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Thatcher Proposes Code of Rights, Apologizes to Czechoslovakia

September 18, 1990

PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia (AP) _ Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of Britain today proposed that a 35-nation summit this fall adopt a universal code of rights for Europe and North America.

In a speech to Czechoslovakia’s parliament - the country’s first democratically elected legislature in five decades - she also urged that the 12-nation European Community offer full membership to Czechoslovakia and Eastern Europe’s other new democracies as soon as they have introduced Western-style economies.

″If we can create a great area of democracy stretching from the west coast of the United States right across to the Soviet Far East, that would give us the best guarantee of all for security - because democracies don’t go to war with each other,″ the British leader said. Mrs. Thatcher also apologized for the 1938 Munich Treaty, in which Britain endorsed Adolf Hitler’s division of Czechoslovakia.

″We failed you in 1938, when a disastrous policy of appeasement allowed Hitler to extinguish your independence,″ she said.

Although Britain’s wartime leader Winston Churchill was quick to repudiate the agreement, the British ″still remember it with shame,″ she added.

″In contrast to 1938, the United States, Europe and, indeed, the wider world have responded with an impressive display of unity to Saddam Hussein’s aggression,″ she said of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait on Aug. 2.

Turning to Alexander Dubcek, whose 1968 Prague Spring attempts to create ″socialism with a human face″ were crushed by Soviet tanks, Mrs. Thatcher also referred ruefully to the West’s lack of action then.

″The pictures of that brave venture are etched in our memory, and our inability to help remains a burden on the free world’s conscience,″ she said.

Dubcek is now president of Parliament.

Mrs. Thatcher, the first British prime minister to visit Czechoslovakia, is on a trip celebrating the downfall of communism in Central Europe. She will also visit Hungary.

Her visit followed one last week by French President Francois Mitterrand, whose country also signed the Munich agreement endorsing Hitler’s annexation of the Sudetenland in northern Czechoslovakia.

A year later Germany invaded Poland and World War II broke out.

After her speech, Mrs. Thatcher walked to central Wenceslas Square with Dubcek and President Vaclav Havel.

The square is the heart of Prague’s peaceful November revolution and the British leader laid flowers at the statue of Bohemian patron St. Wenceslas - the rallying point for most of the revolution’s protests.

Crowds gathered despite the drizzle and applauded as Mrs. Thatcher laid the flowers and then went over to shake hands with several well-wishers.

Before leaving Prague for Bratislava, she formally renamed a nearby square Winston Churchill Square after Britain’s World War II leader. It was formerly named after Antonin Zapotocky, a post-war Communist Party secretary.

In Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, she planned to meet with Slovak leaders before leaving for Budapest late today.

Underlining her proposal for a 35-nation universal code of rights, Mrs. Thatcher presented the assembly with a copy of England’s 13th century Magna Carta, which guaranteed basic freedoms for the population.

Mrs. Thatcher did not provide details of her proposal, but it seemed to involve a document guaranteeing basic human rights.

She said she wanted a ″European Magna Carta″ adopted at the summit of the 35-nation Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe to be held in Paris in November. The conference includes all European countries, except Albania, in addition to the United States and Canada.

Mrs. Thatcher has urged repeatedly that the group become a key consultative body for the new Europe and its relations with North America following the collapse of Communist rule in most of the East Bloc last year and reforms in the Soviet Union.

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