Dutch-Indonesian Ties Soar to New Heights

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Indonesia and the Netherlands have committed to take their relationship to new heights by intensifying multi-faceted cooperation, from trade and investment to interfaith dialogue and cultural collaboration.

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Good sport: Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa shows off a Dutch national soccer jersey presented to him by his visiting Dutch counterpart, Frans CGM Timmermans (left), when they met in Jakarta on Thursday. (Foreign Ministry/Rudi Hartanto)

“We need to intensify [relations], because Indonesia is moving very fast, has many partners across the globe and has to spread its attention over all its partners. So, the Netherlands doesn’t want to be forgotten,” Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans said after meeting his Indonesian counterpart, Marty Natalegawa recently.

The Dutch commitment to better ties will be marked by a series of visits by high-level officials. Beginning with foreign minister’s visit this week, and building throughout 2013 with other ministerial visits, the series will culminate in a visit by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, accompanied by a trade delegation, at the end of 2013.

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Amid a weakening European economy, trade between the two countries has reached US$6 billion, but efforts are currently underway to further boost that figure.

“I was surprised that our trade volumes with Malaysia and Singapore are greater [than with Indonesia]. This should be improved,” Timmermans said.

There are four areas that the two countries will explore for closer collaboration: water management, agriculture, infrastructure and city planning.

As a leader in integrated water management and innovative water technology, the Netherlands offered its expertise in efforts to protect the city against flooding by creating protective measures. It also offered advice on addressing land subsidence in Jakarta, a city that is sinking by between 4 and 10 centimeters per year.

The Netherlands has developed world-class technologies supported by top-end institutions in the field of water science.

“We might not be the cheapest, but we are the best. It is up to the Jakarta authorities to make up their mind, whether they want the cheapest or the best,” Timmermans said when asked about whether Dutch know-how was competitive with that of South Korea, Japan or China.

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The Dutch government has provided ¤12 million (US$15.82 million) in grant funds per year for the 2012-2015 period to improve water management in Jakarta.

Timmermans also said both countries had agreed to set up a collaborative effort to preserve cultural heritage in Jakarta, including opening up the Dutch archives and museum collections in an effort to raise awareness of Indonesian cultural heritage.

Marty said that apart from cooperation in water management, Indonesia and the Netherlands also planned to improve ties in trade, investment and people-to-people contact. “We are looking forward to taking cooperation to the next level,” he added.

Since both nations share similar diverse populations, the two ministers agreed to intensify interfaith dialogue. Both societies are facing challenges from radical and conservative groups.

“Given the composition of Indonesia and Europe, we have common tasks, to promote dialogue between ethnic groups, different faiths […] It is important,” Timmermans said.

In education, there are 1,500 Indonesian currently studying in the Netherlands and 250 cooperative arrangements have been established among various institutions in both countries. “We hope more Indonesians study in Netherlands. And we hope also for more from our side.” (Yohanna Ririhena, The Jakarta Post)

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