Sat, Sep 17, 2016 - Page 3 News List

Ministry to shut overseas offices, go ‘southbound’

FOR WHAT?A report said the only service provided by the Frankfurt-am-Main mission in Germany is greeting Taiwanese officials who visit the financial center

By Lee Yu-fu, Lu Yi-hsuan and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporters and staff writer, with CNA

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday confirmed that the number and scale of its overseas diplomatic missions would be reduced, citing the need to reallocate available resources to meet the nation’s strategic and diplomatic needs.

The ministry said it would disband fewer than 10 of its embassies and overseas missions to allocate resources for President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) “new southbound policy,” Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lee (李大維) said at a legislative session on Tuesday.

When asked about it on Wednesday, Lee said the decision was “informed by concerns over costs and strategic effect,” in addition to the needs of the “new southbound policy,” adding that the number of overseas missions the ministry has is “excessive.”

The decision to reduce in the number of diplomatic missions was made after careful deliberation, he said, adding that the ministry would consider its options before committing to closing missions and embassies.

The ministry said the reduction in the number and scale of diplomatic missions is being made in light of concerns over diplomatic strategy, fiscal constraints and limits on the resources available to the ministry, with the goal of maximizing the impact of each overseas mission.

The nation’s 117 diplomatic missions have been panned by pundits as bloated and many offices are said to be lacking in efficiency or a reason for existing.

Pragmatism is necessary when conducting diplomacy, former foreign minister Francisco Ou (歐鴻鍊) said.

Ou said he supports the idea of closing representative offices that do not contribute to promoting the nation’s diplomacy.

Taiwan is a mid-sized nation and “it does not make sense” that the number of its overseas representative offices surpasses those of some larger nations, he added.

Ou said that many of Taiwan’s representative offices only exist to provide consular services to expatriates living there and do little in the way of diplomatic work.

However, some diplomats have voiced opposition to the planned reductions.

A senior foreign affairs official said there is “no problem” with the number of representative offices.

The issue lies in the leadership of some of them, he said, adding that some representatives make no effort to improve Taiwan’s relations with their host nation.

The ministry should carry out reform to better train the heads of its overseas representative offices instead of reducing the number of missions, the official said, adding that there are increasing opportunities for international cooperation in public health, aviation safety and food safety.

As early as 2012, lawmakers and Control Yuan members had accused the ministry of establishing overseas missions that served no purpose or were underperforming.

The Chinese-language United Daily News reported that the Tripoli mission in Libya is virtually deserted, the Yokohama mission in Japan has few assigned tasks and the only service provided by the Frankfurt-am-Main mission in Germany is greeting Taiwanese officials who visit the city.

“We can easily do away with 30 missions,” the newspaper quoted an unnamed high-ranking foreign ministry official as saying.

This story has been viewed 8623 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top