The Dalai Lama called for dialogue to solve the world’s problems, not warfare, before meeting French President Sarkozy in Gdansk, Poland, this weekend, despite pressure from Beijing on the French to cancel the meeting. Both Sarkozy and the Dalai Lama were attending celebrations marking the “5th anniversary of Polish pro-democracy icon Lech Walesa’s winning the Nobel Peace Prize for spearheading the Solidarity national freedom movement against Communist rule. Other guests at the celebrations on Saturday were European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

China called off a summit with the European Union last Monday due to Sarkozy’s decision to meet the Dalai Lama. France currently holds the European Union Presidency.

The Dalai Lama said on Saturday: “Warfare failed to solve our problems in the last century, so this century should be a century of dialogue. Every problem must be solved through talks, understanding of others’ interests, others’ rights.” The Dalai Lama, who is a very popular figure in Poland, paid tribute to Polish courage and determination in resisting past Communist oppression under Soviet rule that ended in ‘989. At one point he was seen to offer a crying Lech Walesa a hankerchief.

Dalai Lama addresses European Parliament

The Dalai Lama’s visit to Poland followed a major public statement in the European Parliament as part of the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue.

In his statement to 600 European Deputies on Thursday (December 4), the Dalai Lama countered the recent Chinese propaganda offensive and a Chinese official’s provocative comments that he was guilty of “ethnic cleansing”. He said that this accusation was made because the Memorandum of Genuine Autonomy presented by his representatives to Beijing officials “calls for the recognition of the right of autonomous areas…to regulate the residence, settlement and employment or economic activities of persons who wish to move to Tibetan areas from other parts of the PRC.'” In his address, the Dalai Lama said: “We have made it clear in our memorandum that our intention is not to expel non-Tibetans. Our concern is the induced mass movement of primarily Han, but also some other nationalities, into many Tibetan areas, which in turn marginalizes the native Tibetan population and threatens Tibet’s fragile natural environment. Major demographic changes that result from massive migration will lead to the assimilation rather than integration of the Tibetan nationality into the PRC and gradually lead to the extinction of the distinct culture and identity of the Tibetan people.”

The Dalai Lama also spoke about his fears for the future of the Tibetan people, currently under crackdown following a wave of overwhelmingly peaceful protests across the Tibetan plateau from March onwards: “It is as though Tibetans face a death sentence, a sentence aimed at wiping out the spirit of the Tibetan people.”

The Tibetan leader thanked the European Parliament for its “consistent support” for the Tibetan people, which had “not gone unnoticed in China”, saying: “Your sympathy, support and solidarity have always been a great source of inspiration and encouragement to the Tibetan people, both in and outside of Tibet.”

In his welcoming address, European Parliament President Hans-Gert Pöttering stressed that “The European Parliament seeks to be a voice raised in defence of human rights and human dignity. In this respect, Parliament has consistently sought to highlight the human rights of the Tibetan people”. While respecting China’s territorial integrity, he stressed that: “In our dialogue with China, we have a responsibility to be open and honest in expressing our commitment to our shared values of democracy, the rule of law, human rights and freedom of expression”. Concluding, he told the Dalai Lama, “Your non-violent approach provides an extraordinary example of committed and peaceful campaigning for a worthy cause”. President Poettering underlined that Tibet would need to be included in the future EU-China future Partnership and Cooperation Agreement still under negotiation.

The Co-Presidents of the Green/EFA group of the European Parliament, Daniel Cohn-Bendit and Monica Frassoni, “have asked to the EU Council to nominate a EU special envoy for Tibetan Affairs in order to follow very closely the development of the relations between the Dalai Lama and Chinese Authorities”.

The International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) called on the European Union and the EU Presidency to designate as soon as possible a high profile European Emissary to help resolve the issue of Tibet and put an end to tensions between China and Europe around Tibetan issues. “The EU should employ its experience in crisis management and find concrete ways to help the government of China and the Dalai Lama get to a solution,” said Vincent Metten, ICT’s EU Policy Director in Brussels.

The Green/EFA Group of the European Parliament called on Sarkozy “to take all measures, despite the report of the EU-China Summit, to help restarting the dialogue in order to have concrete consequences and to allow both parties to find a common agreement “.

The Tibet Intergroup of the European Parliament said that it welcomed the “memorandum on genuine autonomy” given by the Envoys of the Dalai Lama to their Chinese counterparts during the 8th round of talks and considers it as a valuable and constructive input to the dialogue process. The Tibet Intergroup urges the Chinese leaders to use the memorandum as a serious basis for negotiation and calls on EU Member States, the EU Council and the European Commission to repeat the same message to the Chinese authorities.