By Martin Banks - 18th March 2008
Two senior MEPs have called on the EU to do more to help bring an end to what they call Taiwan’s "international isolation".
The joint call comes in advance of a referendum in Taiwan on Saturday, when the country’s 23 million-strong population will be asked to support the application for membership of the UN under the name 'Taiwan'.
The referendum is being held on the same day as Taiwan’s presidential elections.
Writing in the latest issue of the Parliament Magazine, Graham Watson, leader of the ALDE group in parliament, said Taiwan should be allowed to participate in the "essential work" of the UN.
"This should be the international community’s current priority with regards to Taiwan, regardless of the outcome of the referendum and election."
Watson, a member of parliament’s Taiwan friendship group, points out that China regards the decision to hold a referendum as a move towards formal independence.
"Not coincidentally, the Beijing authorities chose this month to unveil plans to increase military spending by an unprecedented 18 per cent this year, in contravention of international norms, to a total of 417.8bn yuan or €59bn," writes Watson.
He adds, "Despite claims that ‘China’s limited military capability is solely for the purpose of safeguarding independence’, its government has confirmed that Taiwan will pay a high price for supporting independence.
"The outcome of the election could thus depend markedly on how the Taiwanese people respond to China’s strong-arm tactics."
His fears are shared by UK Conservative deputy Edward McMillan-Scott, a vice president of parliament.
Speaking to theparliament.com, he criticised the US and EU for their continued support of the so-called One-China policy, and branded their opposition to this weekend’s referendum as "pathetic".
"The US and EU should stop wimping out on China, particularly with the Olympics on the horizon," he said.
"Rather than Taiwan being blocked from joining organisations like the UN and WHO, it should be the People's Republic of China which should be asked to leave the UN.
"Taiwan is an independent country, has an independent political system and a history of holding regular elections.
"This is in stark contrast to China, which is a terror state, committing genocide in Tibet and against religious groups in Darfur and its own country. To criticise Taiwan's right to hold a referendum is absolutely pathetic."
Both Watson and McMillan-Scott are among more than 100 MEPs who have signed a declaration supporting Taiwan’s right to membership of organisations like the UN and WHO.
Others include Austrian EPP-ED member Paul Rubig, Dutch ALDE MEP Jules Maaten, Sharon Bowles, Sarah Ludford and John Bowis, three British deputies, Polish veteran Bronislaw Geremek and German centre-right member Karl von Wogau.
A new poll published this week showed that 85 per cent of Taiwanese support petitioning the UN for membership.
As the Republic of China, Taiwan lost its seat in the UN in 1971, when it was replaced by People'e Republic of China.
Taiwan has tried unsuccessfully since 1993 to gain membership in the UN but the DPP government tried for the first time last year to apply for a seat in the world body under the name Taiwan.
As on previous occasions, however, the issue of Taiwan's membership application was excluded from the agenda of the 62nd session of the UN General Assembly because of China's obstruction.
The number of foreign observer groups covering the election will break the record for Taiwan, with more than 270 people expected to arrive.
Among the 50 European visitors, former French prime minister and EU commissioner Edith Cresson will lead the group, accompanied by MEPs and the former Swedish defence minister Mikael Odenberg.
There will be about 100 visitors from North America and more than 200 from Japan.
Meanwhile, Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council chair Chen Ming-tong says that China's 'Anti-Secession Law' has had a structural impact on cross-strait relations.
Chen was speaking on the third anniversary of the passage of the law which does not rule out "non-peaceful measures" to resolve the current dispute.