Taipei, Taiwan – A delegation from the European Parliament arrived in Taiwan to discuss the autonomous island’s experience in combating disinformation and foreign interference in its democracy, media, culture and education.

The Taiwanese foreign ministry on Wednesday welcomed the group of seven members, describing it as the “first official delegation sent by the European Parliament to Taiwan in history, which is of great importance.”

The visit by lawmakers comes as the European Union worries about China’s alleged attempts to influence European policy and sow disinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Taiwan, which Beijing considers a separatist province, also claims to be a regular victim of Chinese disinformation campaigns and the European Parliament recently hailed the island’s success in combating “interference in its democracy without restricting freedom of expression. and the media ”.

The delegation, led by French MP Raphael Glucksmann, said it will “discuss Taiwanese experiences in combating disinformation, attempts to interfere with Taiwanese democracy, media, culture and education, as well as Taiwan’s efforts to strengthen its cyber resilience “.

In a statement before his departure, Glucksmann added: “Taiwan’s experience in dealing with repeated and sophisticated attacks by mobilizing its entire society, and without restricting its democracy, is unique.

Strengthening EU-Taiwan ties

The European delegates are all drawn from the European Parliament’s Special Committee on Foreign Interference in All Democratic Processes and will meet Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, Prime Minister Su Tseng-chang and other senior leaders during their three day trip.

Their visit also comes amid heightened tensions between China and Taiwan, with Beijing increasing military pressure on the island by sending warplanes into its Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). Western countries, increasingly concerned about China’s rise to power, have expressed concern over Beijing’s pressure on Taiwan and are seeking to strengthen their relations with the island, although they have no formal diplomatic relations with the territory.

“The fight against disinformation is a topic that enjoys broad support within the EU among member states, intensified by China’s influence operations and the use of disinformation throughout the pandemic to undermine European democracy and unity, “said Zsuzsa Anna Ferenczy, doctoral research student at the European Union. Center in Taiwan at National Taiwan University in Taipei.

“In contrast, the building of closer ties with Taiwan is still underway within the EU, precisely because of the Chinese factor, as member states have not agreed on the type of relationship they wish to have with China in the future. So for the (European Parliament) to use disinformation as a means to engage Taiwan is wise and offers a sustainable way forward, ”she said.

China condemned the EU’s actions, saying the European Parliament has undermined “China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” by supporting closer engagement with Taiwan.

The EU is Taiwan’s largest source of foreign direct investment, but public engagement between the two countries has been more subdued until relatively recently.

Earlier this week, Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu returned from Europe where he visited Brussels, the administrative capital of the EU, as well as the Czech Republic and Slovakia, during another historic journey.

Taiwan recently received a group of French Senate lawmakers just days after China sent a record number of flights to the island’s ADIZ, an area of ​​the Taiwan Strait and mainland Asia that is followed by the Taiwanese army.

A delegation from emerging ally Lithuania is also expected later this year.

In their official engagement, Taiwan and its European allies in Central Europe and the Baltic Sea highlighted their common experiences of overthrowing authoritarianism, but more recently Taiwan has turned to social media platforms such as Instagram for support.

Taiwan’s Central News Agency recently launched the “Hello Lithuania” Instagram account to introduce the country to young readers, with articles explaining Lithuanian food, history and culture, and manga-like characters replacing them. “Typical Lithuanians”.

“All this EU-Taiwan activity is now the result of Taiwan’s efforts to be a meaningful partner for the EU, whether in value or in concrete cooperation. Taiwan is also a showcase for the EU to promote its values-driven policy in the Indo-Pacific area, ”said Marc Cheng, Executive Director of the EU Center in Taiwan.

“Minister Wu’s visit to Europe was initiated by Member States, not the EU, but it shows that Member States are also more willing and open-minded to explore the possibilities of cooperating with Taiwan on many questions.

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