The Baltic-Taiwan relationship has been stronger than ever

  • 2023-09-07
  • Andrew H.C. Lee, Representative Taipei Mission in the Republic of Latvia

Increasing numbers of Latvian and Estonian high officials visited and voiced their support for Taiwan 

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, more and more democratic countries have voiced their support for Ukraine and shown their determination to stand together with the free allies, and Baltic States are no exception. 

Former Latvian Ambassador to France Imants Lień£is visited Taiwan this May. After returning from his trip, in his article appeared on LSM, while portraying Taiwan’s independent sovereignty in the international community, he indicated the critical role Taiwan plays for global economy and democracy. He also urged the Latvian government to develop ties with Taiwan, and encouraged bilateral visits among high officials to further promote Taiwan-Latvia relation. 

The joint visit to Taiwan in August made by the three heads of Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) of the Baltic States is the first official delegation of this kind in history, and a significant milestone, which is of great importance, for Taiwan’s relationship with both Latvia and Estonia. In an interview with Taiwan’s leading media outlets during his visit, Chair Marko Mihkelson of Estonian Riigikogu FAC, welcomed the idea that Taiwan and Estonia open an office in each other’s capital to boost bilateral relation. He continued to contribute an article on August 22, calling for more attention to Taiwan from the international community. He encouraged the Estonian government to further develop close relations with Taiwan by allowing it to establish a trade representative office in Tallinn. 

August 2023 marks another milestone for Baltic-Taiwan Relationship

In August 2023, four high-ranking official delegations from the Baltic States made their way to Taiwan. The delegations included three Chairs of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Baltic States, former Prime Minister of Estonia Andrus Ansip MEP, Vice-Chair of the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs Urmas Paet, and Estonian think tanks ICDS Director Indrek Kannik, and its Latvian counterpart LIIA Director Karlis Bukovskis. This was the first time ever for high profile political leaders and leading scholars from the Baltic States to visit Taiwan within such a short period of time, fully demonstrating the friendship between Taiwan and the Baltic States, and timely injecting new vigor into the existing cordial relations.

Chairs of the Foreign Affairs Committee visited Taiwan for the first time

The three Chairs of the Baltic States parliament FAC visited Taiwan against the backdrop of Russia’s invasion in Ukraine. During their stay, they met with President Tsai Ing-wen and other high officials to exchange views on the global impacts and geopolitical security challenges the war has brought to the region and the Taiwan Strait. They unanimously agreed on further cooperation between democratic countries to protect the rules-based world order. Regarding how to maintain regional stability and strengthen ties with Taiwan, Chair Mihkelson emphasized the main aim of his trip is to learn about the current situation in and around Taiwan, and look for opportunities to enhance bilateral ties. He also said that any change to the status quo in the Taiwan Strait by using military force would be unacceptable and would have a global negative impact, and Estonia should consider sending its trade representative to Taipei to promote people-to-people ties and strengthen commercial and economic links with Taiwan. Chair Mihkelson unequivocally indicated that no democracy should be left alone, and small democracies must cooperate closely and expressed hope that Taiwan and the Baltic States can deepen their cooperation in national defense and cybersecurity, in the face of authoritarian expansion.

Estonian high officials publicly urged for closer cooperation with Taiwan 

Former Estonian President Toomas Hendrik has demonstrated his full support to like-minded country Taiwan by visiting the country twice so far. In a meeting with President Tsai Ing-wen in 2022, he publicly praised Taiwan for upholding universal values such as freedom and democracy, and looked forward to forming a valued-based digital alliance with Taiwan regardless of geographic distance. Likewise, during a visit to Taiwan this August, former Prime Minister of Estonia Andrus Ansip also publicly addressed the audience at an international forum in Taipei, that closer cooperation between Estonia and Taiwan is essential, and he regretted not making an effort to build good ties with Taiwan in his previous position. Vice-Chair of the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs Urmas Paet suggested Estonia looking to the free society of Taiwan in an interview on August 8 while mentioning Taiwan is the EU's 12th largest trade partner. 

Their visit came amid heightened tensions between Taiwan and China, with Beijing ratcheting up military pressure on Taiwan by sending warplanes into its Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). European countries, who are increasingly concerned over China’s assertiveness and expansion, have taken a series of concrete steps to seek stronger relations with Taiwan.

It’s time to restart Baltic-Taiwan cooperation in all fields 

Taiwan is a sovereign and independent country, and also serve as the beacon for freedom in Asia. In 2023, close to 30 delegations from European parliament and individual member states have visited Taiwan, providing a great chance for bolstering bilateral ties. In their official engagement, Taiwan and its European allies in Central Europe and the Baltic region also emphasized their common experience with overthrowing authoritarianism in their respective history and their part of the world. 

As a like-minded partner of the Baltic States and the European Union, Taiwan supports ensuring the security of supply chains and the global order of freedom and democracy. Taiwan will continue to strengthen substantive and mutually beneficial partnerships with the European Union and its member nations to further unite the global democratic community and safeguard shared core values and global value chains. We also hope that the Latvian and Estonian governments lay great emphasis on the role Taiwan plays in the international strategic security, geopolitics as well as its value in the international supply chains and consider favorably developing stronger ties with Taiwan in the future.

Based on the statistics, from 2016 to August 2023, there were 131 visits made to Taiwan by political representatives of the EU and delegation of EU member states. And in recent years, a handful of Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries have been working hard to raise the Taiwan question higher on their government agenda, and pushed their respective ties with Taiwan forward in different areas. We would like to urge the countries in the region to better understand that greater development and cooperation in the fields of economic, trade, technology, education and culture accompanied by the intensification of high-level officials contacts and mutual visits are the key and engine to further and deepen mutual understanding and substantial relations with Taiwan.