My engagement for Europe started when I was twelve-thirteen years old and it was not engagement for European institution or a career. It was an engagement for peace and reconciliation among the population, for French German reconciliation, for solidarity, for the respect of identity. Myself I come from the island of Corsica where we are fighting for our identity, language and culture. European Union should never forget where it comes from and today we see with regret that a lot of citizens of Europe lost trust in European Union. They lost the vision which European union should have, not technocratic, not bureaucratic, not the vision of a super power but the true vision of the father founders of Europe: reconciliation and peace. And this is why for me, I can say that the Tibet issue is a direct consequence of my engagement for Europe because it is question of respect of identity, it’s a question of freedom of human rights, it’s a question of dialogue and peace resolution I really would like to thank my friend Thomas Mann for the very good presentation of the actual situation. I am here very happy to be here for this Seventh Conference of Tibet Support Groups. Holiness, it’s a big honor for all of us with your presence. We should thank the Belgium authorities and the Parliament to have this time facilitated the visit and the presence of His Holiness. My engagement for Tibet started in 2011 when I was fortunate to be part of a delegation of European Economic and Social Committee. We spent one week in Dharamshala and we had the privilege of an audience with His Holiness and meetings with the Central Tibetan Administration, to visit TCV school which is something very impressive, to see thousands of young kids some of them far from their family learn everything that they should learn to become adults, women and men with conscience and responsibility. I was very shocked when I understood in Dharamshala, talking with people who came from Tibet, about what is the situation there. I have been in my young years fighting for the freedom of east Europe and for the abolition of the Iron curtain. It was always quite shocking to hear that today there are still some people under this kind of violence suffering of such violations of their elementary human rights in this part of the world. I would like to pay tribute to Lobsang Sangay, Prime Minister of Tibet. I have to admit that I have been very impressed by the democratic institution which has been implemented by His Holiness for the Tibetan community in exile. You won’t find anywhere else in the world for a community in exile this kind of democratic governance with an elected parliament and an elected Executive.
I came back several times after this first visit to support the Tibetan Chamber of Commerce, I visited Tibetan community in Delhi, Tibetan community in Nepal and in Dharamshala. In 2014, I had the privilege to conduct, as the first President of an European institution, a delegation to Dharamsala where I was honored to address the celebration of 10th March and to meet again His Holiness. Off course this visit was not very much welcomed by Chinese authorities including some of my colleagues of other European institution but I and our institution thought that it was correct and necessary. His Holiness, you asked me during that audience I had with you in 2014 to deliver a message to the Chinese President who was visiting Brussels two months later, Mr. Xi Xinping. The message was delivered not by me because I was bound to meet the President, but by one of my colleague, I won’t mention his name. He is a very honorable compatriot of Mr. Peumans. So the message was delivered but the Chinese president didn’t answer. I really think that it should be time now for him to answer to the proposal of dialogue of His Holiness.
Coming now to the question of what European union should do, I would like to say, in my position as still member of European institution and still actively engaged, that, first of all, in my view European union should develop a dialogue and have ties to the legitimate Tibetan people, including of course His Holiness and the Central Tibetan Administration. They are the real representative of Tibet’s population. I would like to tell you at this point an anecdote. Before visiting Dharamashala in 2014 the Chinese ambassador came to my office and tried to prevent me to go. One of her argument was, as I come from Corsica that “Mr. President what would you say and what France would say if I, as Chinese Ambassador, would tell you that I will visit Corsica and want to meet there the autonomist and independentist leaders?” My answer to her was : “ You are welcome, I invite you and I will organize for you meetings with all our political leaders, including the autonomist and independentist ones because they are also the legitimates representatives of the population, in a democratic country you have to meet all the parties involved”. This is what the European Union should request and should do: the possibility of dialogue doesn’t mean anything like interfering in internal affairs of China but to have a conversations with the legitimate representatives of Tibet. It’s a human dialogue. Nobody should prevent us to talk to anybody we think we should have talks to. Why to make so much noise when I met His Holiness Dalai Lama, when I visited Dharamshala and attended 10th March celebration? Why? That why it is very important that European Union should keep and develop its dialogue freely with all the nations of the world, including the ones without countries like Tibet. It’s question of our European values! No pressures should prevent EU to make its values prevail!
Secondly, it is very important also that the European Union continues, even stronger, to support projects for the Tibetan community abroad but also for Tibetans inside of China: actions of social dialogue, civil dialogue and projects to protect environment on which we have big concerns, actions to preserve the Tibetan identity and language. These projects should involve all the citizens and all the local actors and this should be a condition. I thank Mr. Mann and your colleagues in the European parliament to take care of that and ensure financial resources for that.
Last but not least I am very happy that Chen Guangchen is here, a democrat from China is present and I congratulate the organizers for inviting him. It is very important that the European Union, in its dialogue and negotiation with China, never forget to mention the question of human rights not only for Tibetans but for Chinese and Uighurs and all the populations in China, civil rights, civil dialogue, political and religious freedom and this again and again. There should be no taboos, no double standards. Sometime I am surprised to see European Union applying double standard: -being very tough with small countries and even with Russia but hesitates to be stronger with China. Why? It is because of some commercial contracts? Does China stop its commercial cooperation with the US when President Obama met his Holiness? Commercial contracts can be made with all. In the same time, we should not be afraid of China, we could have for example more cooperation with India, it’s the biggest democracy of the world.
I will just finish as a conclusion to express the hope that the European Union shouldn’t act as a super power like other ones acting just regarding its interest. EU is a political actor with values. Values of dialogue, values of peace, values of promotion of diversity, respect for environment. Europe has been the world leader recently in COP21 for the preservation of environment and of the climate. This is why Tibet issue is a concern for all the Europeans. Because our attitude to Tibet reflects the values that we want to promote outside and inside of our borders. This is why, I, as an engaged person, will continue to promote a stronger Europe, more democratic, more peaceful, more civil and closer to its citizen and in the same time, I will continue my support for a free Tibet. My Engagement for Tibet is inter-dependent to my engagement for Europe. It’s about values.
Thank you very much.