Indonesia can do more for the good of Asia
Jakarta Post.com, April 21, 2008
Carl Bildt, Stockholm
Asia’s global importance is growing apace. While the impressive economic performances of China and India are already well known, the increasing economic and political significance of ASEAN and its largest economy, Indonesia, is increasingly attracting the attention of the world.
That the development in Asia is also of global concern, is evident in fundamental international issues such as peace and security, economic and social development, including democracy and respect for human rights, stability of the world economy, and increasingly environmental issues.
In this context we are witnessing the growing importance of ASEAN as a vital driver in fostering regional integration in southeast Asia and in Asia as a whole, and the resulting new opportunities for Europe and southeast Asia to forge closer political and economic links.
Indonesia, as one of ASEAN’s founding members and home to its secretariat, is a key player in this development. The important democratization that has taken place in this country during the last ten years is another reason why my country Sweden considers Indonesia a most valuable partner.
Furthermore, Indonesia is a dynamic market with a large potential for increased trade in both directions. In fact, our trade relations date as far back as to the 18th century when the Swedish trading ship “G”theborg” sailed these waters.
Several Swedish companies have had a presence in Indonesia since as early as the beginning of the last century. The Swedish telecom company Ericsson, who celebrated its 100 year anniversary in Indonesia last year, is one prominent example. Today, bilateral trade is developing rapidly.
Our bilateral relations have never been better and our cooperation covers several important areas. During my visit, Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda and I will launch the Sweden-Indonesia Human Rights Dialogue which should be seen as tangible evidence of the strength of our relations.
For Sweden, Indonesia is a key partner with whom we are keen to work closely in meeting global challenges ahead. Last December, Sweden participated in the United Nations Climate Change Summit in Bali, and is grateful to Indonesia for successfully having hosted this important event.
We regard the Bali Road Map as a vital outcome to guide our work towards a new global climate regime, to be adopted in Copenhagen in December 2009. We are looking forward to a close cooperation with Indonesia in the area of environment and sustainable development. In connection to my visit, a seminar on “Sustainable Cities — Challenges for Indonesia and Sweden” will be held to exchange experiences in this field.
There are other examples of our good relations in the last years. After the tsunami in December 2004 that devastated northern Sumatra, Sweden, bilaterally and via the EU, showed solidarity to help the people of Aceh and assist in resolving the internal conflict in the region. Sweden has bilaterally so far contributed almost US$50 million in humanitarian and reconstruction assistance to Aceh.
In addition, we seconded personnel to the EU-ASEAN Aceh Monitoring Mission (AMM), which successfully completed its mandate in 2006. We strongly commend the commitment of the Indonesian government to building sustainable peace in Aceh.
Indonesia is in a position to play an increasingly important role in the world as a global political broker, fostering good relations between countries at different stages of development, between established and emerging democracies and between the Muslim world and the west.
In this light, we commend the Indonesian government’s current efforts regarding the continued volatile situation in Burma/Myanmar. While this is an important challenge for the international community as a whole, I believe that the regional neighbors of Burma/Myanmar have an important role to play in convincing the leaders of Burma/Myanmar of the need for democratic reforms and adherence to international human rights standards. I am encouraged by Minister Wirajuda’s recent call to the military junta to release Aung San Suu Kui and to enter into a true dialogue with all stakeholders.
Looking ahead, I am convinced that ASEAN will continue to develop as an organization promoting further integration and being a force for stability in the region. It will likely be done “the ASEAN way” and indeed, every organization needs to choose its own and unique way forward based on international law, but in that process we can hopefully learn from each other.
To achieve a successful integration of the countries of Europe into a European Union its member states have had to commit vast resources as well as sustained political will, effort and courage.
Today the European Union is the world’s largest trading group as well as the largest donor of development aid, with close to 600 million citizens amongst its present 27 member states, and with more countries wishing to join.
It has contributed greatly to the welfare and prosperity of its members and, ultimately to peace and security in Europe. Our experiences in Europe might be of interest to ASEAN governments.
Sweden will hold the Presidency of the European Union in the autumn of 2009. During this period we will continue our efforts to further deepen and broaden the relations between the EU and ASEAN. I also remain convinced that the good relations between Sweden and Indonesia will continue to develop. I look forward to ever closer relations between our governments and peoples on a political as well as on a personal level.
The writer is Foreign Minister of Sweden. He will be in Jakarta from a two-day visit until Tuesday.