Fri, Mar 26, 2010 - Page 1 News List

Visa-free European travel on horizon

CAPITAL PUNISHMENT The Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs said visa-free access to Schengen countries could be delayed if Taiwan starts executing prisoners again

BY SHIH HSIU-CHUAN  /  STAFF REPORTER

Government handling of the death penalty, as well as possible opposition from China, could have an impact on an EU decision on whether to grant Taiwan visa-free privileges, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Shen Lyu-shun (沈呂巡) said yesterday.

Taiwanese will enjoy visa-free status in Europe by the end of this year if a deal is not scuttled by “certain factors,” Shen told lawmakers at the legislature’s Foreign and National Defense Committee.

Shen returned to Taiwan from Europe early yesterday morning, where the former representative to the EU said he met many old friends in charge of reviewing Taiwan’s eligibility for visa-free treatment at various levels of the EU and the European Parliament.

During a question-and-answer session on Taiwan-EU relations, Shen expressed concern that approval of visa-free access to Schengen countries could be delayed if Taiwan starts executing death row inmates again.

Shen first mentioned the issue when fielding questions from Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Peng Shao-chin (彭紹瑾), who criticized the government for failing to deliver on its promise that Taiwan would be granted the privilege before June.

“All we have done went smoothly, but you know what could happen today? The death penalty issue is being debated [in Taiwan] and all EU countries are against it,” Shen said.

“Some members of the European Parliament may bring it up and that could drag the case out for another three months,” Shen said.

“It is expected that [the EU will grant us] visa-free entry by the year’s end, but there are some factors the ministry is powerless to control ... like the death penalty,” Shen said when answering questions from Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方).

At a separate setting yesterday, Executive Yuan Secretary-General Lin Join-sane (林中森) met the top EU representative in Taiwan to exchange views on capital punishment, a meeting arranged by the Department of European Affairs, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ deputy spokesman, James Chang (章計平).

Guy Ledoux, head of the Taipei-based European Economic and Trade Office, met with Cabinet officials to “express their opposition to the death penalty,” Chang said.

The meeting, which lasted 30 minutes, was also attended by Deputy Minister of Justice Huang Shih-ming (黃世銘), who has said that death row prisoners should be executed. Huang has been nominated by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) for the position of top state prosecutor, pending legislative confirmation.

Lin’s office said the meeting was not included in his schedule until yesterday morning.

Earlier this month, the foreign ministry said transition at the European Commission following the passage of the Lisbon Treaty meant the government’s initial expectation of a result by June was pushed back.

Yesterday, Shen said he expected Taiwan’s case to be proposed to the European Commission for deliberation within a few weeks, the first time the case has been placed on the EU’s agenda.

Last March, the Asia-Oceania Working Party under the Council of the EU, expressed support for Taiwan’s inclusion in the program, recognizing the country’s ability to prevent problems such as counterfeiting and fraud.

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