Sat, May 17, 2003 - Page 2 News List

EU official says NGO is one way to go

By Monique Chu  /  STAFF REPORTER

To take part in the World Health Organization (WHO) by way of a non-governmental organization (NGO) might be an option for Taiwan, said EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom on Thursday, despite opposition to such a proposal from Taipei.

"For Taiwan, one possibility could be participation via [an] NGO," Wallstrom told the European Parliament late Thursday before a resolution supportive of Taiwan's WHO bid was put to vote in the European assembly.

"We are currently examining together with member states and other major partners what sort of arrangement could be feasible," Wallstrom said on behalf of the European Commission.

Wallstrom's note is the most recent statement on Taiwan's WHO bid from the EU's executive body.

The annual bid for Taiwan to join World Health Assembly (WHA), the top decision-making body of the WHO, as an observer is only three days away as the assembly kicks off in Geneva on Monday.

Wallstrom said the European Commission supports in principle Taiwan's efforts to take part in international bodies and organizations, provided that Taiwan's participation adds value in terms of the objective of the organization.

In the case of the WHO, the commission considered Taiwan met this criterion, as it has made "considerable achievements" in public health, international aid and health activities, Wallstrom said.

The outbreak of SARS further shows that Taiwan needs "direct channels of communication and assistance" from the WHO, Wallstrom said, dubbing this move "in the interest of [the] wider international community, including that of China."

"However, that participation must be compatible with Taiwan's status and the European Union's `one China' policy," Wallstrom was quoted as saying in a transcribed statement provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"We believe that it should be possible to find a pragmatic formula for some sort of Taiwanese participation in the WHO, which does not involve issues of statehood or sovereignty and is in line with our `one China' policy," the Swedish commissioner said.

"All precedents of participation in the WHO of other non-state bodies or organizations have shown solutions can be found, even where WHO rules do not explicitly foresee it," she added.

Song Yann-huei (宋燕輝), research fellow at the Institute of European and American Studies, Academia Sinica, said the NGO formula has been "unacceptable" for Taiwan.

"We are a sovereign state, so to enter the WHO system as a NGO would be unacceptable," said Song, who has been closely worked with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the WHO bid in recent years.

Taiwan last year proposed to join the WHA as an observer in its capacity as a "health entity," while the latest bid showed the government's desire to join the WHA as a "health authority."

Minister of Foreign Affairs Eugene Chien (簡又新) welcomed the European Parliament's resolution supportive of Taipei's bid to obtain an observer status at the upcoming WHA.

The resolution calls on the WHA to accept the observer status for Taiwan, while calling on the European Commission and the Member States to "officially support the participation."

It's the second year in a row that the parliament passed such a non-binding resolution.

Also see story:

Will this epidemic really help at WHO?

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