The Jakarta Post
France had thrown its weight behind Indonesia's bid to secure visa-free access to the EU for its citizens, Indonesia's Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi said on Saturday.
Retno asked for France's support in a closed meeting with her French counterpart, Laurent Fabius, at the 70th UN General Assembly in New York on Saturday.
'I told [him] that starting from Oct. 1, Indonesia will grant visa-free [status to visitors] from all Schengen countries and we seek reciprocal treatment for Indonesians visiting Schengen. I also said that we had talked with many countries and in principle, they supported Indonesia's wish,' she told reporters after the bilateral meeting at the UN headquarters.
According to Retno, Fabius agreed to support Indonesia's bid after she presented him with several arguments.
'[Fabius] said he would support [us] because I showed him that from around 150,000 Indonesian tourists visiting Schengen area every year, the visa rejection rate is very small, only 1.1 percent. Meanwhile, cases of [Indonesian] migrants in Schengen countries are also very small,' she said. 'With this data, there's no more reason for Schengen countries to reject our proposal to get visa-free facilities,' she said.
The Schengen zone consists of 22 EU member states and four non-member states, namely Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
In July, Retno said that she had sent her supporting data in a request for the viza-free access for Indonesian citizens to European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans.
One of the reasons, she said, was that the Indonesian government had granted visa-free status for visitors from the majority of EU countries. Of the 45 countries on Indonesia's visa-free list, 15 are in the EU.
Retno said that Timmermans had responded positively to the request.
She had also delivered her pitch to Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
'She also gave positive support. So I talked to the EU commission as a union, but we also approach individual countries and so far the tone has been positive,' Retno said.
She said that other Schengen countries had also supported Indonesia in its proposal, increasing the possibility that the EU would grant the country's wish.
She added that Belgium and the Netherlands had given support and that she would continue approaching other Schengen nations.
However, Romania has expressed concerns regarding the issue of immigrants, according to Retno.
'Romania said that we [the EU] had problems [with immigrants] [so] maybe we don't discuss the problem for now. But I think they will see whether they will revise [their approach] because there's a discussion to revise their immigration policies. I don't know how far [the discussion has been going] and member countries have not been clear yet where they will like to go. But, what's important is that we are fighting and we could show all [the] data for them as [a] consideration to decide [whether to accept our proposal or not],' she said.
While Romania as of now has not been affected by the influx of migrants to the EU, the country has expressed its limited capacity to receive migrants, according to Retno.
The EU currently allows citizens of 51 countries to enter its territory without obtaining Schengen visas, including Asian countries such as 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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