Human rights and governance

7 - Relations with China on the Dalai Lama and Tibet 2010

Grade: D+
Unity 2/5
Resources 1/5
Outcome 2/10
Total 5/20

There is a soft consensus within the EU on the human rights situation in Tibet but member states took little action and had no impact.

In the past, visits by the Dalai Lama and the human rights situation in Tibet have been a source of genuine tension between China and EU member states. But 2010 has been a quiet year on these issues. There is a soft consensus within the EU about the human rights situation in Tibet, but few member states follow up on this policy bilaterally and instead relegate it to the EU human rights dialogue. Member states’ main ambition is to see the EU speak out to satisfy internal lobbies in parliament and among NGOs. The human rights situation in Tibet did not improve in 2010 and the dialogue between Tibetan exiles and the Chinese government is at a standstill.

On the other hand, there is not even a soft consensus on how to react to visits to Europe by the Dalai Lama and, in particular, whether official governmental meetings should take place. China responds aggressively to such meetings – for example, the EU-China Summit in 2008 was cancelled after President Sarkozy met with the Dalai Lama. A recent study also demonstrates negative repercussions on the exports to China following a high-level meeting. The EU has been unable to resist or mitigate these soft sanctions on individual member states. The visit of the Dalai Lama to Hungary and Slovenia in 2010 illustrated the European retreat. During his last visit to Hungary, in 2000, he had met with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán; but this year there were no meetings with Orbán, who is again in power. In Slovenia, which was vocal on Tibet during its EU Presidency in 2008, the Dalai Lama ended up meeting the Slovenian Minister for Slovenians Abroad. In fact, the UK is probably the only member state left whose head of government is willing to meet the Dalai Lama.