Ireland, which is preparing to take over the EU Presidency from January 1, 2004, has reaffirmed its concerns on the human rights situation in Tibet during a meeting between Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Tom Kitt and the Dalai Lama’s Representative in London, Kesang Takla, on December 18, 2003.

“Turning to the broader question of human rights in Tibet, Minister Kitt reaffirmed Ireland’s concerns regarding the human rights situation in China, including Tibet, concerns which are shared by our EU partners,” Kitt informed Takla, according to a press release from the Irish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“The Minister also recommitted Ireland to using the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue as the best means of pursuing human rights questions with the Chinese authorities,” the release added. Kitt informed Takla that the next EU-China Human Rights Dialogue would take place in Dublin from February 26 to 27, 2004.

Takla met Kitt to urge the Irish Government “to urge the forthcoming EU Presidency to help in the struggle for human rights in Tibet,” according to Ireland On-line of December 18, 2003. “She says the Dalai Lama has requested the appointment of a Special EU Representative for Tibetan Affairs,” it added.

Takla expanded on this during her address to the Irish Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs Hearing on Tibet in Dublin on December 18, 2003. She said, “The European Union’s position on human rights in Tibet will be made that much stronger, and its commitment reflected that much more clearly, when the European Union appoints a Special Representative for Tibetan Affairs. We believe the appointment of such a EU Special Representative for Tibetan Affairs will be interpreted by the leadership in Beijing as an indication of the seriousness of the European Union in facilitating a negotiated settlement of the Tibetan issue. We believe that an amicable solution to the issue of Tibet will naturally lead to the end of human rights violations in Tibet.”

According to the Irish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Successive Irish Governments have attached priority to human rights in terms of Ireland’s foreign policy. While overall direction of policy in this area rests with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Government has designated a Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs with special responsibility for human rights further enhancing their strong profile in Irish foreign policy. ” Kitt holds the position currently.

Kitt also announced a grant of Euro 200,000 focused on the development needs of the Tibetan community based in India, during his meeting with Takla.

Meanwhile Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Brian Cowen told the media in Brussels on December 18, 2003 that Ireland will work towards the adoption of EU Guidelines in support of Human Rights Defenders and that “We also want to mainstream support for conflict prevention into our engagement and dialogue with third countries.” Cowen, who was outlining the priorities of the Irish EU presidency, added, “Asia is of increasing strategic importance to the European Union. I will host an ASEM Ministerial meeting in Ireland in April and I hope that this will provide an opportunity for EU and Asian Foreign Ministers to review and re-invigorate the EU-Asia relationship.”

During an address to the Chinese Foreign Affairs College in Beijing on September 15, 1998, Ireland’s Prime Minister Bertie Ahern spoke about the need to enter into dialogue with all parties to a dispute if a viable and just solution is to be found.

“I believe that this principle is fully applicable in the case of Tibet. Direct negotiation with the accepted leaders of the Tibetan people would be both a desirable and a productive first step in helping to resolve this long-standing and distressing issue,” Ahern added.