In a recent radio interview in his country, the president of Lithuania said that he thought the name of Taiwan”s representative office in his country was a mistake. Last year, Taiwan opened the office under the name “Taiwanese Representative Office in Lithuania.” The name elicited a strong response from Beijing, which retaliated by downgrading its diplomatic ties with Lithuania and even blocking certain imports. Lithuanian lawmakers have condemned their president”s comment, saying that supporting Taiwan is the right thing to do.
Last November, Taiwan opened a representative office under its own name in Lithuania. The move has repeatedly been condemned by China, which has ramped up retaliations on the Baltic state, from downgrading diplomatic ties to blocking Lithuanian imports. Now, it seems Lithuania could be beginning to buckle under China”s pressure.
During a radio interview, Lithuania”s President Gitanas Nauseda said that opening the Taiwanese representative office was not a mistake, but that its name featuring the word “Taiwanese” was. He added that the operation had not coordinated by him. He also said the naming of the office had strongly impacted Lithuania-China relations, saying it was a regrettable development. In response, Taiwan”s foreign ministry said Taiwan will continue to support Lithuania. It declined to comment on Nauseda”s remarks.
Voice of Joanne Ou
Foreign ministry spokesperson
Per diplomatic customs, another country”s internal policymaking process is not for the ministry to comment on.
Regarding Taiwan-Lithuania diplomatic relations, or rather Taiwan-EU relations, I believe we can remain optimistic, but we must respond cautiously. As friends, we should be understanding. When friends encounter hardship, they might have some opinions on the matter, and I think we should respect that.
Many Lithuanian parliamentarians said they did not share their president”s opinion.
Matas Maldeikis, head of the Lithuanian parliament”s Taiwan friendship group, wrote on TwitterL “I disagree with my president,” adding that “supporting democracy in Taiwan in the right thing to do.”
His colleague Ausra Maldekiene went further, calling the president “pathetic” for suggesting that Lithuania should bow down to the Chinese after they called Lithuanians dogs.
A scholar said Lithuania”s government is a semi-presidential system. That means that the president often butts heads with the prime minister, whose cabinet directs the country”s relations with Taiwan.
EU Centre in Taiwan
In countries with semi-presidential systems, it”s quite often that the president and prime minister don”t see eye to eye. If you look carefully into Nauseda”s past statements, you”ll find that he once opposed China further investing in Lithuania”s port infrastructure.
Marc Cheng said Lithuania will hold local elections in 2023, and parliamentarian and presidential elections in 2024. He says Nauseda could be bringing up the Taiwan question to gain public support ahead of the vote.