Many Taiwanese are fascinated by Europe and its diverse population. I suppose that's what comes from growing up on a rock where 98 percent of us have straight black hair and brown eyes. The romantic, olive-skinned, beret-wearing Frenchman; the pasty-faced, tweed-suited, Hugh Grant look-a-like English gentleman; and the blond-haired, beer-swilling Bavarian are all images that endear in Taiwan.
It's only when you travel to Europe, as my gal Cathy Pacific and I try to do every other year, that you realize that the stereotypes couldn't be further from the truth.
Like the inhabitants of its member states, the EU is fascinating. It's a place where a smorgasbord of cultures and people from dozens of countries -- most of whom normally cannot stand the sight of each other -- gather to spout hot air and promulgate frequently ridiculous laws of which nobody takes a blind bit of notice.
As Europeans are largely a liberal bunch, many of the people they elect to represent them in the European Parliament are, well, liberal. But they are a far cry from the unelected bureaucrats that get given the top jobs in the European Commission, the EU's executive body, hence the Grand Canyonesque divide on issues such as supporting Taiwan's bid for international breathing space.
On the one hand you've got democratically elected but powerless representatives like the members of the largest parliamentary group, the European People's Party and European Democrats (EPP-ED), who appreciate democracy and openly support Taiwan and its bids for entry to the UN and the WHO. On the other you have the unelected, commie-appeasing, jackboot-wearing parasites who negotiate backroom deals with Chicoms to stifle Taiwan as if she were a female newborn dumped in the Yangtze.
An editorial in The Economist on July 12 sheds light on one such murky meeting. An internal EU memo prepared by the office of foreign policy bigwig Javier Solano details what went on during a recent secret love-in between Chicom envoy Guan Chengyuan (關呈遠) and a top Europrat.
During the meeting Guan called President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) plan for a UN referendum "provocative and destabilizing, and said China wanted EU support, as it did not want to have to use `the last resort'" -- a euphemism for high-speed direct cross-strait links of the military variety.
The EU lackey's response: "Well, actually Mr. Guan, Taiwan is not and never has been part of the People's Republic of China. So I think you should shut up and get the fuck out of my office, you odious little worm."
Ah, if only.
Instead, the EU brown noser wholeheartedly agreed that "a referendum is against Taiwan's own interests, and offered to send a `clear and forceful' message to Taipei to that effect."
Nice to know that the EU, which cannot even spell the name of our capital correctly on its Web site (www.theparliament.com has it spelled "Teipei" in one article), knows what is best for us.
Portugal, which holds the rotating EU presidency, duly ran off and quickly drafted a private warning on its best notepaper telling us that the referendum would be "unhelpful."
But it's not all bad news: Those thoughtful Portugeezers also sent a note to China asking it to show restraint.
Thanks, EU, we appreciate the empty gesture.
At least The Economist -- unlike most of the rest of the international press -- had the balls to take the EU and China to task for their behavior.