The European Union (EU) is changing drastically. There was a time when the Brussels-based organisation used to sideline Taiwan and give preference to its economic ties with China instead. However, with China’s best friend Angela Merkel no longer in power, a stark change is noticeable. So, the EU is now promoting better ties with Taiwan and ignoring the threat of disturbing relations with the Chinese.
How Angela Merkel had converted EU into a pro-China power:
Angela Merkel had her own China agenda during her 16-year stint as the German Chancellor. After the 2008 global financial crisis, Merkel decided to alleviate the German economy by encouraging closer economic engagement with Beijing. The German industry and cat exporters found an opportunity for exponential growth in the growing Chinese market. This came to be known as wandel durch handel (change through trade) in German policy.
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Merkel had a clear approach- follow better economic relations with China and ignore issues like human rights violations or Taiwan’s independent status. German automobile companies like Volkswagen and manufacturing giants like Siemens benefitted from Merkel’s policies and increased their footprint in the Chinese market.
How Merkel compelled EU to ignore Taiwan:
It was not a problem as long as Merkel wanted to boost Berlin’s ties with Beijing. However, the German Chancellor also sought to improve relations between the EU and China and ease out any bilateral trade tensions.
Merkel, therefore, forced the intergovernmental organisation to deepen its ties with China. In fact, the EU was even forced to silence criticism against China when Merkel functioned as the Brussels-based body’s de facto leader.
On the issue of Taiwan, Germany almost echoed the ‘One China policy’ last year, when it was found that the German Foreign Ministry website had replaced Taiwan’s official flag with a white flag.
A German Foreign Ministry spokesperson had then said, “You know Taiwan’s special status, you know our position, our ‘one China policy,’ we have no diplomatic relations with Taiwan, and Taiwan is not a country we recognize, so this is not surprising. When we introduce regions of the world, we distinguish them from countries with diplomatic ties.”
How EU is warming up to Taiwan after Merkel’s exit:
Much to China’s dismay, Merkel’s exit has irreversibly changed the EU’s character. Germany has a new Chancellor in the form of Olaf Scholz, and a new coalition government has taken charge of Germany with the single mandate of making China’s life miserable.
In a ‘Coalition Agreement’ signed by the new German government, it has been laid out that China will be treated as a “systemic rival”. This is for the first time that Germany has referred to the red rogue nation as a systemic rival. The agreement also commits to working out a “comprehensive China strategy” as part of the joint EU-China policy, “to be able to realize our values and interests in the systemic rivalry with China.”
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The effect of Merkel’s exit and installation of an anti-China regime is already reverberating across the EU. In fact, even before Merkel’s exit, the European Parliament adopted an unprecedented report on EU-Taiwan relations and cooperation in October.
In early November, the Parliament sent its first-ever delegation to the island nation of Taiwan. The delegation even met with senior Taiwanese government officials and civil society organisations, in a bid to learn from Taiwan’s experiences in combating foreign interference.
In fact, the EU and Taiwan have already found common ground against China in the field of cybersecurity and resilience, which has further expanded the scope for diplomatic engagement between the two sides.
Meanwhile, even small EU countries like the Czech Republic and Lithuania are openly encouraging better relationships with Taiwan. Lithuania had gone as far as deciding to have a “Taiwanese Representative Office” in its capital city – Vilnius. Despite China’s attempts to punish Lithuania for encouraging closer ties with Taiwan, the EU has supported the Baltic nation.
Recently, the EU declared that it is ready to “stand up against all types of political pressure and coercive measures” against any of its members. The EU has thus left China shocked by suddenly expanding its support for the island nation of Taiwan. Merkel’s exit might have therefore paved the way for Taiwan’s recognition in the world at large.
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