By Martin Banks - 12th March 2008
A leading international think tank says Taiwan has a “strong case” in its efforts to join the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Dick Gupwell, secretary general of the European Institute for Asian Studies (EIAS) said,"Taiwan's continued exclusion from the WHO is detrimental to the health of its 23 million population."
Gupwell’s comments come as Taiwan’s president Chen Shui-bian led international tributes to the European parliament as the institution celebrates its 50th anniversary.
Speaking in Brussels on Tuesday, Brussels-based Gupwell said he hoped that “quiet, patient negotiation” could lead to the country being allowed to take part in the activities of WHO under the name “Taiwan.”
The EIAS is an independent think tank, established in 1989, which deals with EU policy towards Asia.
Taiwan’s efforts to join the WHO and other international organisations are supported by a cross-party group of MEPs, including ALDE group leader Graham Watson and German EPP-ED member Georg Jarzembowski, who chairs parliament's Taiwan Friendship Group.
Taiwan will again press for membership at the World Health Assembly (WHA), the annual meeting of the WHO, in Geneva in May.
In his speech, Chen appealed to the EU for its support of Taiwan in the international community.
Highlighting the WHO secretariat’s refusal to accept Taiwan’s membership request and the fact that the UN in Geneva has once again refused to issue press credentials to Taiwanese journalists to cover the WHA, Chen urged the EU to “extend more assistance to and support for Taiwan in international affairs.”
Chen was speaking at a Europe Day dinner hosted by the European Chamber of Commerce to celebrate the EU’s anniversary.
Europe Day, May 9, is the anniversary of the Schuman Declaration in which former French foreign minister Robert Schuman proposed a new form of political arrangement for Europe.
Six countries decided in 1957 with the Treaty of Rome to build a European Economic Community, which is now the EU.
Chen described European integration as “the grandest project in mankind’s contemporary history” and in his speech lauded the EU’s pursuit of four major objectives: peace, security, solidarity and progress.
"We deeply appreciate the EU's solid support for Taiwan's accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO). With the WHA soon to convene, it is my earnest hope that EU delegates will also speak up for Taiwan at the assembly and join hands with us to safeguard the collective health rights of the 23 million people of Taiwan."
Citing the Freedom of the Press 2007 survey by U.S-based Freedom House, in which Taiwan ranked No 33 among the 195 countries surveyed and counted as Asia's most media-friendly country, Chen said it is ironic that Asia's freest press environment is denied the freedome to cover the WHA.
Meanwhile, Parliament’s Former Members Association (FMA), including former UK MEP Richard Balfe, will send a delegation to Taiwan to observe the country’s presidential elections on 22 March.