Taiwan's representative to the UK on his country's relationship with China, Roma culture in the German capital and the man in the middle of Greek-Turkish spats.
In the days after Donald Trump’s election he accepted a congratulatory phone call from Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen, which threatened to overturn US policy towards China. David Lin, formerly Taiwan’s foreign minister, explains why his country would prefer it if nothing changes.
How has Taiwan’s relationship with China changed recently?
Taiwan is probably the number one or number two investor in China – we have close to 100,000 companies operating there. We have almost 900 direct flights every week to more than 50 cities in China. We are still trying to reopen political dialogue. The situation is peaceful but we have not seen a lot of progress over the past few months.
Taiwan has become a focus of talks between presidents Trump and Xi. Is this good for you?
We are hoping that Taiwan will not be a focus because there are more important issues, including North Korea and trade. We hope that talk can focus on how to create a more peaceful, stable situation.
Is it better for Taiwan if Chinese policy is on the back burner?
Exactly. We like to maintain the status quo. We have all witnessed a stable, prosperous environment. It is important to do everything possible to maintain that for the benefit of all countries in the region.
Evangelos Sekeris has a sensitive post. Consul-general of Greece in Istanbul, he is Greece’s link to Bartholomew I, patriarch of Constantinople and head of the Orthodox faith. He must also help the remaining members of the Greek Orthodox community, whose numbers now stand at 3,000.
From his office, Sekeris can see the Hagia Sophia. “We stand here when we want to contemplate,” says the consul. After all, Sophia was an Orthodox cathedral built by Byzantines that was converted to a mosque by invading Ottoman Turks and then, almost 500 years later, turned into a museum of the secular Republic. “If you know the layers of history then you can more easily adapt here and work with success.”
In the two years since Sekeris took up the post there have been several spats between the two countries, particularly the Turkish coup-plotters who fled to Athens in 2016. Yet the baying crowds that once gathered outside, especially amid the territorial disputes of the late 1990s, have been absent. “This shows that people do not see Greece as an enemy,” he says.
The consulate now hosts Greek lessons and symposiums on Byzantine history. So, despite historical differences, relations are warming. “I think we can understand them better than other fellow Europeans.”
Europe’s Roma population might be its most discriminated against but now a group of Roma artists are opening an institute in Berlin to promote their culture. A joint initiative of the Alliance for the European Roma Institute, the Council of Europe and Hungarian billionaire George Soros’s Open Society Foundations, the European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture will open this summer.
“We will rebuild the Roma cultural heritage,” says Zeljko Jovanovic, director of the Open Society Roma Initiatives Office. “And make clear what is and what isn’t Roma culture.”