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JAKARTA - All over the world bilateral relations and regional cooperation are flourishing, even if only a few people have noticed. The globalization of the economy is being followed by the globalization of politics. In the next ten years new worldwide networks will arise in response to global issues. Governments and societies are seeking closer ties with one another in the face of new threats and challenges.
These new threats are very diverse, but they share a common feature: They do not respect national borders. Global warming, rising sea levels, decreasing biodiversity and fisheries depletion; they threaten us regardless of nationality, ethnicity or religion. So does global terrorism. Terrorists kill indiscriminately, as Indonesians know all too well.
Gradually, we are all waking up to the fact that, in a globalised world, national interests and common interests have become two sides of the same coin. In this new world, there is a new rule: If what seems good for us is not good for you, it cannot truly be good for us. Cross-border challenges can only effectively be dealt with through cross-border responses. "Unity in diversity", which is the motto of both Indonesia and the European Union, therefore deserves to become the entire world's motto.
Against this background, I believe that Indonesia and the Netherlands are natural candidates for a close, strong partnership. Why Indonesia and the Netherlands? After all, our two countries are some 14,000 kilometers apart! Still, there is something special about our relationship, which makes it impossible for many citizens of the one country to be indifferent about events in the other. Many Dutch citizens have personal ties with Indonesia and vice versa. We have a common cultural heritage that we should cherish and put to greater use.
Moreover, Indonesia is a major partner in many areas of mutual concern. First of all, we consider Indonesia a prime mover in promoting regional cooperation in Asia. For us Indonesia also represents great economic potential as a market and as a trading partner. And there is more.
The Netherlands has been Indonesia's closest partner in raising education standards for some years now. Both Indonesia and the Netherlands regard education as a crucial "enabler" in the struggle against poverty. Poverty still holds back the economic development of millions of Indonesians. My country will continue to support Indonesia wherever Indonesians believe our help is most needed and we believe our aid is well spent.
As the world's largest habitat for many different species of animals and plants, Indonesia is a crucial reservoir of untapped knowledge. Think of the medicines still to be discovered in your tropical forests! And then think about all the illegal logging taking place. Three-quarters of log production in Indonesia comes from illegal sources. This is a worrying phenomenon, both for Indonesians who care about their country's future and for the international community as a whole. As part of a serious legal offensive against the logging mafia, the Netherlands could offer legal and technical expertise and we could jointly develop more sustainable logging techniques.
Also, without Indonesia there could be no effective fight against cross-border crime. A case in point is piracy in the Malacca Strait. In 2007, two state-of-the-art Dutch-built ships will reinforce the Indonesian navy's capacity to control its territorial waters. The number of incidents in the Malacca Strait already appears to have dropped since Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore stepped up patrols on 20 July. This is good news for international maritime trade.
Likewise, the fight against terrorism could not be fought successfully without Indonesia. Only last month, the opening of the Jakarta Center for Law Enforcement Cooperation marked the beginning of intensive international cooperation and partnership in this field, with Australia and the Netherlands -- backed by the European Union -- as two of Indonesia's main partners.
In addition, the Netherlands would welcome a clear Indonesian voice in the global dialogue between civilizations. Indonesia has a natural right to speak up, as a democratic country with more Muslims than any other in the world, and as a country that harbors and cherishes long Christian, Hindu and Buddhist traditions. The Netherlands, itself home to almost a million Muslims, offers scholarships to Indonesian students of Islam and would be interested in developing bilateral initiatives to build international bridges.
The Netherlands is also an attractive partner for Indonesia. We are an open-minded trading country, well respected in the European Union and the transatlantic community. Similarities between our two countries' legal and governmental structures makes our society more transparent for Indonesians, so that the Netherlands can serve as an excellent bridgehead for Indonesian companies that want to tap the benefits of the single European market.
The bilateral relationship my country envisages is broad and deep. It would cover all issues of common concern, and it would be open and constructive in its tone and style. We would like our two peoples to be able to travel freely between our two countries and we would like to see our trade relations grow in intensity and volume.
In an open and constructive relationship, there will be room for disagreement and for discussion about issues that either one of us feels strongly about. Indonesia is well aware of what issues the Netherlands feels strongly about. Most of them fall into the category of the rule of law. Without the rule of law a democracy remains inherently vulnerable to abuses of power, to what Indonesians refer to as KKN (Corruption, Collusion and Nepotism), and the social instability that follows. Without a level playing field for all, investors are scared off and economic development is hampered.
Another issue is regional autonomy. The Netherlands, like the rest of the European Union, fully supports Indonesias unity and stability. But we Europeans know from experience that there can be no unity if diversity is not allowed to flourish. That is why we strongly support the Special Autonomy Law for Papua, adopted by the Indonesian government in 2002. In implementing it fully, which would include installing the Papua People's Council, Indonesia would be acting according to the motto of which it is rightly proud.
The aim of developing a close partnership is an inextricable part of Dutch policy towards Indonesia. And in the light of the common challenges we face and the interests we share, there is both a greater need and a greater chance of success for joint initiatives than ever before. Let us seize this moment. Let us respond to global diversity by affirming our strong bilateral unity.

Bernard Bot, the writer is Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and President of the Council of Ministers of the European Union, on the occasion of his bilateral visit to Indonesia, Aug. 25-27 .

Posted in Politics @ 25 August 2004 by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink

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