Opinion

Boosting EU-Indonesia
relations

Today a big leap forward will be taken in the relations between Indonesia and the European Union. A comprehensive EU-Indonesia Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) will be signed today in Jakarta at the margins of an EU-Indonesia Ministerial Troika meeting under the co-chairs of Dr. Marty Natalegawa,

Minister for Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, and me, as representative of the Presidency of the Council of the EU. Though the EU and Indonesia lie at opposite sides of the globe, our similarities are undoubtedly more striking than our differences.

Indonesia and the EU share many values and political principles. We also share strong historical, cultural and personal ties. Both Indonesia and the EU are looking outward in a globalizing world, with a firm commitment to both regional development and multilateral cooperation. Furthermore, we are confronted by similar challenges with an international dimension such as climate change and terrorism.

Our respective contributions to fostering global peace and stability are exemplified by Indonesia's participation in over 20 UN peacekeeping missions, and by the fact that the EU and its member states provide the largest share of development and humanitarian assistance in the world.

We are also brought together through our thriving commercial ties - with two-way trade exceeding 20 billion Euro in 2008 and showing positive trends from year to year with a potential to grow further.

Now is the moment to place our relationship on a new and upgraded footing. Indonesia has in the past 10 years made a remarkable transition to democracy - reaffirmed and cemented this year in a newly elected parliament and government - and is assuming an ever-more influential role in the councils of regional and world opinion, including the UN, ASEAN and the G20.

With the Treaty of Lisbon being put in place, the EU is ready to reform both its internal workings and foreign policy structures, not least to ensure that we can function more effectively with 27 member states.

It is in response to this compelling logic for closer ties that Indonesia and the EU today will formally sign a new PCA, which envisages intensified co-operation in numerous policy fields.

Already today, the EU has committed half a billion Euro in development co-operation to Indonesia for the period 2007-2013.

The PCA will pave the way for the creation of permanent structures to guide co-operation and foster our shared values in fields as diverse as trade and economic affairs, the environment, counter-terrorism, human rights, good governance and education. Our ministerial meeting today will touch upon a number of these important matters of mutual interest.

Maybe most urgently, we must ensure that the great concern shared by the EU and Indonesia on climate change translates into meaningful results at the upcoming climate talks in Copenhagen in December, and beyond.

Just as the EU is recognizing its responsibilities to cut emissions and furnish extensive support for climate change mitigation and adaptation, so I welcome and encourage the development of a leadership role for Indonesia, both in terms of cutting greenhouse gases, and in its potential to act as a bridge between the priorities of the developed world and those of less developed countries.

As member of the preparatory troika, Indonesia is a key player in the run-up to the Copenhagen summit.

We should also make this revitalized relationship count through intensified efforts to remove the trade barriers and irritants that impede the creation of prosperity.

Through our new Agreement, new areas of cooperation will be explored, including on research and development, and a series of sectoral committees will help identify opportunities and more rapidly defuse irritants in key sectors of commercial interest.

Equally, we can increase even further the impact of our shared action to reduce poverty and attain the Millennium Development Goals.

We are pleased to officially launch today also a human rights dialogue between the EU and Indonesia, reflecting our shared values in this field and recognizing Indonesia's role in championing human rights in the region. This dialogue will be an important forum for cooperation on issues of mutual interest related to human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law.

However, high-level discussions between politicians and officials should not be the sole focus of a new EU-Indonesia partnership. With the EU and Indonesia together encompassing over 10 percent of the world population, the PCA should serve as a spur to the enrichment of cultural, social and business relations.

There are already many encouraging signs to this effect, one example being the Erasmus Mundus scholarship program, which to date has supported hundreds of Indonesian students attending EU universities.

Tourism is another area with huge potential for growth - the astoundingly diverse heritage and beauty of Indonesia has, not surprisingly, a magnetic attraction for European tourists.

The writer is Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, current holder of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

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