TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) – European lawmakers, bending their elbows in greeting, met with Taiwan’s prime minister on Wednesday in the first official visit of a European Parliament delegation to the self-governing island, which China also claims.
Seven members of the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Interference in Democratic Processes are visiting Taiwan after parliament last month passed a resolution to “intensify EU-Taiwan political relations”.
“Although we are geographically far apart, between our two sides, we share common values, such as freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. … In those respects, we are very close indeed, Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang said.
The European delegation will also meet with President Tsai Ing-wen and Digital Minister Audrey Tang, and meet with Taiwanese think tanks, NGOs and others fighting propaganda.
The visit comes amid growing support for the democratic island, which China claims as part of its territory that will be captured by force if necessary, and growing negative perceptions of Beijing in Western countries. .
“The flourishing of your democracy is formidable and that is why we are so happy to be here,” said Rafael Glucksmann, chairman of the Foreign Intervention Committee. “You have shown that democracy can flourish in this region and authoritarian rule is not the future.”
European Union member Lithuania in July accepted Taiwan’s request to open a representative office in its capital city that would act as a de facto embassy. It has also donated hundreds of thousands of vaccines to the island this year, sparking outrage from China. In August, China withdrew its ambassador to Lithuania in protest and expelled the Lithuania ambassador from Beijing.
In October, the EU parliament voted to pass a resolution on Taiwan’s issues in view of tensions in the South China Sea.
The non-binding resolution, which passed with a vote of 580-26 and a vote of 66, calls on the EU to take immediate steps to establish a bilateral investment agreement with Taiwan. It also proposes a politically symbolic gesture of renaming the Representative Office in Taiwan from the European Economic and Trade Office in Taiwan to the European Union Office in Taiwan.
The report also called on China to immediately end “ongoing incursions into Taiwan’s air defense detection area”, adding that “the EU attaches great importance to security in the Taiwan Strait.”
China has sent an increasing amount of fighter jets toward the island in a long campaign of military harassment since at least last year, when Taiwan began publicly releasing the data. China has said it sends planes to “Taiwan separatists” as a warning and to protect its sovereignty.
The report also echoed the US stance, as Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently called on other UN members to support Taiwan’s independent participation in international groups.
Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu visited the Czech Republic and Slovakia last week to enhance cooperation with the two countries.
This story was first published on November 3, 2021. It was updated on 6 November 2021 to correct the number of MPs in the delegation. There were seven, not 13.