Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama addressing members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg on September 15. (Photo: ICT)

The Dalai Lama called on Europe to engage in ‘constructive criticism’ of China after being welcomed by the President of the European Parliament in Strasbourg yesterday (September 15) following high-profile visits to Paris and Brussels.

Despite pressure from the Chinese mission to the EU to cancel the meetings – framed by the Chinese side as “repeated persuasion” – the Dalai Lama held discussions with European Parliament President Martin Schulz and members of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Vincent Metten, EU Policy Director at the International Campaign for Tibet said: “The welcome accorded to the Dalai Lama in Strasbourg by the European Parliament sends a clear message of the importance of the Dalai Lama as a respected global leader, whose views are valued and heard at high-levels across the world. It also indicates the considerable support and sympathy with the Tibetan cause that exists among people in Europe. European Parliamentarians and institutions are clearly also sending a message to China that it is not up to the Beijing leadership to set the agenda of a democratic European institution or any EU leaders.”[1]

On his fifth visit to the European Parliament, the Dalai Lama said that the EU should offer “constructive criticism” to China. “There is hope and I think it is important that the outside world, particularly like the EU, I think with sincere motivation to in order to help People’s Republic of China with some sort of constructive criticism, is sometimes necessary,” he said. The Dalai Lama also expressed his admiration for the spirit of the European Union because it worked for the common interest of the people.

President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz said: “We discussed at length about global affairs and the human rights situation in the world. I deeply thank the Dalai Lama for this frank, open, spiritually enriching and wide-ranging discussion.”

Welcoming the Dalai Lama, foreign affairs committee chair Elmar Brok, a German member of the EPP group, told him: “We believe you are a great religious leader at a time of war and violence. A message of peace and compassion is what we want to hear. These are values we can all endorse.” MEP Brok mentioned that Chinese Mission to the EU unsuccessfully pressured the European Parliament to try to block the meetings with the Dalai Lama (watch some extracts of the Dalai Lama’s intervention at the Foreign Affairs Committee).

Angered by the reception of the Dalai Lama in Strasbourg, a Chinese official announced that an upcoming visit by MEPs to China would be postponed.[2] A delegation from the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee had planned to travel next week to meet officials in Shanghai and Beijing, including a visit to the Shanghai Stock Exchange and the Ministry of Finance, and it is likely this trip will now take place at a later date.

The Dalai Lama also visited the Council of Europe yesterday (September 15), where he met the Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland, the President of the Parliamentray Assembly Pedro Agramunt and Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muižnieks. The Dalai Lama delivered an address at the Palais de l’Europe to the diplomatic community and representatives of Council of Europe bodies. He expressed his belief that moral education based on what he called “universal values” is the key to achieving greater compassion in the world. In his introduction, Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland paid tribute to the Dalai Lama’s long standing commitment to the many values he shares with the Organisation. Secretary General Jagland also tweeted that, in a separate meeting, the Dalai Lama told him that world leaders should think more of the common good than of their own interests (Watch the full address of His Holiness the Dalai Lama).

Chinese officials also made unsuccessful attempts to block the attendance of Mr Jan Peumans, President of the Flemish Parliament, at a meeting with the Dalai Lama and Tibet Support Groups from all over the world on September 8 in Brussels.

For day by day documentation of the Dalai Lama’s current visit to Europe, see: http://dalailama.com/news

[1] See the recent opinion poll by IFOP in France http://www.ifop.com/?option=com_publication&type=poll&id=3481

[2] A Chinese official informed Parliament that “in view of the President Martin Schulz [insisting] on meeting with the Dalai Lama (…) despite China’s repeated persuasion” it had postponed the MEPs visit (www.politico.eu). The European Parliament’s spokesperson, confirmed on 15th September that “We have just learned from the Chinese Mission to the EU that the ECON delegation visit to China has been postponed, due to the visit of the Dalai Lama today.”