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Structural Constraints on the EU's Role in Cross-Taiwan Strait Relationsa

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Since the beginning of the twenty-first century, many people have called for a more active role for the EU in cross-Taiwan Strait relations. While acknowledging its immense power and influence, this paper argues that the EU's role will remain limited for three structural reasons. Despite the Lisbon Treaty, the EU's sui generis system will continue to constrain its policy towards cross-strait relations. With 27 countries of varying interests, power and perspectives, it is difficult to expect the EU to change its current policies, which consist of the 'one-China' notion and the principle of a peaceful solution. Second, the regional structure along the strait is so complex that the EU can hardly come up with new initiatives. Given the fact that China is more important than Taiwan, the EU can hardly make its policy more favourable to Taiwan. However, supporting Chinese unification, especially in a non-peaceful way, will run counter to the EU's interests and principles. Even if it is willing to play a more active role, the EU lacks power to do so. Finally, the global structure will limit the EU's freedom of action. The EU does not live in a care-free environment, and nearby stability tops its security agenda. In its dealing with global issues, the EU may benefit from Chinese cooperation. Although the EU has close relations with the US, the American factor can hardly be expected to cause major changes in the EU's policy towards cross-strait relations.

Affiliations: 1: Wagner College, USA;, Email:


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