Mon, Sep 23, 2019 - Page 3 News List

Legislature touts diplomatic successes

CHANGING APPROACH:Countries such as Poland and Slovakia are now extending invitations to Taiwan and ‘treating us with warmth and pomp,’ Su Jia-chyuan said

By Lu Yi-hsuan and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Legislative Speaker Su Jia-chyuan, second right, receives a delegation from the UK, including the Baroness D’Souza, third right, in Taipei on July 30.

Photo: Liu Hsin-de, Taipei Times

The Legislative Yuan has over the past three years made diplomatic strides, reaching out to the legislative bodies of Western democracies, especially European countries, Legislative Speaker Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全) said.

Su made the remarks in a recent interview with the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper).

Under his leadership, lawmakers last year visited France, the UK and the US, he said.

During the visits, he met French and British parliamentary speakers, entered the French National Assembly and was formally introduced to then-US House of Representatives speaker Paul Ryan at the memorial service for the late US Senator John McCain, he said.

These achievements highlight the progress the Legislative Yuan has made toward fostering substantive ties with democratic states since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office, he said.

In that time, the legislature has hosted 11,367 dignitaries from 107 countries, sent 81 delegations of lawmakers to 65 foreign states and involved Taiwan in 72 inter-parliamentary friendship groups and associations, he said.

The legislature is developing inter-parliamentary friendships by cultivating relationships between lawmakers and between administrative staff, Su said, adding that it is in view of the latter that Executive Yuan Secretary-General Lin Chih-chia (林志嘉) is to visit the European Parliament in July.

Previously, there were fewer exchanges between legislative staff due to concerns about the official implications of such visits, but he believes a scheduled visit to the European Parliament could open doors on that front, Su said.

Democracies with a parliamentary constitution seem to be particularly promising opportunities for inter-parliamentary outreach, since legislators are more beholden to the people they represent than the foreign affairs establishment, he said.

Last year, Poland and Slovakia separately extended invitations to Taiwanese lawmakers, showing that the political situation has shifted in Europe, Su said.

“In the past, we had to ask for an invitation and the other party would then ask us to keep a low profile on China’s account,” he said. “Now, European countries are making the invitation and treating us with warmth and pomp... We feel that Taiwan is finally on the stage.”

The legislature is a necessary actor in Taiwan’s diplomacy due to the nation’s special circumstances, Office of Parliamentarian Affairs Director-General George Chiou (丘高偉) said.

In the past few years, the Legislative Yuan has sustained ties with the legislative bodies of the US and Japan, and made notable diplomatic breakthroughs in Europe, he said, adding that the invitations and the regularization of inter-parliamentary ties are major positive indicators.

Building inter-parliamentary ties could shore up the will of democratic governments to resist Beijing, a task urgently needed in the eurozone, where the Vatican is Taiwan’s only diplomatic ally, he said.

“Europe should also be viewed as a region of opportunity ... Europeans are increasingly asking themselves the question: Why are we forgoing relations with a democracy while allowing an undemocratic country to dictate its terms to us?’” Chiou said.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has instructed representative offices in Europe to step up their activities,” he said. “We believe there will be more breakthroughs happening in Europe.”

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