This year, for the first time since the end of World War II, the avenue des Champs-Elysées in Paris will not host a military parade on the occasion of July 14. Given the exceptional situation, President Emmanuel Macron wanted instead to pay tribute to those who are engaged in the fight against COVID-19 around the world. By this choice, France wants to show its solidarity with European and international partners affected by the health crisis.
Indonesia is a major partner for France in Southeast Asia. Our countries are united by bonds of friendship and since 2011, by a strategic partnership based on common values such as democracy, human rights, tolerance and pluralism within society, and the conception of a secure, law-based international order that we are engaging to strengthen today.
Facing the growing challenges of globalization, peace and security, be it climate change, the fight against terrorism, radicalism and extremism, disarmament, non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or health, our two countries recognize the leading role played by the United Nations and other multilateral international organizations.
In the Indo-Pacific region, France and Indonesia promote the same vision of an inclusive and open space, in which France intends to contribute to regional stability and growth by strengthening its partnerships in three sectors: maritime cooperation, connectivity and sustainable development (Sustainable Development Goals), fully in line with the priorities of Indonesia and ASEAN, a central player in regional architecture.
Unpredictable, deadly and long-lasting, the COVID-19 crisis makes us realize that to face a pandemic, only a collective response is effective. There is a need to strengthen multilateralism and international cooperation, France and Indonesia are fully committing in order to better prevent and overcome future crises.
It is an ambitious and demanding project that must be driven by common values. In this regard, the spirit of July 14, which we celebrate in France, can be instilled in this momentum. In 1789, our ancestors were convinced that freedom, equality and fraternity should guide all of humanity and that these ideals would achieve full meaning if they were applied to all, beyond borders. Republican universalism was on the move and history has shown that these values unite us, especially during harsh times.
As President Macron pointed out, the current situation leads us to reinvent ourselves, to be bold and creative, without which decline is looming. This is why France is undertaking reconstruction, be it economic, ecological or social. It is supported by the European Union, which has also taken unprecedented measures with a plan of 540 billion euro (US$609.92 billion).
We are working with our European partners on a targeted stimulus fund to support the recovery, which is expected to amount to 750 billion euro. In addition, there is a debt buyback plan by the European Central Bank for 1.45 trillion euro.
France has thus taken ambitious measures to face the crisis, with a rescue plan representing 5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and 315 billion euro in guarantees for businesses. Furthermore, there are sector plans for aeronautics, automotive industry and tourism and a recovery plan to be presented in the fall by the new government. The challenge is above all to preserve the productive apparatus to allow a rebound once the crisis has been overcome.
As members of the Group of 20, France and Indonesia are working together to find a coordinated response to revive economy, trade and investment already damaged by the trade war between the two largest economies in the world.
The 200 subsidiaries of French companies present in Indonesia remained during the crisis and will resume their investments. They have a lot to offer in the new sectors after COVID-19, especially in healthcare and digital. In order to facilitate recovery, it is more necessary than ever to continue negotiations between the EU and Indonesia for a free trade agreement (EU-CEPA).
France is Indonesia’s third-largest donor of bilateral public aid. Our development bank, the French Development Agency (AFD), has already proposed to commit $110 million to support the Indonesian budgetary effort in the fight against COVID-19, and we are ready to do more by using the diversity of our financial tools.
Here again, adaptation will be the keyword, in all sectors. France, like Indonesia, can boast of a strong cultural industry and a dynamic artistic scene. Despite the health crisis and the closure to the public of the four French Institutes and the two Alliances Françaises in Indonesia, hundreds of Indonesian students have benefited from new online courses and from cultural events like La Fête de la Musique (Festival of Music) through digital media.
Besides, between Nov. 2 and Nov. 15, as part of the celebrations for the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Indonesia and France, the vIDeo // heritage.fr project will offer an exciting simultaneous multimedia exhibition in six emblematic monuments from six Indonesian cities (Jakarta, Bandung in West Java, Yogyakarta, Surabaya in East Java, Medan in North Sumatra and Ubud in Bali).
In terms of education, the first bilingual class in Indonesia welcomed its students to the Labschool Cibubur high school in West Java on Saturday. In addition to the Indonesian school curriculum, students will take French lessons as well as a scientific discipline taught in French.
France has also committed to actively supporting the new Kampus Merdeka program launched by the Education and Culture Ministry, which provides Indonesian students with innovative education geared toward new technologies, thereby contributing to President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s human capital reform.
This year, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Indonesia and France and the new impetus given to our strategic partnership, our two countries are closely linked to meet the challenges of our collective destiny, animated by common values and by the universal spirit of July 14. I am confident that the mutual benefits will live up to our expectations.
The writer is French ambassador to Indonesia.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.