It is difficult to say something after such a moving account. But I would like to take this opportunity to greet all of you, particularly His Holiness who though not physically present here with us in spirit. I also want to greet Professor Rinpoche and thank him for choosing Prague for this conference and I want to thank Friedrich Naumann Stiftung for organising this conference.

As a Czech parliamentarian who is also a member of the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe, I believe that the councilors of Europe should represent the protection and pursuit of human rights not only in Europe but also in the world at large.

Any one who loves freedom and who is concerned when freedom and human rights are in danger has to view the situation in Tibet as alarming. We have been giving the situation in Tibet the attention that it deserves for the last half century. And this is the reason why I recognise and appreciate the work that the Tibet Support Groups are doing. It is very important for the people of Tibet that such groups exist and that they continue to work for this cause. For me personally the issue of Tibet has been an issue concerning basic human rights and also rights to live, security, freedom and one’s own cultural identity. It is also an issue concerning one’s right to recognise and respect one’s faith.

After the revolutions, I held the post of Director of Olomouc University and I am very proud to say that at the university we were always flying Tibet’s flag at every possible occasion. If you visit the university you will see that the trees that we planted for Tibet are flourishing today. I would also like to tell those gathered here today that when in the Senate in 1997 and 1998 we discussed the Tibetan issue, I was one of those who initiated the declaration that was accepted by the majority in the Czech Senate to show concern about what was happening in Tibet.

I think what is happening in Tibet today is that while religion is being pushed out of classrooms, the freedom of religious faith is being declared in all official political documents. But the reality is that such a thing does not exist in real life. I have had a chance to discuss this with His Holiness on a number of occasions when he has attended the Forum 2000 conferences where I have been one of the members of the board and also a member of the organising committee. What is also happening in Tibet is that faith and religion are prevented from entering schools, homes and in the private lives of individual citizens. This is something that we have realised and that is why former President Havel has repeatedly been inviting His Holiness as a religious authority.

We have always had multi-religion gatherings where representatives from five major religions meet and pray together. I think this is of great importance and it is equally important for us to recognise the Dalai Lama as a religious leader. I understand that the authorities in Tibet want to question this but I believe that there is a very strong bond and link between religion and culture. Religion takes its root in cultural identity and questioning this is like questioning the very right to co-existence.

From a distance we are now hearing that the situation is changing in both China and Tibet. We are happy to hear this and we welcome the changes in China and we would also like to welcome her willingness to enter into a fruitful dialogue with the people of Tibet.

You may have heard that representatives of China here were sending some sort of notes of warning and while I do not want tot dwell too long on this, what I would like to say is that there is no need to threaten or send notes of warning as a means of communication. What we need instead is a chair at a round table where we can all sit and negotiate and discuss things that should be discussed.

We obviously want to have good relations with China. But it is up to China to see that the relationship we have is a good one. And therefore in my mind our dialogue and our interest in the issue of human rights in Tibet should not make this relationship a difficult one.

Some people say communism in China is over; others say that communism is being replaced by consumerism. Both communism and consumerism have a basic common denominator of materialistic interest. I am reading the history of Tibet and I can see stages of different things being at stake – security, basic necessities, economic interests and cultural identity.

You really touch at the core of the problem when you hit culture. This is something that we should be concerned about. In this context we have to look at spiritual values like the ones represented so convincingly by His Holiness and his inspiring energy and his behaviour in his acts and in his words. I think it would be great for the Chinese authorities to start person-to-person negotiations and dialogue with the Dalai Lama. I think it is time to enter into such a dialogue with respect to each other’s humanity and human rights. This would be good not only for the people of Tibet but also for the people of China.