City-to-city friendship was forged amid the pandemic. It is through the pandemic prevention exchanges that Kaohsiung and the Bratislava Region of Slovakia have established a long-term relationship. On June 10th, 2022, Mayor Chen Chi-Mai and President Juraj Droba of the Bratislava Region jointly signed the Partnership Agreement between Kaohsiung City and the Bratislava Self-Governing Region, aiming at deepening future cooperation in the areas of economy, health, technology, tourism, culture, and education through a closer relationship. Witnessing the ceremony were Representative David Nan-Yang Lee of the Taipei Representative Office in Bratislava; MP Tomáš Lehotský and MP Anna Zemanová of the Slovak National Council; Deputy Representative Michaela Šuláková of the Slovak Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei; Legislator Hsu Chih-Chieh, Director of the Taiwan-Slovakia Parliamentary Friendship Group; Legislator Chuang Jui-Hsiung, Deputy Director of the Taiwan-Slovakia Parliamentary Friendship Group; Legislator Lai Hui-Yuan; Chairman Chen I-Heng of the Interchange of Kaohsiung City Association, as well as pro-Taiwan members of the Slovak National Council and the delegation from the Bratislava Region. This alliance was a major diplomatic achievement for Kaohsiung during the pandemic as it was forged through mutual assistance in pandemic prevention, showcasing that the city has successfully established a positive reputation in Europe with advanced medical technology and resources, and the spirit of humanitarian care.
In his remark, Mayor Chen used “a friend in need is a friend indeed” to recall how the friendship grows between Taiwan and Slovakia, as well as Kaohsiung and the Bratislava Region. In 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic was serious in Slovakia, Kaohsiung donated 300,000 masks to the Bratislava Region. In 2021, when Taiwan was experiencing a flare-up of the pandemic, Slovakia sent 160,000 doses of vaccine in return. That was where the friendship began. Additionally, Kaohsiung and the Bratislava Region not only share common goals of pursuing democracy and freedom, but both serve as transportation and economic hubs of their respective countries. By signing the agreement, the two like-minded, democracy-pursuing partners could fully extend their cooperative relationship in the areas of economy, culture, and education.
President Droba stated that although he was in Kaohsiung for only 24 hours, he felt at home and extended his gratitude to Ambassador Lee for making this trip possible. He believed that practical actions need to be taken for developing business and industries. In particular, he thanked Taiwan for providing a one-year scholarship for Slovakian students with engineering background to study in Kaohsiung, which allows people of both countries to know each other better. He concluded by firmly stating that Slovakia will definitely stand with Taiwan.
MP Tomáš Lehotský said that he cherished the opportunity to visit Kaohsiung. He pointed out the similarities between Taiwan and Slovakia: They both stand strong against coercion from neighboring countries; they are devoted to the development of manufacturing and high-tech industries; they are both relatively young democracies. These similarities are pivotal to continuous development of friendship and cooperation. Ambassador Lee recalled how Mayor Chen readily agreed to donate masks to Slovakia back in 2020, and commented that the signing of the partnership agreement took two years of preparation amidst the pandemic; yet as the proverb says, the best is saved for last. Upon the signing, Kaohsiung and the Bratislava Region will have more economic and trade cooperation, and work together to flourish and prosper. Moreover, Kaohsiung city government arranged the Seminar on Investment and Business Opportunities in Bratislava Self-governing Region, hosted by Deputy Mayor Lo Ta-Sheng, inviting representatives from various local industries. President Droba introduced Slovakia’s economic and trade situation and the investment environment of the Bratislava Region, followed by briefings brought by the city government representative and local business leaders on Kaohsiung’s economic and trade policies and major industries. The seminar embodied the spirit generated by the partnership agreement which was just signed in the morning: to promote substantial exchanges and to explore opportunities and potentials for bilateral economic cooperation. Geographically, the Bratislava Region is the smallest region in Slovakia, yet it contributes 28% of the country's GDP and attracts 69.4% of the country's foreign direct investments. It is hoped that more Taiwanese companies could find their investment niches in Slovakia in the future. Focusing on semiconductors, electric vehicles, green energy, somatosensory, medical and other related industries of interest to Slovakia, Kaohsiung city government invited local business partners, including the world's largest chip resistor manufacturer—YAGEO, the active electric vehicle developer—Foxconn, Taiwan's leading manufacturer of motorcycles—KYMCO, the sensory flying theaters giant—Brogent Technologies, the leading manufacturer of offshore wind power underwater infrastructure—Ming Rong Yuan, and the world's largest producer of spunlace nonwoven fabric—Nan Liu Enterprise, to participate in the event, hoping to boost business opportunities. In particular, Foxconn, which had already set up a factory in Slovakia, shared its experience in VR technology and cooperation with international manufacturers, as well as the progress of electric vehicle development. Brogent also presented its newly developed VR technology, which is expected to be used in flight simulation system this year. The attendees exchanged views on issues such as manpower, investments, and agricultural product marketing.
The signing ceremony took place at the Kaohsiung Exhibition Center, one of the landmarks in the Asia New Bay Area. Kaohsiung city government arranged a tour, guiding the Slovakian delegation to understand the developing phases of the Asia New Bay Area, the Kaohsiung Music Center, and other constructions. Additionally, the Seminar on Investment and Business Opportunities in Bratislava Self-Governing Region successfully attracted a number of local business representatives to join and exchange views. The Director-General of the Department of Administrative and International Affairs, Mr. Hsiang Pin-Ho, noted that the seminar was held immediately after the two sides inked the agreement, indicating that both sides greatly values the partnership and have strong faith in future economic and trade cooperation.