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Taiwan, EU and China Flag

The post-election Taiwanese economy: decisions ahead and takeaways for the European Union

by Alicia García-Herrero

The EU should try to attract more business from Taiwan, though Taiwan’s January 2024 election hasn’t made the job easier Taiwan’s economy has transformed since 2016 under the leadership of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). In particular, the Taiwanese economy has diversified away from mainland China, while reliance on semiconductors is now even more acute than eight years ago. In elections in January, the DPP won the presidency for a third term but lost overall control of Taiwan’s parliament, the Legislative Yuan. In contrast to the previous two terms, the DPP therefore needs to agree policy, including economic policy, with other parties. this could signal a softer approach in relation to the continuation of diversification away from the mainland. Ongoing diversification Mainland China remains Taiwan’s biggest export and investment destination, despite the share of Taiwan’s exports that go to China reducing from 40 percent on average between 2016 and 2019 to 35 percent in 2023 (Figure 1). This has happened even though Taiwan signed a free trade agreement with mainland China in 2010 – the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) – which at the time led to an increase in Taiwanese exports to the mainland. The COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 also triggered a sharp increase as the rest of the world entered a deep recession, but the trend has not lasted. Since 2021, the share of Taiwanese exports going to the mainland has dropped significantly, influenced by US export controls on high-end semiconductors, with a clear knock-on effect on Taiwanese exporters.   Taiwanese FDI into mainland China has also shrunk rapidly, from 65 percent of total Taiwanese FDI on average from 2008-2016 to 34 percent on average from 2017-2023 (Figure 2). The difference between these periods is that in the former, Taiwan was governed by the Kuomintang (KMT, Chinese Nationalist Party), which favours closer relations with the mainland, while in the latter period the DPP was in charge. There are both geopolitical and economic reasons for mainland China’s falling share of Taiwanese FDI. First, the ECFA trade and investment agreement, reached under the first term of KMT President Ma Ying-jeou, was not extended when a new round of negotiations started in 2012, to include technological cooperation, finance and people-to-people exchanges. A broader economic agreement between Taiwan and the mainland, mostly focusing on services – the Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement (CSSTA) – fell victim to lack of consensus among Taiwan’s main political parties, increased tensions in the Taiwan Straits and student protests in Taiwan (the so-called Sunflower movement) in 2014.1 Second, with the DPP victory in 2016, the new Southbound Policy 2 was launched, offering incentives for Taiwanese companies investing in 18 Asian countries, including ASEAN 3, India and other South Asian and Australasian nations. In addition, rising labour costs in mainland China, the ongoing trade war between the US and China, an increased regulatory burden in the mainland and political tensions between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait also pushed Taiwanese businesses to look elsewhere to invest. -    The new political reality and geographical diversification While the election-winning DPP wants to see further diversification away from the mainland, the more pro-China party, the KMT, wants reinforced economic relations with China.4 Because of the now-hung parliament, the DPP will need to take some of the KMT’s wishes into account it wants pass new rules, including those related to geographical diversification. Beyond the two parties’ preferences, two other important issues also need to be factored in. First, geographical diversification requires open markets but Taiwan is increasingly unable to open any market through trade or investment deals. Taiwan has spent the last eight years negotiating bilateral deals with its closest allies, Japan and the US, but the DPP administration has not even been able to complete these. Incoming President Lai has said that Taiwan should continue to push to be part of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), to which it applied in September 2021, but the reality is that Taiwan’s application has little hope of success. China officially applied to be a member of the CPTTP only a couple of days before Taiwan. Since then, the United Kingdom has become a member of CPTTP, but the negotiation processes with Taiwan and mainland China have not started. Australian’s prime minister, Anthony Albanese, has expressed severe doubts about Taiwan’s ability to become member of CPTTP because of lack of international recognition of it as a nation-state.5 Second, while the DPP is likely to continue to offer more fiscal incentives to promote diversification in Southeast Asia and India (under the Southbound Policy), the fastest-growing destination for both exports and foreign direct investment from Taiwan is the United States, followed by Japan. This can be explained by the ongoing artificial intelligence revolution, which needs semiconductors, and the decisions of some key Taiwanese chip companies (especially TSCM) to open factories overseas for chip production, with the US and Japan as the most important destinations. In other words, the DPP’s push for geographical diversification might not be the main reason why diversification has happened; rather, it has been driven by market forces and business opportunities. This also means that the KMT push to maintain – if not deepen – economic ties with mainland China might not succeed unless China’s currently underwhelming economic performance turns around. Implications for the European Union So far, the EU has benefitted little from Taiwan’s trade and investment diversification, at least when compared to the US and the rest of Asia. The EU’s export share into Taiwan has remained practically stagnant (while the US has doubled its share), notwithstanding a large increase in exports from the Netherlands for a single item – ASML’s lithography machines for chip production. The EU lacks a trade or investment deal with Taiwan, but so do some of Taiwan’s other trading partners, including the US. Considering that the EU is the largest foreign direct investor in Taiwan, the question arises of whether the EU should do more to foster more bilateral economic relations. The gains could be substantial, especially from inbound FDI as Taiwanese investment focuses on high-end manufacturing. There has been some movement. A €5 billion investment in France by a Taiwanese company (ProLogium) was announced in May 2023 to build a battery factory 6 . TSMC announced in August 2023 a €4.5 billion investment in a semiconductor factory in Germany 7 . But for the EU to catch up with Japan and the US as a recipient of outbound FDI from Taiwan, the result of Taiwan’s elections could be an obstacle. This is because the DPP will have less control of the economic agenda because it does not control the Legislative Yuan. The close-to-impossible negotiation of a trade and investment deal between the EU and Taiwan – as shown by Taiwan’s difficulties in relation to Japan, the US and the CPTTP – does not point to any improvement in the institutional framework for economic relations to improve. The question, then, is what can the EU offer to attract high-end foreign direct investment from Taiwan? Subsidies to attract semiconductor factories cannot be the only answer, given the very large amounts needed and the pressure such subsidies put on EU member states’ already stretched finances (Legarda and Vasselier, 2023). Working with business associations and chambers should be a key driving force to improve business relations between Taiwan and the EU, especially considering that the EU is the largest foreign foreign direct investor in Taiwan, while Taiwanese companies have been absent from the EU single market until recently. Overall, the US and the rest of Asia have been the main winners from Taiwan’s rapid diversification of its economy away from mainland China. The EU, which is lagging, should work to enhance its economic exchanges with Taiwan. Hopefully the January 2024 election results will facilitate this. Most importantly, the EU should aim to attract more high-tech FDI from Taiwan. Unfortunately, a better institutional framework through a trade/investment deal seems highly unlikely, for geopolitical reasons. This puts all the burden on chambers of commerce and other forums to improve business relations. References 1- The Sunflower Movement was a student-led protest that occuped Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan to put pressure on the KMT government against signing a second cooperation deal with mainland China. See Ho (2018). 2- See the New Southbound Policy portal at 3- Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. 4- Alicia García-Herrero, ‘Taiwan’s future economic direction hinges on the election outcome’, First glance, 12 January 2024, Bruegel… 5- Claudia Long and Stephen Dziedzic, ‘Albanese says Australia is unlikely to support Taiwan 6- France24, ‘Taiwanese battery maker Prologium to invest €5 billion in French factory’, 12 May 2023,…. 7- DW, ‘Taiwan’s TSMC to build semiconductor factory in Germany’, 8 August 2023,…. Ho, M.-S. (2018) ‘The Activist Legacy of Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement’, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2 August, available at Legarda, H. and A. Vasselier (2023) ‘Navigating Taiwan relations in 2024: Practical considerations for European policy makers’, China Horizons, 21 December, available at

President of Croatia Zoran Milanović giving speech

Address by the President of the Republic Zoran Milanović at the 78th Session of the United Nations General Assembly

by Zoran Milanović

Mr. Vice President, Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen, It is my particular honour to address this august body. I would like to use this opportunity to congratulate you on being elected to your esteemed position and I wish you much success in your work during these challenging times. The world we live in today requires joint, global and concerted efforts as a key to success in addressing serious global crises. We strongly believe that we have to strengthen the multilateral system based on international law, and make sure it is effective and fair, able to endure and deliver results that will serve to achieve our common goals, commitments and a better future for the people and planet. We need to safeguard the role of the United Nations as the centre of global cooperation. We are also hopeful that genuine efforts will be invested in the reform of the Security Council, our main instrument for securing global peace and security. In 2015, we adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development also on the basis of the consensus that to transform our world we need to realize that „sustainable development cannot be realized without peace and security; and the peace and security will be at risk without sustainable development.“ In 2023, at the mid-point in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, the assessments of the Global Sustainable Development Progress Report show that the efforts to achieve that synergy so far have proved insufficient. Time to reinvigorate our political commitments to the full and efficient implementation of the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals is irreversibly running out. In the meantime, the necessary boost came with the UN Secretary-General`s vision offered in “Our Common Agenda” as an overarching roadmap in fighting the multiple crises. The Preparatory process for the next year’s Summit of the Future, along with its outcome the Pact for the Future, represents a unique opportunity to strengthen national and international governance and to make it more sustainable and resilient to future crises and shocks, safeguarding the planet for future generations. The international financial system is increasingly unable to adequately and efficiently respond to the challenges at hand. More needs to be done to update and upgrade the global financial infrastructure so it becomes more adapted to the needs of the world. Most notably, we need to scale up development and climate finance. In this sense, we support the efforts by the international financial institutions to review their structures and operating processes, with a view to reform in order to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Peace is not maintained by itself. Investment in conflict prevention is far more cost effective than investing in conflict resolution and recovery after the fact, post factum. This is why prevention of conflict and sustaining peace should be at the centre of the framework of the New Agenda for Peace, intertwined with a renewed commitment to multilateralism, global solidarity and trust. Croatia, as Chair of the UN Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) for 2023, strongly advocates its strengthening and enlarging of both its geographical and thematic scope. We support the Secretary General’s call for the universality of conflict prevention and sustaining peace, and the development of national conflict prevention strategies. The PBC could review these strategies, helping to mobilize resources for their implementation when needed. The PBC should also work more closely with international financial institutions and regional actors, forming the Sustainable Peace Network. In addition to its advisory powers, the PBC could also be vested with decision-making powers, enabling it to establish UN civilian missions upon the request of countries concerned, helping to address the root causes of instability. In this regard, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals can be an excellent prevention tool by bringing prosperity and inclusion while leaving a safer place for future generations. According to the Sustainable Development Report 2023, Croatia’s performance in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals was assessed among top ranks. However, a lot of work is still in front of us. Croatia has a large natural heritage that it wants to preserve for future generations through the implementation of the SDGs. While accepting the clean energy transition, Croatia is taking a number of measures to alleviate the transition shock in the rejection of fossil fuels, and to ensure a fair transition and prevent energy poverty. With regard to biodiversity, Croatia is committed to work jointly for the development and full implementation of an ambitious and transformational Kunming-Montreal global biodiversity framework. Furthermore, we firmly believe that protecting, restoring and sustainably using biodiversity is essential for pandemic prevention and promotion of the “One Health Approach” which needs to be included in future prevention plans. We are also committed to working together to intensify cooperation in protecting the marine environment and combatting plastic pollution. If we want healthy oceans and seas, our ambition needs to be high and ocean protection stepped up significantly. Croatia welcomes the landmark adoption of the “Treaty of the High Seas” on ocean biodiversity (BBNJ). The successful negotiation of the BBNJ Agreement is the most recent proof of devoted multilateral work and presents not only a milestone in conserving marine biodiversity of nearly two-thirds of the world’s oceans, but also a triumph for multilateralism. Today, Croatia proudly joined the first tier of countries that have signed the Treaty, and commits to ratify it as soon as possible. We call on other countries to do so as well to enable its swift entering into force and to start its effective implementation. As a member State of the EU Croatia has already committed itself politically and legally to contribute in making Europe the first climate neutral continent by 2050. By further pursuing that course and by accelerating development of renewables and increasing green investments, we believe we can turn the current crisis into a new chance for our economies. Here I will mention as an example one such project that can boost new growth of the European economy based on decarbonisation and clean industry. It is the project “North Adriatic Hydrogen Valley,” which encompasses the Italian region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Slovenia and Croatia. By putting clean energy transition in the heart of the fight against climate change on the global level, we should not forget that the most vulnerable communities, which have historically contributed the least to climate change, are often the ones most and the worst affected – both by the climate conditions and by the costs of the green energy transition as a remedy. The establishment of a Loss and Damage Fund to help vulnerable countries cope with the destructive impacts of climate change at COP27 marked a historic breakthrough in this respect. How we go about this issue at the Climate Ambition Summit and COP28 will be a true test of trust and solidarity among nations and will impact current and future generations. Creating a world of peace and security that respects human rights and promotes social progress is the very foundation of the United Nations. The amount of human rights violations and humanitarian crises around the world demonstrates that more must be done in terms of atrocity prevention and the operationalization of the responsibility to protect. Croatia is honoured to contribute to this cause by serving as co-chair of the Group of Friends of R2P in New York along with Costa Rica and Botswana. The Croatian Government remains committed to determining the fate of 1806 persons that went missing during our Homeland War in the 90s. Based on such a tragic national experience, we continue to render our unwavering support to all efforts to provide answers to those still suffering the anguish of uncertainty, anywhere in the world. We remain committed to combating hate speech, advancing the rights of women and children, protecting minorities, and the abolition of the death penalty. Gender equality is a foundation of a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world. In that vein, we highlight the importance of education and equal opportunities for girls and boys. We will continue advocating against discrimination and hate speech, including antisemitism. Croatia continues to attach utmost importance to its immediate neighbourhood in Southeast Europe. Issues of the past and war legacy, like resolving remaining cases of missing persons and engaging in meaningful cooperation in handling war crimes without discrimination and in line with international standards, access to archives, as well as other unresolved and highly sensitive issues must be fully tackled. We actively support the European perspective of our close neighbour Bosnia and Herzegovina and have warmly welcomed the recent EU decision on the granting to B-H the status of EU candidate country. We continue to advocate electoral reforms that would ensure legitimate representation of all constituent peoples, in particular Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs, at all levels of the Government, which is in our view essential for the future stability and prosperity of the country. We are very concerned about the latest developments in Kosovo–Serbia relations and would like to encourage measures for the de-escalation of tensions. Similarly, these two countries need to focus on the normalization of relations and deliver on their commitments and start implementing what was agreed on this year in Brussels and Ohrid. We continue to advocate universal recognition of the Republic of Kosovo and its right to existence as an equal member of the community of nations. It is in our interest to promote stability and further development of this region, as well as the process of European integration, which we believe remains crucial for the future prosperity of our neighbours, and which we are hopeful will be accelerated in the coming years. Thank you.

President of Latvia Edgars Rinkēvičs addressing at Europe Justice Ministers' Informal Conference

Address by the President of Latvia Edgars Rinkēvičs at Council of Europe Justice Ministers’ Informal Conference ‘On the Path to Justice for Ukraine’

by Edgars Rinkēvičs

Madam Minister,  Distinguished ministers, Madam Secretary General, President of the Parliamentary Assembly, Commissioner, Ladies and gentlemen, A very warm welcome to Riga! I am very pleased to open this conference, a signature event during Latvia’s Presidency in the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. The conference is a direct continuation of the Reykjavik Summit that took place in May of this year. The focus of today’s conference is the existential issue Europe is facing now. Namely, justice for Ukraine in the wake of Russia’s aggression and full-scale military invasion. Before briefly addressing the central themes of the conference, I want to recall that the Council of Europe was the first international organisation to decide on the discontinuation of Russia’s membership. This principled position of our organization once again confirmed our commitment to democratic values and the international rule of law. It also affirmed that our organisation is ready to assume a leading role in actively defending these values. Today’s conference confirms that our commitment has not wavered. We seek justice for Ukraine. We stand with Ukraine as long as it takes. Ladies and gentlemen, During today’s conference, you will address themes that represent pillars on which justice is built – accountability, resilience, and hope. First, accountability. Russia has brutally violated international law. It must therefore face full accountability. By “full accountability” I mean both, responsibility of Russia as a state, and the individual liability of those Russian officials who launched the war of aggression against Ukraine. Those who committed war crimes and other most serious crimes of international concern. Russia must also bear full responsibility for the damage, loss, or injury caused to Ukraine and its people. I commend the Council of Europe for creating the Register of Damages. This is an important step towards a future international compensation mechanism. The Register of Damages will ensure proper registration and documentation of the devastation Russia has brought to Ukraine. I call on all countries that have not yet done so to join the Register and demonstrate our solidarity with and support to Ukraine. During our Presidency in the Council of Europe, Latvia is determined to advance the operational launch of the Register. I welcome the intention of the Ministers to adopt today a Declaration containing principles that will guide the functioning of the Register or Riga Principles. I particularly welcome the emphasis on victim-centred approach. We must make sure that victims, in particular the most vulnerable, such as women and children, remain the focus of our efforts. Second, resilience. The justice system of Ukraine is currently bearing a heavy burden. It continues to ensure justice and the rule of law, including through the investigation of crimes committed by Russia. By continuing to uphold fair trial standards, Ukraine clearly demonstrates its values and the strength of its democracy. I encourage member states of the Council of Europe to provide support to the Action Plan on Resilience, Recovery, and Rebuilding of Ukraine. Latvia has already provided its financial contribution. Finally, hope. We all have heard and seen heartbreaking reports about Ukrainian children being forcibly and illegally deported to Belarus and Russia. We must do our utmost to ensure the return of these children, to ensure that they are reunited with their families. We must restore hope. Ladies and gentlemen, In Reykjavik, we committed to strengthening the role of the Council of Europe. We also reiterated our common resolve to unite around our values and standards. I am confident that today’s conference will be an important contribution to our work for the benefit of all Europeans, including future generations. Thank you!

Prime Minister of Slovenia Robert Golob

Speech delivered by Prime Minister of Slovenia Robert Golob at Bled Strategic Forum on the 28th of August

by Robert Golob

Dear Charles.  Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the Bled Strategic Forum and welcome to Slovenia.  This month, on the 3rd of August, Slovenia was hit by the most devastating floods in the country’s history. Within just a matter of hours, 10,000 people lost their homes. Families lost everything.  We were able to secure relief from the EU. We received offers of aid from our neighbouring countries within the region. Even NATO responded. Everyone understood the severity of the disaster and sent their best engineering teams, along with heavy equipment, some of whom are still here helping our people rebuild their communities. I would also like to express my gratitude to all of you, all of those who have already helped, either physically or financially, and to others who will perhaps contribute in the coming hours. It is by showing solidarity, by working hand in hand with our friends, neighbours, and allies, that we truly make the world a better place. This is a message that we should not forget under any circumstances, not just when we are facing dire times, because you never know when the situation will become too difficult for you.  And as Peter Grk, Secretary General of the Bled Strategic Forum said, in Europe, sometimes or even most of the time, we live under the impression that extreme events do not happen here. They happen far away, far abroad. Well, not anymore. The extreme weather that we are currently facing is, of course, a localized phenomenon. But the conditions that caused this weather are indeed worldwide. Climate change is not something that any of us can escape. It is here. It is happening. We can see its impact growing every year, though its specific effects are unpredictable. The only predictable thing about climate change is that it is not going to get any better by itself. This is a message that we must never forget.  Still, we need to put in place mechanisms to adapt to the catastrophes like the one that hit Slovenia three weeks ago, because they will happen again. And we can only address such a demanding project at the international level. No nation, especially not individual small nations, can face it alone. Even the biggest nations cannot face it alone. This is one of the most important messages that we will bring to the table during our membership in the UN Security Council. We want to place the climate agenda at the top of our priorities. And one reason why I think we may be successful in this endeavour, not because of the catastrophe that we faced three weeks ago, is that, as a very small country with little international clout makes us a very honest broker. I can tell you right now that we are brave enough to undertake this rule. We want to be an honest broker. We want to be sincere, perhaps addressing issues that bigger nations are somehow neglecting due to their own national agendas.  The second of our primary goals is figuring out how to bring peace to Ukraine. It is practically impossible at this time, perhaps, but we will invest all of our knowledge, all of our time in this one particular goal, whether we are ultimately successful or not. No one can tell. But will we try? Yes, we will, because this is the single most important topic on the table of the United Nations. And that's the only place where this war can end: at the table of the United Nations. And we will do everything we can to bring it forth.  Finally, I'm really glad to have all of you here, my dear colleagues from the Western Balkans. I'm glad that you all made it here safely. Nobody is missing. Just this in itself is a huge success. But it doesn't stop here, because the message that I want to impart, and I'm pretty sure that Charles [Michel] will do so even more decisively, but the message that I want to share is that the momentum is changing due to Russia’s aggression on Ukraine. The stance of European Union Member States regarding the enlargement of European Union took on a totally new perspective. Things are changing rapidly. In the next 12 months I'm pretty sure that the enlargement process will not just gain attraction but an entirely new perspective. And I urge all of you not to be left behind. I urge all of you to continue pressing on with the reforms, but also to be aware of what's going on regarding the changes within the European Union itself. We all know that we will have to reform our processes within the European Union. And as I said, these reforms will either happen within the next 12 months or they may not happen for a very long time. This is an occasion that shall not be overlooked. Slovenia will remain a strong supporter of your membership. Slovenia will continue to do all those things that are necessary within the European Council and also in dialogue with the European Commission to make it possible for you to become members of our European family, to put you where you belong. That is the last message that I wanted to impart: you all belong with us.  And as I said, none of these challenges that I addressed are going to be easy to meet. None. We will have to work hard. It will cost a lot of money, especially for flood relief and the reconstruction. It will take a lot of time, but we need to find both the courage and the wisdom. And we will do so, in order to show that yes, we can, we can build a better world. A world based on solidarity.  Thank you.

Nikolay Denkov Prime Minister of Bulgaria

Speech of Bulgarian Premier Minister Academician Nikolai Denkov

by Nikolai Denkov

Dear Mr. Prime Minister of the Hellenic Republic / Dear KyriakosDear Ministers, Dear Governor, Dear Mayor of ThessalonikiDear Mr. Dzikas, Dear Greek friends It is, indeed, a privilege to address you in the context of the Thessaloniki International Fair. I thank the organizers of the HELEXPO and I thank the Greek Prime Minister for his kind invitation. Let me start by saying that during the last days and weeks we have witnessed the worst possible consequences of the climate crisis. We have seen scenes of destruction that we could not imagine we would see in our lifetime. Some of these tragic events happened here in Greece - our closest neighbor and most friendly country, just a few kilometers from our common border. Allow me to express my deepest condolences for the victims of the recent floods in your country and our full solidarity with the friendly Greek people. Tonight I want to send a message loud and clear: Greece is not alone. You have many partners and friends and we will spare no effort to help you mitigate the consequences. Bulgaria and the whole Europea Union stands with you.  We also have victims from the floods in Bulgaria. Both countries face similar problems, such as floods and fires. Helping each other and working together is a must. As an example, this year we have twice deployed Bulgarian firefighting teams to help you overcome devastating fires. Climate change is a global challenge, which demands a common answer. We need to work more closely together to share information and technologies, to integrate our weather forecast systems and our early warning systems to better prevent disasters in the future. I can assure you we are ready for such a mutually beneficial cooperation. Ladies and Gentlemen,Bulgaria is the honoured country at this year’s Thessaloniki International Fair. This is great honour for us, but above all, this is an acknowledgement of the exemplary level, which the relations between Bulgaria and Greece have reached. This is also an acknowledgement of the important role, which my country plays in the region. The presence at such an important international forum provides a broad range of opportunities to enhance further our already excellent economic ties. Bulgaria is represented in several related sectors such as IT, hi-tech, energy, infrastructure, construction, education, tourism and the food industry. Bulgarian companies with a strong international presence participate, including EnduroSat, a significant player in the satellite industry and space technology, and Telerik Academy, providing accessible and innovative digital technology training. Among the participants is Sofia Techpark which provides a platform for global, regional and national companies to develop innovative technologies and to exchange know-how. The Bulgarian Investment Agency, which supports the creation of projects leading to new jobs, exports and transfer of know-how, is also here. The Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, whose experts conduct scientific research, training and activities of international importance, is present as well. Dear Prime Minister,This is the right occasion to acknowledge the fact that your leadership has transformed Greece into an attractive destination for international investments. Let me assure you that this is valid also for the investments from Bulgaria. At present, they are mainly focused in the energy, infrastructure and tourism sectors. I hope that in the near future we will witness Bulgarian investments in new fields, such us communications and information technologies. The IGB project for the gas interconnector between Greece and Bulgaria, in operation since October 2022, in which Bulgaria participates with a 50% stake, is a clear example of a strategic, long-term investment with a broad regional scope. The same applies to the project for a floating LNG terminal near Alexandroupolis in which Bulgaria participates with 20%. We are jointly working on a project for an oil pipeline connecting Alexandroupolis and Burgas where we have the biggest refinery in the Balkans. Bulgaria has a particular interest in the plans for the future development and management of the Greek ports of Kavala and Alexandroupolis. Bulgarian businesses are also showing strong interest in using these two commercial ports, especially in the context of the blocked trade routes in the Black Sea due to the Russian aggression against Ukraine.  All this implies the establishment of a much better, let me call it by its proper name, a modern connecting infrastructure between our two countries, relevant for two members of the European Union and bringing new opportunities for our economic cooperation in the next decades. These new realities are best embodied by the Sea2Sea initiative, which aims at connecting Bulgarian ports on the Black Sea and the Danube river with the Greek ports in the north Aegean Sea through a modern transport, energy and communication infrastructure. In practical terms, it would be an alternative route to the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles. Undoubtedly, Greece and Bulgaria have the potential to create together an energy and transport hub in Southeast Europe, the importance of which would be not only of regional, but of pan-European scale. Dear friends,I am scientist by profession. As such, I cannot offer a magic formula how to transform the Balkans into a prosperous and modern European region. But I strongly believe in three factors which might do the “miracle”: 1. The consolidating and transformational role of the European Union; 2. The regional connectivity 3. The good-neighborly relations.  Good-neighbourliness is an indispensable guiding principle for the regional transformation. What we have to ensure is that words turn into deeds by all countries in the region.  I am proud to say and I hope that my dear colleague Kyriakos Mitsotakis would agree with me that our two countries, Bulgaria and Greece, are leading by example. An example for the whole region.  The history of relations between Bulgarians and Greeks is very, very old. I can think of no other two nations in Europe who have a longer history of relations. We have been neighbours for centuries. We have shared a turbulent past, marked by ups and downs, wars and peace, opposing blocks and alliances. It is not a miracle that after more than a thousand years of controversies, today Bulgaria and Greece enjoy such exemplary good-neighbourly relations. The truth is that it has taken decades of joint efforts of wise Bulgarian and Greek politicians, incl. Konstantinos Karamanlis, who was born here in Northern Greece. It has taken a lot of good will and dedication from diplomats and ordinary people to overcome the shadows of the past and to build mutual respect, trust and confidence.  The Greek-Bulgarian relations have flourished because they have a solid ground –our common values and our strong belief in a democratic international system, based on the principles and norms of international law.   We are proud with our strategic partnership which plays a crucial role for the stability of the whole region of South-East Europe.  Our nations share common hopes and concerns.  We are allies and friends. We are good neighbours who respect and trust each other. Such relations have an enormous potential for the future generations of Greeks and Bulgarians and they deserve our dedication. Dear Greek friends, A thought by the famous Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard comes to my mind: You can understand life only looking backwards, but you can live your life only looking forward.    We cannot change history, but we can definitely shape our common future. Through leadership, strategic vision, more connectivity and mutually beneficial cooperation.  I believe we can do it together. Bulgaria and Greece.Hand in hand, leading by example. Thank you!

Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier

Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier during an informational and contact-building visit with the Diplomatic Corps on 27. June 2023 in Essen

by Frank-Walter Steinmeier

I am delighted to be back in the Land in which I was born and grew up, North Rhine-Westphalia. And I am even happier that so many of you have accompanied me here from Berlin and Bonn. I don’t exactly know whether this is a new record, but 170 participants in our joint trip to explore one of the federal states together is really quite a lot. Minister President, thank you very much indeed for the hospitality extended to us here in this, to my mind, wonderful place, the Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex. North Rhine-Westphalia, as you have just heard, is indeed the most populous Land in Germany. And over the past few years and decades, or I could say over the last century and a half, it has become a real melting pot for people from a wide range of nations. Many people from a very large number of regions of the world have come together here –  thanks in the main to that part of North Rhine-Westphalia which is the focus of our trip today. For a long time, the Ruhr District was the beating heart of heavy industry, a region forged by coal and steel. Four and a half years ago, in December 2018, I was there when the last coal mine here in the Ruhr District was closed. That was one of the hardest speeches I have ever had to make in any of the positions I’ve held – to stand in front of crying miners and say to them: this piece of coal in my hands is the last piece of coal mined in Germany. It was – and everyone knew it was – the end of an era in Germany and especially here in the Ruhr District. It was not just the end of a chapter of industrial history. The hard work, and especially the work below ground, profoundly shaped the people in this region for years and decades. For these people, the crucial thing is being able to rely on each other, and that a word, once given, is kept. If you have another chance sometime to look around here, you will notice that the people who live here are vigorous, sober and pragmatic. They don’t ask where you come from or mind how smartly you can talk; what they care about is that you roll up your sleeves, do your work, and especially that you try to behave decently to others.  So you can imagine that the decline of the coal and steel industry meant a massive upheaval for the Ruhr District and its people, for the economy, but also for social structures here. But precisely in this region, a region which has seen many endings and ruptures, many new things are emerging, many new ideas are being implemented. The major transformation of an old industrial landscape that from here is almost invisible amongst all the greenery, the major transformation of an industrial landscape to a centre of science and research, a hub – if I may put it like that – for technologies of the future is well under way. This morning, at Siemens Energy in Mülheim, we were able to see for ourselves what kind of cutting-edge energy transition technologies, some of them AI-driven, are now being developed and used here in the region.   The venue for our luncheon, the former Zollverein coal mine and coking plant, is a particularly good illustration of the pride the people here in the Ruhr District take in their past, and of the devotion with which they are preserving the relics of this history and at the same time again and again turning them into something new. Once one of the most modern plants of its kind in Europe, Zollverein is today a museum, memorial and centre for culture, design, events and new technologies. A World Cultural Heritage site that not only preserves the past but also looks firmly to the future and builds that future.  As economically successful as the coal and steel era was, today we know that it was just as harmful and in many cases entirely destructive for nature and the environment. For instance, the Emscher, originally a small, gentle river, was for many decades used as an open sewer. It was a cesspool, ecologically dead, into which waste, including toxic waste, was discharged. Now, following a tremendous effort, it has been renaturalised. Later today we will be able to see and admire the result. In one of Europe’s biggest infrastructure projects, an entire river has been cleaned up, so that it is now free of wastewater, and once again home to plants and animals. But perhaps the real miracle is that this – it’s safe to say – gigantic project was completed in thirty years, and on schedule no less.  One more thing: the Ruhr District would not be what it is without football. There is little the people here care about at weekends more than this: did my team win or lose? And passions run especially high when the match is against one of the other teams from the region. Even if a club from the south of Germany has won the national championship for years now, the heart of German football beats – at least so people here say – in the Ruhr District, with its many traditional clubs and their fans, unshakeably loyal through all the ups and downs. That is why the German Football Museum was not established any old where in Germany, but here in the “Revier”, as we call the Ruhr mining area. And that is why this trip would not be complete without a joint visit to the museum in Dortmund later on.  Another very serious matter has profoundly affected the people of this region, and not only the older generation. I am talking about war. On the one hand, the Ruhr District was of course also a major centre of arms production in both World Wars unleashed by Germany. On the other, it, more than almost any other region in Germany, experienced fear, massive destruction and thousands of deaths during the intensive bombardments of the Second World War. The people here, including later generations, know exactly what war is.  And because they know, because “Never again” is deeply engraved in their hearts and minds, the Ruhr District is also a nucleus of European integration. The European Coal and Steel Community, which was intended to transform the former heavy industries of the war machine into civilian, peace-keeping industries, gradually evolved into ever greater political, economic and social cooperation, and finally into the major work of peace and freedom that is today’s European Union.   The history of this region in particular, therefore, preserves the precious knowledge that cooperation between peoples and nations is a thousand times better than war and confrontation. That growth and prosperity evolve not from enmity, but from cooperation based on common rules and principles.   That is why we Germans are pleased and proud to be celebrating 50 years of United Nations membership this year. The principles of international law that the then two German states recognised on their accession apply to all who belong to the United Nations. Only compliance with international law, recognition of the Charter of the United Nations and real and actual action in keeping with the principles of this Charter guarantee peace, freedom and prosperity for the nations. On the basis of these principles, we extend the hand of cooperation to all states represented here.  There is of course a reason why I am saying this: The Russian attack on Ukraine is a break with everything for which the United Nations stands, for which Europe and Germany stand. The inviolability of borders, of a country´s sovereignty and self-determination, of human dignity and peace – all this, as we are seeing day in, day out, means nothing to Putin. Today I would like to thank all those who are condemning and have condemned Russia’s aggression at international level. We must not tolerate the attack against a sovereign neighbouring state, the violation of borders, land grabs, the displacement of millions of people. The international community must not accept all this. And we urgently need this international community, and the common rules this international community sets itself – not only now, but for all the new challenges of this century that are yet to come.  We have all seen that no country on its own can secure a humane future. We are all dependent on partnership and cooperation, particularly in our joint efforts in the fight against climate change. That is why we are endeavouring, that is why German and European policy is endeavouring, to intensify existing partnerships and establish new, just partnerships and alliances that will benefit all sides. Let me say this quite clearly: what we need is not deglobalisation. What we need, in my view, is even closer connectivity aimed at making the world a better place. Because we will only be able to overcome the global challenges if we work together.  I wish you and all of us a pleasant rest of the day with lots of enjoyable experiences, interesting insights and, hopefully, valuable encounters. This evening, right at the end of our trip, we will be experiencing another truly glorious part of North-Rhine Westphalia that will surprise you. What we will be seeing is referred to here as the Versailles of Westphalia. I can only say: look forward to it!