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'Merkelites' force EU to scuttle trade upgrade with Taiwan

German Chancellor Angela Merkel blamed for about turn in policy direction

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. (Reuters photo)

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. (Reuters photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The European Union (EU) has decided to postpone a plan to upgrade trade relations with Taiwan, with some blaming "Merkelites" within the governing body for sabotaging the plan.

The EU had reportedly been planning to announce a new framework for engaging with Taiwan on trade and economic matters Friday (Nov. 19). The new scheme would have involved more regular meetings, greater coordination in strategic areas such as semiconductors, and increased visits by high-level officials.

However, the South China Morning Post on Wednesday (Nov. 17) cited sources as saying enhanced trade ties with Taiwan were shelved at the "11th hour." One parliament source indicated the deal is "likely to be revisited at a later date."

The sudden change in tack appears to be a consequence of dissent within the EU as it seeks to repair damaged relations with Beijing while fostering stronger ties with Taipei. Brussels is now reportedly seeking to "re-engage" with Beijing and attempts are being made to arrange for a summit by the end of the year.

On one side, EU lawmakers and government officials in Eastern Europe such as the Czech Republic, Lithuania, and Slovakia are actively advocating for stronger trade ties with Taiwan. While on the other side, EU leaders appear to be more fixated on reviving the stalled Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI).

That same day, German Green Party MEP Reinhard Butikofer on Twitter cited rumors that President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen had personally intervened to scuttle the plan to upgrade trade relations with Taiwan. He lamented that even as German Chancellor Angela Merkel's tenure as "the PRC's best friend" comes to a close, the "Merkelites," loyal political allies of Merkel, will "remain a problem."

Updated : 2021-11-30 17:15 GMT+08:00