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Czech Republic seeks upgrade in ties with Taiwan: CECO head

2010/03/30 19:54:01

Taipei, March 30 (CNA) The Czech Republic is ready to boost itsexchanges with Taiwan to a fuller scale as it hopes to upgradebilateral relations, especially in trade and culture, after theeconomic crisis, top Czech diplomat in Taiwan told CNA in aninterview Tuesday.

Commenting on current Czech-Taiwan relations, Czech Economic andCultural Office (CECO) Representative Juraj Koudelka said that interms of the number of tourists, the number of Taiwanese companiesinvesting in the Czech Republic and bilateral exchanges of goods, theCzech Republic's relations with Taiwan "are on a high and very goodlevel."

The CECO's effort in promoting bilateral relations has beenfruitful in recent years, but it is not satisfied yet, Koudelka said.As the global economy is showing a rebound, he said, his officeintends to do more to facilitate more exchanges, which are expectedto translate into stronger bilateral ties.

An estimated 15,000 Taiwanese tourists visited the CentralEuropean country last year. The number is expected to grow and returnto the pre-economic crisis period because there will be moretravelers now that the economy is starting to show signs of recovery,said Koudelka, who took office as the de facto ambassador in January,in the absence of formal diplomatic ties.

Tourism is important in increasing bilateral understanding,because of the "people to people contact, " he said.

Koudelka said he didn't know exactly when Taiwan will be grantedvisa-free privilege to the Schengen Area, which currently consists of25 European countries, but he expected the visa-free program wouldmake it easier for Taiwanese tourists to travel.

The Czech Republic has been very supportive of the proposedmeasure, he said, noting that it was his country which first raisedthe issue during its European Union (EU) presidency in the first halfof 2009.

Meanwhile, the representative dubbed his country's year-long"Czech Gems" exhibition tour, which just concluded in the southerncity of Tainan after making trips to other major cities in Taiwan, abig success and a great opportunity to promote Czech culture.

The exhibition is composed of three parts, including thecountry's renowned Baroque architecture, a creative recycling art ofthe PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles, and a collectionintroducing Czech gems, such as the Prague castle, the largest castlein the world; peasant Baroque farmhouses; the unique breed of OldKladruby Horses, and composer Antonin Dvorak's Symphony No. 9.

Koudelka's office would like to support as much culturalexchanges as possible and keep raising awareness of the possibilitiesfor more Taiwanese companies to follow the footsteps of some 30well-known local corporations -- including Foxconn, computer makerAcer and bicycle manufacturer Giant -- to invest in Czech, he said.

Czech companies are more than welcomed to invest in Taiwan, hesaid, adding that the current number of Czech companies in Taiwan is"less than we would like to have."

Taiwanese companies are also encouraged to take advantage of theCzech Republic's geographic position, which is located in the heartof Europe; its educated workforce with advanced knowledge of science;its lower wages and low production cost; and its emphasis on the ruleof law, he said.

Since the Czech Republic has a strong automobile industry, withcar maker Skoda Auto, now a subsidiary of the Volkswagen Group,selling 600,000 cars a year, Taiwanese businesses will be welcomed toexplore partnerships. Other sectors, including textile,nanotechnology, environmental technology, and biological and chemicalproducts, also present opportunities, Koudelka said.

Meanwhile, CECO also would like to bring in more Czech investmentand imports, although the office could only make suggestions andrecommendations, he noted.

Asked about the recent debate in Taiwan about whether to abolishthe death penalty, Koudelka said that he will not try to give adviceto anyone. As an EU member country, he said, abolition of the capitalpunishment came naturally for the Czech Republic.

He observed that the discussion regarding the death penalty inhis country had also been very difficult and he believed that dueprocess is very important.

Offering observations, he said that several things are quiteimportant as "first, it (the death penalty) is forever and you can'tundo it. Second, sometimes it can be misused, which has happened inour history. Third, research has found that the death penalty doesnot serve as an effective tool to reduce criminality."

The Czech Republic abolished the death penalty because "in ourview, human rights are very important. They are a very strong part ofwhat we do and what we believe in," said Koudelka.

(By Chris Wang)