TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — The head of a European Parliament delegation on its first official visit to Taiwan said Thursday that it’s “high time” for the European Union to step up cooperation with the self-ruled island, which is also claimed by China.
Seven lawmakers from the Parliament’s committee on foreign interference in democratic processes met with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on the second day of their three-day visit.
“We came here with a very simple, very clear message. You are not alone,” said Raphael Glucksmann, the French chair of the committee. “Europe is standing with you, by you, in the defense of freedom and the defense of rule of law and human dignity.”
“It is high time for the European Union to step up its cooperation with Taiwan,” he said.
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Tsai kept her welcome remarks short, calling the visit “highly significant” and saying Taiwan was willing to share its experience in combating disinformation and that it wants to build a “democratic alliance” against disinformation.
Last month, the European Parliament passed a resolution calling for the body to “intensify EU-Taiwan political relations.” The non-binding resolution also called for changing the name of the representative office in Taiwan to the European Union Office in Taiwan, and to establish a bilateral investment agreement with the island.
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spoke out against the visit Thursday, saying it “urges the European side to correct its mistakes and not to send any wrong signals to the separatist forces of Taiwan independence, so as to avoid serious impact on China-EU relations.”
Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a daily briefing that “the fact that Taiwan is part of China cannot be changed.”
The visit comes amid growing support among Western countries for the democratic island, which China claims as part of its territory to be annexed by force if necessary, and rising negative perceptions toward Beijing.
China has sent an increasing number of fighter jets toward the island in a prolonged campaign of military harassment since at least last year, when Taiwan began publicly releasing the data.
Associated Press video producer Liu Zheng contributed to this report.
This story was first published on November 4, 2021. It was updated on November 6, 2021 to correct the number of parliamentarians in the delegation. There were seven, not 13. The story also incorrectly used the pronoun “she” in referring to Raphael Glucksmann, the head of the delegation. Glucksmann is male.
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