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Italian lawmaker looking forward to more visits by Taiwanese officials

06/19/2023 06:39 PM
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Italian Senate Vice President Gian Marco Centinaio (left) sits next to Italian Senator Elena Murelli (right) for a joint interview in Taipei Monday. CNA photo June 19, 2023
Italian Senate Vice President Gian Marco Centinaio (left) sits next to Italian Senator Elena Murelli (right) for a joint interview in Taipei Monday. CNA photo June 19, 2023

Taipei, June 19 (CNA) A senior Italian parliamentarian who is currently visiting Taiwan said he looked forward to seeing more Taiwanese officials visit Italy to strengthen direct communications between politicians of the two sides.

Italian Senate Vice President Gian Marco Centinaio made the comment during a press event when asked to comment on a reported trip by Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), Taiwan's foreign minister, to Milan as part of a European visit earlier this month.

According to Italian news site Le Formiche, Wu made an unannounced visit to Italy on Saturday and met with several Italian lawmakers.

Le Formiche reported that Wu met with Paolo Formentini, vice president of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Italian Chamber, and his colleague Igor Iezzi in Milan on Saturday.

Both of these members of the populist and conservative Lega Party, which is part of Italy's right-wing governing coalition, posted information on their meetings with Wu on their respective social media platforms.

Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), however, would not comment on the reported meetings.

As Italy does not formally recognize the Republic of China, Taiwan's official name, meetings between serving Italian politicians and ministers from Taiwan are a rarity.

Prior to visiting Italy, Wu, who arrived in Europe on June 12, made stops in Poland, the Czech Republic and Belgium, according to international media reports.

Asked to comment on Wu's trip and if he would want to see other visits to Italy by Taiwanese officials, Centinaio told CNA that he would be happy to see more such visits from Taiwanese officials either for personal visits or in their official capacities.

Such visits would facilitate closer and more direct exchanges between Taiwanese officials and their Italian counterparts and Italian parliamentarians, he said.

He also said that he and Senator Elena Murelli, who are currently in Taiwan, are also from the Lega Party, meaning that four members of his party have met with Taiwanese officials in Taipei and Milan over the past week.

That demonstrated Lega's Taiwan-friendly attitude, according to Centinaio.

The Italian politician also said he was happy to see that Taiwan was set to open a second representative office in Italy, in Milan, the country's economic capital. It already has an office in Rome.

Taiwan expects to open the Milan office this summer, MOFA said Tuesday.

MOFA previously announced that the new office, which will have five staff, could open this summer at the earliest.

Centinaio said the Milan office should significantly increase Taiwan's visibility given that Milan is the most international Italian city and has the closest links to the European Union, he said.

When asked about his view on whether Italy should abandon China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) deal, Centinaio said he was agriculture minister when Italy sealed the BRI deal with China back in 2019.

Back then, he was hoping that the deal could help Italy form closer economic and trade ties with China, but ultimately the agreement did not generate the expected revenue and benefits for his country.

He will continue to ask the current Italian government to monitor the effectiveness of the BRI deal.

Italy is the only major Western country to have joined China's BRI scheme, which envisions rebuilding the old Silk Road to connect China with Asia, Europe and beyond with large infrastructure spending.

In an interview with Reuters before winning power in a September 2022 election, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni made clear she disapproved of the 2019 move, saying she had "no political will ... to favor Chinese expansion into Italy or Europe."

Centinaio and his colleague arrived in Taiwan on Wednesday for a six-day trip, marking the highest-level Italian parliamentary visit to Taiwan since 1970, according to MOFA.

His delegation is also the first parliamentary group to visit Taiwan since Meloni of the Brothers of Italy, a right-wing populist political party, took office in October 2022.

The delegation was to leave Taiwan to return to Italy later Monday.

(By Joseph Yeh)


Source: Presidential Office
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