A love for Taiwan and 25 years of friendship with President Ma Ying-jeou are the reasons Karl Lamers, a member of the German Parliament and President of the Atlantic Treaty Association, decided to exchange his New Year holiday for a trip to Taiwan, Lamers told CNA Thursday.
Lamers, 74, who was in the middle of a six-day visit along with German MPs Anita Schafer and Robert Hochbaum, lauded Ma's pragmatic methods of reducing problems across the Taiwan Strait and bringing peace and stability to what was once one of the world's most volatile flash points.
It was more than 20 years ago when Lamers, a young Christian Democratic Union (CDU) member with no function in the party and Ma, who was serving as an interpreter to the late President Chiang Ching-kuo, struck up their friendship in an inter-party collaboration that brought dozens of young Germans to Taipei and young Kuomintang (KMT) members from Taiwan to the German city of Heidelberg.
That was his most unforgettable experience of Taiwan, Lamers said, adding that "later we both decided to go into politics and here we are." Recalling his first encounter with Ma, Lamers said he stood out because "he realizes what he says, does what he says and knows how to convince people -- all unique characteristics of a great politician." "And of course, he's good-looking, " he said.
Last March, Lamers was in Ma's campaign office to witness his landslide win in the presidential election.
Lamers, who is on his fifth visit to the country, has a connection to Taiwan dating back as far as 30 years, when "China was still an enemy and Taiwan was totally different from now in terms of democracy," he said.
But now China is a part of cooperation and Ma deserves the credit for implementing a "peace policy" that includes "three noes" (no independence, no unification and no use of force) that has relaxed cross-strait tension, he said.
Commenting on the future of Taiwan and China, Lamers said Ma made it clear that "it's a question to be solved by the next generation." Just like the unification of Germany, "such development takes time and maybe one day the door will open," he noted.
Meanwhile, Hochbaun said that timing is everything, adding that Germany was unified at a time "when politicians had no opportunities to do anything against it" and it was a step-by-step process instead of happening overnight.
China has sent out a signal of goodwill toward Taiwan, Lamers observed, in allowing Taiwan observer status in the World Health Assembly (WHA) and "hopefully good things will happen in Taiwan's participation in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the International Civil Aviation Organization." In terms of China's missiles deployed against Taiwan and it's anti-secession law, the veteran politician noted that there was a time when every Taiwanese was in fear of China's use of missiles.
"But in the past two years we have not had the feeling that the people were in fear. Yes, the missiles are still there but they're no longer a threat to the people of Taiwan because of the reduced tensions," he said.
Lamers said Ma was doing the right thing in advocating a proposed economic cooperation framework agreement between the two sides of the strait because "Taiwan should be incorporated into the global economic system and should not be isolated." Taiwan's armed forces have good equipment, good training and educated soldiers, observed Lamers, who also serves as deputy chairman of the German Parliament's Defense Committee.
However, Germany currently focuses its exchanges with Taiwan solely on trade and culture, he went on, adding that arm sales or military cooperation is out of the question at present.