From the Jakarta Globe
Feb 14, 2013
This is the fifth Valentine’s Day I have spent in Indonesia. So I have been thinking about five things which I, and other Europeans, love about this marvelous country.
First, Europeans love Indonesian people. I am lucky to have made many great friends in this country. Indonesians are famous for their smiles and are usually very polite. But I also really like it when Indonesians, as they often do, tell me frankly what they really think. I have particularly enjoyed my visits to Indonesian universities and the debates I have had with young students there. Students are articulate and fearless in expressing their opinions. If they disagree with me, they will say so. I find this very refreshing.
European companies also love the energy, skills and hard work of Indonesia’s people, which is why more than a million Indonesian people are employed at some 1,000 firms from Europe which have invested in this country.
Second, Europeans love the sheer diversity of Indonesia. The different customs and languages of peoples like the Batak and Minangkabau in Sumatra, the ancient traditions in Java, the customs in the Toraja region of Sulawesi and the Papuan highlands are fascinating. It is truly remarkable that Indonesia’s founding fathers managed to shape this diversity into a coherent whole.
Both the European Union and Indonesia have made huge progress, however, in unifying many different peoples and traditions behind a common purpose and working for the welfare and security of all, and as in any relationship we continue to learn from each other.
Third, Europeans love Indonesian products. Many of us have become too fond of Indonesia’s delicious food, as our expanding waistlines show.
But it is not just Indonesian food which Europeans love. Through the difficult global economic environment of the last five years, Indonesia’s exports to the European Union have continued to hold up strongly across many sectors, including food but also manufactured goods, timber, palm oil and other commodities. Exports to the European Union totaled 14.7 billion euros ($19.8 billion) in 2012, well above the levels seen before the global crisis hit in 2007. And Indonesia maintained a strong trade surplus of 3.2 billion euros with the European Union.
Fourth, Europeans love Indonesia’s landscapes. The majestic wealth of Indonesia’s natural heritage is truly breathtaking. Java’s volcanoes, the forests of Kalimantan, the coral reefs throughout the archipelago are just the beginning of a endless wonders. It has been a pleasure for me to visit some of them during my time here. It has also been a pleasure to see how President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s government has stepped up Indonesia’s efforts to tackle climate change and deforestation.
Finally, and on a more personal note, I love Indonesia’s golf courses. More are being developed all the time, and I hope to try out a few more of them before I leave this country.
I have been immensely fortunate to experience some of the attractions of Indonesia over the last five years. As links like these grow, I have no doubt that it will lead more Europeans to fall in love with Indonesia and its people.
Julian Wilson is the EU ambassador to Indonesia.
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