時論廣場》吳釗燮歐洲行與臺灣牌(方恩格Ross Darrell Feingold)

外交部長吳釗燮。(資料照/外交部提供)

外交部長吳釗燮即將展開歐洲行程,這勢必會引起國內外媒體的廣泛關注。在此祝福吳部長接下來的行程一切順利,別再碰到如原本羅馬行程那樣突然無法與會的情況。他原定要到羅馬參加的「對華政策跨國議會聯盟」(IPAC Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China),但後來宣佈因故改爲以視訊方式參與,此會議可說是各國相聚,討論針對中國的火烤大會,或許是因爲義大利政府突然驚覺到,若讓吳部長參與此活動可能會引發很大的爭議,同時受到中國施壓,逼得義大利不得不表態。一直以來由於中華民國駐梵蒂岡教廷大使館位於在羅馬市區內,臺灣對於梵蒂岡相關之所有外交行程(如總統參訪教廷等活動)都需透過義大利官方協助安排,這當然也讓中國大陸多了不少責備義大利的理由。

臺灣媒體愛用的一個詞彙「外交突破」想必也會充斥各大報章,然而外國議員會見臺灣政府官員,無論是在臺灣或是臺灣政府官員出訪他國,都不是一件稀奇的事情,那麼到底如何才能達到名符其實的「外交突破」呢?筆者認爲若吳部長在此次出訪行程中,能公開會晤他國政府與他的職等級別相當的部長級官員(非議員,如外交部長或其他同職級的部長),才能達到外交上的對等溝通,這纔會是真正的外交突破。

外交部長親自出訪,而不是像以往那樣通過視訊與會,確實可以說是一個外交突破,然而我們也別忘了,以臺灣同職級的部長級官員而言,過去的部長們訪問歐洲、公開活動的先例也有很多。

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依吳部長這次公告的出訪行程看來,他將會在當地討論提出與歐洲國家的雙邊貿易和投資機會。然而吳部長的專長在於外交,而非貿易投資。而東歐、中歐小國作爲臺灣公司出口或投資目的地的潛力有限,我們可以期待的是,或許他可以成就一些國營事業或國有民營企業在當地開設新的項目企畫或者設立辦事處。我們必須擦亮眼睛,看清楚此行的政治目的遠大於商業目的。如果這次出訪真的是以經濟、貿易爲導向,應該由臺灣的經濟部相關首長出訪更爲合理。

中國大陸當然也會對此做出迴應、再度對臺灣施壓,如近來頻頻上演的軍事演習、貿易報復、禁止臺灣產品的進口,或對在中國的臺商公司加強監管,進而縮小臺灣的國際空間、說服中華民國僅存的邦交國轉而承認中華人民共和國等。對於中國大陸的這些舉動,臺灣政府應做足準備,研擬好措施來應對。

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另一個看點在於國民黨將會對吳釗燮的外交之旅做出什麼樣的反應。時值國民黨宣告要重新開設華府辦事處,這下外交版面又只能拱手讓給民進黨。更重要的是,各國議會「對華政策跨國議會聯盟」的成員普遍與臺灣政府的關係良好,因此國民黨想要提升在美的正面形象,又面臨着更大的挑戰。同一時間,吳部長致力於提升臺灣國際形象、尋求國際間對臺灣的支持,這也利於民進黨在2022年地方選舉與2024年的大選。

在吳釗燮這次的出訪行程或許會佔據各大版面,在歐洲當地的媒體是否有相對應的大篇幅報導,並且如何被報導也是值得關注,對當地政客而言,打出這張「臺灣牌」邀請吳部長,除了表達對臺灣的友好之外,在地政客的政治動機與對臺的外交政策也很值得研究。

即使歐洲議會日前通過了「歐臺政治合作報告」,歐盟與歐洲各國政府仍然堅定着他們的「一中政策」,也就是說,目前爲止臺灣在歐盟眼中仍然並非是一個主權獨立的國家。我們要做好心理準備,要歐盟的對臺政策能夠轉向,可能還需要一段時間。

(作者爲美國共和黨海外部亞太區前主席)

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全文:

Foreign Minister Joseph Wu’s upcoming trip to Europe will generate much domestic and global media coverage. That is assuming he makes the trip and the schedule doesn’t further change; already the earlier plan that Foreign Minister Wu will attend the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China meeting in Italy has changed and instead of attending in person he might have to attend via videoconference. This change might be due to the reluctance of the Italian government to allow him to attend a public event in Rome critical of China especially as Italy already faces enormous pressure from China for actions Italy must take to facilitate the Republic of China embassy to the Holy See including presidential visits to Vatican City for significant events.

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The true break through on this trip would be if Foreign Minister Wu publicly meets with government officials (rather than parliamentarians) who are the equivalent level of seniority such as the foreign or other minister. As of now it appears more likely Foreign Minister Wu will meet members of various countries parliaments. Foreign parliamentarians frequently meet with Taiwan government officials whether in Taipei or around the world thus this would not be a breakthrough.

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As usual some in Taiwan will call this a breakthrough simply because Taiwan’s foreign minister will visit Europe in person. However there are many precedents for Taiwan government ministers (or equivalents) to visit Europe and to hold public events even if it is a small breakthrough for the Foreign Minister to do so in person rather than by video.

Nominally some of the events will be about bilateral trade and investment opportunities. To the extent that the focus in the trade area one wonders why the foreign minister and not more relevant ministers such as from Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs are leading the Taiwan delegation. Minister Wu’s expertise is diplomacy rather than trade and investment. Thus we shouldn’t delude ourselves that the point of these events is political rather than business especially as small eastern and central European countries have limited potential as export or investment destinations for Taiwan companies. Be that as it may Taiwan’s state owned or controlled companies are likely to announce plans for offices or other projects in these countries which again is more for political than business purposes.

There will be a response from China which might include the usual mix of pressures China attempts to use against Taiwan. This includes military exercises trade retaliation such as banning the import from Taiwan of various products or regulatory action against Taiwan companies in China and shrinking Taiwan’s international space such as by persuading a remaining country with diplomatic relations to de-recognize the Republic of China and recognize the People’s Republic of China. Hopefully Taiwan’s government has planned sufficient counter measures to manage the after effect of whatever actions China takes.

One more thing to watch is the response from the Kuomintang. The timing of Foreign Minister Wu’s trip will reduce news coverage of the Kuomintang’s efforts to re-open a Washington DC office. More importantly the American congressmen who are members of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China have excellent relations with Foreign Minister Wu and the current Taiwan government which will only be enhanced by the upcoming events. Thus the Kuomintang faces an even greater challenge to give these American congressmen a message that will change their negative views about the Kuomintang.

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As for the global media coverage of Foreign Minister Wu’s trip to Europe it also important to keep in mind that such coverage is fleeting. The host organizations motivation to invite Foreign Minister Wu might be due to genuine friendship for Taiwan but there is also an element of playing a “Taiwan card” for domestic political reasons in their own countries. Foreign Minister Wu’s motivation is to raise Taiwan’s international profile and demonstrate foreign parliamentarian support for Taiwan but it will also be helpful to the Democratic Progressive Party especially with the imminent start of the 2022 local election and 2024 national election season. Ultimately though global media attention to Taiwan issues or Foreign Minister Wu’s visit to Europe although important to us in Taiwan will be one among many issues in the international news during the days he is in Europe.

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Perhaps the most important thing to watch is whether or not notwithstanding Foreign Minister Wu’s visit the European Union (or individual governments) emphasize that they have not changed their “One China” policy and their political relationship with Taiwan. Taiwan people should be prepared for the reality that changes to European Union policies might still be a long time from changing and the European Union will continue to emphasize that Taiwan is not in their view a sovereign country.