Croatian visa rules list ‘Taiwan, PRC’

DEAL OR NO DEAL::A foreign ministry official said the benefits of easy travel to Croatia outweighed declining the deal based on a label the world has recognized since 1971

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff Reporter

Sun, May 22, 2011 - Page 1

Taiwan is considered a territory under the jurisdiction of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) by some European countries that granted Taiwan visa exemption earlier this year, enquiries by the Taipei Times have revealed.

Croatia refers to the country as “Taiwan, People’s Republic of China” in its regulations on the visa regime, while Taiwan is placed by Slovenia under the category of “China,” which also includes Hong Kong and Macau.

Montenegro made no mention of Taiwan in its regulations on the visa regime. It previously defined Taiwan as an entity or territorial authority that was not recognized.

The three are among the seven countries of the former Yugoslavia where Republic of China (ROC) passport holders can now enter without a visa.

After the EU’s inclusion of Taiwan into its visa-waiver program, of which Slovenia is a member, in November last year, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) turned to six Balkan countries to push for visa exemptions and so far, Croatia and Montenegro have agreed to lift visa requirements for Taiwanese travelers.

Asked about Taiwan’s designation by Croatia, the ministry’s head of European affairs, James Lee (李光章), yesterday said the ministry had long been aware of the situation even before the granting of visa-waiver status.

“We know about this and have been continuing to work on it as it is a matter concerning the dignity of the country,” Lee said when reached by the Taipei Times for comment.

Croatia declined to change the reference during its negotiations with Taiwan over its visa-free travel regime for Taiwanese, Lee said, without expounding on the reasons.

A MOFA official speaking anonymously said the ministry had asked Croatia to replace the designation “Taiwan, PRC” with “Taiwan” in the negotiations, but to no avail.

“Despite that, Croatia did not lift its visa requirements with the premise that we agreed to the reference ‘Taiwan, PRC,’” the official said.

That Taiwan did not agree to follow the principle of reciprocity in granting Croatian citizens visa-free treatment, as it has provided to Bulgaria, Cyprus and Romania — three EU members who are not yet part of the Schengen area — following its inclusion into the EU’s visa-waiver program was partly because of Croatia’s “unacceptable” reference, the official said.

Croatia did not meet criteria for visa-free entry into Taiwan not only because of technical concerns with issues like passport security, but also because of Zagreb’s denigration of Taiwan’s status, he added.

The official said the ministry had weighed the benefits of visa-free entry to Croatia for Taiwanese against the “Taiwan, PRC” designation and decided to adopt a pragmatic approach on the name issue.

The issue was between whether the offer should be rejected solely because of the reference that has been used by Croatia and the former Yugoslavia since the ROC’s replacement by the PRC in the UN in 1971, and whether it should be accepted to benefit the growing number of Taiwanese tourists and businesspeople going there as visas were not easy to obtain, he said.

“We understand how deeply rooted the influence China holds in Croatia and countries in the former Yugoslavia is,” the official said. “It has taken strenuous effort for countries under socialism to transform themselves to market economies and to come to where they are today, but they are still unable to resist pressure from China.”

He said the ministry decided to put on hold the disagreement over the naming issue for the time being and instead to “make friends” with Croatia and countries in similar situations “without forcing them to do things they are unable to do.”

The EU refers to the country as “Taiwan” in its visa-waiver program, but the practice has not been adopted by all EU members. While Slovenia does not follow the -practice, for example, fellow Schengen area member Estonia does.

Under Romania’s visa regime, Taiwan is deemed an entity or territory that is not recognized as a state by at least one member state.

The ministry had conducted a survey by keying in “Taiwan, Province of China” using Google and more than 80 million results came out ranging from governments, academic institutions, companies and non-governmental organizations, Lee said.

“In a single EU country, there are about 200,000 to 300,000 results coming out from the search. The ministry has been working on this in the same spirit as the foolish old man Yugong (愚公) did in moving away mountains,” Lee said.