No boycott on Olympics, EU foreign ministers vow

March 29th, 2008 - 12:34 am ICT by admin  

Brussels, March 28 (DPA) The European Union member states will not boycott the Olympic Games in China but could stay away from the opening ceremony in protest at events in Tibet, EU foreign ministers said Friday at an informal meeting in Slovenia. “We will not let ourselves be hitched to a propaganda bandwagon, and that goes for the whole EU… The question is whether we give such a strong political signal, whether we watch very closely how the situation develops in China,” Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik said.

“Now is not the time to consider or announce boycotts of the Olympics. It’s very important for all of us that the Olympic Games go ahead successfully because I think if you care about human rights in China the last thing that you want is to have the Olympics spoiled or broken,” British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said.

Ahead of the meeting, the host foreign minister, Slovenia’s Dimitrij Rupel, expressed doubts whether the ministers would find a common position on the Olympic Games and the Tibetan crisis, adding that he would prefer to see the two issues discussed separately.

That line was initially echoed by Germany’s Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who said that he “could not imagine” a debate on the subject, since not all EU governments had even decided yet on whether or not to attend the games’ opening ceremony.

Neither Steinmeier nor Chancellor Angela Merkel had ever planned to attend, he added.

However, as the EU’s 27 foreign ministers gathered for a working lunch - officially on the theme of Syria - a definite consensus built up on the desirability of not boycotting the games themselves.

“I never thought that boycotts were a particularly effective instrument in foreign affairs… I think foreign policy should have more effective instruments than participation or non-participation in sports ceremonies,” Sweden’s Carl Bildt said.

“We are not for a boycott. We will do everything to create the conditions to have a successful event,” Portugal’s Luis Amado said.

Some ministers also pointed out that the games are still four months away, and that any decision on whether or not to attend the opening ceremony could depend on further developments.

“Reducing the question to whether we will decide today on our political participation in an event in four months’ time is rather a simplistic reduction,” Plassnik said.

And the ministers echoed calls by the European Parliament Wednesday for the Chinese authorities to begin talks with exiled Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama.

“We want to see dialogue between the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government but also … we are very strong in supporting China’s engagement with the outside world not just economically, not just politically but in sporting terms,” Miliband said.

“We want a dialogue between the Chinese and Tibetans. And the Chinese have to know that we are not anti-Chinese. Those are simple things,” French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said.

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