China

Taiwan hopes for ‘robust and close relations’ with Baltic states, Tsai Ing-wen tells visiting lawmakers


The Baltic lawmakers, including six from Lithuania, arrived in Taiwan on Sunday for the eight-day visit. The delegation is being led by Matas Maldeikis, head of the Lithuanian parliament’s Taiwan Friendship Group, and they will attend a legislative forum in Taipei on Thursday and Friday.

President Tsai Ing-wen greets the group of lawmakers from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Photo: Reuters

President Tsai Ing-wen greets the group of lawmakers from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Photo: Reuters

Taiwan does not have diplomatic relations with Europe, except for the Vatican. Beijing – which sees Taiwan as part of its territory, to be brought under its control by force if necessary – has for years warned European and other nations against having official contacts with the self-ruled island.

Lithuania, backed by the US, signed a deal with Taipei in July for it to open an office in the Baltic nation using the name Taiwan – a move that infuriated Beijing. Since then, more European countries, including Germany and the Netherlands, have voiced support for Taipei’s participation in global organisations, or upgraded their economic ties with the island.

Beijing downgraded ties with Lithuania after the de facto embassy opened and earlier recalled its ambassador. It also demanded that Lithuania withdraw its ambassador to China. Beijing has also been angered by Lithuania’s decision to open a representative office in Taiwan early next year.

This week’s visit by lawmakers from all three Baltic states in defiance of repeated warnings from Beijing is likely to worsen tensions. On Sunday, the People’s Liberation Army sent 27 warplanes – including eight J-16 fighter jets – into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone. These sorties have become an almost daily occurrence as part of a pressure campaign to try to stop Taiwan from expanding its international space.

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“Taiwan and the Baltic nations share similar experiences of breaking free of authoritarian rule and fighting for freedom,” Tsai told her guests on Monday.

She said as the world faced challenges caused by expanding authoritarianism and threats from disinformation, Taiwan was “more than willing to share its experience of combating disinformation with its European friends”.

“We must safeguard our shared values to ensure a free and democratic way of life,” she said, adding that her administration hoped to work with the Baltic states for “robust and close relations”.

Lithuanian lawmaker Matas Maldeikis, who is leading the group, presents a gift to Tsai Ing-wen. Photo: EPA-EFE

Lithuanian lawmaker Matas Maldeikis, who is leading the group, presents a gift to Tsai Ing-wen. Photo: EPA-EFE

In response, Maldeikis said the lawmakers were in Taiwan to “express our solidarity for you”. He said the Lithuanian government’s policy on Taiwan had wide support in his country and that the two sides should further strengthen ties.

“We hope the soon-to-be-opened Lithuanian trade office in Taiwan will help to expand the partnership between Taiwan and Lithuania and contribute to closer relations between Taiwan and the whole European Union bloc,” he said.

Other Baltic lawmakers in the delegation include Janis Vucans and Juri Jaanson, members of parliament and chairs of Taiwan friendship groups in Latvia and Estonia, respectively.

The group will join lawmakers from Belize and Mexico for the two-day legislative forum, Taiwan’s foreign ministry said. Experts, academics and lawmakers from other countries – including Argentina, Australia, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Japan, Sri Lanka, the UK and the US – will also take part, either in person or online.

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