Taiwan: Urges EU to Relax Visa Restrictions
Taiwanese officials want the EU to waive visa restrictions in order to facilitate travel to Europe for its 24 million-strong population. The appeal comes amidst the continuing controversy over the EU-US visa waiver programme. American anti-terror chiefs are threatening to withdraw the visa waiver scheme for British and European tourists unless the EU signs an agreement on the new measures before Christmas .
As a goodwill gesture, Taiwan announced on Thursday [2 October 2008] that, as from 1 October, it will waive visa requirements to citizens from Poland and Slovakia for a maximum stay of 30 days.
Anne Hung, director general of the department of European affairs in Taiwan’s foreign affairs ministry, said that from November  this visa waiver programme will be extended to 20 of the EU’s 27 member states.
The ministry hopes the EU will eventually make a reciprocal offer to Taiwan to facilitate travel to Europe by Taiwan citizens, she said.
“We would like to show our goodwill first by allowing passport holders from the EU to travel to our country without visas.
“Meanwhile, it is our goal to have our citizens enjoy similar visa exemption when they travel to Europe and we are working very hard to achieve this.”
Noting that the gross domestic product per capita of Poland and Slovakia is €8,000 and €10,000 respectively, she said the decision was made with the aim of boosting Taiwan’s economy and tourism.
Meanwhile, Taiwan has publicly expressed gratitude to the EU and those countries, such as the US and Japan which, it says, supported its recent application for “meaningful participation” in specialised agencies of the UN. Last month’s 63rd general assembly of the UN rejected the bid but Taiwan says the level of support was greater than in previous years.
According to a government spokesman, “This level of support shows that Taiwan’s bid this year  gained approval in the international community and Taiwan will continue to strive for greater international participation in the future.”