obligations, we propose to carry them out. We will do nothing to create problems, but of course we are hoping for the best for the future, and with Tony Blair we are of one mind on this one. The sooner there are good decisions, the sooner there is stability in Iraq, the sooner we can go home. PRIME MINISTER TONY BLAIR: I am in total agreement with everything the President has said. QUESTION: I hope this is not another unhelpful question. But staying with the issue of intelligence, for obvious reasons which everyone understands, the intelligence services have become much more powerful, they have had more money, and we now see a new head of MI6 who like his predecessor is going to stay in the shadows. Given the new importance and power of the intelligence services inside British government, would it not be more appropriate to move to something more like the American system with the CIA and have a boss of the intelligence services who was open, who was known, who could answer questions, given as I say the power that he will be wielding? PRIME MINISTER TONY BLAIR: I think these are questions that we keep under consideration the whole time, because I think the system has already changed quite considerably. The people who head up these organisations have a different and higher profile than they have had before, and we have actually tried, sometimes with difficult consequences, to be more open about the intelligence we see and the intelligence that we act upon. I can`t really be sure how this debate will go, but I think you are right in the sense that people look upon this now as an important part, not just of our own security, but of our own almost constitutional system if you like, and I am not offering any specific changes today, but it is something that we do keep under consideration and I think you have seen a development of a greater openness about it, and that is something in the end I think most people will welcome. QUESTION: On the appointment of John Scarlett, clearly confidence in the intelligence system is vital and should be above party politics. Is it a matter of concern for you, and if it is what are you going to do about it, that many people may not have confidence in a man who is a crucial part of the barrier against terrorism. And if I may on a completely different topic, the oil price today soared through record levels. Do you regard oil and petrol prices as just one of those things, or is it something government has a real concern about the impact on consumers? PRIME MINISTER TONY BLAIR: In respect of the first, I honestly don`t know that I have got anything more to add to what I said just a moment or two ago, because I think that the very reason for having an independent process and someone actually making a recommendation is to try and take it outside of party politics, and I think it is unfortunate if it gets embroiled in party politics, or people try to make political capital out of it. In respect of the oil price, of course we take a very keen interest in this, that is why we get into constant discussion with Opec, with the oil producers, it is why we look very carefully at the impact of oil prices on the world economy, we certainly do, and where we can and where we are able to we try and take action. Now in part, what is happening is there has been a significant spike in demand, but this is something obviously we discuss with allies and partners and we discuss with the oil producing countries, because as we have learnt from history, it can have a severe impact on our economy, quite apart obviously from the consumer. QUESTION: The American government`s admission of numerous abuses, amounting to torture, on Iraqi detainees, and at least 2 murders by US Service personnel, reflects badly on the whole coalition in Iraq. I would like to ask you both, do you accept that American political and moral leadership in Iraq has been damaged beyond repair by this? What must the Americans do, considering the suspicions that remain of cover-ups of other incidents, and what conditions will you now place on your future participation under American leadership in Iraq? PRIME MINISTER TONY BLAIR: I want to say something about this because I think it is a very important issue. First of all let me make it clear that the abuse of prisoners, the torture of prisoners, degrading treatment of people in the custody of coalition forces, those things are completely and totally unacceptable, they are inexcusable and there can be no possible justification for them. And we must do everything that we can do, and need to do, in order to root out such practices and bring to justice those people who are responsible for them. I want to add one other thing however. There are American soldiers losing their lives virtually day in, day out in Iraq, there are British Servicemen that have died, there are British and Polish soldiers and other coalition soldiers who are risking their lives every single day in Iraq to help the people of Iraq, to help that country towards stability and democracy and prosperity. And I think at the same time as we root out any of those people that shame what we are trying to do, we pay tribute to the thousands of soldiers who will be as appalled as we are at any such inhumane treatment, but who are actually doing a job for their country and for the people of Iraq that needs to be done. So I simply say to people to get a proper sense of balance where we take the action that is necessary to ensure this does not happen again, and that we root out those people who are responsible for such things because there can be no place for them whatever. We went to Iraq to stop that type of thing, not to do it ourselves. But I know from the British soldiers I have spoken to out there, I know, and I am sure this is true for Polish and American soldiers too, that they will be appalled at that, but it should not take away from them the work they are doing for ordinary people in Iraq, which is the only hope the people in Iraq have. PRESIDENT ALEKSANDER KWAŚNIEWSKI: We want to share the Prime Minister Blair`s opinion. There is absolutely no justification for those types of actions and they should be completely rooted out and condemned actually amongst the stabilisation force in Iraq. I am convinced that what we have been speaking about is only a margin, but a margin that calls for an immediate and decisive reaction.