I am strongly conscious of the deepening ties between Indonesia and the European Union (EU) and the noble values that underpin them. The multi-dimensional nature of our relationship can be captured in 3 “D’s”: democracy, diversity and development.
First, democracy. Indonesia emerged from a long period of autocratic rule to form the world’s largest Muslim-majority democracy. That democracy now has three successful parliamentary elections under its belt and is a beacon of stability in a socio-politically dynamic region of the world. EU citizens draw pride from the transformation that has occurred on our own continent in the past 20 years, with countries that lived for decades under dictatorship now thriving as free and prosperous members of the EU.
The European Parliament has long been an advocate for human rights and democratic values and I am keen to explore with our Indonesian counterparts how to advance those values across the world.
As a leading member — and now Chair — of ASEAN, Indonesia is taking an inspiring lead in this regard, not least through its advocacy for an effective ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights.
Second, diversity. Indonesia and the EU are both “diversity hotspots”, a point underscored by our shared motto: Unity in Diversity. That diversity is reflected in the 27 Member States which constitute the EU and the 33 provinces that make up Indonesia. In the EU’s 23 official languages and the incredible estimated 700 tongues that are spoken in Indonesia. In our religious diversity, with 5 percent of the EU’s population now professing Islam as their faith. Just as Indonesia brings together a myriad of faiths, cultures and ethnic identities, so the EU has created a common space for its citizens, in which they can work, travel and trade freely.
It is important, in a globalizing world, that we find ways to share and celebrate our diversity more effectively. Our parliamentary visit is designed to strengthen the mutually enriching political and people-to-people links that exist between the EU and Indonesia and is a natural consequence of the signature of the EU-Indonesia Partnership and Co-operation Agreement in 2009.
We will build on the exchanges that have already taken place between the European Parliament and the Indonesian House of Representatives, including the visit by Indonesian MPs to the seats of the European Parliament in Brussels and Strasbourg last year. We will meet key ministers and civil society representatives to discuss the thriving trade between the EU and Indonesia — now standing at around 19 billion — and the expansion of cooperation in areas such as education, climate change, counterterrorism and interfaith dialogue.
I am delighted that an increasing number of Indonesian students are choosing to study in universities in the EU, an interest which is underscored by the 12,000 visitors to the European Higher Education Fair in Jakarta and the 1,000 EU Erasmus Mundus and Member State scholarships that are awarded annually to Indonesian students.
Third, development. Whilst Indonesia is blazing an economic trail that is the envy of many other economies — 6.1 percent growth in 2010 — development partnerships with the EU and others remain a welcome way in which to work together for the full realization of the Millennium Development Goals and the eradication of poverty. The EU is a committed partner of Indonesia in key areas such as education, governance, health and trade-related assistance.
The EU has also been a steadfast partner of Indonesia at times of natural disaster, including the terrible devastation and loss of life caused by the eruption of Mount Merapi and the tsunami that ravaged Mentawai islands. During our visit, we look forward to seeing several EU-Indonesia projects in Indonesia, including the substantial EU contribution made to reconstruction efforts in Yogyakarta following the devastating earthquake of 2006.
I look forward to gaining a first-hand insight into the dynamism and diversity of the engagement between the EU and Indonesia and to ensuring that the European Parliament contributes fully to making this truly “3D” relationship develop and flourish in the future.
The EU has also been a steadfast partner of Indonesia at times of natural disaster, including the terrible devastation.
Dr. Werner Langen is chairman of European Delegation for Relations with the Countries of Southeast Asia and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). He is visiting Indonesia from Feb. 21-25, 2011, together with nine other members of the European Parliament.