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20th Jan 2022

MEPs in Taiwan: 'You are not alone' against China

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MEPs visiting Taiwan have voiced EU solidarity with the self-ruled island in the face of Chinese military threats and propaganda attacks.

"We came here with a very simple, very clear message: You are not alone. Europe is standing with you," Raphaël Glucksmann, a French centre-left MEP who led the delegation, said on Wednesday (4 November) in Taipei at a live-streamed meeting with Taiwan's president Tsai Ing-wen.

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"Our visit should be considered as an important first step ... But next we need a very concrete agenda of high-level meetings and high-level concrete steps together to build a much stronger EU-Taiwan partnership," Glucksmann added.

He also said Taiwan and the EU should build a common front against "authoritarian regimes".

Taiwan was "a laboratory and a hub for the fight against foreign interference and the preservation of democracy", Glucksmann said at a separate meeting with Taiwanese prime minister Su Tseng-chang.

"We in Europe are also confronted with interference from authoritarian regimes and we came here to learn from you," Glucksmann noted.

"You have shown that in this region democracy can flourish and that authoritarian regimes are not the future," the MEP added.

Taiwan broke away from mainland Chinese rule after World War 2, but is still claimed by China which has, in recent times, dialled up its military threats against Taipei.

A senior US general, Mark Milley, said at the Aspen Security Forum in the US on Wednesday he did not believe China would invade any time soon.

"Based on my analysis of China, I don't think that it is likely in the near future - being defined as, you know, six, 12, maybe 24 months, that kind of window," Milley said, Reuters reports.

But he added: "Having said that, though, the Chinese are clearly and unambiguously building the capability to provide those options to the national leadership if they so choose at some point in the future ... anything can happen".

The seven MEPs' three-day visit was the first-ever to Taiwan and was meant to study disinformation instead of conducting EU diplomacy.

But Taiwan's leaders also saw it in larger terms.

The visit was of "great significance", Tseng-chang said.

"Although we are geographically very far away, between our two sides, we share the same values, such as freedom, democracy, human rights and rule of law ... In those regards, we are actually very close," he noted.

"We hope to establish a democratic alliance against disinformation," Tsai added.

"We believe Taiwan and the EU can certainly continue strengthening our partnership in all domains," he said.

For its part, China threatened "further measures" in response to closer EU-Taiwan contacts when Taiwan's foreign minister Joseph Wu visited Europe last week.

It already blacklisted MEPs who complained about its human-rights abuses against the Uighur minority, prompting the EU Parliament to freeze talks on an EU-China investment treaty.

But the collapse of that pact meant the EU was now free to conclude an investment deal with Taiwan instead, Wu said in Rome last Friday.

"Taiwan [was] being held hostage", by the EU-China investment talks, Wu said.

"We need to have a mechanism to encourage the Taiwanese businessmen to look at Europe as a potential market for them ... the best way to do it is through a bilateral investment agreement," he said.

Speaking to EUobserver from Taipei, Petras Auštrevičius, a Lithuanian liberal MEP on the delegation, said if China was to impose fresh sanctions because of the visit, it would be "a sign of growing Chinese assertiveness and nationalism".

"If we do not support democracies and don't cooperate with them we are simply doomed and losing our political orientation. We aren't changing the status quo [on Taiwan], but talking to like-minded partners," he said.

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