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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Op-Ed: The Obama-Dalai Lama meeting should inspire European leaders

March 3, 2010

By Vincent Metten, EU Policy Director (Brussels/Belgium)
International Campaign for Tibet (ICT)
March 2, 2010

Two weeks ago, undeterred by strong protests from
Beijing, President Obama met exiled Tibetan
leader the Dalai Lama at the White House. The
warm and constructive meeting between the two
Nobel Peace Prize Laureates should inspire
European leaders to end their equivocation and
develop a unified response that supports and does not shun the Tibetan leader.

By meeting the Dalai Lama, the US president
demonstrated not only that the US is willing to
withstand Chinese pressure but that it recognises
the Dalai Lama's key role in Tibet's future. The
strong statement issued by the White House in
support of the Dalai Lama's peaceful endeavours
to resolve the situation in Tibet through
dialogue also showed that the US administration
views this as compatible with continued engagement with China.

The EU now needs, for its own sake and
credibility, to act with resolve - despite
Beijing's increasingly assertive attempts to
create divisions among member states on the Dalai
Lama. The Lisbon Treaty demands a consolidated
foreign policy, and the EU's traditions require
it to defend human rights. On both counts, Tibet is a touchstone.

Over the past two years, Beijing has stepped up
pressure on European member states and civil
society to block meetings between heads of
government, ministers and members of the
[European] Parliament and the Dalai Lama, and
some European leaders have succumbed to the pressure.

This is a misguided response: it undermines
European values of dialogue and conciliation, and
ultimately weakens EU leverage rather than
contributing to the development of a strong
EU-China relationship that encourages China to become a better global citizen.

During their meeting in Washington, President
Obama briefed the Dalai Lama about his
discussions with China's Party chief and
President Hu Jintao at the US-China summit last
November, and that Dalai Lama spoke about the
ninth round of dialogue between his
representatives and Chinese officials on January 30 and 31.

In contrast to Beijing's aggressive position on
the Tibet issue internationally, the Dalai Lama
is seeking genuine autonomy for the Tibetan
people under the sovereignty of the PRC. This is
an expression of his 'Middle Way' approach, which
means the pursuit of a mutually acceptable and
beneficial solution achieved through
negotiations, in the spirit of reconciliation and compromise.

A meeting between new EU High Representative for
Foreign Relations Baroness Ashton and the Dalai
Lama would send a strong signal of transatlantic
solidarity and support for the Tibetan leader's
attempts to build a constructive dialogue with
Beijing. It would also be in keeping with the
Lisbon Treaty blueprint for consolidating EU
influence and developing coherent strategies
among member states. Baroness Ashton should talk
about Tibet at her first official visit to China,
and she should then meet the Dalai Lama.

Another important policy move the EU could take
is to step up funding for development projects on
the ground in Tibet. The centrally-planned
economic development model that Beijing pursues
in Tibet, based on resource exploitation and
infrastructure construction, is failing most
Tibetans. Meaningful EU support on the ground
could contribute to a re-orientation of economic
strategy towards local integration, helping to
reverse the trend of marginalisation and creating
space for the Tibetan identity to survive.

China's policies are deepening tensions in Tibet.
The Chinese government has imposed a severe
crackdown following a series of peaceful protests
that swept across Tibet, beginning in March 2008.
There is an urgent need for an end to repression,
and the involvement of the Dalai Lama, recognised
by the world as the legitimate representative of
the Tibetan people, in talks on Tibet's future.

To equivocate on Tibet as a result of Chinese
interference would be a strategic mis-step in
EU-China relations. The EU should intensify its
support for a resolution and assist both sides,
after more than 50 years, to remove obstacles and move forward.

As a global player, China needs to understand, as
the EU does, that there are global values beyond assertions of sovereignty.

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