18 Apr 2016
Jakarta Post – Patrick Herman (Belgian Ambassador), Vincent Gerund (EU Ambassador), Thorsten Hutter (German Chargé d’Affaires), Moazzam Malik (British Ambassador) and Rob Swartbol (Dutch Ambassador)
This week President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is visiting Germany, the United Kingdom, Belgium and the Netherlands, as well as the institutions of the European Union. We warmly welcome this important visit, his first one to Europe in his capacity as President of Indonesia and the first ever visit of an Indonesian President to the Presidents of the three European institutions, Parliament, European Council and European Commission.
We believe that we have much to gain by working more closely together. Although geographically far apart, Europe and Indonesia are bound closely by a strong and dynamic network of political, economic and people-to-people links. Most importantly, as democracies, we share common values and principles.
One of the main objectives of President Jokowi’s visit is to boost economic ties with Europe. The European Union is one of the largest export markets for Indonesian products and Indonesia enjoys a significant trade surplus. At the same time, Indonesia offers increased opportunities for trade and investment for European companies thanks to its size and robust economic growth. The visit will be an opportunity to present his economic reform agenda to European business leaders who are the largest providers of foreign direct investments worldwide and in Southeast Asia. European companies currently employ more than 1.1 million people directly or indirectly in Indonesia. We expect this to increase as European companies make further investments in sectors such as energy, infrastructure and maritime but companies remain for now wary of various obstacles to trade and business experienced here.
A key avenue to progress the economic partnership is to begin negotiations on the proposed EU-Indonesia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA). Indonesia and Europe both stand to gain under a CEPA, given the complementary nature of our economies, with Indonesia continuing to enjoy a trade surplus into the long term. Thanks to the excellent preparatory work on the scoping of this agreement under the leadership of Coordinating Economics Minister Darmin Nasution and Trade Minister Thomas Lembong, a real momentum has been created and we are looking forward to the conclusion of the preparatory discussions of this agreement. Once concluded, this agreement will take our trade and investment to unprecedented levels to the benefit of both sides.
However, economic growth is not enough unless it is sustainable. The protection of Indonesian forests and their ecosystems is a key priority in this respect. We stand shoulder by shoulder with Indonesia in its efforts to promote sustainable development. The moratorium on new forest concessions has been strengthened and further measures have been taken to restore and revitalize peatlands throughout the country. Indonesia’s commitment to fight forest fires and preserve the country’s ecosystems is courageous. In the coming weeks, we also hope to see progress on the voluntary bilateral partnership agreement that aims to promote trade in legal timber from Indonesia to the EU, based on the action plan on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT). This should be based on Indonesia’s timber legality assurance system, or SVLK. By doing so, Indonesia would become the first country worldwide to export timber and timber products to Europe on the basis of a highly regarded and transparently monitored sustainability standard.
As the world’s third largest democracy, Indonesia shares with us universal values such as respect for international law and protection of human rights. As a peace-loving nation, Indonesia boasts a tradition of religious tolerance. Recently, extremists coming from our own respective communities have tried to destabilize the fundaments of our democratic societies as cities from Brussels to Jakarta have been the target of terrorist attacks. We join Indonesia in condemning terrorism in all its forms and share a common aim to prevent radicalization and counter violent extremism and transnational crimes. In today’s world, security has become a global concern requiring close international cooperation.
We also commend Indonesia’s positive contributions to peacekeeping/peacebuilding efforts, in particular through the UN and ASEAN. Both Indonesia and Europe are committed to maintaining a maritime legal order based on the principles of international law, as reflected notably in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Europe and Indonesia’s greatest asset is their people. We welcome enhanced people-to-people links between our countries, in particular among young people. Today more than 9,000 Indonesian students study in European universities. Our countries provide hundreds of scholarships every year to Indonesian students and for European students to study in Indonesia. We will boost further cooperation and mobility in the field of higher education.
There is also untapped potential in tourism, sports and cultural exchanges, in the audio-visual sector which we try to address with initiatives like the “Destination Europe” travel and culture fair and the upcoming EU film festival.
We wish President Jokowi a fruitful visit to Europe and look forward to continued engagement with his Kabinet Kerja to take forward our ambitious agenda.