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Italy envoy calls Taiwan a 'silent giant,' looks for closer partnership

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Davide Giglio, Representative of Italian Economic, Commercial and Cultural Promotion Office in Taipei.

Taipei, Nov. 28 (CNA) Italy's top representative to Taiwan has praised the country as a "silent giant" of the global supply chain, saying he was looking forward to closer cooperation with its world-leading semiconductor sector and beyond.

"Taiwan's role in global production chains has largely gone unnoticed until recently. This may have to do with the fact that Taiwanese companies do not always enjoy strong brand power," Davide Giglio told CNA during a recent interview.

However, the global chip shortage has changed that and brought to light Taiwan's strengths in such a strategically important sector, he said.

Italy, a leader in the automotive sector, was quick to realize that the strong position of Taiwan in semiconductor production made it an asset that all countries were interested in working with, the head of the Italian Economic, Commercial and Cultural Promotion Office in Taipei said.

The office represents Italian interests in Taiwan in the absence of official diplomatic ties.

Giglio continued by saying that Taiwan's advantage is not exclusive to semiconductors.

He cited the example of a joint venture between the Taiwan-based manufacturing giant Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. and multinational auto manufacturer Stellantis in May, when the two sides announced to form a company focuses on delivering a smart cockpit solution for vehicles.

Stellantis was formed in January this year by a merger between the Italian-American Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and the French PSA Group.

Urge Taiwan to ease border restrictions

Giglio, a seasoned envoy who joined the Italian diplomatic corps in 1994, took up the post in Taipei in July, 2019.

Not long after his arrival, the COVID-19 pandemic started to spread across the world, with Italy being one of the first in Europe to experience the full brunt of the highly infectious disease.

In response, Italy implemented a number of strict measures to contain the spread of the pandemic, including banning incoming flights from Taiwan, which raised anger from the Taiwanese government and its people.

Explaining the decision, the envoy said the "extraordinary circumstances demanded quick actions aimed at preserving public health" and that Italy had to take "far-reaching measures."

The flight ban was only temporary and was later lifted in July 2020, he noted.

Since then Taiwan's carriers have been free to decide when to resume normally scheduling for routes into Italy, he said, but sadly, as of Nov. 11, no local carriers have returned to their previous flight schedules.

Giglio said before the pandemic, people-to-people exchanges between Taiwan and Italy were frequent, with Italy being one of the most popular European travel destinations for Taiwanese people.

Currently, Italy has seen a quick rebound with a significant increase of travelers from Taiwan, he said, and, according to Giglio, the successful vaccination campaign in most European countries means the continent is relatively safe from COVID-19 nowadays.

In Italy, for instance, 85 percent of its population have already been fully vaccinated, and booster shots are currently in the process of being administered throughout the country.

"While it would be an exaggeration to say that life is back to a pre-COVID time, Italy and much of the European Union countries have adjusted to the pandemic challenge and transitioned to a new normalcy."

However, Taiwan's entry ban has prevented Italian tourists and students from doing so as well, he said.

The envoy said Italy has been encouraging a change of attitude on the Taiwan side: "In order to remain open for business, countries have to remain highly vigilant and yet compromise."

Taiwan has maintained strict entry requirements since March 2020, generally banning most arrivals except for citizens and those with legal residency. In addition, all arrivals are required to undergo a strict 14-day quarantine.

Though the rules have been adjusted slightly over the past 18 months depending on the progression of the disease, they have been particularly tight since May 19, 2021, after Taiwan experienced a surge in domestic COVID-19 cases.

At present, exceptions to the visitor ban can only be made in emergencies or for humanitarian reasons. In such circumstances, those involved are required to apply in advance to the Central Epidemic Command Center for permission to enter the country.

Concerns over cross-strait tensions

It is also during his ongoing tenure in Taipei that the cross-strait tensions have continued to rise, with Beijing sending warplanes and warships near Taiwan's waters and airspace on an almost daily basis.

Asked for Italy's view over the matter, Giglio said that, as a member of the G7, Italy had repeatedly expressed its concerns for any unilateral action that could lead to escalating tensions and undermine stability in the region.

He stressed that it has been Italy's consistent view that the stability across the Taiwan Strait should be achieved via dialogue.

It is also a prevailing view in Europe that a sustained involvement of the European Union in the Indo-Pacific region may contribute to the easing of tensions, he said.

A EU policy has been articulated and it will be progressively spelled out with the contribution of all EU member states, including Italy, he underlined.

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