The issue of Taiwan’s relations with the V4 countries is a tough issue to tackle concisely, largely because relations across the group are by no means uniform. Further, elections, both recent and upcoming, add a degree of uncertainty on longer-term ties. Still, it is fair to say that ties are, by and large, getting tighter.
The best signal for good and improving relations between the V4 nations and Taiwan has clearly been the vaccine diplomacy, building upon Taiwan’s PPE donations in 2020. Each of the V4 nations, aside from consummate China-ally Hungary, sent large shipments of vaccines to Taiwan this summer and received effusive praise from Taiwanese officials in return.
However, public praise will not be the only thanks offered. Starting Tuesday, a 65-person-strong delegation from Taiwan will trek across Lithuania, Czechia, and Slovakia to promote bilateral trade and investment. As China has fallen out of favor in public discourse, at least in part, due to unkept economic promises, this is a prescient opportunity for Taipei to seize upon.
Even aside from the economic opportunities, there is already momentum in bettering relations in both Slovakia and Czechia. The 2018 trip of Czech Senate President Milos Vystrcil to Taiwan is the most prominent example, igniting a public discussion on both Taiwan and China’s heavy-handed tactics in threatening Vystrcil, cementing largely negative opinions on China. Now that Vystrcil’s party leader and public supporter of his trip to Taiwan, Petr Fiala, looks set to form the country’s next government, the positive trend seems destined to continue.
For Slovakia, relations with Taiwan have picked up notably since its Presidential and parliamentary elections in 2019-2020. Also, just last month, a delegation from Bratislava touched down in Taipei, preempting this week’s delegation due into Central Europe. In short, it would appear relations are very much on good terms, in line with the established trend in neighboring Czechia.
Of course, it is conspicuous that the Taiwanese delegation will avoid Poland despite its own sizable vaccine donation.
While Poland-Taiwan relations appeared on an uptrend in recent years, highlighted by the 2018 name change of its de facto embassy in Taipei, the Poles latest pivot appears to be toward Beijing. In line with his increasingly China-friendly statements of late, Polish FM Zbigniew Rau vocally asserted Poland’s adherence to the One China Policy only days after his nation’s vaccine donation to Taiwan. The delegation’s detour around Poland could be tied to its apparently ambivalent policy on Taiwan.
Hungary is not as noncommittal. While the nation enjoys hosting Taiwanese firms like Foxconn, its government is perhaps Beijing’s staunchest ally in Europe, steering its policy strongly. That said, an upcoming election and a formidable challenger to Orban could quickly reorient this relationship. Peter Marki-Zay, recently victorious in the nation’s primaries, is eager to criticize the Fidesz frontman’s closeness to China as out of step with European values. If he were to emerge victorious in 2022, his government is likely to promote these values by bettering ties with Taiwan rather than keeping the country’s current tack on China. If that does come to fruition, a rosier forecast for relations between Taiwan and the bloc generally can be offered with more conviction.
Official Photo by Wang Yu Ching / Office of the President, Image source: Taiwan Presidential Office/Flickr.