Lithuanian lawmaker looks for win-win scenarios in Taiwan trip

10/18/2021 01:17 PM
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Matas Maldeikis. Photo courtesy of Matas Maldeikis
Matas Maldeikis. Photo courtesy of Matas Maldeikis

London, Oct. 18 (CNA) The head of a Taiwan friendship group in the Lithuanian parliament said he plans to organize a "strong delegation" made up of ruling and opposition parliamentarians to visit Taiwan and learn how the two countries can cooperate and create win-win scenarios for both sides.

"I want to have a strong delegation, especially for the first visit, and we are working to have a delegation with people who have different views, even from the opposition, for the people to see in reality how Lithuania and Taiwan can cooperate and create a win-win situation for both sides," Matas Maldeikis told CNA during a recent interview.

He made the remarks when asked to comment on the planned Taiwan trip, which is scheduled to take place in the first week of December and will include six lawmakers from the Baltic state.

The upcoming visit is based on an invitation from Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party lawmaker Chiu Chih-wei (邱志偉).

Chiu, who heads the Baltic states friendship group in Taiwan's Legislature, said on Aug. 23 that he had invited several Lithuanian parliamentarians, including the parliamentary speaker, to visit Taiwan when the COVID-19 pandemic eases.

According to Maldeikis, the delegation is scheduled to participate in a conference on democracy to be held at the Legislative Yuan.

The planned trip came against the backdrop of the Baltic state facing increased pressure from Beijing following its decision to open reciprocal representative offices with Taiwan and allow Taipei's office in Vilnius to have the word "Taiwanese" in its name.

The office's name differs from that used by Taiwan's other foreign missions in countries with which it does not have diplomatic relations.

Taiwan typically uses "Taipei Economic and Cultural Office" or "Taipei Representative Office" in those countries, likely due to host countries' preference to avoid any semblance of treating Taiwan as a separate country in light of their "one-China" policy.

In response, Beijing, which sees Taiwan and mainland China as part of one country, has sought to impose a political cost on Lithuania for its decision to allow the use of "Taiwanese" in the name of Taiwan's office, seeing such moves as encouraging formal independence.

In addition to recalling its ambassador from Vilnius and expelling the Lithuanian ambassador from Beijing, China has introduced retaliatory sanctions, including the suspension of direct freight train services to the Baltic state.

Asked to comment, the 41-year-old Maldeikis told CNA that he understands why the local business sector is angry about its government's China policy.

After the Baltic state lost its Russian market, its government had been sending signals to business to invest in China instead, according to Maldeikis.

"And now we have this position about democracy and being with Taiwan, of course we read the anger, but it's not about Taiwan as it is, they are saying look, the government changes and the foreign policy changes, and we are losing our businesses. We understand and are working on that."

He noted, however, that one thing to understand is that the China market for exports is not big for Lithuania, accounting for only around 1 percent of total exports.

More importantly, countries around the world have begun to realize that political factors are involved once they do business with China, according to Maldeikis.

"That means you can't be a sovereign country. Australia learned that the hard way, we are starting to learn that. We understand after so many years with Russia if you are losing sovereignty for a market, you will lose both," he said.

Asked why he decided to head the Taiwan friendship group in his country's parliament, Maldeikis said his goal is simple, it is not about helping Taiwan only but more about safeguarding his country's interests and security.

"It is better to have 23 million very good friends than one and a half billion not good friends and a market which you can't get in and you are nothing to them.

"They don't care about you and if anything, they will sell you for nothing. So I'm looking out for my country's interests, and if that helps Taiwan, that's very good," he said.

His ultimate goal is to have Lithuania and Taiwanese business sectors working closely so that one day the scale of bilateral cooperation will be bigger than that of China, he added.

"That could be the biggest step we can make, a very practical, and very good example for the whole of Europe. Because we are like an incubator to show to different European countries what can be done, if you would like to cooperate with Taiwan as closely as possible. We can be an example for the whole of Europe," he stressed.

(By Chen Yun-yu and Joseph Yeh)


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