Brussels, 1 July 2013: The International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) called on Lithuania to continue its strong support for Tibet and ensure the Tibet issue is brought back to the forefront of the Council of the European Union’s political agenda, as the Baltic country assumes the six-monthly rotating presidency of the Council.

Vincent Metten, EU Policy Director at ICT’s Brussels office, said: “The people of the Baltic states, once under Soviet rule, know what it is to face political persecution under an occupying power. There is widespread popular support for the Tibetan cause in Lithuania, and Lithuanian MEPs have spoken out in the European Parliament about the need to take a stand against China. Unlike a number of other European countries, members of the Lithuanian Parliament met Tibetan Leader Lobsang Sangay during his recent visit to Vilnius, and there is great anticipation about the Dalai Lama’s forthcoming visit in September.”

The Tibetan leader, Sikyong Lobsang Sangay, visited Vilnius from June 12 to 14, 2013, and met with members of the Lithuanian Parliament and the mayor’s advisor Mr. G. Sodeika. He also held a lecture at the European Humanities University. ICT recommended that Lithuania lead the EU in ensuring the adoption of a clear EU policy on Tibet, including the adoption of an EU common position on the right of all EU Member States and members of the EU institutions to welcome and meet with the Dalai Lama and legitimate representatives of the Tibetan people in whatever manner they deem appropriate disregarding interference or threats from the Chinese government.

ICT also recommended a more robust EU stand in promoting the resumption of the Sino-Tibetan dialogue and reinforcing international cooperation on Tibet with like-minded countries, in particular by using the upcoming Universal Periodic Review on China in October this year to press the Chinese Government on the situation in Tibet.

While the EU has occasionally voiced its concerns about the degradation of the human rights situation in Tibet and the high number of Tibetan self-immolations, these statements have yet to be matched by concrete actions.

Lithuanian Member of the European Parliament Leonidas Donskis said:

“The Lithuanian Parliament (Seimas) has a group of MPs who are staunch supporters of Tibet. The same applies to more than one Lithuanian MEP. Having experienced the decades of isolation and hopelessness in the former Soviet Union, Lithuania does not need additional explanations of Tibet’s drama. I believe that my country will keep Tibet on the political agenda during our Presidency in the EU, and our human rights activists are not going to give up either. This is to say that Lithuania’s Presidency can become an important phase in Tibet’s saga of the struggle for its autonomy and human rights.”

ICT’s submission to the Lithuanian Presidency (available on ICT’s websites and highlights the high responsibility of countries that have themselves experienced foreign occupation. In Lithuania, self-immolations have also been carried out as political protests against Communist rule. Lithuania regained independence in 1991 following 51 years of forcible inclusion in the Soviet Union, which was not recognized by most countries in Western Europe and the United States.

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