A European Parliament delegation, headed by French MEP Raphaël Glucksmann, on its first official visit to Taiwan said that it’s “high time” for the European Union to step up cooperation with the self-ruled island, which is also claimed by China.
Thirteen 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,” she said.
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 through the island's air space in a prolonged campaign of military harassment since at least last year, when Taiwan began publicly releasing the data.
In March, Raphaël Glucksmann was put on a sanctions list by the Chinese government after Brusselsann announced a package of "restrictive measures against serious human rights abuses" naming people and institutions in China, among other countries.
The European Parliament mission follows a trip by a French Senate delegation, headed by former defence minister Alain Richard in October.