HC Deb 23 November 1959 vol 614 cc40-1

For more than ten years the seven countries which are now establishing the European Free Trade Association have co-operated most successfully within the framework of the O.E.E.C. both with the six countries which are members of the European enonomic community, and with Greece, Ireland, Iceland, Turkey, and recently Spain.

Indeed, the remarkable expansion of the European economy since the end of the war is due, to a large extent, to the work of the O.E.E.C. Its achievements have had beneficial effects far beyond Europe. By preparing the convertibility of currencies, the O.E.E.C. has created the conditions permitting its members to eliminate the restrictions on trade progressively also towards third countries. By promoting freer trade in Europe, the O.E.E.C. plays, therefore, an important rôle in the liberalisation of trade on a world-wide basis.

The existence of two groups, the European Free Trade Association and the European Economic Community, inspired by different but not incompatible principles, implies the risk that further progress along these lines be hampered, if such a danger could not be avoided by an agreement to which all countries interested in European economic co-operation could subscribe.

Such an agreement, based on the principle of reciprocity, should not cause any damage to the measures taken by the European Free Trade Association and the European Economic Community. Moreover, it should allow member States of either organisation to eliminate in common the obstacles to trade between them, and more generally, to seek to solve the problems they share. Among those, there is the problem of aiding the less developed countries in Europe and in other continents, which is one of the foremost tasks of the more advanced countries.

Common action in these fields would strengthen the already existing bonds between the European countries as well as the solidarity arising from their common destiny, even if their views on the way in which European integration should be achieved are not always identical.

For these reasons, the seven Governments who will sign the Convention establishing the European Free Trade Association, declare their determination to do all in their power to avoid a new division in Europe. They regard their Association as a step toward an agreement between all member countries of O.E E.C.

To this end the seven Governments are ready to initiate negotiations with the members of the E.E.C. as soon as they are prepared to do so. Meanwhile, views should be exchanged through diplomatic channels, or in any other way, on the basis upon which such negotiations may profitably be opened.

Stockholm, 20th November, 1959.