Sun, Apr 17, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Taiwan looks to EU for help in gaining WHA observership

By Wang Hsiao-wen  /  STAFF REPORTER

In the leadup to next month's World Health Assembly (WHA), Taiwan is pinning its hopes on the EU to improve its chances of success in its ninth bid for observer status at the organization.

"With Japan and the US backing our observership, we now need to win more support from European countries," director-general of the Department of Health's bureau of international cooperation Peter Chang (張武修) said yesterday at a seminar in Taipei. "We need to map new pathways into the World Health Organization."

The World Health Assembly is the highest decision-making body of the World Health Organization, and meets in May each year.

At the WHA convention last year, Japan and the US supported Taiwan's observer status. But other major players such as the EU and Canada voted to keep Taiwan's observership off the agenda. Both the EU and Canada issued speeches afterwards saying that WHO member countries should seek a proper way to include Taiwan in global networks of disease prevention, indicating they might be open to future bids by Taiwan.

Chang said it's hard to predict how much support Taiwan will get from the EU, given China's bellicose "Anti-Secession" Law in March and the EU's recent delay on lifting its arms embargo on China.

"Our goal is to garner support from over 50 countries without diplomatic ties with Taiwan by 2006," he added.

Health officials said that Minister of Health Hou Sheng-mou (侯勝茂) made a whirlwind trip to European countries early this month. That trip included a speech to international reporters in Brussels, a low-profile visit to the French Senate in Paris and participation in the Global Medical Forum in Zurich, Switzerland.

"I told [international reporters] that the `H' in `World Health Day' also means handicapped," Hou said. "The WHO is flawed without Taiwan's participation."

"Every senator or medical professional we met supported Taiwan's bid for the WHO," Hou said. "I think it's about time for the awakening of international conscience."

On April 7, a day after Hou visited the French Senate, 45 pro-Taiwan French senators issued a joint statement expressing their regret over Taiwan's exclusion from the WHO. The statement also said that it hopes that a solution to Taiwan's status in the organization can be found at the annual conference in Geneva next month.

"Taiwan's eight-year-old effort to win participation in the WHO has been a slog through the thicket of Chinese oppression," Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Michael Kau (高英茂) said at the seminar yesterday.

"In an increasingly interdependent world, the WHO should overcome its immoral cowardice in the face of China's saber-rattling and incorporate Taiwan to help fend off infectious diseases," Kau added.

In 1999, when Taiwan was reeling after the 921 Earthquake which killed more than 2,000, the WHO did not send a relief team because of China's pressure, according to the Foundation of Medical Professionals Alliance.

"In the past thirty years of isolation, we have already lost too much," said the Foundation's president Wu Shuh-min (吳樹民).

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