Czech Foreign Minister and the Dalai Lama

Czech Foreign Minister and the Dalai Lama before boarding their flight to Brussels, Dec. 2, 2008

His Holiness the Dalai Lama visited Prague from 29 November to 1 December 2008 at the invitation of former Czech President Vaclav Havel and the Czech NGO, Forum 2000. The Czech Republic will head the next EU Presidency of 27 Member States for six months, taking over from France from 1st January, 2009.

During this 7th official visit by the Dalai Lama to the Czech Republic, His Holiness met the Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, the Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg and former President Havel. The Dalai Lama was also received at the Czech Parliament at the invitation of the Parliamentary Tibet Group, which includes the Ministers for Defense, Human Rights, Environment and Culture.

“Citzens of the Czech Republic greatly respect you and sympathize with you”, Green Party members Martin Bursik and Katerina Jacques said from the Czech Parliament. Representative Radim Chytka from the Czech Civic Democratic Party (ODS) promised that they intend to use the coming Czech EU presidency to support Tibetan issues.

ICT’s Director for Government Relations in Europe, Stewart Watters, met with the Parliamentary Group just hours before the Dalai Lama’s visit to brief them on the situation in Tibet and wider international political support for Tibet: “The Czech parliamentary group is committed to assisting the Dalai Lama in bringing about a solution to the Tibet issue. Like many politicians in Central and Eastern Europe, they identify with the Dalai Lama’s struggle for the rights of his people in the face of an aggressive communist regime.”

The Dalai Lama insists he is sincere in his effort to seek a “real and meaningful” autonomy for the Tibetan people within China, and opposes the use of violence. However, China consistently opposes the Dalai Lama meeting with any foreign heads of government. The meeting between the Czech Premier and the exiled Tibetan leader took place just days after Beijing called off an EU-China summit in Lyon over French President Sarkozy’s plan to meet the Dalai Lama in Poland.