Singapore PM Lee sends congratulatory letter to new German Chancellor Scholz, pays tribute to Merkel
SINGAPORE: Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has sent a congratulatory letter to incoming German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and paid tribute to his predecessor Angela Merkel.
Mr Scholz, a Social Democrat, was elected into office on Wednesday (Dec 8), ending 16 years of conservative rule under Mrs Merkel.
Mr Scholz, 63, served as vice chancellor and finance minister in Mrs Merkel's government.
In a letter provided to the media by Singapore's Foreign Affairs Ministry on Wednesday, Mr Lee told Mr Scholz that Germany is an "important and trusted" partner for Singapore.
The two met recently in Rome during the G20 Summit.
Mr Scholz last visited Singapore for the World Cities Summit in July 2016 while he was First Mayor of Hamburg. A year later, Mr Lee visited Hamburg for the G20 Summit.
"I am glad that our bilateral ties have continued to deepen, underpinned by robust cooperation spanning the diplomatic, defence, economic, education, environment, research and cultural sectors," said Mr Lee.
"Reflecting the enduring friendship between our two countries, Germany was one of the first countries with which Singapore launched a vaccinated travel lane. This was a key step towards re-establishing air connectivity for vaccinated individuals amidst the pandemic."
Mr Lee said "there is much scope for Singapore and Germany to serve as each other’s hubs in our respective regions".
"We can also work together to strengthen ties between Europe and Southeast Asia, including under the auspices of the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement and the ASEAN-EU Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement.
"Given the many global challenges that we face, including the pandemic, climate change, and the impact these have had on our supply chains and livelihoods, it is timely that our two countries are looking to broaden cooperation in new areas such as the digital economy, cybersecurity, and sustainability," added Mr Lee.
In a valedictory letter to Mrs Merkel, Mr Lee lauded her for completing a "distinguished" tenure in office.
"Your illustrious achievements over the past 16 years have laid a strong foundation that will stand Germany in good stead for many years to come," said Mr Lee.
He said Mrs Merkel has earned the respect of her peers in Europe, Asia and the rest of the world after steering Germany and Europe through four consecutive terms.
The two leaders met recently at the G20 meeting. They first met in December 2005 in Berlin.
"I had taken over as Prime Minister the year before, and it was my good fortune to be your first official guest shortly after you were sworn in as Chancellor," said Mr Lee.
"Our exchanges were always constructive and substantial, and I have greatly valued your candour and methodical approach to the complex issues confronting our countries and the world."
Commenting on the "excellent" relations between Singapore and Germany, Mr Lee cited the Joint Declaration on Enhanced Partnership, first signed in 1998 and upgraded in 2005.
"I am especially grateful for your strong support for the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, which has brought tangible benefits to companies in Singapore and the EU, including Germany.
"Germany is one of Singapore’s key economic partners and many more German companies are investing in Singapore, including BioNTech which is building a vaccine plant here," Mr Lee said.
"Germany’s international stature today as a reliable and responsible power would not have been possible without your wise leadership and commitment to fostering strong international partnerships through a rules-based multilateral system.
"You have inspired many young men and women through your exemplary leadership and service to both your nation and the international community," he added.
"Ho Ching and I wish you and Joachim the very best of health and much fulfilment in your retirement. As I said to you in Rome, both of you will always be welcomed as our guests in Singapore."