The nation's outgoing envoy to the EU, Chen Chien-jen (程建人), yesterday said the country's current diplomatic predicament was a result of a lack of consensus on national identity and domestic affairs.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) held a farewell meeting for Chen yesterday afternoon to mark his retirement after 40 years of service as a career diplomat.
Minister of Foreign Affairs James Huang (
Huang praised Chen as an "forever milestone" [sic] for the foreign ministry and an example for new and future diplomats.
"The two-and-a-half years that I served under Chen were a period of great learning and when I had the best training to become a diplomat, Huang said.
Huang worked as Chen's secretary when Chen was the deputy minister of foreign affairs.
Chen, 66, has also served as minister of foreign affairs, chief of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the US and Taiwan's envoy to the EU.
In his farewell speech, Chen said that he deeply believed that diplomacy was an extension of a country's domestic affairs, and only by promoting stable domestic development could a nation enjoy stable diplomatic progress.
"I think one of the reasons that Taiwan has encountered much difficulty in expanding its diplomatic space is because it lacks a strong consensus on national identity and other important issues," he said.
"The negative effects of domestic disputes impact on diplomatic development," he said.
Chen also implied that he did not agree with the statement made by President Chen Shui-bian (
"I believe that honesty is the best policy, whether you are dealing with people or a country's affairs," Chen Chien-jen said.
Asked to comment on the anti-president campaign launched by former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairman Shih Ming-teh (施明德), Chen Chien-jen said that Taiwan is a democratic country that enjoys freedom of speech and he thought it might be helpful to the country's development if people could freely express themselves.
"Everyone hopes the country can be better. But how do you define better? I think it depends on people's judgment," he said. "Still, I am confident in Taiwan's democracy, the people and the media."
Asked whether he would join Shih's campaign, the envoy said he was still thinking about it but "did not rule out the possibility" of donating NT$100 to Shih's protest.