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。
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.