The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) in its budget proposal for next year increased funding for European exchanges, indicating its intention to further warm relations with the bloc.
Interactions with Europe during the past few months have made significant progress, primarily in parliamentary exchanges and COVID-19 vaccine donations.
One of the most notable actions came in July, when Taiwan and Lithuania announced intentions to open reciprocal representative offices, with the office in Vilnius to be the first in Europe, apart from diplomatic ally the Vatican, bearing the name “Taiwan.”
This was followed by a report and amendments passed by the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs on Wednesday last week calling for closer ties with Taiwan, including the signing of a bilateral investment agreement and changing the name of its de facto embassy to the “European Union Office in Taiwan.”
These warming moves were reflected in the ministry’s budget proposal for next year, which includes significant increases for international meetings and exchanges.
Compared with last year, the budget for exchanges increased by NT$137 million (US$4.95 million), including NT$27 million set aside for strengthening cooperation with Europe and the US, and NT$21 million for receiving dignitaries from Europe.
Asked who the nation intends to invite, the ministry said that it cannot make plans until the budget is approved and therefore would not comment on the matter.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chiu Chih-wei (邱志偉), who has taught at universities in Lithuania and Estonia, and currently leads the Taiwan-Baltic States Parliamentary Friendship Association, said that the nation should take advantage of favorable timing to reap the best possible diplomatic benefits.
Money should be budgeted to areas “with the best chance to score,” he said, adding that the increased funding would be well spent, as sentiment toward Taiwan in Europe is at a high.
Taiwan and the faraway Baltics — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — are growing closer based on shared values rather than shared interests, Chiu said.
“Interactions between nations do not have to be calculated,” he said.
This way ensures the solidity of bilateral relations and protection of the shared values of freedom and democracy, Chiu said, adding that parliamentary exchanges give wiggle room with which to resist Chinese suppression.
The EU and China have become increasingly at odds, said DPP Legislator Tsai Shih-ying (蔡適應), who leads the Taiwan-Europe Parliamentary Friendship Association.
European states do not trust Beijing, but recognize the need to engage with Taiwan, Tsai said.
Against this backdrop, Taiwan must strengthen relations with Europe, thereby necessitating the budget increase, he said.
Most European nations have parliamentary systems, meaning that interaction with parliaments is akin to working with governments, Tsai said.
In the absence of formal relations, many parliamentary bodies are seeking to discuss Taiwan about facilitating cooperation, he said, adding that this necessitates collaboration between the foreign ministry and the Legislative Yuan.
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