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Digital Archive International History Declassified

December 04, 1964

MEETING MINUTES, COUNCIL OF MINISTERS OF THE NETHERLANDS, 'EUROPEAN POLITICAL COOPERATION'

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    Minister of Foreign Affairs Luns reports on a discussion he had with Jean Monnet on the EEC and the Multilateral Force (MLF), including topics such as the interconnection between these issues, the risk of a German nuclear force, and transatlantic relations in general. Luns also met with Undersecretary of State Ball, who was keen on moving ahead with the MLF and proposed holding a conference about it in The Hague, which Luns had to decline. Luns furthermore met with Minister of Foreign Affairs Couve de Murville, who put the blame with the Americans for inciting thoughts about nuclear independence on the part of the Germans. Minister of Defense De Jong responds by giving a broad military-strategic analysis, concluding that unity within NATO is essential to prevent American attention from shifting increasingly to Asia.
    "Meeting Minutes, Council of Ministers of the Netherlands, 'European Political Cooperation'" December 04, 1964, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, National Archives, The Hague, Council of Ministers, access number 2.02.05.02, inventory number 753. Obtained and translated by Bastiaan Bouwman. http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/117676
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Council of Ministers

4/7 December 1964

3 d. European political cooperation (See minutes c[ouncil].[of ]m[inisters]. 13 November 1964, point 5 e)

Minister [of Foreign Affairs] Luns reports that on Sunday 29 November he spoke with Jean Monnet for three hours (during lunch and after). After an exchange of ideas about general international problems, mainly the European situation was discussed. Monnet had had a meeting with President de Gaulle, which left him none the wiser, since the president did not go into most issues. Therefore Monnet was also clueless as to whether the French president is willing to move in a more cooperative direction. Monnet considers the thought of Spaak and Erhard to turn European political cooperation and the MLF into a package deal dangerous, because then the French president will be offered an opportunity on a silver platter to pronounce his veto. Meanwhile speaker considers it very much possible for the French government to connect the issues itself and then pronounce a veto. He said he expected that a formula could be found regarding the grain price issue. (This was before the Erhard plan was put on the table, which regarding the grain prices does not meet with speaker’s enthusiasm, since this is undesirable for the Netherlands in particular). Monnet thought that the French government would in fact cooperate with the Kennedy Round. If this went smoothly, the next step could be to initiate political cooperation without institutionalization, binding ties or decision-making. Speaker has pointed out that even if it were merely a convention, it would have to be submitted to the Dutch parliament. Monnet was of the opinion that no connection with the MLF should be made. He took a dismissive attitude toward the idea of involving defense policy, because this would create danger to NATO. He agreed that the choice we face is either cooperation of the German federal republic with France and England in the MLF or something like it, or admission of a German nuclear force. Monnet opposed the notion that he would be a proponent of an independent European nuclear force. Even if there were to be closer European political cooperation, defense policy would still have to be made in strong coordination with America. Monnet did not exclude the possibility of an MLF or perhaps something slightly different being established, if the matter were treated with care. The German Minister [of Foreign Affairs] Schröder had left him with a very good impression and he spoke disapprovingly of the agitation by the former chancellor, Adenauer. As the key to the entire dissatisfying situation between America and France, President de Gaulle’s attitude is decisive. Monnet considered improvement perhaps possible if President Johnson were to visit de Gaulle.

Speaker received the American Undersecretary [of State] Ball during the OECD [Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development] conference to talk about the MLF. He reported that the American government has its mind set on proceeding with the creation of the MLF. His meetings in London on the matter were cause for optimism. The American government now no longer wishes to speak about this bilaterally. It regards a conference between America, Germany, England, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands (and possibly Greece and Turkey) as desirable. Ball suggested that a conference could be convened in the Hague in early January. Speaker had to decline this. He has to attend the General Assembly [of the United Nations] in New York in early January, but he also thought it better for the domestic political situation not to convene a spectacular conference on the MLF in the Hague; it could better be held in New York.

Speaker also had a talk with the French Minister [of Foreign Affairs] Couve de Murville. The latter considered it impossible to reach agreement on common grain prices before January. When this would be taken care of, the French government would be prepared to agree to a summit, as proposed in the Erhard plan. Couve de Murville took a dismissive stance toward German nuclear armament; this should simply be forbidden. He said the American government was to blame for inciting such thoughts in the Federal Republic of Germany. (In doing so he forgot that at the time, the French Minister [of Armies] Messmer had held quite far-reaching talks with his German colleague about cooperating in the manufacture of nuclear weapons.)

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From London speaker [Luns] has heard that during his visit to America, Prime Minister Wilson will only have an exchange of ideas about the MLF with President Johnson, which will not yet lead to conclusions. The council knows, that speaker personally attaches great value to the political arguments for the cooperation with America in the creation of the MLF, but he has also once again told the press that the cabinet remains entirely free in the matter. Couve de Murville has said that the French nuclear armament is the European weapon, which the French government will decide when to use. It is not plausible that the French government would use this (weak) weapon sooner than the American president, knowing that this would quickly lead to powerful retaliation by Russia. It is also not to be expected that the French government would use this weapon if German territory were to be attacked. Speaker believes that Monnet is entirely correct in stating that the matters of the MLF and European political cooperation should be dealt with separately, since otherwise both matters will end in failure. Speaker believes that the French government will emphasize military cooperation; if the German federal government, then, is prepared to go along with the French to such a great extent, it will be forced to abandon the MLF. If, however, the Federal Republic is faced with the choice between France and America, in the end it will choose America. The mention of the military issue in the Erhard plan is probably due to the fact that the Germans expect to gain a leadership position in this affair either during or after the reign of President de Gaulle.

Minister [of Defense] De Jong thinks it would be useful to look at the matter from a military-strategic point of view. From this standpoint the most important thing is the development in China, which with its 700 million inhabitants will also be in the possession of nuclear weapons. The Chinese can turn against India, Formosa, Japan and other neighboring areas. Sooner or later this China will become a problem for both America and Russia and both countries will find themselves in the difficult circumstance of having to defend themselves on two fronts. The more the Americans allow themselves to be bound in the Far East, the more they will tend to retreat from Europe, while the Russians too will try to solve the European problem. Russia will prefer to increase its hold to include all European countries, but if this is unsuccessful it will tend to come to an agreement through a deal. The European nuclear force can, for the time being, not become so great as to pose a counterweight against the Russian potential. It is therefore essential that America keep an interest in Europe. In general, therefore, European policy will have to be aimed at close American and European cooperation. The basic thesis of President de Gaulle is that the European countries cannot trust America to rush to the rescue. The defense of America and Europe is, however, one and indivisible. The thought of letting the French nuclear force grow into a European one, which could subsequently join the American force in ensuring balance in the world sounds attractive, but this will not work, because the rift it would create cannot be closed anymore when America becomes too involved with the problems in Asia. On the basis of military-strategic considerations, speaker agrees with Minister Luns that the Netherlands should dismiss out of hand anything that could create a rift or break within NATO.

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