On 4th June, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, Josep Borrell, concluded his four-day visit to Indonesia and the headquarters of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The visit demonstrated the EU’s wish to deepen relations with Indonesia, one of the world’s largest democracies and economies, which will hold the G20 Presidency in 2022 and the ASEAN Chairmanship in 2023, as well as to further develop its strategic partnership with ASEAN.
In his meeting with the President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, High Representative Borrell stressed the EU’s willingness to accelerate work with Indonesia to complete negotiations on the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, which would be the EU’s third free trade agreement with one of the members of ASEAN. He emphasised how the implementation of such an agreement could accompany and reinforce the government’s economic modernisation efforts.
Over separate meetings with Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi the High Representative and the Foreign Minister discussed their desire to bring new impetus to the EU-Indonesia relationship. They had in depth discussions concerning fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccinations, and the High Representative welcomed the minister’s key role as co-chair of the COVAX Advanced Market Commitment Engagement Group(link is external), the innovative financing instrument supported by the EU and ensuring the participation of 92 low- and middle-income economies in the COVAX Facility. In a joint press point with Minister Marsudi, High Representative Borrell noted that: “To say that nobody will be safe until everybody is safe is good, but it is easier to say than to do. Europe has been making a big effort in order to provide vaccines to the rest of the world. In fact, we are the main exporter: half of the vaccines produced in Europe have been exported to the rest of the world.” He also stressed the need to work together addressing issues relating to palm oil, sustainable development and the green transition.
The High Representative welcomed Minister Marsudi’s leadership in seeking to address the situation in Myanmar within ASEAN. He also stressed the EU’s concerns about the lack of positive developments on the ground, and the EU’s willingness to support ASEAN’s efforts swiftly to implement its “five point consensus” on Myanmar, when he met the ASEAN Secretary-General, Lim Jock Hoi, ahead of the latter’s visit to Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, with the ASEAN Chair. Retno Marsudi and Josep Borrell also discussed a wide range of other global issues, including the situation in Palestine and Israel, in Afghanistan and in the Indo-Pacific. “The EU and Indonesia have to work together in order to build prosperity, sustainability, and security. The three go together. Prosperity has to be built based on sustainability, and prosperity cannot be independent of stability and security”, said Josep Borrell. I think that is something that we can do together, and I hope that this will be the starting point for an intense relationship and intense cooperation.” The High Representative and the Minister also attended the signature of a €10m EU grant-funded project to support university teaching hospitals in East Java and South Sulawesi in the fight against COVID-19. High Representative Borrell invited Foreign Minister Marsudi to visit Brussels at her earliest convenience.
With the Indonesian Minister of Defence, Prabowo Subianto, the High Representative discussed EU-Indonesian cooperation on security and defence. He underlined the EU’s willingness to extend its cooperation with the ASEAN-centred security architecture in the region, above all in the area of maritime security, following his first invitation to join the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus forum in 2020.
At the Indonesian Parliament Josep Borrell met with members of the Commission on Foreign Relations and the Committee for Inter-Parliamentary Cooperation. He welcomed the opportunity to engage on topics as diverse as the pandemic and vaccines, energy transition, digitalisation and maritime security.
The High Representative also visited the ASEAN headquarters and met the ASEAN Secretary-General, Lim Jock Hoi, and the ASEAN Committee of Permanent Representatives to discuss the deepening of EU-ASEAN relations to advance the EU-ASEAN Strategic Partnership. They also discussed the green transition, connectivity, COVID-19 and defence cooperation. Josep Borrell again strongly encouraged ASEAN in its efforts to address the situation in Myanmar. The High Representative and the Secretary-General also launched the €20 million EU-funded “Southeast Asia Health Pandemic Response and Preparedness” project and officially opened the EU Project Office at the ASEAN Secretariat. Josep Borrell visited the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance(link is external) to hear about the impact of the EU’s financial contribution in support of the centre.
The High Representative also inaugurated the new premises of the EU Delegation to Indonesia and, following the enhancement of EU-ASEAN relations to a strategic partnership, oversaw the official upgrade of the EU Mission to ASEAN to a fully-fledged EU Delegation. He welcomed the successful conclusion of negotiations on an EU-ASEAN Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement as a first, and major, advance in this regard.
High Representative/Vice-President Borrell also gave a speech at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies on the EU Strategy for Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific. He stressed the risk that politics and nationalism trump the economic development and cooperation, which have been the glue that have held the countries of the Indo-Pacific together and lifted millions of people out of poverty. “The Indo Pacific region is the future, but insecurity and tensions are rising, threatening the order and balance of this dynamic region”, said High Representative/Vice-President Borrell. “The key point to make here is that economic growth of this region rests on openness, on stable and shared rules, and shared security. The EU’s interest is precisely this: that the regional order stays open and rules-based. We can contribute a lot, which – as I witnessed during my visit – is recognised by our regional partners who view the EU a trusted and reliable actor.”
Audiovisual footage of the visit is available from Europe by Satellite.