Thursday, 21 May 2015

State Visit by President Tony Tan to France

Red-carpet welcome for President Tan in France
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, In Paris, The Straits Times, 18 May 2015

SINGAPORE flags flew high in Paris alongside the red, white and blue Tricolore of France as President Tony Tan Keng Yam began his state visit there yesterday.

They lined streets and buildings near the Hotel Nationale des Invalides in Paris, where Dr Tan will attend a welcoming ceremony today before calling on his French counterpart, President Francois Hollande, at the Elysee Palace.

Dr Tan - the first head of state from South-east Asia to make a state visit to France - landed in its capital early yesterday morning.

The red carpet was rolled out for his arrival, with ceremonial guards standing at attention at Charles de Gaulle Airport.

Singapore's Ambassador to France Tan York Chor, France's Ambassador to Singapore Benjamin Dubertret and French Secretary of State for Digital Affairs Axelle Lemaire were there to receive Dr Tan and his wife Mary.

In the afternoon, Dr Tan visited Palais de Tokyo - the largest contemporary art space in Europe - to catch the last day of the Secret Archipelago exhibition.

It is curated by former Singapore Art Museum curator Khairuddin Hori, who is now deputy director of artistic programming at Palais de Tokyo, and includes the work of 14 Singapore artists.

Dr Tan was greeted at the start of his tour by a massive wall mural near the entrance of the building. The black-and-white piece by Singapore artist Farizwan Fajari, who goes by the moniker SpeakCryptic, depicts different versions of himself as he contemplates his own identity.

The exhibition is part of the three-month-long Singapore in France Festival - which is the largest showcase of Singapore arts and culture overseas, with more than 70 programmes unfolding in seven French cities.

An agreement was signed in 2013 between Singapore's National Heritage Board and Institut Francais, France's international agency for cultural policy, for the organisation of the festival, which will draw to a close at the end of next month.

Tonight, President Hollande will host a state banquet in Dr Tan's honour.

Singapore, France sign slew of pacts
They will boost bilateral cooperation in fields like education, nuclear safety
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, In Paris, The Straits Times, 19 May 2015

SINGAPORE and France signed several agreements yesterday to further bilateral cooperation in various fields, including education, nuclear safety, renewable energy and cyber security.

The signings were witnessed by President Tony Tan Keng Yam and his French counterpart, President Francois Hollande, on the second day of Dr Tan's seven-day state visit to France.

Among the pacts inked was a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Singapore's newly formed Cyber Security Agency (CSA) and France's Network and Information Security Agency, which will pave the way for the two to share information and best practices in cyber security.

The MOU is CSA's first international agreement.

Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim, accompanying Dr Tan on his visit, told reporters the pact gives Singapore a chance to learn from the French and to share its own experience. "To have the French wanting to have this MOU given their vast experience shows the respect they have for our agencies and our capabilities."

Meanwhile, the National University of Singapore (NUS) signed agreements with France's Institute for Radioprotection and Nuclear Safety.

These will allow the Singapore Nuclear Research and Safety Initiative, launched by the National Research Foundation last year and hosted at NUS, to work with the French agency in research and training programmes in nuclear safety.

France, which has over 50 nuclear reactors, uses nuclear energy to produce the bulk of its electricity. While Singapore has said existing nuclear energy technologies are not currently suitable for the country, it continues to take part in global and regional talks on nuclear safety.

NUS and the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) also signed MOUs to deepen collaboration and research with the institutions under France's elite mega-university, Universite Paris-Sarclay.

NTU also signed an agreement to offer a joint PhD programme with the Sorbonne Universites, the second-largest group of universities and research organisations in France. This programme will focus on humanities, engineering and science.

In addition, NTU will work to set up a network on renewable energies with France's National Centre for Scientific Research.

Separately, the Economic Development Board signed a letter of intent with France's National Centre for Space Studies to help develop Singapore's satellite industry.

It was a busy day yesterday for Dr Tan, who also met the president of the French Senate, Mr Gerard Larcher, and attended a banquet held in his honour by Mr Hollande at the Elysee Palace.

On Sunday night, Dr Tan visited the Citadines Suites Arc de Triomphe, which is operated by Singapore serviced apartment group The Ascott. The group announced yesterday that it will double its units in Europe to 10,000 by 2020.

New Eiffel Tower, Merlion stamps
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, In Paris, The Straits Times, 19 May 2015

FRANCE'S Eiffel Tower and Singapore's Merlion have received a street art makeover in a joint stamp issue by the two countries.

President Tony Tan Keng Yam and France's President Francois Hollande yesterday unveiled two new stamps of these icons to celebrate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Singapore and France.

Dr Tan is currently in Paris on a seven-day state visit that began on Sunday.

Yesterday's stamps were issued as part of the Singapore in France festival, a three-month-long showcase of Singapore's contemporary art and culture in seven cities around France.

One of the stamps is designed by French artist Sophie Beaujard and features the image of the Eiffel Tower against a graffiti-scrawled wall. The other is created by Singapore designer Ivory Seah, showing the Merlion with sunglasses.

Ms Seah, 43, told The Straits Times she spent a month working on her design.

Although she and Ms Beaujard come from different backgrounds and have never met, "together we were able to complete and create a harmonious stamp design by adapting to each other's style", she added.

The stamp issue marks the second collaboration between Singapore Post and French mail service La Poste. The first, in 2013, showcased the fashion styles of both countries.

The new stamps and related products will be available at all post offices and the Singapore Philatelic Museum from June 5. They will also be made available online at

'Vital for S'pore, France to expand economic links'
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, In Paris, The Straits Times, 20 May 2015

THE future of France and Singapore's partnership lies in expanding economic links, French President Francois Hollande said in Paris at a dinner for his visiting Singapore counterpart Tony Tan Keng Yam.

Bilateral trade and investment have been robust. Some 1,400 French businesses are currently registered in Singapore, while about 40 Singapore companies have entered France.

But Mr Hollande said at Monday's state banquet in honour of Dr Tan, who is on a week-long state visit to France: "We must go further."

He referred to the negotiations between France's Public Investment Bank, its state-owned investor Caisse des Depots and Singapore investment firms GIC and Temasek Holdings, which he said may soon lead to joint projects.

When contacted in Singapore, both Temasek and GIC declined to comment.

Caisse des Depots is dedicated to economic development in France, and one of its subsidiaries, CDC International, has been seeking foreign partners to create joint investment funds.

Mr Hollande said opportunities also lie in transport, and cited the planned high-speed rail link between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. In France, the high- speed Eurostar rail service connects Paris to London and Brussels.

Aeronautics and urban mobility also hold potential, such as in the expansion of the French electric car-sharing service Autolib to Singapore, he added.

At the dinner in the Elysee Palace, Dr Tan spoke of his hope that the ties of friendship between the two countries and their citizens will continue to flourish.

He also recalled Frenchmen who had a hand in Singapore's early years. One was Father Jean- Marie Beurel, a Catholic missionary who, in 1852, established St Joseph's Institution, Singapore's oldest Catholic school and Dr Tan's alma mater.

"We owe a debt of gratitude to these pioneers, whose legacies live on," he said.

Today, more than 15,000 French citizens make Singapore their home, adding to the Republic's diversity and vibrancy, he added.

Mr Hollande said he hoped the friendship between France and Singapore would continue to spur ties between Europe and Asia. France also remains committed to security in the Asia-Pacific.

"We shall continue to work with Asean and Singapore on common threats, particularly terrorism and foreign fighters," he said.

Yesterday - the third day of Dr Tan's visit - began with him laying a ceremonial wreath at the Arc de Triomphe. At its base is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I, which honours soldiers who have fallen in war.

Dr Tan was received at the monument by France's secretary of state for urban policy Myriam El Khomri.

In the afternoon, he had a working lunch with Prime Minister Manuel Valls at his official residence, the Hotel Matignon.

Both were satisfied with the state of bilateral ties and noted that agreements signed this week will pave the way for cooperation in new areas such as space technology, nuclear safety and cyber security. They also discussed common challenges, including climate change and religious extremism.

Dr Tan then visited the laboratory of Professor Serge Haroche, who was awarded the 2012 Nobel Prize in physics, in the College de France. The professor is part of a team from the Kastler-Brossel Laboratory, a prestigious research facility with links to the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University.

The lab currently has two Nobel laureates on its staff. The other is Professor Claude Cohen-Tannoudji, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics in 1997. Both were scheduled to meet Dr Tan.

President Tan meets Mayor of Paris
Dr Tan travels to Cazaux today to meet RSAF personnel based there
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh In Paris, The Straits Times, 21 May 2015

PRESIDENT Tony Tan Keng Yam, who is midway through a week-long state visit to France, yesterday spent the morning in Paris at the sprawling Hotel de Ville.

There, he met the city's Mayor Anne Hidalgo, and mingled with Singaporeans invited to a reception hosted by the mayor's office.

At the Hotel de Ville, the seat of the local administration since 1357, Dr Tan received a red carpet welcome.

The President and Ms Hidalgo had a good exchange on the challenges faced by cities such as Singapore and Paris, according to Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The two said they looked forward to greater city-to-city cooperation, especially in the development of smart cities, urban solutions, entrepreneurship and climate change.

Dr Tan also welcomed Paris' intention to bid for the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize. Organised by the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Singapore and the Centre for Liveable Cities, the biennial prize honours vibrant and sustainable cities around the world.

After his meeting with Ms Hidalgo, Dr Tan mingled with about 30 Singaporeans living in France. They included students on exchange programmes, businessmen and Singaporeans married to French nationals.

In the afternoon, Dr Tan took a train to the port city of Bordeaux in south-western France.

He was hosted to dinner by Mr Matthias Fekl, Secretary of State for Foreign Trade, Tourism Promotion and French Nationals Abroad.

Today, Dr Tan will make a trip to Cazaux Air Base, about 60km outside Bordeaux, to meet Singaporean personnel and their families based there.

The Republic of Singapore Air Force's (RSAF's) 150 Squadron - its advanced jet training detachment - has been training its fighter pilots in Cazaux since 1998. Dr Tan had visited the air base then, when he was Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister.

About 60 RSAF personnel and their families are living on the base.

Before leaving Paris, Dr Tan visited the lab of Dr Serge Haroche, a joint winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize for Physics.

"France is a world leader in scientific research and technological development, and I hope to see more collaborations between Singapore researchers and scientists and their counterparts in France," Dr Tan wrote in a Facebook post after the visit on Tuesday afternoon.

Visited the Cazaux Air Base where a detachment of SAF servicemen are based for Advanced Jet Training. The presence of...
Posted by Dr Tony Tan on Thursday, May 21, 2015

RSAF pilots in France 'reflection of close ties'
President gets warm welcome from Singaporeans at air base
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, In Cazaux (France), The Straits Times, 22 May 2015

NEARLY two decades have passed since President Tony Tan Keng Yam last set foot in the Cazaux Air Base in south-west France, where a Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) jet training detachment is stationed.

His first visit was in 1998, the year the RSAF's 150 Squadron - an advanced jet training detachment - started its training here. Dr Tan was then Singapore's deputy prime minister and defence minister.

On his second visit yesterday, he was hosted by Chief of Air Force Hoo Cher Mou and received a warm welcome from the 270-strong Singaporean community at the base.

Dr Tan, who is in France on a week-long state visit, also officiated at the opening ceremony of a new ground training centre, which houses the squadron's integrated training systems.

These include full mission simulators as well as mission planning and debriefing systems, allowing aircrew to train in a more realistic environment, said Lieutenant-Colonel Kelvin Wan, the squadron's commanding officer.

Awesome use of technology to produce top notch fighter pilot trainees who're better prepared to fly our F-15SGs and...
Posted by The Republic of Singapore Air Force on Friday, May 22, 2015

The squadron now uses M-346 advanced jet trainers, which makes the training process more seamless as it closely mimics the flight performance of advanced modern-day fighters like the F15.

The use of the M-346 trainers was inaugurated by Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen in September last year.

Yesterday, Dr Ng said on Facebook that the new ground training centre at the Cazaux Air Base "will be a useful addition to RSAF's advanced flight training".

"We are deeply appreciative of the outstanding support of the French Air Force and Cazaux Air Base all these years, as well as the hospitality of their local communities. This is a relationship we cherish and want to grow," Dr Ng said.

He noted that the air space at the base is 32 times the size of Singapore and allows the pilots to "hone their flying and combat skills".

LTC Wan, 40, said that France offers a rich training experience, with wide open spaces that allow aircrew to fly over land too.

The RSAF's presence on the air base was made possible under a technical arrangement that allows it to deploy its fighters to French air bases for training. In 2011, the RSAF extended its arrangement with France until 2035.

Dr Tan told reporters during the visit that he was impressed by the new state-of-the-art training facilities and systems in place at the air base.

Singapore started modestly, with just two Cessna trainer aircraft. But now, it has a whole fleet of aircraft, he said, adding: "I think that we are well on our way to continuing our progress."

Dr Tan also thanked France for hosting the squadron in Cazaux.

"It fulfils a vital need for us to train our pilots. It also reflects the very close cooperation between France and Singapore in the field of military and defence cooperation," he said.

"Singapore is building up its capabilities and for that we need the friendship and the assistance of advanced defence forces, like in France."

The two countries have worked well together and will continue to build ties, he added.

At the air base, Dr Tan also mingled with Singaporeans living in Cazaux, and thanked servicemen and their families for their sacrifices and commitment.

"I think with their spirit, Singapore is very safe and we will be able to meet any challenges to our defence and security that lie ahead," he said.

Transport Minister and Second Minister for Defence Lui Tuck Yew, who is accompanying Dr Tan on his state visit, also hosted a lunch for local officials to thank them for supporting the Singapore community in Cazaux.

Firms urged to take fresh look at France
By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, In Bordeaux (France), The Straits Times, 23 May 2015

THE "green shoots of growth" are showing and with France and the rest of Europe emerging from a recession, President Tony Tan Keng Yam yesterday encouraged Singapore firms to take a fresh look at opportunities here.

Speaking at the end of his week-long visit, he said that after meeting French business and political leaders, including President Francois Hollande, "you can sense that things are improving".

France looks to be on the mend and if it manages to put its economic house in order, it will bode well for other nations, including Singapore which, Dr Tan said, needed to expand its trade and investment beyond its immediate region and traditional partners.

"There will be many opportunities for our companies, including our sovereign wealth fund, to look at France and at Europe. These things are just a matter of timing. If you wait until it's obviously done well, other countries will come in... and we will face more competition," he said.

French business leaders have extensive interest in South-east Asia, including in areas such as oil and gas. And when the Asean Economic Community is established, the common market of 600 million people will be a major attraction for French companies.

But even with the onset of opportunities, both sides flagged two areas in need of attention: cyber security, and religious extremism and radicalisation.

Singapore's newly formed Cyber Security Agency inked its first international agreement with France's Network and Information Security Agency, which will pave the way for sharing of information and best practices.

On religious extremism and radicalisation, Dr Tan suggested arranging joint meetings between scholars and religious leaders from both countries to share views for a better idea of how to approach the problem.

Dr Tan was honoured at having been accorded a state visit - the first by a Singapore president to France - and spoke of cooperation in more areas,such as space technology and nuclear safety.

Both countries also have a common interest in climate change and are working to ensure a successful outcome at the United Nations Climate Change conference in December. Singapore, with its smart nation initiative, is also keen on sustainable urbanisation and can learn from car- and bicycle-sharing schemes here.

Dr Tan, whose visit also marked the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties, invited Mr Hollande to visit Singapore and the French leader has accepted.

Asked to comment on a tribute Mr Hollande paid in Paris to the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Dr Tan said Singapore had to build on the foundations Mr Lee laid and move the relationship forward.

Dr Tan met Bordeaux Mayor Alain Juppe before leaving for Paris from where he, his wife Mary Tan and the Singapore delegation left for home last night.

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