RI visa waiver on the cards, says envoy
The Jakarta Post
Indonesian diplomats and servicemen are likely to enjoy Schengen visa waivers soon, as all stakeholders are working to finalize the necessary agreement, according to a Belgian envoy.
Belgian Ambassador to Indonesia Patrick Herman said he was confident an agreement on the visa waiver would be reached in the coming weeks.
The agreement would be reciprocal, since Indonesia recently issued a visa-free status for citizens of all Schengen member countries to visit Indonesia. 'It's almost there. The agreement will be a stepping stone toward further liberalization,' Herman said recently.
Along with France and the Netherlands, Belgium is one of the staunchest supporters of Indonesia obtaining a Schengen visa waiver.
On the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York recently, Foreign Affairs Minister Retno LP Marsudi presented data to her French counterpart Laurent Fabius showing that around 150,000 Indonesian tourists visited the Schengen area every year and that the visa rejection rate, at around 1.1 percent, was negligible.
'The data demonstrate there's no reason for Schengen countries to reject our request for visa-free facilities,' she said.
The Schengen zone consists of 22 EU member states and four non-EU member states, namely Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
When asked about security risks for the Schengen area posed by Indonesians with links to terrorist networks, Patrick replied that radicalization was not a problem solely borne by Indonesia, and would not affect the visa-waiver agreement.
'I don't think the issues we have surrounding the visa waiver can be linked with security issues in Indonesia,' he said.
Numerous countries are now faced with the challenges posed by global terrorism and indeed Belgium will look to learn from Indonesia's experience in handling terrorism and religious radicalization when Indonesian and Belgian delegations meet during a visit of Belgium's Princess Astrid in March next year.
The princess will be accompanied by an entourage of Belgian ministers and 250 businesspeople on a visit to strengthen bilateral relations, from expanding business opportunities to cooperation to tackle radicalization.
The last Belgian business delegation was led by then prince Philippe, now the country's king, in 2008. Belgium is currently Indonesia's eighth-biggest European trade partner with a trade volume reaching US$1.8 billion in 2014.
Besides discussing business, the delegation will also meet to update the plan for Indonesia to become the guest country for the 2017 Europalia International Art Festival, which is held throughout Belgium and is expected to attract around 1 million visitors.
Indonesia's visa waiver proposal was delivered to EU foreign relations representative Frederica Mogherini on the sidelines of the EU-ASEAN ministerial meeting in Luxembourg.
The European Commission then included Indonesia on a list of countries eligible for review by the European Council in relation to a possible visa waiver.
The EU currently allows citizens of 51 countries to enter its territory without obtaining Schengen visas, including Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Malaysia.
In May, the EU and Timor Leste signed a short-stay visa-waiver agreement, which provides for visa-free travel for EU citizens when travelling to Timor Leste and for Timorese citizens when travelling to the EU, for a period of 90 days in any 180-day period.
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