Kaohsiung's pandemic prevention diplomacy has won another victory. A joint national-local government delegation from the Slovak National Council and the Bratislava Region visited Taiwan recently, accompanied by David Nan-Yang Lee, Representative of the Taipei Representative Office in Bratislava. The delegation came down south to Kaohsiung on June 9th, 2022. One of the visit’s highlights involved the joint signing of a Partnership Agreement by the President of the Bratislava Region, Juraj Droba, and the Mayor of Kaohsiung, Chen Chi-Mai, on June 10th, making the Bratislava Region the 36th friendly city of Kaohsiung. The two sides vowed to fully promote cooperation in the areas of economy, health, technology, tourism, culture, and education. The delegation was the second national-level group from Slovakia to Kaohsiung within six months, following the visit of Karol Galek, the State Secretary of the Ministry of Economy of Slovakia last December. These visits have shown excellent results of exchanges between Kaohsiung and Europe through mutual assistance in pandemic prevention.
In 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic was serious in Slovakia, Kaohsiung, echoing Taiwan's central government's foreign policy, generously donated 300,000 masks to the Bratislava Region, and thus exchanges with the Region began. In 2021, when Taiwan was experiencing a flare-up of the pandemic, Slovakia swiftly responded by sending 160,000 doses of vaccine to meet Taiwan’s urgent need. Meanwhile, President Droba also released a video to pray for Taiwan, and for a second year in a row, expressed his continuous support for Taiwan to participate in the World Health Assembly. State Secretary Galek, during his visit last year, stated that Taiwan and Slovakia have turned their ties from pandemic support to a more diversified and cooperative relationship.
The delegation stayed overnight in Kaohsiung, and Mayor Chen hosted a banquet to warmly welcome the guests. In his remark, he emphasized that he deeply loves Slovakia because the two countries are partners who both uphold democratic values and share the experience of developing democracy, especially Kaohsiung is the birthplace of Taiwan's democracy. Mayor Chen extended special thanks to Ambassador Lee for forging a tie between the two sides, and used the Taiwanese proverb, "doubly pay back people's generosity," to describe the friendship: Kaohsiung kindly donated 300,000 masks to Slovakia when it was in need, and Slovakia returned the favor immediately by sending 160,000 doses of vaccine when Taiwan was hit hard by the pandemic. Taiwanese truly appreciated the kindness. This year, when Kaohsiung was hosting the Taiwan Lantern Festival, a heart-shaped Slovakian national flag formed by 1,500 drones was displayed to symbolize the long-lasting friendship between the two countries. Mayor Chen stated that he looks forward to visiting the Region after the pandemic and seeing more bilateral exchanges in diverse areas.
President Droba responded by inviting Mayor Chen to visit Slovakia, saying that he had been to Taiwan five times, yet this is his first visit to Kaohsiung. He continued to thank Kaohsiung city government for the warm hospitality, pointing out that people in both countries are as friendly, and both embrace democracy and freedom. He also praised that the friendship was derived from mutual support amidst crisis, thanking Kaohsiung for donating masks to safeguard Slovakians' lives during the Covid outbreak in Europe, and was proud of Slovakia's being able to pay back the favor with 160,000 doses of vaccine. He also extended his gratitude to Ambassador Lee and National Sun Yat-sen University for fostering academic and cultural exchanges, which would certainly bring people of Taiwan and Slovakia closer together. Ambassador Lee also expressed his gratitude for the city government's support, hoping that the partnership agreement will expand city-to-city exchanges to more diverse cooperation at national level.
The delegation of Slovakia included important members from the Slovak National Council with backgrounds of foreign affairs, national defense, finance, European affairs, and the Taiwan Friendship Group, as well as regional and local-level officials from the Bratislava Region. Besides inking the agreement, the delegation also visited the latest built infrastructure in Kaohsiung and participated in the Seminar on Investment and Business Opportunities in Bratislava Self-Governing Region on June 10th at the Kaohsiung Exhibition Center, introducing investment conditions to business leaders in Kaohsiung. The delegation exchanged views with the city government team, hoping to deepen economic and trade ties in the future and bring tangible results. Director-General Hsiang Pin-ho of the Department of Administrative and International Affairs pointed out that the alliance between Kaohsiung and the Bratislava Region not only fully demonstrated the achievement of Kaohsiung's international diplomacy through excellent pandemic prevention, but also set an example for exchanges between Taiwan and Europe.