What Lies Beneath? Understanding Euro-Indonesian Security Relations and Efforts to Build National Security
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Editor's Desk

Mitchell Belfer

What Lies Beneath? Understanding Euro-Indonesian Security Relations and Efforts to Build National Security

The European Union’s relationship to Indonesia is largely a reflection of the European Cooperation Agreement with the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) which was formalised in 1980. Economic and political coordination discussions have been held regularly ever since. Bilateral dialogues between the EU and Indonesia have included periodic reviews of political, economic and co-operation issues. A Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Partnership and Co-operation was signed on 9 November 2009 and entered into force on 1 May 2014. It was the first such agreement with an ASEAN country.

The Agreement provides the basis for holding regular political dialogue and sectoral cooperation and develops bilateral relations. The Agreement also provides the legal framework to engage and cooperate across a wide spectrum of policy fields, including human rights, political dialogue, trade. The first Joint Committee under the PCA took place in November 2016 in Brussels. A security dialogue was launched in May 2016 to strengthen cooperation in this area, including countering extremism and terrorism, on which a host of projects have been or are being carried out. These include counter-terrorism capacity-building and training, as well as civil society projects, for example targeting the prevention and countering of radicalisation. Back in 2005, the EU deployed the civilian Aceh Monitoring Mission (AMM) under the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP), and continued to contribute to the peace process through long-term capacity building, reintegration and police training programmes.

Indonesia is the largest economy in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). It represents about 36% of the region’s GDP and has the largest population (250 million inhabitants). Bilateral trade in goods between the EU and Indonesia amounted to €26.8 billion in 2017, with EU exports worth €10 billion and EU imports worth
€16.7 billion. Bilateral trade in services between EU and Indonesia in 2016 amounted to €6 billion in 2016, with EU exports amounting to €4 billion and Indonesia’s exports reaching €2.2 billion. The EU is Indonesia’s fourth largest trading partner while Indonesia is the 5th most important EU partner in ASEAN and, in the same year, it ranked 30th in the overall EU trade worldwide. Indonesia currently benefits from trade preferences granted by the EU Generalised Scheme of Preferences, under which about 30% of total imports from Indonesia enjoyed lower duties.

The EU has spent more than €500 million development assistance in Indonesia in the last ten years, in particular to promote basic education for all and good governance (public finance management and justice), and to support efforts against climate change and deforestation and trade. Since 1995, the European Union has made available
€136 million in humanitarian aid, including over €60 million in response to the 2004 earthquake/tsunami in Aceh-Nias. The EU civil protection mechanism stands ready to support Indonesia and was deployed in January 2016 in order to improve prevention and preparedness to address forest and peatland fires.

Economic interaction and engagement occurs in context of trust and the anticipation of enhancing relations in political fields as well. As such, it is important to view EU-Indonesia relations as en route rather than having reached their potential. This is largely because both parties are only now truly discovering each other in strategic affairs, including the efforts made to build national security, both traditionally and non-traditionally, such as the armed forces contribution to prevent terrorist attacks. 


Indonesia represents an important trading partner for the EU. Yet, instead of viewing Indonesia instrumentally, in what Jakarta can provide for the EU, perhaps it is time to evaluate what Indonesia is looking for in terms of its international engagements? In Europe it is clear: Jakarta is looking to be treated as an equal, a great regional power that can both chart its own political future and assist in solving international challenges like the scourge of Islamic radicalism and terrorism. Whatever is goals, it is important to remember Indonesia as a global actor in its own right!


2020 - Volume 14 Issue 2