Tue, Mar 19, 2002 - Page 1 News List

Lu leads delegation to Hungary and Vatican

By Monique Chu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) departed for Hungary last night to attend an international convention, the first time in 30 years for Taiwan's vice president to officially lead a delegation to Europe for an international conference, sources said.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Eugene Chien (簡又新) formally announced Lu's trip to Europe at a press conference yesterday, saying Lu's journey "is of historic significance."

Foreign ministry officials obtained Lu's visas for Italy, where Lu is scheduled to make a one-day visit to Taiwan's only European ally, the Vatican, as well as for Hungary at around the same time the minister made the announcement, reliable sources said.

Hungary agreed "in principle" to grant Lu the visa around two weeks ago under the precondition that Taiwan's government be tight-lipped about Lu's visit to Budapest for fear of raising Beijing's ire, officials said.

Whether Lu would meet with key figures from the Vatican such as Foreign Minister Archbishop Jean Louis Tauran, was uncertain, sources said, as today is St. Joseph's Day, a religious holiday on the Holy See's calendar during which neither the Pope nor archbishops receive guests.

Lu and the 15-member delegation departed for Rome at 9:15pm yesterday, and are scheduled to arrive at 7:55am today. Other key members in the delegation included Deputy Secretary-General to the President Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) and Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Chiou Jong-nan (邱榮男).

Lu is to attend the 51st Congress of Liberal International, a London-based federation of some 84 liberal political parties from 67 countries, and is scheduled to deliver a speech at the formal opening of the federation's annual meeting on Friday. The draft program for the congress, as seen on the federation's Web site, has yet to include Lu in the group of speakers during the formal opening session.

Sources at Liberal International said earlier this month that the organization had issued an invitation to the DPP to attend as an observer, and allowed the DPP to decide whom it would send for the three-day conference held at the Hyatt Hotel in Budapest.

Lu was unable to attend the federation's annual meeting in Canada in 2000 because the Canadian government refused to give her a visa, sources said.

When asked to analyze factors behind Hungary's nod to grant Lu a visa, an involved official said: "Hungary, as the host country of the conference, from the outset was considering granting Lu a visa as it relatively favored an independent foreign policy line irrespective of outside influences.

"The warm relationship between Taiwan and Hungary over the years also helped," said the official under condition of anonymity.

Hungary granted visas to Jason Hu (胡志強) and Tien Hung-mao (田弘茂) to facilitate their trips to Budapest in 1998 and last year respectively to host regional meetings with Taiwan's Europe-based diplomats when the two served as foreign ministers, sources said.

China over the past few weeks warned several European countries which have direct flights with Taipei not to issue a visa to Lu to facilitate her trip, sources said. These countries include Italy, France and Germany.

Lu is scheduled to leave Budapest on Saturday, and return to Taipei the following morning via Rome, sources said.

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