Representative to the EU and Belgium Tsai Ming-yen (蔡明彥) yesterday called for progress on a Taiwan-EU bilateral investment agreement (BIA) as he marked the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Schengen visa waiver for Taiwanese as his office released a short video on YouTube that highlighted achievements in the Taiwan-EU relationship.
Tsai thanked all those in the EU who have worked to deepen Taiwan-EU ties, and who have pushed leaders of democracies to support Taiwan’s meaningful participation in international organizations.
“The EU and Taiwan should continue to cooperate in areas such as public health, the digital economy and green energy, but the signing of BIAs would be the next important milestone in their relations,” he said.
The Taipei Representative Office in the EU and Belgium asked several EU politicians who had been instrumental in promoting the visa waiver plan for comments ahead of the anniversary.
In a statement on Thursday, former European Parliament member Agustin Diaz de Mera Garcia Consuegra, who on Nov. 11, 2010, announced that the visa waiver proposal had the support of more than 90 percent of the parliament and who has argued for Taiwan’s participation in the WHO, praised the 10 years of exchanges.
Member of the European Parliament Michael Gahler, another major proponent, said that he was proud of the official exchange visits, trade and youth exchanges that have taken place, and called for the relationship to be deepened with BIAs.
Member of the European Parliament Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar said he was happy to see Taiwan-EU trade increase over the past decade, and he praised Taiwan’s progress in its democratization and achievements such as the legalization of same-sex marriage, which he said were consistent with the EU’s core diplomatic values.
Member of the European Parliament Andrey Kovatchev said both sides had come to better understand shared values through trade and exchange agreements.
Through the visa waiver program, EU countries saw 20 percent growth in the number of Taiwanese travelers, and in particular cooperation over the past year had helped both sides get through the COVID-19 pandemic, the lawmakers said.
The office said that visitors from EU countries to Taiwan had increased by 172 percent since the signing of the visa waiver, while Taiwan-EU trade, which was valued at US$48.7 billion in 2010, had grown to US$58.7 billion by 2019.
EU direct investment in Taiwan was worth US$55.2 billion in 2019, 62 percent growth compared with 2010, while Taiwanese investment in the EU was worth US$9 billion, which was also a historical high, the office said.
Taiwan-EU youth exchanges had been bolstered by the signing of working holiday visa programs with 12 nations, which saw an increase of 22 percent in the number of young Taiwanese traveling to Europe, and an increase of 59 percent in the number of young Europeans visiting Taiwan, the office said.
There are 553 Taiwanese students and 445 European students involved in exchanges through the Erasmus+ program, it added.
Taiwan and the EU had jointly contributed 17.4 million euros (US$21.3 million at the current exchange rate) to the Horizon 2020 program since 2014, which have gone toward 81 projects, it said.
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