Norway may be a faraway country, but interest in the Scandinavian state has been growing among Indonesians, with Norwegians reciprocating that interest, says a Norwegian diplomat.
More and more Indonesians are eating Norwegian salmon in restaurants and surprisingly, more Indonesian tourists are visiting Norway.
'Last year, Indonesia imported 4,000 tons of Norwegian salmon. Now we would like not to just focus on restaurants but also on families,' Norwegian Ambassador to Indonesia Stig Traavik told The Jakarta Post in connection with Norway's Constitutional Day, which was celebrated on May 17 in Norway.
The sudden jump in Indonesians applying for Norway's Schengen visa is also surprising. 'We were forced to expand our visa section by adding more space and staff to cater to the needs of Indonesian tourists. As we speak now, more than 300 people are awaiting visas,' he said.
From Norway, more than a thousand students visit Bali every year to undertake a 14-week course on Balinese culture.
According to Traavik, relations between the two countries are strengthening, marked by the visit of Crown Prince Haakon to Indonesia last year to boost ties.
'Just recently, both countries agreed to establish a comprehensive Joint Commission Meeting. It's an important milestone in our relations,' Traavik said.
The Norwegian Embassy will celebrate its national day along with another big celebration in Jakarta on Thursday.
'We are celebrating 100 years of granting voting rights to Norwegian women. Besides our National Day reception, we will be organizing a seminar with the theme 'women's role in politics',' he said.
Norway's Constitution was signed on May 17, 1814. On June 11, 1913, Norwegian women were given voting rights on a par with men. It was the first independent country in the world to provide universal suffrage to both men and women. In fact, New Zealand ( 1893 ) was the first country to grant women voting rights, followed by Australia in 1902 and Finland in 1906. These three were not independent at that time.
In the economic field, the most important aspect is Norway's Sovereign Wealth Fund, which has some US$700 billion in its coffers. So far Norway has invested just $650 million in Indonesia.
Norway's oil fund has made some changes in its investment policies that may benefit Indonesia in the near future.
'There is a new rule. Our oil fund will now invest in countries according to their GDP size. Since Indonesia is a big Asian country and a member of the G20, more and more Norwegian investment will come to Indonesia. The oil fund is carefully looking at Indonesia for opportunities,' Traavik said.
Last year, according to the Indonesian Central Statistics Agency, bilateral trade was at $321.88 million, a slight increase from $309.52 million in 2011.