First lady Wu Shu-chen (
She was seen in front of a part of the Berlin Wall with the words "A-bian will surely win" daubed on it. She met with the Pope, received a humanitarian service award and had talks with parliament members and individuals who are friendly to Taiwan.
On all these occasions, the first lady was given a highly respectful reception. Her trip not only attracted the attention of Europeans, but also explored greater possibilities for cooperation and exchanges between Taiwan and European countries in both the non-governmental cultural sphere and on the diplomatic level.
On behalf of her husband, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), Wu has taken overseas trips for three consecutive years. In 2001, she represented Chen for the first time to receive the "2001 Freedom Award" presented by Liberal International at the European Parliament headquarters in Strasbourg, France. Last year, she visited the US. This year, she has just wrapped up a successful cultural tour in Europe.
On each of her trips, the first lady displayed her straightforward and humorous personality along with her strong willpower and a sense of mission. She overcame the discomforts of long-distance flights and restricted mobility to bring Taiwan onto the international stage and expand the nation's diplomatic space.
Due to geographic restrictions, Taiwan and Europe used to have very limited bilateral exchanges. Now, in view of the trends of globalization and greater influence of EU members, strengthening cooperation and exchanges with Europe on economic, technological, cultural and political levels should be given priority in the nation's Europe policy.
We should pull out all the stops to develop relations with the EU Parliament, European governments, congresses and political parties and promote exchange visits by high-level government officials from both sides.
In addition, we should study how to promote democratic and cultural diplomacy, including bilateral cultural and artistic exchanges, visits and performances by non-governmental art groups, and so on to showcase Taiwan's unique cultural and artistic essence as well as its democratic transformation.
Enhanced by democratic and cultural interactions with Europe, Taiwan's local culture will be enriched and diversified.
The diplomatic work should aim at employing our limited diplomatic resources to acquire the maximum benefit for the nation.
The first lady's trip to the three European countries initiated a diverse model of interaction between Taiwan and Europe. This tour has been the subject of widespread reports in the international media, thereby enabling more Europeans to understand Taiwan's democracy and culture. This will be of great help for Taiwan to promote international friendships, expand diplomacy and boost the nation's image.
Chen Lung-chu is chairman of the Taiwan New Century Foundation.
Translated by Jackie Lin