The annual conference of the European Federation of Taiwanese Associations (EFTA) was held from July 24 to 28 in Brussels. The conference was primarily organized by Europe-based Taiwanese doctoral students. The information kit included a copy of Courrier des Formosans (Bulletin of Formosans), which has resumed publication after an 11-year hiatus. It includes a collection of essays by young Taiwanese and is published through the EFTA.
In the second half of the 20th century, the long years under martial law meant that only overseas Taiwanese could make Taiwan's voice heard internationally. The trend began with Japan-based activists Liao Wen-yi (廖文毅), Wang Yu-te (王育德), Ng Chiau-tong (黃昭堂) and other overseas Taiwanese, who established various organizations much like the Revolutionary Alliance, or Tongmenghui, which was founded at the end of the Qing Dynasty by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) founder Sun Yat-sen (孫逸仙) and other KMT members.
These organizations were geographically and ideologically accessible. Subsequently, the focus of the movement shifted to overseas Taiwanese students, and the US naturally replaced Japan to become the primary base of the Taiwanese independence movement.
While Europe was less well-known to Taiwanese than the US, EFTA was founded in Germany in October 1971. In 1974, the association helped establish the World Federation of Taiwanese Associations (WFTA) and organized the WFTA's inaugural ceremony in Vienna, Austria.
Courrier des Formosans was first published in August 1971 by the Taiwanese Association in Belgium. In November of that year, it became the EFTA's monthly bulletin. In its early days, the bulletin was run by Ho Kung-mei (何康美) and Lu Hsiu-yi (盧修一) from Belgium, as well as Chen Chin-fang (陳錦芳) from France, and Chang Ying-che (張英哲) and Liang Ching-hsiang (梁靜香) from West Germany. After 1983, the bulletin ran as an annual publication for a few years before being intermittently issued until August 1999. The time between the bulletin's founding and when it stopped publishing reflects to a certain extent the ups and downs of Taiwan's political situation and the overseas Taiwanese activist movement.
At this year's conference, Wu Chih-chung (吳志中), an assistant professor in the political science department at Soochow University, and Joseph Hsu (許榮富), director of the Science Division in the Taipei Representative Office in Belgium, provided information for participants to gain a better understanding of Taiwan's relations with the EU.
They explained how Taiwan would be ranked sixth in terms of population if it were a European nation, that the EU set up a representative office in Taiwan in 2003 and that Taiwan is one of the EU's largest trading partners in terms of per capita income -- 15 times higher than China's. They also explained Taiwan's purchase of Dutch submarines and French fighter aircraft.
Maybe it was because of this that KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) visited Belgium in February and held a press conference there. He was then challenged by the Europe-based Taiwanese students, who asked him to explain what "changing the cross-strait status quo" meant and his stance on the EU's China arms embargo.
Similarly, in the first half of this year, the EFTA issued several statements on events in the EU and Taiwan. These statements are in the current issue of Courrier des Formosans. The authors are overseas Taiwanese students, who have sufficient expertise and passion to shoulder the responsibility of re-launching the pro-Taiwan movement in Europe.
Chen Yi-shen is an associate researcher in the Institute of Modern History at Academia Sinica. Translated by Lin Ya-ti