by Malcolm Surer, former ISIS Europe staff
ISIS Europe attended the Stanley Crossick Annual Lecture on Indonesia’s rise – Perspectives for Europe and EU-ASEAN relations, hosted and organised by the European Policy Centre (EPC) in Brussels. The lecture was introduced by Josef Janning, Director of Studies, European Policy Centre. The guest speaker was H.E. Mr. Arif Havas Oegroseno, the Ambassador of Indonesia to Belgium, Luxembourg and the European Union.
Proclaiming its independence in 1945 from the Dutch, Indonesia was acknowledged as a sovereign state in 1949. By 1962, all Dutch military in the nation left following the New York Agreement. The Ambassador remarked General Van Mook said that it would take Indonesia a century to become a functioning country. In 1998, the Indonesian economy collapsed after President Suharto was forced to leave the country. The GDP fell from $120bn to $90bn, the currency was devalued, the banking industry disappeared and the government had to sell a large portion of their assets. Mr. Oegroseno proudly stated that fifteen years later the current GDP is one trillion dollars and the government is more stable than ever.
Mr. Oegroseno added that Indonesia’s current rise is “irreversible”. Reportedly, 2012 has already seen $7 bn dollars worth of investment come into the nation. Indonesia has been embarking in numerous infrastructure projects. Plans in building one of the longest bridges on earth, spanning forty-two kilometers and connecting the islands of Sumatra and Java, are in design. As well as becoming an emerging economic power, Indonesia has been at the forefront of the contemporary art scene. 68% of Christie’s and Sotheby’s Southeast Asian turnovers have come from talented Indonesian artists.
For Mr. Oegroseno, the EU is not only a market, but a source of investment and knowledge for Indonesia’s bright future. Diplomatic visits from high ranking European officials have increased. The Ambassador however would hope for a “much more structured relationship”, with wider working groups and more visits from higher-level European officials. Believing the relationship is still not at its best, he brought to light the fact that a growing amount of American universities are offering courses that focus on Indonesia’s culture, history and government.
In terms of regional focus, to the Ambassador Indonesia’s membership in ASEAN (The Association of SouthEast Asian Nations) is vital and has greatly helped for its economic prosperity and future. By 2015, Mr. Oegroseno stated that ASEAN will become a single market, inviting the EU to help maximize the efficiency and “create a wealth of economic development”. With China’s “re-emergence” in East-Asian affairs, he noted that major Asian players are increasingly interdependent. With a large amount of China’s coal and gas coming through Indonesia, maritime security in the region has become of paramount importance. Upholding economics over geopolitics, the Ambassador stressed that economic development in East Asia will not continue if peace does not prevail.