The European Union official concerned about Taiwan’s United Nations bid


BRUSSELS — EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana voiced concern Thursday at Taiwan’s plans to hold a referendum on applying for United Nations membership.

Taiwan’s President Chen Shui-bian on Wednesday launched an 11-day torch relay to promote the planned referendum on U.N. membership — a move sure to spark outrage in China.

The independence-minded Chen wants the vote to be held alongside presidential elections in March next year despite warnings from ally Washington and arch-rival Beijing, which considers Taiwan to be part of its territory.

The EU foreign policy head’s comments were measured but the message was clear.

“We have concerns about the current policy of Taiwan’s authorities to pursue a referendum on the question of U.N. membership in the name of Taiwan,” he said.

“This concern flows from the EU’s conviction that both sides of the Strait should refrain from statements or actions which might raise tension across the Strait and which might be perceived as a unilateral change in the status quo,” Solana added in a statement.

The Taiwanese proposal of a referendum could jeopardise the international ties it already enjoys, Solana added, albeit in diplospeak.

“The proposed referendum risks making it harder for Taiwan to enjoy the pragmatic participation — which we support — in the activities of specialized multilateral fora,” he said.

The European Union’a fundamental position is that the “Taiwan question” must be solved peacefully “through cross-Strait negotiations between all concerned parties.”

Taiwan, under its official name the Republic of China, lost its U.N. seat to China in 1971.

Its efforts to rejoin using its official name have been repeatedly blocked by Beijing, a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council.