EESC visit to India

Mar 13 2014
The EESC has long-standing relations with Tibetans in exile. The EESC delegation last visited Dharamsala in 2010.

Henri Malosse, Anne-Marie Sigmund, Madi Sharma, Thomasz Jazinski

Summary of the visit
The main purpose of the trip was to attend a ceremony marking the 55th anniversary of the Tibet uprising in Dharamsala and to have an audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Meetings were also organised with the Central Tibetan Administration (the Sikyong or head of the administration, and other members), the Tibetan parliament in exile (speaker and members of the parliament), other political figures and NGOs (human rights NGOs and the Tibetan Chamber of Commerce). Visits were arranged to Tibetan schools and the Tibetan reception centre for refugees.

A meeting was also arranged with the head of the EU delegation to India to discuss the visit to Dharamsala and EESC cooperation with Indian civil society.

Main conclusions
General observations
In general the Chinese authorities' approach to Tibetans in exile seems to be hardening. Severe restrictions have been introduced on the border, especially since the 2008 Olympics (including the Nepalese border). As a result, the number of people crossing the border has fallen dramatically (142 people arrived at the reception centre in 2013 compared with 3500 a year before 2008).
Human rights and freedom in Tibet are also deteriorating according to Tibetans in exile. Tibetan NGOs report three times more arrests during the first year in office of the new Chinese leadership.

Values first
The EESC delegation made clear during the visit that it was unacceptable that trade and commerce should be the driving forces in EU-China relations. The approach taken by the EU, the Member States and EU businesses seems to be largely based on self-interest. The Tibetans pointed out on several occasions that, in negotiating the FTA with China, the EU is sending out an ambiguous message on just how important European values are for Europeans themselves.
The Tibet question is a universal question of liberty, democracy and solidarity – the very values that underpin the European Union. The EU should apply Article 21 of the EU Treaty and build relations with non-member countries on the basis of these fundamental principles and values.

The Tibetan community in exile
The Tibetan community in exile is exemplary as to its level of self-organisation, its democratic structures and its civil society commitment. The community is governed by an elected parliament and administration and manages a number of solid civil society structures, such as Tibetan schools, the Tibetan Chamber of Commerce, NGOs and youth organisations.

The Middle-Way approach (Umaylam), dialogue
The entire Tibetan community in exile is advocating dialogue with China on the basis of the so-called Middle-Way approach (Umaylam or MWA). The aim of the MWA is genuine autonomy for Tibet within China. All stakeholders have staunchly denied any intention of seeking Tibetan independence.
The territorial question has also been clarified. Autonomy would concern only those territories that are already defined as Tibetan by the Chinese constitution – the Tibetan autonomous region and municipalities with a majority-Tibetan population.
The Middle Way is defined as a via media between repression and separation. Tibetans use exclusively non-violent methods to promote the MWA.

Meeting with His Holiness the Dalai Lama
HH the Dalai Lama explained that the option of autonomy is much more advantageous for Tibet. With China, Tibet's economic development could see rapid expansion. However, although the economy and defence fall under Chinese central responsibility, education (language, culture), the environment and religion must be handled by Tibetans themselves.

HH Dalai Lama also underlined the importance of the fight against corruption - a form of violence and a cancer for humanity. He expressed his support for the efforts of the Chinese President Xi Jinping to combat corruption in China.
The Dalai Lama stressed that it was possible to secure a peaceful and non-violent resolution of the Tibetan question. He cited the example of General De Gaulle who fought against the Germans from his exile in London, but then became best friends with Chancellor Adenauer.

In the discussion on the general world geopolitical situation, the Dalai Lama said that the main problem today was residual attitudes harking back to the Cold War. Russia still fears NATO and the EU and vice versa. He suggested that the EU capital should be moved to Poland and NATO headquarters to Moscow in a bid to rebuild trust.

The Buddhist leader is concerned that the Chinese military budget is growing every year. An even more worrying factor, however, is that, unlike any other country in the world, China's internal security budget currently outstrips its defence budget.
The biggest Buddhist population in the world is now in China (including some members of President Xi Jinping's family) – this gives hope that dialogue will succeed.

Meeting with the head of the EU delegation to India
The main subject was the FTA that EU is currently negotiating with India. The ambassador stressed that the negotiations could move forward only if the new government (after the May elections) is interested in pushing the subject, as the EU's focus was on negotiations with USA.

The ambassador emphasised the importance of working with Indian civil society. In particular he noted the absence of any strong consumer opinion in India. The ambassador fully supported the EESC's idea of launching an objective impact assessment of the FTA by civil society from both sides.

Follow-up action
 The EESC will advocate the establishment of an EU special coordinator for Tibet
 The EESC will use all the possible mechanisms to drive home the message on Tibet during Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to the EU at the end of March.
 A brainstorming session on Tibet will be organised at the EESC during the visit to Brussels of the Central Tibetan Administration Foreign Minister Dicky Chhoyang in May (with the involvement of the EEAS, the European
Commission, the European Parliament, the Committee of Regions and NGOs).
 The EESC will work with the EP to boost EU support for Tibet and to secure EU financial support for Tibet-related activities.
 The EESC will launch a project to provide information to civil society in the Member States about the Middle-Way approach and the importance of the Tibetan issue. The EESC could also work with the CoR in providing information on best practices in autonomy (South Tirol, Greenland, Faroe and the Åland islands).
 The Sikyong Lobang Sanguy will be invited to the July EESC plenary session.
 The EESC will launch an impact assessment of EU/India FTA
To: Group presidents, Section presidents, secretary-general
Enc.: Visit agenda


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