EU to engage with Taiwan despite China's pressure: European official

10/20/2021 01:33 PM
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Photo from the European Commission
Photo from the European Commission's Facebook page

Brussels, Oct. 19 (CNA) The European Union will further its engagement with Taipei at a time when China is ramping up its pressure on Taiwan and the island's partners, European Commission Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager said Tuesday.

In her remarks at a European Parliament plenary session focused on EU-Taiwan relations, Vestager took note of China's increasing military presence in the Taiwan Strait, including flying missions off the southwest coast of Taiwan.

"This display of force may have a direct impact on European security and prosperity," she said, adding that the EU encourages all parties to avoid any unilateral actions that may increase tensions around the Taiwan Strait.

"We Europeans, we have an interest in preserving the status quo in the Taiwan Strait....and we will continue voicing our concerns in our contact with China and publicly, and step up coordination with like-minded partners as the G7," Vestager said.

The EU wishes to enhance relations and cooperation with Taiwan within the framework of its one-China policy and will continue strengthening their people-to-people ties, Vestager said.

According to Vestager, the EU is the largest foreign investor in Taiwan, and in 2020, Taiwan's investment in the EU doubled.

Exchanges between the two sides have also been expanded in recent years to include human rights, trade, and economic issues, she said.

"While enhancing ties with Taiwan, the EU also has to address China's assertiveness and attempts to intimidate Taiwan's like-minded partners," Vestager said.

She referred to the Lithuania-China rift that occurred after the Baltic nation pledged to strengthen ties with Taiwan and said "Lithuania and all member states find themselves coerced for taking decisions that China finds offensive."

China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs asked Lithuania to withdraw its ambassador to Beijing while recalling its envoy to Vilnius in August after the Baltic country allowed Taiwan to establish a representative office there.

What particularly irked Beijing was Lithuania allowing the office to use the name "Taiwanese Representative Office" rather than the standard "Taipei" office, because of its implication that Taiwan is a sovereign country, something China rejects.

Vestager called for solidarity among EU members and said the EU will "continue to push back these attempts and adopt appropriate tools, such as the anti-coercion instrument currently under preparation," to respond to similar situations.

According to the European Commission, the proposed legal instrument aims to "deter and counteract coercive practices by non-EU countries" by imposing trade, investment or other restrictions on them.

The plenary session held Tuesday in Strasburg saw members of the European Parliament debate a report on EU-Taiwan political relations and cooperation approved by the parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee last month.

They are scheduled to vote on the report on the parliament floor Wednesday.

In her speech, Vestager said she welcomed this timely report.

It "conveyed a sense of urgency we need to foster our engagement to make sure that Taiwan preserves its democracy, freedom and open market," she said.

Meanwhile, the European People's Party Group, the largest political group in the European Parliament, took to social media on Tuesday to urge the European Commission to start preliminary preparations to negotiating a Bilateral Investment Agreement with Taiwan before the end of 2021.

It also called on the EU's executive branch to condemn China's military coercion against Taiwan.

(By Tang Pei-chun and Teng Pei-ju)

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