Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2008-03-26-Speech-3-066"

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"Mr President, I am very happy that this debate is taking place today because the Foreign Ministers are still to discuss exactly how to deal with the situation. The debate today is therefore a very timely one. It is good that I can also give you my preliminary thoughts on it. Of course, we will all see and closely follow how things will unfold in the coming days and weeks. For now, I think the most pressing question is how we as the European Union can work together to deliver a strong and coherent message to the Chinese authorities and to the Tibetan demonstrators: a message which will help bring the violence to an end and the two sides together in a really substantive dialogue. Like you, Mr President, we, the Commission, are also deeply concerned about the unrest and the violence in Tibet. We are concerned about the reports of many people killed and wounded, of looting and burning. While there are divergent figures – as our Council President just said – on the number of victims, one thing is clear: the number of those killed or wounded seems to go into the hundreds. We therefore convey our sympathy and condolences to all the victims and their families. Violence is never acceptable and will not contribute to finding a lasting solution. We therefore call on the Chinese authorities to exert the maximum restraint when dealing with protesters and in particular not to use force against those involved in peaceful demonstrations. The Commission urges the Chinese Government to allow independent media access. I am encouraged by the fact that the Chinese Government has informed the Commission that it is now organising a foreign press trip, including European correspondents, to Tibet for coverage from 26 to 28 March. This is an important element, as independent verification of the facts is crucial for the understanding of the situation. I hope that foreign media will be able to do their work without restrictions. We will continue to monitor developments closely. The European Union firmly supports peaceful reconciliation between the Chinese authorities and the Dalai Lama and his representatives. A lasting solution can, as we all conclude, only be achieved by peaceful means and by a sincere and honest dialogue. We strongly encourage the Chinese Government and the Dalai Lama to enter into such a constructive and substantive dialogue – there has been a lot of dialogue but no substantive dialogue – with a view to reaching a sustainable solution, acceptable to all, that will fully respect the Tibetan culture, religion and identity. The European Union has always supported the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China, including Tibet. But this does not imply that the human rights situation in Tibet and in China in general is purely an internal affair. They are legitimate concerns of the international community, a fact which is underlined by the existence of instruments of international law for the protection of human rights for over half a century. We attach high importance to the right of expression, including the right of peaceful demonstration without restraint. We therefore also call on the demonstrators to desist from violence. We are going to take up these issues with the Chinese side, also in our regular human rights dialogues. Within the context of the forthcoming human rights dialogue, it has also been proposed that the next field visit in China should go to Tibet. The recent developments have made this suggestion even more relevant. I am aware of the protests last week in front of Chinese diplomatic missions, some of which have turned violent and where some material damage was caused and some missions blocked by protesters. This is of course regrettable. I understand that the situation has now calmed down and I am confident that the relevant EU Member States’ authorities will protect the Chinese missions in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Let me finally say a word on the question of the Olympic Games. We believe that the Olympic Games are not a political event. But they should be held in an environment commensurate with the message of peace inherent in the Olympic spirit and in an atmosphere of freedom of speech and freedom of media."@en1

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