Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries are key drivers of developments in EU-Taiwan relations.
“Freedom-loving people should look out for each other!” tweeted Lithuania’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Gabrielius Landsbergis on June 22nd, 2021, as his country approved donations of COVID-19 vaccines for Taiwan. Thanks to their vaccine donations, Lithuania, together with Czechia, Poland, and Slovakia, gained substantial political goodwill among Taiwanese population and elites.
Over the past three years, cooperation between Taiwan and these four Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries, dubbed the “Dumpling Alliance” by the Taiwan Digital Diplomacy Association, gained recognition both within and outside Taiwan as a European vanguard that has increasingly frequent interactions with Taiwan. During a recent phone conversation between Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and Peter Pavel, the Czech president-elect, Pavel expressed hope for an in-person meeting with Tsai. This serves as another example of the newly-found enthusiasm for Taiwan within the CEE region, especially among its pro-Western elites.
According to the data collected by the CEIAS EU-Taiwan Tracker, the EU recorded a significant increase in its Taiwan-related activity between 2019 and 2022. In 2019, only 23 interactions (instances of engagement across governmental, parliamentary, military, cyber security, economic, cultural, mutual visits, human rights, and aid domains) were recorded across the entire EU. In 2022, despite recovering from a pandemic, the number increased more than seven-fold, with 167 recorded interactions. CEE countries were major contributors to this increase, responsible for almost 60% of all interactions in 2022. This has been mostly thanks to the activities of Lithuania, Slovakia, Czechia, and Poland, with the former two having more yearly engagements with Taiwan than major member states, such as France or Germany.
To improve our understanding of what motivates different countries to cooperate with Taiwan, and what are the factors in ensuring a sustainable, long-term collaboration, discussion of Taiwan-CEE relations must move beyond the simplification of the “Dumpling Alliance”. A broader assessment that takes a comparative view of different CEE countries and their relations with Taiwan is required. This paper is an attempt to do justice to such an endeavor, as it presents findings on the evolution of relations between Taiwan and 12 CEE countries which are all simultaneously members of the EU.
Each country-level chapter provides an overview of the key Taiwan-related developments across five domains. Discussion of political determinants forms the backbone of each chapter, upon which we analyze the developments in political, economic, and grassroots relations. We also include observations on how the different countries’ approaches to Taiwan fit within their approaches to China.