Wednesday 14 January 2009
Thomas Mann opened the meeting and regretted that the invited guest, Mr Raphaël Liogier, could not attend as his flight had been diverted to Mulhouse because of bad weather conditions and it was too late to get to Strasbourg.
Thomas Mann then referred to the recent pressure from the Commission to suppress Intergroups; there had been a meeting with Intergroup Presidents, and there was unanimity to keep the Intergroups in existence. Efforts were being made to find a compromise. The idea to hold Intergroup meetings on Thursday was unworkable because many MEPs return home on Thursday afternoons. The idea to discuss Intergroup subjects in Committees was also unrealistic, as work is carried out with NGOs and many other people from outside the EP. We should fight for the right to hold Intergroup meetings, with a properly designated room and interpretation.
Edward McMillan Scott said that he was happy to join the Tibet Intergroup. His interest in Tibet sprang from involvement since 1996 with the EU/China Delegation, and he had a strong line on reform in China. He had met His Holiness the Dalai Lama on several occasions, and thought he should have spoken out more vigorously before the plenary session in December, although he did take a stronger line at the Press Conference.
Thomas Mann then spoke of the fasting action in the EP last December. It had been a great success, more than 500 people undertook the day’s fast. There had been numerous reports on the Press and TV media.
Mr.Maaten said that there had been good Press and TV coverage in the Netherlands of the Dalai Lama’s visit and the fasting action. He thought it was a good idea, people do take it seriously, and it should be done more often! It drew attention back to Tibet, after the end of the Olympic Games, and perhaps more importantly, to China itself.
Edward McMillan Scott said there had been a good deal of positive media coverage in the UK, and that there was a feeling of guilt about the abandonment of Tibet by the then UK government in 1949. As for the fasting action, why not do it again? but perhaps by having one meat-free day a week. 7 million people in China eat no meat at all.
Ms Laszlo Topkes said that the situation in Tibet was familiar to the Hungarian minority in Romania, who were also fighting for real autonomy.
Thomas Mann then referred to support for the NTDT (New Tang Dynasty Television). Efforts were being made to support the only free television station in China, which had been shut down by the satellite operator EUTELSAT following pressure from the Chinese authorities. So far there were 330 signatures, but more were needed.
Edward McMillan Scott reminded the meeting that the President could be asked for the deadline for the collection of signatures to be extended if necessary.
Lissy Groener said that members should look at the list of signatures, and try and use their persuasion on those MEPs who had not signed.
Marc Cappato referred to what should be done next. The Chinese authorities were planning a special celebration on 20 March, to mark the “liberation” of Tibet. The EP could also celebrate, for example, a celebration of the anniversary of the uprising in Tina-Men Square. Or, of course, 10 March.
Gabriela reminded the meeting that 10 March was actually during the March plenary session in Strasbourg, and the Intergroup should use the opportunity to take some action.
Thomas Mann then spoke about the Memorandum on Tibetan Issues, prepared by the Tibetan government in exile. He had spoken with Kelsang Gyaltsen who asked him to use opportunities to spread information about the details of the Memorandum. Thomas thought it would be a good idea to hold a Congress later in the year, when information about the Memorandum could be spread. The Memorandum should go on the agenda of the Foreign Affairs Committee, perhaps in March.
Marc Cappato said that the President of the European Parliament should be asked for a Legal Opinion on the Memorandum, to say whether it was about independence or autonomy. There is also the possibility of a Hearing, where one representative of each party would attend (Tibet and China), although it was unlikely that China would accept. The representatives of each side would be asked to explain what happened during the negotiations, in a neutral way. Possible dates for this hearing would be 24 February or 31 March.
Thomas Mann said that the contents of the Memorandum are very interesting, but there should be a shorter version. Translations are being made into German, Spanish, French and Italian.
Marc Cappato intervened to say that he thought a shorter version should be made by the Tibetan government in exile, rather than anyone else.
The debate then turned to the 50th Anniversary of the Invasion of Tibet, 10th March 2009. Apparently the Chinese authorities have decided to celebrate the 20th March as the Anniversary of the “Liberation” of Tibet. This is provocation! It was suggested that the opportunity should be used to hold an Urgency Debate to discuss the present situation.
Lissy Groener said that we should perhaps use the opportunity as a Boomerang effect, to find a way to use that date as a case for remembering the negative side of the Chinese invasion.
Other suggestions included making sure we have an adequate supply of small Tibetan flags to be distributed on 10th March (or even before), organising a physical gathering somewhere in the European Parliament, perhaps before the Vote? It was also suggested that if the Chinese authorities organise their counter-event on 20th March, a delegation should be there, with Tibetan flags.
Or of using the “kata” – white scarves, as a symbol of Tibet.
Questions should be asked in the Urgency Debate, as to what the European Parliament has done to intervene in the matter – in fact, it has done very little. Gabriela suggested as Exhibition on Tibet, and perhaps Tibetan Dances, in the EP building, which would draw people’s attention to the problem. Lissy said that as International Women’s Day fell during that week, we should link the two things and have some kind of exhibition of support for Tibetan women.
Gabriela then spoke about the Nunnery in Dehra Dun, which the Group visited in 2006. Since then, a Temple has been built, also with accommodation for dormitories and schoolrooms. The inauguration will take place on 29 March and Gabriela will attend. It would be very nice if the Intergroup could offer some help, as there is still a lot of work to be carried out in the building. For instance, there is no hot water, and it would very good if the Intergroup could offer some money for solar heating for the hot water supply. The total cost is 5000 Euros, and 2000 Euros has already been collected. It would also be a useful opportunity to try and get some media coverage, before the European elections.
Mr. Tokes told the meeting that His Holiness the Dalai Lama was probably coming to Romania in September. Mention was also made of His Holiness’ visit to Rome in February, when He would receive Honorary Citizenship of the city, a symbolic action. He would also be visiting Baden-Baden this year.