A delegation from the European Union (EU) is reportedly planning a visit to Taiwan in November. The European Parliament’s Special Committee on Foreign Interference in all Democratic Processes in the EU (INGE) will visit Taiwan and will aim to share experiences on countering internet interference and false information from China.
On Oct. 6, the European Parliament called on member states to boost spending on staff dedicated to cyber defense. A report adopted by the Parliament highlighted that the EU was engaged in “hybrid conflicts” with adversaries like China. The Parliament considered such conflicts as destabilizing for democracies.
“The report also called on EU member states to step up cooperation with Taiwan, Australia, India, Japan, South Korea, and the U.S., as well as other like-minded democracies in the Indo-Pacific region, and to share their knowledge and experiences to respond to cyberthreats together,” the Taipei Times reported.
The proposed plan to send a committee to Taiwan follows a virtual meeting held between top diplomats from China and the EU on Sept. 28, the first such meeting in more than a year. The EU had said that it intends to boost coordination with Taiwan while maintaining its “one China” policy and not recognizing the statehood of the island.
A statement issued by Beijing after the meeting claims that the EU side promised “not to conduct official exchanges” with Taiwan. Foreign Minister Wang Yi stated that the Taiwan issue forms the “political foundations” on which China has built relations with the EU and its member states. Beijing sees Taiwan as part of its territory even though it has never governed the region. “A weak foundation makes for shaky relations,” Wang added.
The EU has been increasingly courting Taiwan as of late, seeking to attract the island’s chip manufacturers to invest in the bloc. Taiwan dominates the outsourcing of semiconductor manufacturing, with its contract manufacturers making up almost 60 percent of global revenues in 2020. EU nations like Germany have reached out to Taiwan to help alleviate a supply crunch in chips triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“With the European Chips Act, Europe will step up its efforts to increase production, but we also want to cooperate with our like-minded partners including Taiwan… Not only because Taiwan excels in the production of semiconductors, but also because technology is ultimately a question of security. We want the EU’s digital agenda to be shaped together with our like-minded partners and according to our common values,” Sabine Weyand, director-general of the European Commission’s trade section, said in a statement on Oct. 14.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has welcomed partnering with the EU and is pushing to sign a bilateral investment agreement. Calling the EU a “natural” partner for Taiwan, Tsai indicated that signing the agreement can be the start of a “more concrete partnership for democracies like us.”
The EU was Taiwan’s largest foreign investor in 2020, accounting for 38.8 percent of the total foreign investment received by the island. The EU is also Taiwan’s fifth-largest trading partner.
Some experts think the EU is waiting to see how its relationship with Beijing plays out before taking a firm decision regarding Taiwan. “The EU Commission will not engage in any negotiations on Taiwan until the situation with the CAI (EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment) with China is more clear… I think the EU parliament, or at least parts of it, might be keen, but the commission needs to be fully engaged in such negotiations,” Alicia Garcia-Herrero, Asia-Pacific chief economist at Natixis, told Nikkei Asia.
CAI was concluded in December last year. In May, the European Parliament had put the deal in a limbo, insisting that it cannot ratify the agreement unless China lifts certain sanctions.