There’s a new diplomat in Rome. Before becoming head of Taiwan’s diplomatic representation in Italy, Vincent Tsai led the Department of Economic Affairs and International Cooperation of the Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Our sister website caught up with him for an exclusive interview.
- Below are a few (selected and contextualised) excerpts.
The state of Italy-Taiwan ties. Relations between the two countries “are very good and growing,” said Mr Tsai, noting that Italy is Taiwan’s third-largest trading partner in the European Union and industrial collaborations span from automotive, to IT, to construction. “Nevertheless, and this is more important, last year Taiwan was at the centre of the Italian parliamentary debate on more than one occasion,” he added.
- In early December, the Taiwan issue formally debuted in Italy-US relations.
Keyword: democracy. “The recent global political situation, especially due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has brought out the huge differences between democracies and autocracies, compacting the former around democratic values, freedom and the rule of law. Values that both Taiwan and Italy undoubtedly embrace. It is therefore normal for there to be rapprochement between countries that share the same world and societal visions.”
- As FM Tajani recently declared, “there must be no temptation to do what Russia has done in Ukraine elsewhere,” and Taiwan “must remain as it is.”
Zooming out. The same goes for the EU as a whole, added Mr Tsai, noting the European Parliament has passed 25 resolutions in favour of Taiwan in the past two years. With the most recent, on January 18, the body “condemned China’s continued military provocations against Taiwan and firmly rejected any unilateral change to the status quo in the Strait, recognising Taiwan as a partner that shares the values of democracy, freedom, human rights and the rule of law.”
- “All these are signs of a growing understanding on the part of European public opinion, and thus its representatives, of what distinguishes and represents Taiwan in the international arena.”
Rome’s position. Just ahead of the September elections that crowned her as Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni noted that Taiwan “[would] certainly be a key issue” for her soon-to-be government and called China’s threats “unacceptable.”
- She also called the 2019 Memorandum of Understanding – through which Italy became the first and only G7 nation to join the Belt and Road Initiative – a “big mistake.”
- The BRI (and its renewal, which is coming up) was the centrepiece of top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi’s visit to Rome.
- Read our extended take on what to expect on Italy-China ties.