Directory Free Newsletter Contact Log in

European-American Topics - Editorial - EU and China

Will the EU kowtow to China again?
By Dr, Stan Lai, Spokesperon for the Formosan Association for Public Affairs Europe
Posted June 11, 2007

     For an alliance that claims to value democracy and human rights, the European Union has a funny way of showing it. The EU's continued reluctance to fully support Taiwan's entry into the World Health Organization (WHO) and other international organizations betrays its failure to stand up for human rights in the international stage. At this year's World Health Assembly (WHA), the EU will again most likely refuse to support the right to universal health for 23 million Taiwanese citizens when Taiwan makes its annual bid for WHO admission.

    The EU's perplexing reluctance to support a democratic nation like Taiwan can be traced to its confused "one China" policy. In fact, we can ask whether the "one China" policy is anything different than allowing China to dictate European foreign policy in East Asia. However, at this year's WHA, Europe has an opportunity to show that its Asian policy is made in Brussels rather than Beijing by fully supporting Taiwan's entry to the WHO, in spite of the "one China" policy.

    If the EU were to support Taiwan's entry bid, China's reaction would be entirely predictable. A spokesperson for China would angrily denounce such an action, claim that it violated the "one China" policy, and emphatically state that Sino-European ties were being jeopardized. But while Chinese rhetoric would appear implacable, it is unlikely that any substantial repercussions would ever materialize.

    It also begs the question: why should the EU listen to China on this issue anyway? China has long since lost any credibility it has in the area of international health cooperation. The rapid spread of SARS on an international scale was essentially caused by China's refusal to be forthright and transparent about the gravity of the SARS situation within its borders. Even four years later, China is unwilling to fully share data about epidemics such as avian bird flu with the WHO. The disturbing reports of the Chinese state sanctioning the organ harvesting of Falun Dafa practitioners directly contradicts WHO standards.

    In any case, it is in Europe's interest to have Taiwan as a WHO member, fully integrated in the international health community. With bilateral trade totalling 35 billion Euros annually and the large number of travellers between Taiwan and Europe, the EU simply cannot afford to have Taiwan outside the scope of international prevention efforts against transmittable diseases. For its part, Taiwan has shown that it can make considerable contributions to international health, including assistance to AIDS prevention, and Tsunami victims.

    China denies that the lack of membership impedes Taiwan's access to WHO resources. But European policy makers should recognize that this claim is simply nonsense. During the 2003 SARS outbreak, WHO officials waited seven weeks before going to Taiwan and offering assistance. In 1999, the WHO refused to provide direct assistance to Taiwan as it suffered 3000 casualties from an earthquake registering 7.6 on the Richter scale.

    Despite its continued exclusion, Taiwan has shown a willingness to cooperate fully with WHO authorities. Even while WHO officials were snubbing Taiwan's appeals during the SARS outbreak, Taiwan was promptly sharing all data it had about the extent of the epidemic spread. Isn't it ironic that China, enjoying the full benefits of WHO membership, refuses to abide by WHO procedures, while Taiwan, repeatedly rejected by the WHO, willingly embraces WHO standards and goals?

    The WHA presents the EU with an excellent opportunity to stand up for human rights, democracy, and the well-being of all citizens. The EU can show that it genuinely cares about international health cooperation and disease prevention while stating that the health of 23 million Taiwanese citizens trump the bellicose objections of China. If the EU wants to be known as an alliance that fights for freedom and the fundamental rights of all peoples, then it must grasp this opportunity to fully support Taiwan's inclusion to the World Health Organization.


© 2006 All content property of European Weekly unless where otherwise accredited