On the morning of April 12, President Tsai Ing-wen met via videoconference with members of the Swedish-Taiwanese Parliamentarian Association and the European Parliament. President Tsai thanked the lawmakers for their longstanding concern for Taiwan-related issues in the Swedish Riksdag and European Parliament and for their work to advance bilateral exchanges and cooperation, while expressing hope for even deeper collaboration between Taiwan, Sweden, and the European Union.
A translation of President Tsai's remarks follows:
I extend a very warm welcome to all of you. Swedish-Taiwanese Parliamentarian Association Chairperson Boriana Åberg and European Parliament Policy Advisor Elise Coolegem have visited Taiwan before. I am also delighted to see the other members of the delegation who are visiting for the first time.
You are all good friends of Taiwan. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your enduring concern for Taiwan-related issues in both the Swedish and European parliaments, and for proactively advancing bilateral exchanges and cooperation. The members of the Riksdag here with us today have promoted Taiwan-Sweden ties and supported Taiwan's international participation through frequent interpellations and motions. These actions have truly warmed the hearts of the Taiwanese people.
In recent years, we have also felt the strong support of the European Parliament through its numerous pro-Taiwan resolutions and reports. This was especially true of the EU-Taiwan Political Relations and Cooperation report, which passed with an overwhelming majority last October. This holds significant meaning for Taiwan-EU relations and future exchanges. Here, I want to express my sincere gratitude to Member of European Parliament (MEP) Charlie Weimers, who was the rapporteur of the report.
Taiwan and Sweden are like-minded partners and share the universal values of freedom and democracy. In the past few years, exchanges in various fields have made significant progress. We have increased cooperation on such issues as climate change, gender equality, women's economic empowerment, and countering disinformation. We also look forward to signing an air services agreement with Sweden. Launching direct flights will facilitate even closer cooperation and exchanges in trade and the private sector.
At this moment, in the face of the continuing expansion of authoritarianism, democratic partners around the globe must unite to defend their way of life. At the beginning of this year, I announced a plan to strengthen ties with Europe. By building upon the solid foundations already in place, we can promote even deeper exchanges with the EU and together create a resilient democratic alliance.
I once again welcome you to Taiwan and thank you for your support. Let us work together and continue to deepen cooperation and exchanges between Taiwan, Sweden, and the European Union. I wish you a fruitful and successful visit.
After the conclusion of President Tsai's remarks, Chairperson Åberg and MEP Weimers delivered their own speeches. A transcript of Chairperson Åberg's remarks follows:
Finally, we are here – after years of preparations, planning, and dreams, we are able to visit Taiwan. I would like to express my gratitude to every one of you, dear Taiwanese friends, for this special arrangement. We, who are representing the Swedish-Taiwanese Parliamentarian Association, feel great admiration for Taiwan – a country that is at the very forefront of democracy and freedom.
We are incredibly proud of the fact that Taiwan is ranked eighth on the global democracy list. We have immense respect for freedom, democracy, and human rights in Taiwan, which serve as a brilliant example for the billion people on the other side of the strait.
While Taiwan is a great inspiration, it is also a threat to the communist regime in China. The communist regime is afraid of everything which allows freedom to its citizens – freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and free media.
That is why China constantly threatens Taiwan with "reunification" and escalates their provocations. During the last weeks, the world has witnessed what a dictator's ambitions of a "reunification" lead to. The atrocities committed by Russia in Ukraine are a frightening example. Hence, it is our duty to stand with Taiwan and defend its freedom and its democratic values by all means.
It is imperative for the democratic powers of the world to unite in our support for Taiwan. Last Thursday, a majority in the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the Swedish Riksdag decided to urge for the continuation of improved relationships with Taiwan. The committee made an announcement that the Swedish presence should be strengthened through a "House of Sweden." This is a victory for those of us who have written motions regarding the establishment of a "House of Sweden."
Sweden has a lot to learn from Taiwan – among others, the way of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. We will increase our efforts for Taiwan's inclusion in WHA meetings. It's a shame that Taiwan hasn't been invited the last years. We are convinced that our visit will strengthen the bond between our two countries and show that we, the Swedish parliamentarians, are prepared to do everything in our power to defend the existence and sovereignty of Taiwan.
A transcript of MEP Weimers' remarks follows:
The European Union and Taiwan build its relationship on shared values –democracy, rule of law, human dignity. But we also face growing authoritarianism and neo-imperial aspirations, both in our part of the world as well as here. So it's also a relationship based on shared interests – to protect the rules-based world order in order for small democracies such as Sweden and Taiwan to continue to live and thrive. And I want to thank Taiwan for its strong stance, moral stance with Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression.
Not long ago, colleagues of mine from the European Parliament visited Taiwan in order to study your country's efforts to fight Chinese disinformation. It was a very inspirational visit. I know that much. And this topic was also part of the agenda yesterday with Minister [Audrey] Tang (唐鳳). And I must say I'm very impressed in the way that Taiwan has been able to fight Chinese disinformation while at the same time safeguarding freedom of speech. Here, we as Europeans have lessons to learn.
Trade, of course, has also been a big part of our visits so far. And we met with representatives of Swedish companies yesterday, and I'm very happy to convey to you their praise of the business climate in Taiwan. But good entrepreneurs as they are, they asked us to do even more. And one of the things they mentioned was mutual recognition. And as rapporteur for Taiwan of the European Parliament, I pushed, as you are well aware, for a bilateral investment agreement. And I see that here, we could have that as a part of that discussion in the future. And I do think that the report that was adopted with a very large majority last year will pave the way for continued efforts to deepen and intensify our alliance, as the president rightly called it.
To name two concrete examples of what that could mean in practice: language is something that I think has a very bright future for cooperation. Just before I left, I learned about the language institute being opened in Brussels. And this is really great news. I think the EU and its member states should work actively with Taiwan, to go through Taiwan in order to spread knowledge of Mandarin Chinese in our part of the world, so that we can close other venues that aren't supposed to be in Europe. And I think also supply chain resilience is something where we both face a big challenge and we have a lot to learn from each other.
And personally, I think that we should look at NATO's Article Five in the trade setting as a protection for small states when they dare to speak their mind and thus not pleasing the big power over here. What Lithuania did deserves all praise; it was very bold. And in order to make sure that more states follow in their footsteps, we need something like a NATO for trade. So I will advocate for that in the European Parliament. And I will continue to advocate for my own personal conviction, which is that the European Union-Taiwan friendship should have no end limits, no forbidden areas, and no upper bounds.
Among those attending the meeting were Riksdag Deputy Speaker Kerstin Lundgren and Riksdag Members Björn Söder, Lars Adaktusson, Markus Wiechel, Ann-Sofie Alm, Lars Püss, and Alexander Christiansson. The delegation led by Chairperson Åberg and MEP Weimers was accompanied to the Presidential Office by Swedish Trade and Invest Council in Taiwan Representative Bengt G. Carlsson, and met with President Tsai via videoconference.