Premier Su Tseng-chang on Wednesday received a delegation from the European Parliament's Special Committee on Foreign Interference in all Democratic Processes in the European Union, including Disinformation (INGE), expressing hope that the visit will help deepen Taiwan-EU relations and developments and expand future mutual assistance and cooperation.
This is the first time that the EU Parliament (EP) has sent an official delegation to Taiwan, and the premier extended a very warm welcome on behalf of the people and government of Taiwan. Though far apart geographically, Taiwan and Europe fervently share the common values of freedom, democracy, human rights, free trade and opposition to disinformation, and our shared ideals bring us closer together, Premier Su said.
The European Union has 27 member countries, the premier continued. Taiwan ranks as the EU's fifth largest trade partner in Asia, while the EU is also Taiwan's fifth largest trade partner. The two sides enjoy close economic, trade and investment relations as well as robust people-to-people exchanges. Of late, bilateral relations have grown ever closer with the EU issuing and organizing many official reports, statements and forums relating to Taiwan.
Touching on COVID-19 topics, the premier said the pandemic has shown how the world is a single, integrated community and that all countries should collaborate to prevent and combat disease. Last year Taiwan made special donations of 7 million face masks to EU member countries, and this year when Taiwan was in dire need of vaccines, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Poland and Slovakia stepped up and donated "friendship vaccines" in a show of warm support for Taiwan.
Taiwan is a free democracy that values the rule of law and the free and open exchange of information. It respects all aspects of people's lives while boasting a wealth of experience battling disinformation, the premier said. In contrast, China, which sits just across the Taiwan Strait, takes a more centralized and authoritarian approach to governing its people and does not pay much attention to free trade regulations or preventing the spread of disinformation. These differences only highlight the importance of Taiwan standing on the front lines of liberty and democracy.
Two weeks ago, European lawmakers passed the EU-Taiwan Political Relations and Cooperation report by an overwhelming vote of 580 to 26. The report introduced 36 specific recommendations, including changing the name of the "European Economic and Trade Office" in Taipei to the "EU Office in Taiwan"; supporting the development of ties between Lithuania and Taiwan, while condemning the Chinese government's economic sanctions on Lithuania; bolstering cooperation between Taiwan and the EU; and pushing for the negotiation and signing of a bilateral investment agreement. The premier expressed sincere gratitude to the parliament for attaching importance to Taiwan and supporting our inclusion in the EU strategy for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.
Premier Su also thanked the EP for passing a resolution supporting Taiwan's meaningful participation in the World Health Organization (WHO). Given our success in controlling the pandemic, he said, Taiwan can definitely make useful and valuable contributions to WHO and global disease prevention efforts. The premier also hopes that this delegation's visit will spur the continued progress and rapid development of Taiwan-EU relations, and expand mutual assistance and cooperation in the future.
The next speaker was Member of the European Parliament (MEP), INGE Special Committee chair, and official delegation head Raphaël Glucksmann, who said the democracy that Taiwanese people have achieved over the past 30 years is remarkable, and an important democratic model in world history. The flourishing of Taiwan's democracy is formidable, and although Taiwan and the EU are far apart geographically, as Premier Su said, we are so close because we share the same love for freedom and democracy. Although confronted by the threat of an authoritarian regime like the one in Beijing, Taiwan has courageously forged its own democracy, and responded with calm, openness and democracy, which is quite commendable. We in Europe, he said, are also confronting threats from authoritarian regimes, and the members of the INGE Special Committee have come to Taiwan to learn from you, and hope to benefit from your experience.
Chair Glucksmann went on to say that the INGE Special Committee considers Taiwan as a laboratory in the fight against foreign interference, and a hub for the preservation of democracy. Taiwan's democracy is a treasure for all democrats around the world that should be defended, and a source of inspiration. As representatives of European citizens, he said, we have come to thank Taiwan for what you have done for democracy worldwide. You have shown that democracy can flourish in this region, and authoritarian regimes are not the future. Quoting German poet Friedrich Hȍlderlin, he then said, "Where the danger is, grows also the saving power," and that saving power is the freedom in our hearts. We are partners who love freedom, will staunchly support free Taiwan, and will not let you down.
The visiting delegation of 13 members included seven cross-group MEPs—Special Committee Chair Glucksmann (France), Andrius Kubilius (former prime minister of Lithuania), Markta Gregorov (Czech Republic), Andreas Schieder (Austria), Petras Auštrevičius (Lithuania), Georgios Kyrtsos (Greece), and Marco Dreosto (Italy)—as well as officials from the EP Secretariat and EP group policy advisors.