Poland, Singapore leaders hail strong relations

President Tony Tan Keng Yam and Polish President Andrzej Duda, with Mrs Mary Tan and Mrs Agata Kornhauser-Duda, at an official dinner at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw on Monday. The Singapore President ended his state visit to Poland yesterday, a
President Tony Tan Keng Yam and Polish President Andrzej Duda, with Mrs Mary Tan and Mrs Agata Kornhauser-Duda, at an official dinner at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw on Monday. The Singapore President ended his state visit to Poland yesterday, and begins a four-day state visit to the Czech Republic today.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Links go beyond 48 years of diplomatic ties, say presidents

Singapore and Poland mark 48 years of diplomatic relations this year, but links between them go deep into the past.

Between 1887 and 1888, Polish-born novelist Joseph Conrad visited Singapore eight times and wrote about it in several of his works, including Lord Jim.

He offered "a window into 19th-century Singapore", and today, a commemorative plaque outside The Fullerton Hotel marks his stay, President Tony Tan Keng Yam said.

He was speaking at an official dinner on Monday hosted by his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda. It was held at the Presidential Palace, whose state room was filled with the haunting melodies of Polish composer Frederic Chopin as guests dined on food such as smoked sturgeon and quail.

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Dr Tan noted that the Poles have "extended a hand of friendship" on several occasions in more recent times. Singapore's founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew visited the country in 1966. In 1971, Polish architect Krystyn Olszweski became chief designer of the team that developed Singapore's first plan for land use and infrastructure planning.

Both Dr Tan and Mr Duda cited Mr Olszweski, who spent 15 years living and working in Singapore.

He had a vision of "developing a city friendly to people" in it, where "modern technology would be interwoven with nature", Mr Duda said.

"Just like Mr Olszweski managed to combine in his projects all his imagination and attachment to nature, together with Singaporean modernity, Singapore and Poland, too, can be successful in joint efforts in scientific research and economic projects," he added. Looking ahead, there is "huge potential lying dormant in the cooperation of the two countries", Mr Duda said.

The two nations also have several things in common, Dr Tan said.

Both are at the heart of their regions and are open economies with shared interests in entrepreneurship, innovation and technology. And new agreements between the Polish Investment and Trade Agency, and IE Singapore and Singapore Business Federation further strengthen business ties, he said.

The ratification of the landmark European Union-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, he added, will allow Poland to use Singapore as a platform to engage South-east Asia.

Dr Tan noted the increasingly strong links between their research institutions that go back to 2005. They got a boost on Monday when an agreement was renewed. "Singapore now has several acclaimed Polish scientists and researchers based in our institutions," he said.

People-to-people ties are strong too, with exchange programmes.

Dr Tan cited Mr Lien Boon Hua, 32, music director of the award-winning Singapore wind ensemble Orchestra Collective, who is an assistant conductor of the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra.

"These friendships forged between our youth will stand us in good stead for even closer ties between Singapore and Poland in the future," Dr Tan added.

Yesterday, he ended his state visit to Poland after meetings with Mr Stanislaw Karczewski and Mr Marek Kuchcinski, the respective heads of the Upper and Lower Chambers of Parliament.

All three leaders welcomed stronger parliamentary ties.

The two Polish parliamentary chiefs expressed support for the swift ratification of the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement.

Today, Dr Tan begins a four-day state visit to the Czech Republic.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 24, 2017, with the headline 'Poland, Singapore leaders hail strong relations'. Print Edition | Subscribe