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President Tsai addresses 25th Forum 2000 Conference
President Tsai addresses 25th Forum 2000 Conference

On October 11 at 4 p.m. (10 a.m. local time in the Czech Republic), President Tsai Ing-wen delivered remarks via video at the opening of the 25th Forum 2000 Conference. In her remarks, President Tsai stated that the world will continue to face a number of challenges in the post-pandemic era, which will require a coordinated response from the international community. The president said that Taiwan is prepared to play its part, and will continue working with like-minded countries to defend the free and democratic world order, adding that Taiwan hopes to sign a bilateral investment agreement with the European Union to strengthen our common interests and solidify our shared values.

A transcript of President Tsai's speech follows:

It is my pleasure to join you all virtually at the 25th Forum 2000 Conference.

First, I would like to thank the Forum 2000 Foundation for inviting me again to take part in this important event. I also want to express my appreciation to Executive Director [Jakub] Klepal and his colleagues at the Forum 2000 Foundation for their persistent support for Taiwan. I sincerely treasure this friendship.

Second, I want to take this opportunity to congratulate former president of the National Endowment for Democracy, Mr. Carl Gershman, on receiving the inaugural "Forum 2000 International Award for Courage and Responsibility."

For more than three decades, Mr. Gershman's unwavering dedication to promoting democracy and facilitating democratic unity worldwide has set an example for us all. Carl is also an old friend of Taiwan, and a staunch supporter of Taiwan's democracy.

With his support and assistance, Taiwan established Asia's first democracy advocacy and assistance foundation, the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy (TFD). And the TFD will celebrate its 20th anniversary next year. The last time I saw Carl was in 2019, when I recognized him with the Order of Brilliant Star with Grand Cordon for his exceptional contributions to democracy and the Taiwan-US relationship.

I recently learned that Carl retired this year, so I want to wish you a happy retirement. I also want to welcome you to Taiwan again when the pandemic recedes.

Now, even as efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 remain, we are slowly approaching the post-COVID era. With that, there are important new issues that require our attention and joint efforts. Issues such as "How should the global democratic community recover and be better and stronger?", "How can democracies cooperate to face the challenges of rising authoritarianism?", and "How can democracies facilitate active citizen participation?"

I am glad to see that this year's Forum 2000 conference is dedicated to facilitating discussions between democracies and their advocates to deliberate on these pressing and vital issues. Our friends from Central and Eastern Europe know all too well how precious democracy and freedom are.

Emerging from the pandemic, authoritarian regimes are now even more confident that their alternative model is more adaptive than the democratic system. Through gray zone activities, military threats and information manipulation, authoritarian regimes aim to erode our citizens' confidence in democratic institutions and polarize our societies.

Taiwan stands on the front line of this assault, and we have been working diligently to combat such coercion. We will share our experience and continue working with like-minded countries to safeguard the liberal democratic world order, and to tackle the unprecedented challenges from authoritarian regimes.

We will also keep striving to be part of the solution for the international community's efforts to tackle issues such as economic downturn, climate change, emerging diseases, non-proliferation, terrorism, and secured supply chains.

Last month, European Commission President [Ursula] von der Leyen announced the launch of Global Gateway, a connectivity grand strategy that supports investments and quality infrastructure, as well as connects goods, people, and services around the world. In addition, the EU has proposed the Europe-Asia Connectivity Strategy, which advocates for a sustainable, comprehensive, and rules-based approach to connectivity.

Taiwan is ready to be an indispensable partner to Europe, not only in democratic renewal, but also in sectors such as biotechnology, renewable energy, data protection, ocean governance, and the semiconductor industry. Taiwan's high-tech sector will also play a crucial part in creating a secure global supply chain that protects critical technologies from exploitation.

In addition, Taiwan has an innovative role to play in high-precision manufacturing, artificial intelligence, renewable energy, biotech, and many other sectors, which can help create more diverse and resilient global supply chains that can withstand interruptions.

We also encourage the European Union to establish a bilateral investment agreement (BIA) with Taiwan. Such an agreement would strengthen our mutual interests and solidify our shared values.

Taiwan is ready to shoulder its share, and we will not take our partners' support for granted. As Foreign Minister of Lithuania [Gabrielius] Landsbergis said, "Freedom-loving people should look out for each other."

Despite the pandemic, the past year and ten months have been exemplified by resilience, strength, friendship, and partnership. Taiwan donated materiel and provided assistance to Europe at the onset of the pandemic, and our European friends came to Taiwan's aid with life-saving vaccines.

Before concluding, I want to take this opportunity to reiterate my deepest gratitude to our like-minded friends from across Europe, particularly Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic, for coming to our assistance during such a critical time.

I also want to express appreciation to Lithuania for its determination to establish mutual representative offices with Taiwan by the end of this year, despite tremendous pressure.

The world has changed considerably because of the pandemic. While there are still many challenges ahead, I see democracies working together to help each other, to safeguard our shared values, and to serve the interests of the international community.

While we will surely face great challenges again in the future, I am confident that by working together and believing in the values of democracy and freedom, we will always triumph.

Lastly, I want to thank Mr. Klepal again for the invitation to address the participants of this important conference. I wish this year's Forum 2000 conference great success, and I look forward to seeing you all at "Forum 2000 in Asia" in Taiwan next year.

The Forum 2000 was founded in 1996 as a joint initiative of the late Czech President Václav Havel, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Elie Wiesel, and Japanese philanthropist Sasakawa Yohei, and as a platform where participants can debate on the prospects and challenges for democracy, defend human rights, and promote the development of civil society. Taiwan has dispatched representatives to attend the Forum each year since 1998, and President Tsai also delivered remarks via pre-recorded video at the 24th Forum 2000 Conference in 2020.

The theme of the 25th Forum 2000 Conference is "What Now? Building Back Democratically." This year's event is focused on three key topics: global cooperation between democracies, the contest between authoritarianism and democracy in the digital realm, and the renewal of democracy via active citizenship. Discussions cover how democracies, under frequent challenges and threats from authoritarianism in a post-COVID era, can build consensus and cooperate to address human rights violations, digital security, and disinformation. Key speakers at the Forum this year (2021) include Moldova President Maia Sandu and Czech Senate President Miloš Vystrčil.

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