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Thu, May 25, 2000 - Page 4 News List

EU's view of Taiwan changing

Graham Watson, a member of the European Parliament, spoke with Taipei Times' staff reporter Catherine Sung on Europe's perception of Taiwan's new leader, President Chen Shui-bian, and what the new administration can do to elevate Taiwan's profile in the European community

Graham Watson talks to the Taipei Times yesterday in Taipei about the change in government and the development of Taiwan's image in Europe.

PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES

Taipei Times: In his inauguration address, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) expressed the new government's desire to bring Taiwan back into the international human rights system. How do you think this message sits with the Europeans?

Graham Watson: I think the very fact that you had a change in government will affect the views of Europeans toward Taiwan. I regret to say that Taiwan is not very well known among Europeans. And when they think of Taiwan, they think of a rather old fashioned one-party state. The very fact that you changed government will make Europeans realize that here in Taiwan there is a flourishing democracy of 23 million people. His [President Chen's] commitment to human rights, in particular where he talked about Taiwan ratifying the International Convention for Civil and Political Rights, and the introduction of a "Taiwan Bill of Rights," will be welcomed. It will convince Europeans that Taiwan is ahead of the game, that there is a clear cultural difference between Taiwan and the PRC. I think Europe will realize how far the history of Taiwan and the history of the PRC have diverged.

TT:What advice do you have for the new government on communicating Taiwan's new image to Europeans?

GW: When you are on the other side of the world, the traditional image of a country takes a long time to change and I think it will take some time for people to recognize this is a different country. For example, however much difference former President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) has made -- and he did make a difference -- people before him still thought of Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石). It takes a long time to change the image of a country and the great thing now is that Taiwan's image will change fairly radically and quickly. My piece of advice would be this: relax. The reason I say relax is this: the PRC, which is a brutal dictatorship, is not relaxed. They are pushing and bullying other countries, and countries do not like that approach. A relaxed and self-confident Taiwan is very important in that respect.

Second, the DPP has identified a very important aspect of Taiwan's development ... [of looking at] individuals, tourism and Taiwan businesses to promote non-official diplomacy.

In my view, a relaxed and self-confident Taiwan promoting itself in this way will have far greater success than a country that's constantly worried about tension. I think in the end, that is the way of highlighting the hypocrisy of countries like my own, which recognizes a brutal communist dictatorship in the PRC but refuses to recognize a flourishing democracy [like Taiwan].

TT: But what is Europe's interest in Taiwan when it has problems like Kosovo in its own back yard?

GW: Let me give you a few examples from my constituency in the southwest of England. First of all, we have a good opportunity for exporting goods to Taiwan and attracting investments. We have many areas of business where we have a common interest. My constituency is almost entirely surrounded by water, thousands of people in my constituency sail boats. Taiwan makes the best bi-satellite system in the world [used for navigation], which has saved thousands of lives in my constituency.

TT: Do Europeans know the difference between the ROC and the PRC?

GW: If I could give a piece of advice to the Taiwanese government, it would be to drop the expression ROC. Who knows what the Republic of China is and who cares? Everybody knows you as Taiwan. You are recognized as a modern democratic economy and modern society. Stick with Taiwan, drop ROC.

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