After a break since 2009, the annual circus in Geneva, Switzerland, is back for the second time.
The circus’ main attraction is the participation of Taiwan in the World Health Assembly (WHA), which is the decisionmaking body of the WHO.
The return of the circus reveals the unstainable and naive WHO policies of the former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government and of the EU. Moreover, the entire situation reveals China as an international troublemaker.
Since 2009, the EU and many European politicians have praised Taiwan’s participation in the WHA. It was considered as a result of the improved relations between Taiwan and China. The reality was and still is that the entire setup is flawed and unsustainable because Taiwan’s annual invitation to the WHA is contingent on China’s approval.
A sustainable agreement with the WHO would have ensured Taiwan’s participation in the WHA no matter the government in Taipei. The lack of such an achievement is a failure of the KMT and of former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) which endangers Taiwan’s sovereignty.
Every spring the agreement ensures that China can show the international community that it controls Taiwan. This is one of the sad results of Ma’s “viable diplomacy,” and the so-called diplomatic truce and proactive diplomacy.
If the EU and others allow the policy to continue it promotes China’s attempts to integrate the international community into a Chinese system and not the other way around.
The EU can stop this from happening in the case of the WHA. The reason being that there is nothing in the EU’s “one China” policy against Taiwan obtaining full observer status as it does not require statehood. In addition, the EU has both the power and influence to ensure Taiwan gets a sustainable agreement.
Unfortunately, the EU has a historical track record of being strikingly quiet on Taiwan’s rights when relations between Taiwan and China are relative peaceful. Consequently, one could fear that the EU will be less motivated to act, despite the communication problems between Taiwan and China.
This is not an advocacy for Taiwan to make more noise or trouble to get attention, rather it should be an encouragement for the EU to start acting as a world leader and use this historical opportunity to make Taiwan’s agreement with the WHO sustainable.
Taiwan has participated in the WHA since 2009, why can this not continue?
It will be a major blow to the EU’s economic power, and its support for human rights and democracy if a sustainable solution is not found. Statements in favor of Taiwan are not sufficient. It should not end up in a typical EU fashion as when the EU criticized China earlier this year.
The nations of the EU wrote in a common statement that they were concerned about allegations of the torture of detained human rights activists in China. Later, Sweden, Germany, Britain and eight other nations issued a statement about growing concern over allegations of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatments or punishments in cases involving human rights activists in China.
However, leadership is not about statements alone, but also about taking the necessary actions that can change the world.
The quiet promotion of Taiwan’s right to participate in the WHA by its government shows that it is serious about friendly and stable relations with China. By allowing a sustainable agreement providing Taiwan full observer status, China could enhance it status in the world community.
Michael Danielsen is chairman of Taiwan Corner, a Danish non-governmental organization.
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