Bastille Day Celebration in Singapore [fr]
The Ambassador of France to Singapore, Mr. Marc Abensour, hosted a reception on 15 July to celebrate France’s National Day.
Among the guests were Ms Sim Ann, Senior Minister of State for Communication and Information and Culture, Community and Youth, Dr Lim Wee Kiak and Ms Jessica Tan Soon Neo, Members of Parliament.
Singapore and Foreign officials, representatives of the French and Singapore business communities were also present. In total, around 600 guests attended the event.
Mrs Sim Ann, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Communications and Information, and Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth
Dr Lim Wee Kiak, member of Parliament for Sembawang,
Ms Jessica Tan Soon Neo, member of Parliament for East Coast,
Mme Anne Genetet, member of Parliament for French citizens living abroad,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Mes chers compatriotes,
It is a great honor and pleasure for my wife Veronica and I to welcome you tonight for the celebration of our National Day. Today we commemorate the 230th anniversary of the Storming of the Bastille the 14th July 1789, victory of liberty and equality over privilege. Our National day also commemorates the festival of the federation in 1790 devoted to fraternity as a moment of reconciliation and unity. Georges Clémenceau, leading French politician well-known in Singapour, said in a famous speech in 1891, that : “La Révolution est un bloc dont on ne peut rien distraire” (the Revolution is a block from which nothing can be separated ”. Often misinterpreted, this quotation means that when reflecting on the French Revolution, we should take it as a whole, with its complexity, combining human rights and despotism.
Nations keep questioning these defining moments of their history. They are important landmarks for addressing challenges in the future.
In the case of Singapore, the 200th anniversary this year of the landing of Stamford Raffles reminds us of how Singapore benefited from a strategic location while being vulnerable to the competition between regional powers. Let me seize this opportunity to recall that Raffles did not come alone. He recruited two French botanists, Diard and Duvaucel, to accompany him on his journey. The two French naturalists were very keen to discover the flora and fauna of the islands of the Strait of Malacca which were little known. Duvaucel described their visit to Singapore as follows : “Upon arrival in the harbor, the governor received a visit from three of the king‘s aides-de-camp…their black, shaven heads were covered with an obscurely turban… at their left sides they bore a large kris or dagger. These three Malays appeared delighted to see us, although we were not there for their good. The British sought to find out if there might be any advantage in seizing their island, while we, less interested, questioned them about the animals to be found there. Who do you think these poor folk listened to more eagerly?”. I let you guess the right answer !
In the context of the bicentennial, we will organize, together with several key Singaporean cultural institutions, a series of events to highlight the contribution of Diard and Duvaucel to the natural history of Singapore. They will be part of the Voilah! Festival, to be held from October 3 to November 17. This encounter between French and Singaporean cultures and communities is a precious heritage that we need to preserve and nurture. This is why a new impetus will be given to the Voilah! Festival this year: 30 programs have been scheduled in various fields: culture, education, science, lifestyle, tourism and sport. Combining it with the French Film Festival, Voilah! will benefit from the participation of all the partners of the Franco-Singaporean cultural relationship (cultural institutions, universities, research centers, companies, etc.). I thank them for their strong involvement.
During Voilah! we will also celebrate the 10th anniversary of our cultural cooperation. 10 years ago, France and Singapore signed an inter-governmental agreement in the area of culture which has given rise to numerous collaborations, especially on museums and architectural heritage. I am particularly pleased that minister Sim Ann is here today to celebrate our national day with us because our two ministries of culture are currently working on the renewal of this agreement in order to expand our cultural cooperation to new sectors and to encourage the development of co-productions and co-creations between our two countries. We hope that we can finalize this renewed agreement for the coming Voilah! edition. Tonight I am proud to give you a first glimpse of Voilah! 2019
Beyond the important yearly rendez-vous of Voilah!, the strategic partnership between France and Singapore keeps thriving.
It benefits from the great momentum created by the France-Singapore Year of Innovation: 60 events, a dozen high-level visits, over 20 MOUs have boosted our cooperation and strengthened synergies between our respective innovation ecosystems. The exceptional mobilization of our entrepreneurs, researchers and companies has led to an unprecedented number of joint initiatives, opening new areas of collaboration such as space, circular economy and artificial intelligence.
Together, we are committed to promoting a model of innovation based on responsibility and inclusiveness, in order to address key challenges whether on climate change, inclusive finance or gender equality. We have built the tools for such an ambitious approach. Let me mention a few of them that will play a greater role in the months and years to come :
The French Tech Community of Singapore : with 1500 members, it facilitates the integration of French start-ups into the Singaporean and ASEAN markets. In parallel, the Global Innovation Alliance set up in Paris a year ago confirms that France is increasingly a launching pad into Europe for Singaporean start-ups.
The Joint Committee for Science and Innovation, as announced by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat last March: by bringing together all the key players in innovation, including major French research organizations, it will define a shared roadmap for our scientific and technological cooperation, while ensuring the translation of research to industry. Few weeks ago, the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) created its first subsidiary abroad, CNRS @ CREATE : it will serve as a very powerful vehicle for the implementation of the roadmap I have just mentioned. I should also refer to the “French Lab Singapore” with its 300 French academic and industrial researchers aiming at strengthening the synergies between the scientific communities of our two countries.
The "France Excellence" scholarships program: thanks to the support of a dozen French companies, the EDB and the prestigious universities of Singapore, NUS and NTU, we will provide Singaporean students with the opportunity to do an internship in French companies, in France or abroad.
A lot remains to be done. But we know that we can rely on a strong support of our two governments at the highest level. We have at our disposal the proper frameworks and entities to implement this ambitious vision of two innovation hubs actively contributing to a greater connectivity between France and Singapore, and between Europe and Asia.
As a regional hub, Singapore continues to offer many opportunities for French companies: over 1000 French companies and around 300 French entrepreneurs have created 35,000 jobs in Singapore. Their investments amount to € 12 billion. French companies are particularly interested in investments in the digital economy, smart city and urban services, health and green finance. The recent creation of the "Team France export" group, bringing together representatives from the Chamber of Commerce, Business France, Bpifrance, the French foreign trade advisers and the French Embassy, will play an important role in fostering greater economic partnership.
Together with our European partners, we are committed to the implementation of the free trade and investment agreements between the EU and Singapore. Trade between our two countries keep increasing, mainly in aeronautics, luxury goods, IT, pharmaceuticals and agrifood industry.
France is pursuing reform at a pace never seen before. France is not only the European leader in innovative investment and industrial investment, but also the 5th most attractive country in the world for foreign investors in 2018. The economic measures taken by the government are bearing fruit and reinforce the image of a dynamic and business-friendly France.
On defense and security matters, our strategic partnership is best characterized by the high level of trust between our two nations: following the participation a year ago of the Singapore Armed forces to the National Day Parade on Champs Elysees on the occasion of PM Lee’s visit to France, the recent call to port in Singapore of the French air carrier strike group illustrates our shared commitment to peace and prosperity in the region. As our Minister for the Armed Forces, Mrs. Parly, emphasized during the last Shangri-La Dialogue, France is a maritime power of the Indo-Pacific. Therefore our Indo-Pacific strategy highlights our commitment to freedom of navigation and overflight and to a rules-based order, which is essential in times of increasing instability and uncertainty. It was well-illustrated with the recent joint exercise between the french air carrier strike group and the Singaporean navy and air force.
In the international arena, our two countries uphold robust, open and inclusive multilateralism. As France presides over the G7, we know we can count on Singapore’s support to tackle the great challenges of our times – safeguard and reform of the multilateral trade system, fight against global warming, governance of the cyberspace and of artificial intelligence, education, global health. We agree on the urgent need to act to preserve our multilateral system and France relies on the commitment of Singapore and its influence within ASEAN, all the more precious now that Singapore is currently coordinating EU-ASEAN relations.
Taking advantage of Minister Sim Ann’s presence, let me emphasize that, among these key priorities, France and Singapore are actively engaged in ensuring a secure, free and open cyberspace. Our two countries are implementing the Joint Roadmap on Digital Innovation, Internet Governance and Cyber Security which was adopted in July 2018, and since then Singapore has joined the Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace. Hopefully, an EU-ASEAN declaration on cyber security – the very first one - will be adopted later this month, building on France-Singapore joint initiative. Singapore will also be present at the upcoming Paris Peace Forum with its innovative project on a human-centric AI, confirming Prime Minister’s Lee willingness to weigh in on ideas for better global governance. Last but not least, in the area of education, Mr. Ong Ye Kung, Minister of Education, has just returned from France where he was invited by his French counterpart to participate in the G7 ministerial meeting on education. Singapore stands out for its innovative and experimental teaching methods (mathematics, science etc.) and we want to collaborate closely to carry out ambitious reforms of our education systems so that each student can benefit from the best environment to learn.
Before ending my speech, I would like to say a few words in French to my fellow countrymen.
Membres de la communauté française de Singapour, deuxième plus importante d’Asie en nombre (et qui continue de croître), vous êtes les acteurs de ce dynamisme, de cette capacité d’innovation et de créativité. Les quelques projets et initiatives que j’ai mentionnés n’auraient pu se faire sans votre précieux soutien et vos multiples contributions. Vous êtes dans le même temps des acteurs de l’attractivité et de la prospérité de Singapour, témoignant de l’enthousiasme et de la confiance des Français dans l’avenir de Singapour. Vous faites partie de l’écosystème de l’innovation, des entreprises, de la recherche, de la culture de ce pays. Vous gardez en même temps le lien avec la France, comme l’a confirmé le fait que vous êtes venus à nouveau nombreux à l’ambassade pour voter aux élections européennes. Je tiens à vous remercier pour votre indispensable contribution à l’image positive de notre pays. Cette année sera aussi l’occasion de développements importants pour notre communauté : le Lycée français de Singapour changera de nom et s’appellera « International French School Singapore ». Un plan d’extension permettant d’accroître sa capacité d’accueil à plus de 4000 élèves a également été adopté. Fleuron du système éducatif français à l’étranger, il sera ainsi en mesure de s’engager pleinement dans un projet d’internationalisation et d’ouverture aux autres communautés étrangères. Quant à l’Alliance française, notre "French Hub", elle fêtera cette année ses 70 ans et je souhaite souligner son apport essentiel à l’activité éducative et culturelle francophone de Singapour. J’aimerais aussi saluer l’engagement de nos élus, le sénateur Jacky Deromedi, la députée Anne Genetet, ici présente ainsi que les conseillers consulaires. Je voudrais enfin rendre hommage à toute l’équipe de l’ambassade de France pour son implication sans relâche en faveur du partenariat entre nos deux pays. Les résultats parlent d’eux-mêmes. Enfin je souhaite exprimer tous mes remerciements à nos sponsors grâce auxquels chaque année nous nous retrouvons dans ce superbe lieu pour ce moment de convivialité et de partage entre amis français, singapouriens ou d’ailleurs.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am fully confident that the relations between our two countries have a bright future ahead, that these will continue to develop, based on our shared successes, our joint approach to global challenges, the dynamism of the French community and the vibrant ecosystem of Singapore.
Long live our Franco-Singaporean friendship !
Vive la République ! Vive la France !
And now , Ladies and Gentlemen, It is my great pleasure to propose a toast to Her Excellency, Mrs Halimah Yacob, the President of the Republic of Singapore.
Speech by Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Culture, Community & Youth and Ministry of Communications and Information Sim Ann for the French National Day Reception on 15 July 2019
Your Excellency, Marc Abensour, Ambassador of France to Singapore
My Parliamentary colleagues Dr Lim Wee Kiat and Ms Jessica Tan
Ladies and Gentlemen
Bonsoir à tous ! 2
Good evening to all!
I am honoured to be here today.
On behalf of the Government and people of Singapore, I would like to extend our warmest congratulations to France and its people on the special occasion of France’s National Day.
Last year was a special year for our bilateral relations. 3
The 2018 France-Singapore Year of Innovation (YOI) saw the launch of more than 60 events which covered a whole range of collaborations in sectors such as Smart Cities; FinTech; Health and Biotech; Aeronautics and Space; Start-ups and Emerging Technologies; and Education and Lifelong Learning.
There was also a series of high-level visits between our two countries which culminated in the official visit of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong who was invited as President Emmanuel Macron’s guest of honour at the 14 July celebrations in Paris last year. 4
Singapore was deeply honoured by the invitation, and I was delighted to personally participate in the celebrations as part of Prime Minister Lee’s delegation.
Our bilateral ties have continued to grow from strength to strength following the conclusion of the YOI in March 2019.
Just last month, Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo made a working visit to Paris and Senior Minister of State for Defence Heng Chee How attended the 54th Paris Airshow. 5
We were also honoured that Singapore was invited for the first time to take part in the G7 Education Ministers Meeting in Sevres, where Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung reaffirmed the importance of education in promoting equal opportunities for all.
Beyond ministerial visits, we have also seen a strengthening of ties at the parliamentary level. 6
Following the visit of a group of French senators to Singapore in February, Deputy Speaker of Parliament Charles Chong led a delegation of Members of Parliament – including Wee Kiak and Jessica, who are with us this evening – to France in June, where they met their counterparts in the National Assembly and Senate, as well as local officials in the southwest of France.
Our defence relations remain strong, and were reinforced by the visit of the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle to Singapore in conjunction with this year’s Shangri-La Dialogue. 7
The French carrier group conducted joint exercises with the Republic of Singapore Navy and the Republic of Singapore Air Force, helping to build greater interoperability and understanding between our armed forces.
We were also pleased to welcome Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly for the second consecutive year to the Shangri-La Dialogue, and look forward to France’s continued support for this important international event. 8
On the economic front, bilateral trade has continued to grow significantly, with France being Singapore’s 2nd largest trading partner in the EU.
In turn, Singapore is France’s largest trading partner in ASEAN and the third largest in Asia after China and Japan.
Close to 2,100 French companies have established a presence in Singapore, several of which have set up their Asia-Pacific HQs including Airbus, Thales, Sanofi and Danone. 9
We have also made significant progress particularly in the start-up space, establishing reciprocal landing pads in each other’s markets, with the French Tech Singapore in Singapore, and the Global Innovation Alliance (GIA) programme in France.
GIA Paris is in fact Singapore’s first in Europe.
The France-Singapore Joint Committee on Science and Innovation will be launched later this year to strengthen the momentum of our R&D collaborations. 10
As important as our economic and defence ties are, our cultural and people to people ties are also very strong.
The Voilah! French Festival has become an annual fixture in Singapore’s cultural landscape.
In February, the National Arts Council, together with the Embassy of Singapore to France, put together Urban Art Singapore, a two-and-half-week exhibition in Paris. 11
One of the most well-received performance art pieces, part of an installation titled C(HOPE), featured artist Rizman Putra dressed up as a life-size tissue packet to showcase our “chope-ing culture”.
French artists have also been active in Singapore’s heartlands, notably participating in the March 2019 edition of the Arts In Your Neighbourhood community arts programme. 12
As Singapore commemorates our Bicentennial this year, we would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to all French nationals who have contributed to Singapore’s early development since 1819.
Many of you may not be aware that when Stamford Raffles landed in Singapore, he was in fact accompanied by two French naturalists, whose work has contributed to our appreciation of the rich biodiversity in Singapore and Southeast Asia.
Many of their specimens, drawings and manuscripts are now in the National Museum of Natural History in Paris. 13
With such a long history of friendship and so many deep connections across a wide range of sectors, I am certain that the relations between our countries will continue to flourish in the years to come.
We live in uncertain times, and having like-minded partners like France which share a common belief in upholding the international system, multilateralism and rule of law, has become more critical than ever.
The Year of Innovation has created a powerful momentum in our bilateral relationship – but it is just the beginning. 14
Let us continue to work together for the benefit of both our countries and peoples.
Your Excellency Ambassador Abensour,
Ladies and Gentlemen
Please allow me to propose a toast to the French Republic, to President Emmanuel Macron, and to the French people.
A votre santé