Relations between Finland and Indonesia have grown thanks to one presidential and multiple ministerial visits in recent years. The Ambassador, who recently arrived in Jakarta, tells Ranjit Jose he hopes to continue the momentum.
You have recently been appointed Ambassador to Indonesia. How has the settling in process been going?
It has been fine so far. I arrived in early September at the end of the Asian games. We had a ministerial visit in October. I'm still (late October) Ambassador Designate as I haven’t presented my credentials to President Joko Widodo yet but I've been able to meet, with our Trade Minister, seven cabinet members of Indonesia.
I like Jakarta. The people make it. It's a huge city, especially by Finnish standards, but people are friendly, the food is good and I like Car Free Sundays as one of my pleasures is jogging. Professionally, it's very rewarding to be here. This is a country full of resources, genuine versatility and fast development. We have good Nordic cooperation with Denmark, Sweden and Norway which has also made my landing here softer. There are a lot of opportunities for Finnish businesses. It's going to be a very interesting term.
How has Finland been assisting Indonesia in the renewable energy sector?
It's the technological know-how. We have Finnish companies that are very active in the energy sector in Indonesia. For example, one third of the electricity here is generated by technology developed in Finland. Our companies have solutions for flexible use of multiple fuels in the power production: gas, coal, waste, biomass - wood production residues - and, increasingly, biofuels. Indonesia is actively seeking cooperation in this field. There is a strong drive here to increase the use of domestic renewable sources in the energy production.
What were some of the outcomes of the recent Ministerial visits?
The two foreign ministers, Ms. Retno Marsudi and Mr. Timo Soini know each other well and obviously have a good chemistry. They met in June in Finland. One of the outcomes of the meeting was the first bilateral interfaith dialogue held in September in Finland. Peacekeeping and peace mediation are also activities where we work together.
Our Minister has visited a training facility of Indonesian peacekeepers near Jakarta and was impressed. At UN General Assembly in September Finland and Indonesia co-hosted (together with Rwanda and Uruguay) a peacekeeping dinner to discuss how to improve the quality of peacekeeping operations.
How have the two countries fostered this strong partnership?
Finnish company Wärtsilä opened a new training centre in 2017. They know it’s important to enhance the competence of local workers, to increase local procurement and to be more involved in the domestic value chain. Valmet, another Finnish company, also opened a maintenance centre recently so their machines are repaired here. They carried out a project of vocational training by educating 120 Indonesians for the centre. These two have been the most recent ones.
Then there are some other Finnish companies doing production here. HMD Global is a startup-style new growth company that has licensed the Nokia brand for handsets. They employ 900 people and are planning further investments. Rapala, world leader of fishing equipment, have their largest production site in Indonesia. These are some concrete examples.
How have Finnish companies been working with their Indonesian counterparts to combat climate change?
Our longest cooperation is in the forestry sector. This involves governmental, academic and business activities, for example in reforestation and sustainable treatment of forests. Just late October, a joint working group met in Finland. 30 Indonesian experts compared notes with Finnish colleagues. Forests are world’s lungs, and being strong forestry countries, Finland and Indonesia have special responsibility to treat them well. Another sector is energy efficiency.
Finnish companies have know-how to reduce greenhouse gases from coal-using power plants. There is also a very interesting project being prepared that would turn one third of Jakarta’s waste into electricity. On global level, Finland has been active with IFC, the financing arm of the World Bank. Finland has pledged EUR 140 million in five years for climate projects. It's like seed money that the IFC can use to finance commercial projects that are quite risky for traditional investors. So it helps to alleviate the risk and generate more private sector investments into climate-friendly projects anywhere in the developing world.
What are your main areas of focus as you begin your term in this country?
Trade is my focus. Last year the growth was dozens of per cent both ways. I hope Finland is one of the partners that Indonesia thinks first when developing the smart city concept. It can be smart traffic, smart education, smart energy, smart electricity grid, faster connections and new ways to boost startups, or clever ways to build cyber security.
I hope that I would be able to speed up the connections between the smart city structures of Finland and Jakarta or other cities as well. I think that's something that would be good for the business and make life in Indonesia better. I would love to do something for the traffic too! You would need very smart things to facilitate that but the MRT is a good step. I'm happily and eagerly awaiting it.