The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) on Sunday defended placing ads in German newspaper the Sudthuringen Kurier, after the ministry was accused of placing them out of political considerations.
The ministry called allegations by an opposition lawmaker regrettable, saying that the ads were part of an effort by its overseas office to promote Taiwan, not to pander to local politicians.
The issue came to light after lawmaker Mark Hauptmann, a member of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), on Thursday last week quit his seat in the German Bundestag amid pressure over lobbying allegations.
Der Spiegel magazine reported on Wednesday last week that Hauptmann received money for tourism ads run by Taiwan, Azerbaijan and Vietnam in the pro-CDU Sudthuringen Kurier, which he publishes, leading to accusations that he accepted money from foreign government agencies.
On Sunday, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Charles Chen (陳以信) asked on Facebook why the nation’s representative office in Germany was advertising in the publication and whether it was for political reasons.
Citing a report by Washington-based media outlet Politico on Thursday last week, Chen said Der Spiegel had reported that the Azerbaijani embassy in Berlin paid 16,744 euros (US$19,976 at the current exchange rate) to advertise a shopping weekend in Baku in the paper.
Taiwan spent 24,000 euros on its ads, more than what Azerbaijan and Vietnam paid, Chen said, citing a report by German news outlet Der Westen.
Chen said that it was his duty as a member of the Legislative Yuan’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee to oversee government spending, asking whether it was worth it to spend the nation’s limited funds on a promotional campaign in an overseas newspaper owned by a foreign lawmaker.
That is especially true for a newspaper with a circulation of only 55,000 that is published quarterly, Chen said, demanding that the ministry and Representative to Germany Shieh Jhy-wey (謝志偉) explain the situation.
The ministry said that the representative office in Germany had since 2015 run regular ads in the newspaper to increase Taiwan’s visibility in Thuringia, which is the sixth-smallest of Germany’s 16 states and has a population of about 2 million people.
At a cost of 1,000 euros per ad, Taiwan has so far paid 24,000 euros, the ministry said.
This is different from Azerbaijan’s single payment of 16,744 euros for ads in October 2018, it added.
Taiwan paid HCS Medienwek, it said, adding that Hauptmann did not collect the payment, nor is he a shareholder of that company.
However, the ministry did not explain why it advertised in a politically oriented newspaper, and whether it runs similar ads in other regions of Germany.
The ministry reiterated its support for Shieh and his efforts to promote relations between Taiwan and Germany, helping more people there learn about Taiwan and support it.
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