Indonesia signs agreement with EU

Indonesia signs agreement with EU

Financial Times,
By John Aglionby in Jakarta

Indonesia took a major step on Tuesday towards cementing closer relations with the European Union than any other Asian country when officials from both sides signed a wide-ranging Partnership and Cooperation Agreement.

The agreement had been held up for two years because of the 2007 EU ban on all Indonesian airlines entering its airspace. This ban is due to be lifted on four airlines, including the national carrier Garuda, on Tuesday night in Brussels.

James Moran, the European Commission's Asia director in the external relations directorate general, told the Financial Times that Indonesia is the first Asian country to sign such a PCA.

"It will make the relationship more concrete and put Indonesia on the map in the EU in a way that it never was before," he said. "It will make a difference to [ordinary people] in the long term as the relationship deepens at the institutional level."

The PCA covers areas as diverse as trade, transport, climate change, human rights, migration, tackling organised crime and communicable diseases. It will involve senior level discussions, probably at ministerial level, at least once a year and lower level meetings more often.

Retno Marsudi, Indonesia's director general for European and American affairs, likened the PCA to "a marriage proposal, to embark on a serious partnership" in a Jakarta Post opinion article.

She justified Jakarta suspending the PCA during the flight ban using the same analogy. "How can a marriage happen if family of one party is banned [from entering the] other party's territory?"

The ban was imposed in June 2007 after a spate of deadly crashes, including a Garuda crash in Yogyakarta in March 2007 that killed 21 people.

Bilateral trade between the EU and Brussels was $18.5bn last year. Officials hope the new level of relationship should see that figure rise significantly.

Brussels does have serious concerns about Jakarta's creeping protectionism, however. Mr Moran said: "Although in the G20 we all signed off on the need to block and prevent protectionism, we need to walk the walk."

Restrictions on pharmaceuticals and imports of five basic groups, including shoes, textiles and food are of particular worry to the Europeans.

Mr Moran said PCAs are being drafted with six other Asian countries, including China. The agreement with Indonesia is due to be signed by ministers in the next couple of months.