Some 10 parliamentarians from Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia will visit Taipei for a government-led forum in early December while also meeting with Taiwan’s top government officials, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said in a statement Wednesday.
The planned visit comes at a time when Taiwan is enhancing exchanges with the European Union and warming up ties with the bloc’s member states, in particular Lithuania.
Last week, Taiwan inaugurated its representative office in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, as part of a reciprocal deal the two nations reached in August, which will also see Lithuania open a representative office in Taipei early next year.
The Baltic delegation will be led by Matas Maldeikis, a member of Lithuania’s parliament and an outspoken critic of what he described as the “Chinese Communist Party’s espionage, interference in Europe’s political affairs, and coercive behavior,” in a recent article in the Atlantic magazine.
Following the opening of the Taiwanese representative office, Beijing took punitive action against Lithuania by downgrading diplomatic ties to the level of charge d’affaires.
Maldeikis will be joined by Jānis Vucāns, chairman of the Latvian parliament’s Group for the Support of Taiwan, and Estonian lawmaker Jüri Jaanson, chairman of the Estonia-Taiwan parliamentary group, with eight other Baltic parliamentarians also expected to make the trip.
Support from lawmakers for Taiwan’s attempts to counter Chinese aggression has gained traction in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, in part because of the Baltic states’ own historic struggle gaining independence from the former Soviet Union.
This is something Maldeikis has spelled out explicitly, telling the Atlantic: “The human-rights situation in China and growing control under Xi Jinping is very negatively seen by many in our society, which still remembers similar persecutions under Soviet rule in our own country,” as well as tweeting that “Lithuania doesn’t get down on her knees for communists.”
MOFA spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安) said the delegation would participate in the 2021 Open Parliament Forum that will discuss the promotion of democracy and open parliaments.
During their stay in Taiwan, they will also meet with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), Legislative speaker You Si-kun (游錫堃) and attend a dinner hosted by Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), she added.
However, Ou did not specify when these lawmakers would touch down in Taiwan nor how many days they would spend in the country, saying an announcement would be made in due course.
Meanwhile, a legislative official familiar with the matter told CNA Wednesday that in addition to the Baltic parliamentarians, two other lawmakers from different countries would also join the forum in person, with one of them being Valerie Woods, Belize’s newly elected speaker for the House of Representatives.
Apart from those who will join the event in person, some 21 lawmakers from 15 countries will join the two-day talks virtually, the official said.
According to the official, the forum is part of a cooperation deal that the Legislature inked with the Washington-headquartered National Democratic Institute (NDI) in March.
With the theme of “Open Parliament in a post-COVID context: global examples of resilience and planning for 2022 and beyond,” the forum will be co-hosted by MOFA, the Legislative Yuan, and the NDI, which opened its Taipei office earlier this year.
According to lawmaker Wang Ting-yu (王定宇) of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, those who will take part in the forum virtually include Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen, speaker for the Lithuanian parliament.
He told CNA Wednesday that Čmilytė-Nielsen had hoped to pay a visit to Taiwan but would not due to the ongoing session of her parliament.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel