European Parliament gives Dalai Lama rapturous welcome

December 4th, 2008 - 8:46 pm ICT by IANS  

Brussels, Dec 4 (DPA) The 14th Dalai Lama called for “warm-heartedness” and mutual trust Thursday, and rejected claims that he is seeking to separate his homeland of Tibet from China, in a speech that received a standing ovation from the European Parliament here.In a 20-minute address interspersed by pearls of wisdom, personal anecdotes, humour and applause, the spiritual and political leader of the Tibetan people also said it was wrong to view worldwide support for his cause as being directed against the Chinese government.

“Ours is not a separatist movement, I want to make this very clear,” the Dalai Lama said. “It is in our own interest to remain in a big nation like China.”

Saying harmony and unity could only be achieved through “mutual trust and respect” rather than under the gun, the Dalai Lama also welcomed a decision by some parliamentarians to fast in solidarity for Tibet.

“But my fasting will only start after breakfast,” he quipped.

European Parliament President Hans-Gert Poettering described the Dalai Lama as a “champion of dialogue” and said the EU (European Union) was duty-bound to press China on the need to advance “democracy, human rights, freedom of expression and at the fundamental principles of human dignity”.

The Buddhist monk’s visit to Brussels took place against the backdrop of a widening rift between China and the EU, which Beijing has accused of pampering to the Tibetan cause.

China last week cancelled a planned EU-China summit due to have taken place Monday in Lyon.

It has since warned that a meeting between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and the Dalai Lama, planned for Saturday in Gdansk, Poland, could severely affect trade relations between China and France, French newspaper Le Monde reported Thursday.

About 1,400 French companies are present in China, including aircraft maker Airbus and hypermarket chain Carrefour.

France is also helping China build two new civilian nuclear power plants, although Chinese exports to France are four times the amount of French exports to China, resulting in a trading deficit for France of nearly 20 billion euros ($25 billion).

Sarkozy, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU until the end of the year, is due to meet the Dalai Lama in Gdansk during celebrations for Lech Walesa, the former trade unionist and Nobel laureate who helped rid Poland of its communist regime.

The head of the EU’s executive arm, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, has also accepted an invitation to be in Gdansk Saturday.

China has in the past clashed fiercely with EU member states over the question of the Dalai Lama, who is widely popular in Europe but who it sees as campaigning for Tibetan independence.

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