HL Deb 18 February 1886 vol 302 cc577-8

Before the House adjourns, I wish to ask the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether he can give us any information with regard to the policy of Her Majesty's Government in South-Eastern Europe?


I am extremely indebted to the noble Marquess for the Question which he has just put. I should, but for the discussion in the early part of the evening, have intervened with a statement which I have prepared on the very subject to which the noble Marquess has referred; but, the attention of the House having been directed to Ireland, I had no opportunity of doing so. Even at this late hour, however, I think it most desirable that some such statement should be made, for Her Majesty's Government are extremely anxious that there should be no doubt or ambiguity with regard to their policy in Eastern Europe. At this moment any such doubt or ambiguity might lead to results of extreme gravity. No one is better aware than the noble Marquess of the critical state of affairs in Eastern Europe. Servia and Bulgaria are by no means disarmed; while, further South, Greece and Turkey are face to face and armed to the teeth. On the other hand, there is this consolatory reflection—that the Great Powers of Europe are, I believe without a single exception, resolved upon the maintenance of peace. If, therefore, on one side we have the elements of local disturbance, which, if kindled, might at any moment raise a conflagration in Europe of which it might be difficult to see the limits or the end, on the other we have the firm determination of the Great Powers of Europe that peace shall not be disturbed. That object appears to us to be extremely desirable in itself; while as to the means by which it is to be secured there is a general agreement among the Great Powers. With regard to Greece, we find engagements entered into involving, if necessary, measures to prevent a rupture of the peace by that country. It would not be possible, in my opinion, to set those engagements aside, even if it were desirable to do so, and we shall certainly act upon them; but I think they are judicious in their spirit and their nature. We desire not merely to preserve the peace of Europe, but to protect Greece against herself. We can only view with apprehension, in the interests of the Hellenic Kingdom, the result of a single-handed conflict between that country and Turkey; and if there were any fear—of which happily there is none—of its ceasing to be single-handed, it might involve the imminent risk of a European war. We are, therefore, determined to maintain these engagements, and to act upon them with firmness, if necessary.