Tue, Jul 17, 2018 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: Taiwan crucial global partner: German envoy

Germany will keep speaking up for Taiwan if pressure to push it out of international forums persists, outgoing German Institute Taipei Director-General Martin Eberts said in an interview with Taipei Times reporter Stacy Hsu and Liberty Times reporter Lu Yi-hsuan

Outgoing German Institute Taipei Director-General Martin Eberts discusses Germany’s support of Taiwan’s participation in the global arena during an interview with the Taipei Times and Liberty Times in Taipei on Wednesday.

Photo: George Tsorng, Taipei Times

The Taiwanese government has embarked on an effort to achieve transitional justice. What are your observations so far?

Martin Eberts: I am not in a position to comment on what is going on here, but I can talk about our experience. I think every society needs to come to terms with the past.

It is important to do that with complete honesty and without reservations or taboo on the one hand, and with a sense of responsibility and readiness for reconciliation and forgiveness on the other.

That way, dealing with the past can be a healthy and useful experience for the whole society.

I think education is also a very important issue. We need to see to it that our curricula in schools are complete, correct and reflect the past in the right way. There should not be taboo or white-washing of the past.

Last year, the German health minister spoke up for Taiwan’s bid to attend the World Health Assembly. This year, you spoke twice in support of Taiwan’s participation at the annual health conference. Why has Germany become increasingly willing to lend public support to Taiwan’s international participation?

Eberts: I think it is important that in all these matters, we do not allow a white spot to emerge on the map of the world, so to speak. For example, for international health policy, we must have all relevant partners on board. It is obvious that Taiwan is an important and very capable partner in that.

Another example is air traffic. Taoyuan is one of the biggest international hubs in Asia, how can Taiwan be excluded from the International Civil Aviation Organization? That would not only be stupid, but also dangerous and politically bad. We must prevent ideologies from pushing aside good arguments.

As we see it, the pressure to push Taiwan out of these fora is mounting. That is why we must speak up more than before. Besides, these issues also concern stability in the region. We do not want stability to be undermined because Taiwan is being put under undue pressure.

Many international airlines have been forced by Beijing to change their designations for Taiwan. What is your view on this?

Eberts: I think it is deplorable that this kind of ideological battle is being fought. I do not see anybody profiting from that. It is neither practical, nor politically responsible to put pressure on international airlines to change the name of Taiwan in an odd way, and sometimes even in a misleading way.

The position of the [German] federal government is that we will do everything to support and maintain the “status quo” and a healthy and peaceful relationship across the Taiwan Strait.

As our then-minster of foreign affairs Frank-Walter Steinmeier said right after the 2016 presidential election in Taiwan: “We want the meaningful participation of Taiwan in international affairs and we do not want to see any coercion in cross-strait relations.”

This is still the basis of our policy. If we see things happening that go against that, we must speak up, otherwise we will not be credible. Obviously, the Western partners of Taiwan are not giving up on Taiwan, so whoever is thinking about next year’s strategy should keep that in mind.

As you are to leave your post later this month, how many boxes have you checked for the goals you set when entering the office in August 2014?

Eberts: We always have to be ambitious and try to achieve more than we can, but I think it is fair to say that we have achieved a lot in these four years. If we look back, there are new forms of cooperation and new subjects that we have touched upon. Also, we managed to lift the level of political exchanges to a higher level.

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