Tue, Sep 23, 2003 - Page 3 News List

A voice for Taiwan in the wilderness

Hermann Otto Solms joined the German parliament in 1980 and has served as its deputy speaker since 1998. Solms is a consultant of Taiwan's top non-governmental lobby group in Germany, as well as deputy chairman of the parliament's sub-group, the Berlin-Taipei Parliament Friendship Group. In an exclusive interview with `Liberty Times' correspondent Lin Yu-li, Solms says Taiwan is a sovereign state and that there is no reason for European countries to shun normal relations with Taiwan

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Liberty Times: You led a delegation to visit Taiwan two years ago. What's your impression of the country?

Hermann Otto Solms: That visit deeply touched me. The cornerstone of Western democratic systems -- the principle of rule of law, separation of administration and legislation, and direct elections -- has become the consensus among the Taiwanese people, attesting to a successful transfer from totalitarian rule to democracy. This visit proved that my original impression of Taiwan was correct.

LT: When first lady Wu Shu-chen (吳淑珍) visited Berlin in July, hundreds of people went to meet her. You also had a long conversation with Wu. What impact did her visit have on Germany?

Solms: First of all, this was a very successful visit. Her charisma, in particular, made a strong impression here. The National Palace Museum's exhibition and other cultural performances and activities featuring Taiwan not only projected a positive and active image for Taiwan, but also called Germans' attention to the problem of Taiwan's international status.

Germans further came to realize the fundamental difference between independent Taiwan, and Hong Kong and Macau, which are under "one country, two systems." This should be a very special experience for the German press and the public.

LT: Your party's parliamentary caucus put forth a proposal in May last year demanding that the government and EU member countries adopt more active and pragmatic attitudes to promote relations with Taiwan. Would you elaborate on this proposal?

Solms: This proposal was mainly advocated by me, with the aim of requiring that the government and EU member countries normalize their relations with Taiwan. For Western countries, Taiwan is already a democracy. There is absolutely no reason for maintaining abnormal relations with Taiwan.

Perhaps this proposal will still face opposition from China. But we must make it clear and with confidence -- Taiwan is already a democratic, independent sovereign state and Europe must deal with Taiwan in an open and aboveboard manner.

Furthermore, any decision to change the status of the relationship between Taiwan and China must be based on a democratic and autonomous foundation. We will review the wording used in the proposal and wait for the right time to bring it to this session.

LT: Whenever Taiwan affairs come up, the German government brings up "one China." Has any decision on the EU's `one China' policy ever been put in writing following a meeting between EU member countries?

Solms: I have never seen any written agreement on the EU's "one China" policy, but I cannot rule out the existence of such an agreement. Although "one China" always has been the point of departure for Germany's and the other EU members' China policies, we still believe that Germany and other EU member countries should coordinate their foreign affairs dealings with Taiwan and develop a normal and substantive relationship with Taiwan. This will not in fact harm our relationship with China. This is the main spirit of our proposal.

LT: The German parliament's Taiwan caucus will visit Taiwan again next month. What are your thoughts on this kind of exchange between German and Taiwanese parliamentarians?

Solms: Many important contact channels are established through this kind of exchange. Old friends also get a chance to chat about past matters. More important, I hope that parliamentarians who have visited Taiwan also will have a chance to visit China. Apart from reporting on Taiwan's actual development, they will also be able to try to convince China that war is not the solution, but that peace and dialogue is the way to go.

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