New Czech envoy to Taiwan hopes for direct flights, NPM exhibit in Prague

Taipei, Nov. 2 (CNA) Pushing for direct flights between Prague and Taipei, and having Taiwan’s National Palace Museum’s (NPM) artifacts exhibited in the Czech Republic are among the top priorities for the Central European nation’s new envoy to Taiwan as he starts his tenure.

Speaking during an interview with CNA on Oct. 31, David Steinke, representative of the Czech Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei (CECO), said he would do his best to enhance bilateral relations on all fronts, in particular in pushing for direct two-way flights.

As people are beginning to resume overseas travel after the lifting of COVID-related restrictions by many countries, Steinke said he saw huge opportunities for people-to-people contacts between Prague and Taipei.

“There were almost 250,000 Taiwanese tourists coming annually to Czech Republic before COVID. And we would, of course, be very much interested in having those Taiwanese interested in the Czech Republic back,” he said.

One thing to facilitate close people-to-people exchanges is a direct flight to connect Taipei and Prague, a proposal that has been on the table for at least six years, he noted.

He added that direct flights are not only good for tourism but also for business purposes too. “I would very much love to make this happen.”

Since the Czech Airlines currently does not have the capacity to operate long-haul flights, Steinke said he has been in talks with the Taiwan-based flagship carrier China Airlines (CAL) about this. He also raises the proposal whenever he meets with local officials.

“I’m very patient, and I think I’ll be knocking on doors. I’ll keep knocking on doors,” said Steinke.

Taiwan Transportation Minister Wang Kwo-tsai (王國材) on Oct. 6 said CAL was currently considering adding a direct flight route to Prague but no final decision had been made yet.

Meanwhile, Steinke also said he was looking forward to seeing NPM artifacts being exhibited in Prague sometime in 2024 as both sides are in talks to make that happen.

“Czech people like the richness of the Chinese culture and the treasures of the National Palace Museum are just something that is absolutely stunning.”

The possibility of an NPM exhibition in Prague was raised following the signing of an MOU for cooperation by NPM and the National Museum in Prague in September.

According to NPM director Wu Mi-cha (吳密察), NPM artifacts and artworks could be exhibited in the Czech Republic sometime in 2024, once the latter adopts an anti-seizure law to ensure items will be returned to Taiwan safely.

Steinke assumed office as head of the CECO, the de facto Czech embassy in Taiwan in the absence of official diplomatic ties, in September.

Before taking office as the de facto Czech ambassador to Taiwan, he served as acting director of Department of Asia and Pacific at the Czech Republic’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, dealing extensively with China and Taiwan affairs.

According to the envoy, despite the lack of diplomatic ties, Taiwan and the Czech Republic have maintained cordial relations since both sides opened representative offices in 1991 and 1993 in Prague and Taipei respectively.

Bilateral relations have warmed up after Czech Senate President Miloš Vystrčil visited the country in Sept. 2020, making him the first head of a lawmaking body from a non-diplomatic ally to address Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan, despite repeated warnings from China, which considers Taiwan part of its territory.

Asked about the friendly ties between the two sides, Steinke told CNA that the bilateral friendship was longstanding and was renewed with Vystrčil’s historic visit and the increase in cross-Taiwan Strait tensions following the visit of United States House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in early August.

The ongoing Taiwan Strait tensions have only convinced the Czech Republic to find new ways of cooperation and new ways to support Taiwan’s democratic institutions, according to the envoy.

A new dimension for bilateral cooperation, meanwhile, has come about as both sides have been staunch supporters of Ukraine since Russia invaded the country on Feb. 24, he noted.

The Czech representative mentioned that his country is the largest host of Ukrainian refugees per capita, housing more than 400,000, while Taiwan has made it clear since the Russian invasion that it supports the international democratic community.

Having only arrived in Taiwan in September for his post, Steinke said he had already experienced first-hand Taiwanese friendliness whenever he told people that he is from the Czech Republic.

“When I meet people here in Taiwan, and I tell them that I’m from the Czech Republic, there is a smile on their faces,” he said.

Taiwanese people know that the Czech Republic is a friend of Taiwan, the envoy said, saying that this positive sentiment is a “very important and robust base for further cooperation.”

Another area his country is looking forward to working even closer with Taiwan on is none other than semiconductors, he said.

“Of course, the whole world, and all my fellow representatives here, are knocking at the door of TSMC.”

One good start for future cooperation in this area is that Taiwan’s government is launching a Taiwan Semiconductor Scholarship Program for Czech students to study in Taiwanese higher education institutions in fields relating to semiconductors, for which applications are now being accepted.

His dream is to establish joint research with Taiwan in the Czech Republic in semiconductors, where Taiwanese experts would use their knowledge to teach or give lectures to his countrymen.

Steinke filled the vacancy left by the departure of his predecessor Patrick Rumlar, who departed Taiwan in August after concluding a four-year stint in Taipei.


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