Who will be the president of the new Taiwanese parliament and what does it mean for Europe?

Who will be the president of the new Taiwanese parliament and what does it mean for Europe?
Who will be the president of the new Taiwanese parliament and what does it mean for Europe?

COMMENTARY / On February 1, the 11th Legislative Yuan will elect its chairman. This decision will have important implications for Taiwan’s efforts to expand its international space, as parliamentary diplomacy has been an important tool enabling Taipei to circumvent its diplomatic isolation. Europe is closely watching developments leading up to Thursday’s vote.

The relevance of parliamentary diplomacy for Taiwan can be illustrated in the context of recent diplomatic interactions with European countries.

Of all the EU institutions, the European Parliament, with its directly elected legislators in all 27 member states, is at the forefront of efforts to promote the perception of Taiwan as a like-minded partner rather than worrying about the painful EU-China relationship.

Even at the level of member countries, it is precisely the legislative power that takes a more pragmatic approach.

At the member state level, it is also the legislatures that have shown themselves to be ahead of the executive branch in pursuing pragmatic cooperation with Taiwan, while remaining in line with the “One China Policy” and aware of the political sensitivities surrounding Taiwan’s unusual international status. wanu.

Cooperation between European and Taiwanese parliamentarians was successful mainly due to the efforts of the leadership of the 10th Legislative Yuan to internationalize it.

In a recent interview with Nikkei Asia, Acting Chairman Jou Si-kchun (游錫堃) stated that “through parliamentary diplomacy [Tchaj-wan] broke China’s diplomatic blockade”.

During his tenure, Jou made great strides to strengthen the Legislative Yuan’s institutional framework to promote international cooperation. Soon after taking office in February 2020, he established the International Public Opinion Working Group, which was soon elevated to the International Affairs Working Group. Jou was responsible for the creation of the Department of International Affairs, the first ever department in the history of the Legislative Yuan responsible for the comprehensive management of all matters related to parliamentary diplomacy.

These recent efforts to expand Taiwan’s international reach through parliamentary cooperation have strengthened its ties with Europe.

The President of the Czech Senate, Miloš Vystrčil, led a historic 89-member delegation to Taiwan in 2020. He was the first high-ranking foreign politician outside Taiwan’s diplomatic allies to deliver a speech at the Legislative Yuan, famous for his “I am Taiwanese” statement. In addition to its strong symbolism, the visit also brought tangible results, including the Czech Republic allowing Taiwan’s state-owned banks to open branches in the country.

A year ago, the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, Markéta Pekarová Adamová, also arrived in Taiwan, accompanied by a delegation of 150 members. During her “Taiwan Mission”, ten memorandums of understanding and preliminary agreements were signed between Taiwan and the Czech Republic in areas ranging from museum exchange to lithium battery recycling.

The last delegation was led by the Speaker of the Lithuanian Seimas, Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsenová. The delegation focused on deepening economic cooperation between Taipei and Vilnius.

At the EU level, in December 2022, Jou also received a 13-member delegation of the European Parliament’s Committee on International Trade, led by the Vice-President of the European Parliament, Nicola Beer. Despite opposition from the European Commission and the European External Action Service, Beer has publicly defended the BIT as a central element of a strengthening partnership between the EU and Taiwan.

However, Taiwan’s exchanges with the leadership of European legislatures are not only one-way. In 2022, MP Jou led a high-level cross-party delegation to the Czech Republic, Poland and Lithuania.

The trip indicated that under Jou’s leadership, the parliament has maintained close ties with the administration of President Tsai Jing-wen (蔡英文) regarding Taiwan’s foreign policy outlook. This common focus revolved around the diversification of Taiwan’s foreign relations and its expansion towards the USA, Japan, the countries of the so-called “New Southbound Policy” and especially Europe.

With no party winning an absolute majority in recent Taiwanese elections, it remains uncertain who will become the next chairman of the Legislative Yuan and how he will affect Taiwan’s approach to parliamentary diplomacy. The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) nominated Zhou to continue in his current role, while the Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang, KMT) selected lawmaker Chan Kuo-ju (韓國瑜) as its candidate for chairman and Johnny Jiang (Jiang Qichen, 江啟臣) as his representative.

Given the composition of the 11th Legislative Yuan, the DPP or KMT will need the support of the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP), a “critical minority”, to secure leadership of the legislature. If the KMT wins, the tension between the administration of William Lai (賴清德) and the Chairman of the Legislative Yuan could have a negative impact on the effectiveness of Taiwan’s parliamentary diplomacy, a key tool in boosting Taiwan’s international profile.

If the new parliament speaker pursues policies aimed at appeasement of China or openly fights against the president’s administration, European politicians will certainly pay close attention, and these tensions could complicate the well-launched European-Taiwan parliamentary exchange.

Worryingly, KMT candidate Chan Kuo-yü does not have a strong international profile and boasts seemingly close ties to the Chinese Communist Party.

Early in his tenure as mayor of Kaohsiung, Chan visited Hong Kong and Macau, engaging in secret high-level discussions at the Liaison Office of the Chinese central government without consulting Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council. In addition, the controversial ex-star strongly criticized President Tsai’s “face-saving” foreign policy, accusing her of leading Taiwan down a “narrowing and dangerous path.” Given that Lai’s foreign policy is likely to continue the efforts started by President Tsai, the question is to what extent Chan could effectively maintain or expand exchanges with members of European parliaments.

At the same time, the KMT leadership has strong ties to Europe, which it could effectively use to maintain and expand the international scope of the Legislative Yuan.

Johnny Jiang, who was nominated by the KMT as its vice-chairman candidate, earned a doctorate in international relations and has served on the Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee for over ten years. In a November 2023 interview, Jiang also spoke of the Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee as the place where bipartisan consensus is most likely.

As chairman of the KMT, Jiang sought to improve his party’s international profile. He restored the function of the International Affairs Department and maintained significant relations with European diplomats to demonstrate the KMT’s readiness to participate in the diversification of Taiwan’s international relations.

If entrusted with overseeing the Legislative Yuan’s international outreach, Jiang will be able to leverage his wealth of experience to bridge cross-party consensus and raise Taiwan’s global visibility. If parliamentary diplomacy is relegated to the responsibility of the deputy speaker, some fear a lowering of its profile.

If the new chairman of the Legislative Yuan is unwilling to further strengthen political ties with the Europeans, this could seriously undermine the progress made so far. While discreet relationships between mid-level government officials may continue, the political significance lies in significant parliamentary exchanges, as MPs often include other key officials in their delegations. At the same time, their exchanges are associated with a lot of media attention, which Taiwan uses to its own advantage.

Taken with kind permission organization European values.

The article is in Czech

Tags: president Taiwanese parliament Europe


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