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Speech by Minister Iswaran at the Europe Day Reception 2019

Speech by Minister Iswaran at the Europe Day Reception 2019

Your Excellency Ambassador Barbara Plinkert, 

My Parliamentary Colleagues Dr Chia Shi-Lu and Ms Joan Pereira, 

Distinguished Guests, 

Ladies and Gentlemen

1 Good evening. It is my pleasure to be here today to commemorate Europe Day. On behalf of the Government and people of Singapore, I would like to extend our warmest congratulations to the people of the European Union. 

2 69 years ago, French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman made a bold and visionary statement proposing the creation of an organisation which would go on to be the world’s largest trading bloc and a major global political actor. This was no mean feat in a continent which had been ravaged by two world wars. 

3 Today, Schuman’s message of unity and cooperation is ever more important given the rising protectionist sentiments taking root in parts of the world. The EU is a standard bearer for an open, rules-based international order and a shining example of what countries can achieve if they collaborate and build on each other’s strengths. 

4 While the EU continues to work towards its goal of “an ever closer union”, it has also been actively promoting partnerships with countries outside the continent. In this regard, I am happy to note that Singapore and the EU enjoy excellent relations based on enduring mutual interests and a shared outlook on many international issues. Our leaders know each other well. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong met European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on the sidelines of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Summit held in Brussels in October 2018. More recently, Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan met High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini at the 22nd ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting in Brussels in January 2019. We were also pleased to welcome EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan and Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation Carlos Moedas during their respective visits to Singapore. 

5 Aside from strong political relations, we enjoy robust economic links. The EU is Singapore’s third largest trading partner in goods and largest trading partner in services, while we are the EU’s largest trading partner in ASEAN for both goods and services. The EU is also the largest investor in Singapore and we are happy to host more than 10,000 EU companies here. The ratification of the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (EUSFTA) and the EU-Singapore Investment Protection Agreement (EUSIPA) by the European Parliament in February this year sends a strong signal of the EU’s commitment to free and open trade. I am confident that our economic relations will grow once the EUSFTA and the EUSIPA enter into force. Together with the EU-Singapore Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, these three agreements will guide our relations to even greater heights. 

6 Aside from the growing ties between Singapore and the EU, I am also pleased to note that the EU has stepped up its engagement of ASEAN. ASEAN and the EU are two of the most successful regional blocs and Singapore is happy to play a role in fostering deeper ties between the two regions in our capacity as the country coordinator for ASEAN-EU dialogue relations. In this regard, we welcome the in-principle agreement at the 22nd ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting earlier this year to upgrade relations to a Strategic Partnership. We also look forward to the completion of the ASEAN-EU Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement that is currently being negotiated and we hope that the EUSFTA will serve as a pathfinder to an eventual FTA between ASEAN and the EU. There is much that we can do to promote stronger political, economic and people-to-people ties between our two regions. 

7 Europe has a special place in the hearts and minds of many Singaporeans. As we commemorate our bicentennial this year, we also recall the contributions made by the many Europeans throughout our history. Our roads and buildings bear names like Raffles, Coleman, McNally and Winsemius because we recognise that Singapore today would look very different without the vision and hard work of these Europeans. I am confident that the EU will continue to play a vital role in the success of Singapore and the region in the years to come. 

8 Thank you. 

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