Out­go­ing Europe of­fi­cial im­pressed by Tai­wan’s democ­racy

The China Post - - LOCAL -

The out­go­ing head of the Euro­pean Eco­nomic and Trade Of­fice in Tai­wan (EETO), Fred­eric La­planche, has a 20-year love af­fair with Tai­wan that he said will leave him hooked to the coun­try even though he is step­ping down from his cur­rent post soon.

In an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with CNA prior to his de­par­ture at the end of this month, La­planche said that when he first came to Tai­wan in 1995 as a stu­dent, his pur­pose was to study Tai­wan’s de­moc­ra­ti­za­tion.

He said he still vividly re­mem­bers Taipei when he ar­rived in July of that year — a hot and hu­mid city bustling with the con­struc­tion of the rapid transit sys­tem.

The change since then has been dra­matic, he said, not­ing that Taipei now has a com­fort­able liv­ing en­vi­ron­ment with its many cof­fee shops and the rise in peo­ple’s liv­ing stan­dards.

Peo­ple here now also care very much about the arts and en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues, La­planche said.

From the per­spec­tives of a demo­cratic so­ci­ety and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, “I would say the Euro­pean Union and Tai­wan are very close,” he said.

He has been most im­pressed by the rapid de­vel­op­ment of Tai­wan’s democ­racy, and he ad­mires Tai- wan’s demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions that en­sure ef­fi­cient elec­tions and pro­tect free­dom of speech and hu­man rights.

Where Tai­wan still falls short, La­planche be­lieves, is on the death penalty, an is­sue where he sees plenty of room for im­prove­ment in Tai­wan, which has stuck to cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment be­cause of wide pop­u­lar sup­port.

La­planche noted another draw­back in Tai­wan that also ex­ists in Europe — the ten­dency of peo­ple to ex­press dis­sat­is­fac­tion with a gov­ern­ment and dis­trust it six months af­ter elect­ing new lead­er­ship, lead­ing to a gap be­tween the rulers and the ruled.

Tai­wanese and Euro­pean Union mem­ber coun­tries and their peo­ple are “in the same sit­u­a­tion,” he said.

La­planche, who is flu­ent in English, French and Man­darin, told CNA that one of the fac­tors that brought him to Tai­wan 20 years ago was his friend­ship with a Tai­wanese girl, who later be­came his life part­ner.

He served as EETO Taipei’s deputy di­rec­tor from 2004 to 2008, and he has headed the Euro­pean Eco­nomic and Trade Of­fice since 2011, dur­ing which time he has pro­moted eco­nomic, trade and per­son­nel ex­changes be­tween the EU and Tai­wan.

La­planche has been par­tic­u­larly ac­tive in pro­mot­ing NGO ex­changes be­tween the EU and his host coun­try, cov­er­ing such ar­eas as con­sumer rights, en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion and LGBT rights.

He said the EU will co­op­er­ate with Tai­wan in Oc­to­ber in the LGBT area be­cause Tai­wan’s friendly at­ti­tude to­ward ho­mo­sex­ual groups can serve as an ex­am­ple in pro­tect­ing LGBT rights across Asia.

Though he is not happy to be leav­ing Tai­wan, he stressed that he was not leav­ing for good.

“I will come back, just not for work.”

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