The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday declined to comment on a report that authorities in Germany and Italy were upset by President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) failure to make stopovers in their countries during his recent trip to Latin America.
The Chinese-language Apple Daily yesterday quoted a government source as saying that the government had simultaneously applied for transit permits from the Dutch, German and Italian authorities.
In the end, the president landed in Amsterdam, a move which reportedly upset the German and Italian authorities, who said they were not informed that Chen had made other plans. The report called this a breach of protocol. The report said Germany and Italy were planning to condemn Taiwan in an upcoming EU meeting.
Deputy Director of the Information Department David Wang (王建業) said the ministry would not comment on the arrangements made for Chen's transit, but he emphasized that the preparations for the trip had been thorough.
"The president's overseas visits will always be carefully planned and arranged. It was not an impromptu operation," Wang said, adding that the planning had been conducted in line with international civil aviation regulations.
Chen traveled to Paraguay and Costa Rica between May 4 and last Friday. He turned down the US' offer to transit in Alaska, and on his outward-bound flight made stopovers in Abu Dhabi and Amsterdam en route to Paraguay.
The report said that officials in the foreign ministry and the National Security Council realized the incident could have a negative effect on relations with Germany and Italy and had dispatched diplomatic staff to handle the matter.
Possible means of appeasing the angry European authorities that had been discussed included having high-ranking national security officials attend the opening ceremony of the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany next month, the Apple Daily said.
The Government Information Office also planned to hold a "Taiwan Festival" during the opening ceremony of the World Cup and to place tourism advertisements in German media, according to the Apple Daily report.
In response, GIO yesterday said that it was sponsoring the "Taiwan Festival" simply because the event was an opportunity to boost the nation's international image and the activity would not touch upon other issues.
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