European Union External Action

Speech by Mr Christian Leffler, EEAS Deputy Secretary-General, at Seminar on "Long Distances, Short Links: the Europe Asia Connection"

Jakarta, 26/10/2018 - 18:00, UNIQUE ID: 181027_2

Speech by Mr Christian Leffler, EEAS Deputy Secretary-General, at Seminar on "Long Distances, Short Links: the Europe Asia Connection"


Speech by Mr Christian Leffler

Deputy Secretary-General of the European External Action Service (EEAS)


Centre of Strategic and International Studies, Jakarta, Indonesia

26 October 2018


"Long Distances, Short Links: the Europe Asia Connection"


I am very happy to be with you today. May I thank the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, and its Executive Director, Mr Philips Vermonte, for hosting me today as part of its series of lectures on "regional dynamics". It is good to be here with many friends.

Sulawesi Disaster

First of all, may I send my condolences to the families and friends of the more than two thousand Indonesians who perished in the earthquake and subsequent tsunami which struck Central Sulawesi on 28 September. I am aware also that several hundred are missing and more than 4,600 have sustained serious injuries. We may never know the true numbers whose lives have been lost.

The EU Ambassador accompanied by five Ambassadors from our European Member States (France, Germany, Italy, Austria, and Denmark) visited the affected areas on 18 and 19 October. I will discuss the situation with our Ambassador to see what more the European Union can do to provide more humanitarian assistance and what measures are being done to speed up delivery to areas affected by this disaster.

The combined funding announcements from the EU (€1.5 million) and its Member States amount to over €18 million. Appeals to donations in the Netherlands and the UK alone have raised over €24 million, showing the generosity of ordinary European citizens.

Climate Change Is Undeniable

Long distances: short links. As the world shrinks, horizons expand.  The inter-linkages between the world's challenges increase. Central Sulawesi is just one tragic example. Climate change has increased storms and flooding as well as drought worldwide. Conflicts are not more prevalent than they have been in the past, but they reverberate more rapidly and widely across borders than they used to. Migration and forced displacements are one example. We see it around the Mediterranean, in Venezuela and in this region with the Rohingyas.

We all have to club together to lessen the impact of what is becoming catastrophic for our next generation already. Climate change is a threat multiplier for all countries of Asia-Pacific. It has severe implications for international security and stability.

In that context, the European Union will be encouraging the UN Security Council to increase its focus on the climate and security nexus. It will recommend that it becomes a recurrent item within deliberations for its resolutions. Options will be looked at to strengthen institutionally climate risk assessment and management within the UN system.

We need to ensure COP24 in Katowice, Poland, in December makes good progress in this regard and that we all stick to our commitments, ensuring action truly follows our words.

We are working to achieve change, but we cannot remain solely at the rather abstract level of multilateral negotiations. Ultimately, change takes place somewhere. So our multilateral commitments must translate into concrete, cooperative, action, at the regional and bilateral and even local level.

Our bilateral cooperation on the implementation of the Paris agreement (UNFCCC), and other UN conventions (CBD, CITES) is significant to mention. The EU engages, both in terms of policy and also financially, to support Indonesia's commitments to reduce greenhouse gases by 29-41% by 2030.

Over the last two years, the EU has deployed in Indonesia, or is ready to roll out, new projects on wildlife trafficking, climate change mitigation, protection of the coral triangle (SULU-SULAWESI SEASCAPE), sustainability and traceability of palm oil production, as well as prevention of plastic pollution, agriculture and forestry.

The EU and Indonesia have also achieved much success in regulating trade in timber to fight illegal logging. Indonesia is since 2016 the first exporting country that certifies itself the legality of its timber and timber product to the EU under the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade Voluntary Partnership Agreement (FLEGT VPA).

Climate change and protecting the environment is a great example how the international interest is fully in tune with a country's national interest - or should be. The two are indistinguishable. This is the new realpolitik.

Multilateralism, Peace & Security

Since Reformasi twenty years ago, Indonesia and the EU have intensified their relation based on similar values on regional integration, democracy, tolerance, pluralism, human rights and their commitment to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

EU relations with Indonesia reflect Indonesia's position as a G20 member, the world's third largest democracy and its influential position within ASEAN.

As Indonesia's status on the world stage increases, its partnership with the EU becomes stronger. The EU and Indonesia continue to deepen this relationship across a wide range of areas.

The EU and Indonesia share a long history of cooperation in their commitment to peace and stability. This is best exemplified by the 2005 Aceh Monitoring Mission (AMM), where the EU led a peacekeeping and crisis management operation on the island to monitor the implementation of the peace agreement. This operation was completed successfully when local elections were held in Aceh in December 2006.

Today, our cooperation spans across a wide spectrum of policy areas, from economic and social issues, environment, climate, education and human rights to countering terrorism and violent extremism, peace keeping training and defence education, as well as working on drug trafficking and addiction. There is increasing cooperation between specialised Indonesian agencies with their EU counterparts in these areas.

I have been particularly impressed by our common shared commitment to promote multilateralism with the United Nations at its core. Now more than ever our joint commitment to this is crucial. We are witnessing every day that in an interconnected, troubled and rapidly changing world we need commonly agreed rules and effective global institutions to ensure stability, security, prosperity and development for everybody. International rules are a safeguard for everyone, not a constraint. They act as an enabler and establish a level playing field for big and small countries alike. Protectionism and unilateralism are not the answer.

In this context we particularly welcome Indonesia's active role in ASEM, which has again, at last week's Summit, proven itself to be an important framework promoting effective multilateralism and the importance of the rules-based international order and of international law, with the UN at its core.

There are threats to the multilateral system today. But it is far from the demise of multilateralism. The EU is responding by strengthening support for the international system, finding new partners across the world and working in new ways and we are very glad to keep working with our Indonesian partners in this direction.

Take the example of Maritime security: it is both an issue of national sovereignty in territorial waters but also a matter for international cooperation and rules regarding safe passage. Indonesia knows this too well with respect to the Malacca Strait, for example.

Earlier this year, the EU decided to strengthen cooperation on security in Asia and with Asian partners, in view of the importance of the region to global stability and security and thus to European interests. Priority areas are precisely maritime security, as well as cyber security, counter terrorism, CSDP and peacekeeping operations, hybrid threats, conflict prevention and the proliferation of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons. Pilot cooperation projects will be developed with key partners such as Indonesia to concretely advance shared interests in these areas.

I wish to take this opportunity to congratulate Indonesia for having been elected as UN Security Council as a member for 2019-2020. It is very good to see Indonesia using the occasion to increase its troop contribution for UN peace-keeping operations from 2,750 active troops in the beginning of 2018 to 4,000 by next year, one of the UN's ten largest troop contributors in this respect.

Indeed our common focus on the United Nations provides a clear, concrete path for EU-Indonesia bilateral engagement based on common commitments on SDGs, Climate, Ocean governance, UNGASS, the Migration Compact, the UNSG plan of action on preventing violent extremism and UN Human Rights instruments.

I want to commend in particular Indonesia's constructive role in Afghanistan. I note that President Jokowi expressed Indonesia's readiness to support for the Afghan peace process when he recently met President Ghani of Afghanistan. This led to Indonesia hosting an Ulema conference this May with the participation of Muslim clerics from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Indonesia. It issued a declaration expressing support for an inclusive peace process and denouncing violence and terrorism.

The European Union biggest development assistance programme is in Afghanistan. It is unsurprising that we should clearly support and encourage such initiatives which promote Islam as a religion of peace and which assists us all in trying to stabilise and rebuild that country.

In this way, Indonesia shares its experiences as a multi-ethnic and multicultural nation and its successful handling of armed conflict.

Connectivity Brings Us All Together

Let me return to the shrinking world and re-focus on the opportunities.  As the world grows smaller, connectivity becomes all the more important. That is how we broaden the horizons.

Just a fortnight ago, the EU adopted a strategy that sets out the EU's vision for a new and comprehensive approach to better connect Europe and Asia, which fed into the ASEM summit in Brussels last week and its outcome.

Connectivity brings people, places and opportunities closer, which is why it has to be approached and managed well. To work efficiently, connectivity requires internationally agreed practices, rules, conventions and technical standards, supported by international organisations and institutions that enable interoperability of networks and trade across borders.

The potential impact of infrastructure and investments also requires the necessary steps to be taken to ensure that connectivity is sustainable. This refers to fiscal, environmental, economic and social sustainability.

The EU will combine a principled approach to connectivity and recognition that Asia encompasses different regions, which are home to very diverse countries in terms of geography, economic models and level of development, with concrete action based on three strands:

  • Creating transport links, energy, digital networks and human connections;
  • Offering connectivity partnerships to countries in Asia as well as to regional and multilateral organisations;
  • Promoting sustainable finance through utilising diverse financial tools.

Bilateral cooperation between European Union and Indonesia is already part of this picture. Substantial improvements to Indonesia's air safety have allowed the removal of its airlines from the EU air safety list this summer. The region-to-region negotiations for the EU–ASEAN Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement (CATA) have moved into their decisive phase. Agreement here will significantly deepen aviation links between the European Union and Indonesia, as a member of ASEAN.

Cooperation is also likely to extend to the maritime transport sector. The EU welcomes President Joko Widodo's vision to transform Indonesia into a Global Maritime Fulcrum, asserting Indonesia’s strategic position between the Indian and the Pacific Oceans. At the cornerstone of this vision is the priority given to the development of maritime infrastructure and inter-island connectivity.

This all translates as well into growth in people to people contact: travel in both sides increased 15 to 20% annually in recent years:  1.7 million entries of EU citizens in Indonesia in 2017 (visa free since 2016 for short 30-day stay); 215 thousand Schengen visas issued in Jakarta to Indonesian citizens in 2017. 12.000 young Indonesians are studying in Europe, many supported by scholarships funded by the EU and its Member States.  Erasmus+ scholarships (more than 200 scholarships per year) are popular with Indonesian university students.

The Structured EU-Indonesian Relationship Continues To Grow

All this common understanding between us has meant concretely that Indonesia is the first ASEAN country to have concluded a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) with the EU. In force since 2014, it consists of seven sectoral dialogues on political, security, human rights, trade, development, maritime, and environment/climate issues. We are also negotiating a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA). Talks started about two years now. They are moving at a good pace with a sixth very constructive round held in Palembang a week ago.

The EU estimates that the conclusion of CEPA has the potential to add almost 0.5% to Indonesia’s GDP growth, the annual volume of Indonesian exports would grow by about 5.4%, increasing by almost 1 billion euros (USD 1.1 billion). This is crucial to reaching Indonesia's goal of growing at 7-8% GDP per year.

And so our partnership continues to develop. As we speak (26 October), the EU Commissioner for Environment, Mr Vella, is in Jakarta, with 40 EU Businesses talking to 200 Indonesian counterparts, to promote a "circular economy", i.e. shifting away from "take-make-dispose extractive industrial model", towards decoupling economic activity from the consumption of finite resources and non-renewable energy sources, through eco-design, reuse and recycling.


I must end on making this one unescapable point. Indonesia is a giant in so many respects. Not just because of its population or economic size, but because of the values it espouses. Indonesia is a model of human rights, pluralism and tolerance in its region. This means much can be shared and developed with the EU, at the bilateral, regional (ASEAN) and multilateral level.

This is an easy fit which we must exploit fully. It makes us natural, not forced partners. The EU is a complex partner. We do not offer or seek to impose a single model. We don't have one; we know from our own experience that common ambitions have to be translated into action in the specific context of every country, with its own history, culture and sensitivities. So, we are also open, flexible and tolerant as we reach out to partners across the world. Tolerance in all respects but one: we do not and will not compromise on the fundamental principles and values which underpin the Union and which we have all subscribed to as members of the UN.

Thank you.


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