An Interview with H.E. Vincent Guérend, EU Ambassador to IndonesiaNow! People
The EU Delegation to Indonesia, based in Jakarta, aims to promote the interests of the European Union (EU) and to build closer ties between the EU and Indonesia. The EU Delegation is involved in a range of activities with Indonesia, that touch many different issues and fields.
NOW! Jakarta spoke to H.E. Vincent Guérend, EU Ambassador to Indonesia, about the special relationship between Indonesia and the EU, upcoming projects and main areas of cooperation.
How would you describe the relationship between Indonesia and the EU?
The European Union has had long-standing relations with Indonesia over the past 40 years. We have a diplomatic presence here since the mid-1980s, and today, I’d say we have an excellent relationship with Indonesia. It’s a very broad and dense partnership, where we are keen on discussing global issues, ranging from economic global governance to climate change, migration and international security, but also sustainable development goals.
Since 2014, we have the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, and Indonesia is the only country in Southeast Asia to have achieved this level of formal cooperation with the European Union. Based on this agreement, which was signed and ratified by both parliaments, we have a very solid platform of mutual engagement.
The depth of our relationship was further demonstrated by President Jokowi’s visit to EU institutions in Brussels in April 2016, as well as the official visit of the EU High Representative and Vice President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini to Jakarta in the same month.
We have working groups on, among others, political issues, human rights, economic issues, development and cooperation as well as climate change and environment - as you can see, it is a very intense exchange.
Indonesia and the European Union recently went into the fourth round of talks on the Indonesia-European Union Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (I-EU CEPA), to give economic operators in both Indonesia and Europe a stronger and solid, transparent legal framework and to strengthen our economic ties. This will hopefully be a big boost for trade and investment on both sides. Currently, the EU is Indonesia’s third largest trading partner for goods, the third biggest export market after China and the US, and we are also the third biggest suppliers after China and Japan.
European companies are big investors in Indonesia - in total, EUR 34 billion - and altogether, European companies and their sister branches in Indonesia employ more than 1.1 million workers. Even though this is already a significant number, we believe it can be further expanded.
Obviously, Indonesia is a very important strategic partner to the EU. How does it fare when compared to other Southeast Asian countries?
Indonesia is commonly known as the heavyweight in ASEAN, and strategically, for the next 20, 30 years to come, it is and will remain the main actor in the region for Europe. But of course we also work with ASEAN as a region, and in particular with the ASEAN Secretariat. It’s quite natural that the EU as a group has also this engagement with its Southeast Asian counterpart ASEAN.
When it comes to other ASEAN countries, it is quite a paradox: we trade more with countries like Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore than we do with Indonesia. Even though Indonesia is much bigger, its exposure to global trade is less than that of other countries. But the Indonesian President has the ambition to increase the trade with the rest of the world and with Europe in particular.
Secondly, it is always interesting to take a look at the number of students: there are currently close to 12,000 Indonesian students in Europe’s 28 member states, meaning Europe is one of the top destinations for Indonesian students to further their education. But again, if you compare this number to other Southeast Asian countries, there are many more Vietnamese, Thai or Malaysian students in Europe and other countries like Australia, the US or Canada. It will be of Indonesian interest to send more students abroad and to receive more foreign students at home. We are trying to encourage this development through scholarships, our Erasmus Scholarship for students and academics being among the best known programmes. I myself was actually one of the first students to benefit from the Erasmus Scholarship back in the 1980s - it’s a very enriching experience.
You already mentioned many issues you work on together with Indonesia. What would you say are the main areas of cooperation?
It’s difficult to prioritize because there are so many, but I have to mention the I-EU CEPA again, which should be a game-changer once it’s concluded and result in a significant boost in terms of trade and investment.
What I would also like to stress is that the EU, in Indonesia and across the world, is more than just a trade and economic actor. We really have the ambition to become a global actor on all international issues. For instance, we would like to develop a stronger relationship with Indonesia in the security field. Back in 2005/2006, there was a European Security Mission in Aceh following the Peace Agreement between the former GAM and the Indonesian government, which was signed in Helsinki with strong support of the European Union. We were very proud and privileged when we were asked to monitor the ceasefire and disarmament of the former GAM militants. Based on this recent history, we are glad and willing to have deeper discussions through our security dialogue that includes counter-terrorism and trafficking.
Another area we focus on are the Sustainable Development Goals, which are very broad and comprehensive. Here in Indonesia in particular, it’s mostly about dealing with climate change. We have several projects in this area.
You recently held the 7th Indonesia - EU Human Rights Dialogue. Could you share with us what was discussed during the event
Basically, we host a Human Rights Dialogue with every country we have an established relationship with, including Indonesia. Both parties exchange views on human rights developments at national, regional and global level. Our last edition in early February was led by Dicky Komar, Director for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, while the Delegation of the European Union was headed by H.E. Mr David Daly, Head of Division South East Asia in the European External Action Service. It’s important to have this engagement. We value Indonesia as a multi-ethnic and multi-religious democracy, which has done very well over the last two decades regarding democratic achievements, and like any other country in the world, has to face challenges. But we believe that there is a way to face these challenges and find solutions in order to maintain this diversity and pluralism.
How closely do you work together with the cultural institutes from Europe in Jakarta?
In the field of culture, our flagship event here in Jakarta is the annual Europe on Screen film festival. It has become quite popular, as the number of viewers is rising steadily. Last year, we had more than 31,000 people coming to the film screenings in Jakarta and six other cities across Indonesia.
In cooperation with the cultural institutes, we also organize a student fair every year, the European High Education Forum, which takes place in October or November in three different locations - last year, it was held in Jakarta, Yogyakarta and Palembang, and we had close to 20,000 students visiting the fair.
What other projects are you planning for the year 2018?
Like every year, we will try to concentrate a number of activities in the month of May, which we proudly call “Europe Month”, because we traditionally celebrate Europe Day on 9 May. As part of the celebrations, we want to organize an exhibition about the European Union. We will also launch our Blue Book, which illustrates the various cooperation projects of the Delegation of the European Union. Additionally, our member states will organize various cultural events for the broader public.
In October, Indonesia will host the Our Ocean conference in Bali. Last year, the conference was held in the European Union in Malta. Over the past editions, each meeting resulted in different countries making important commitments, and this year we expect a focus on the fight of plastic debris and sea pollution.
We will also have a strong European presence at the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank Group, which will also take place in Bali in October.
This article is originally from paper. Read NOW!Jakarta Magazine March 2018 issue “Design for Living”. Available at selected bookstore or SUBSCRIBE here.