Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte addressed Indonesian Parliament on Wednesday (23/11) in Jakarta. In his speech he praised Indonesia for rapid economic development that has been booked over the past decade and also touched on the sensitive subject of the colonial period. Rutte acknowledged that the Netherlands waited too long before apologizing (in 2005) for excessive violence that occurred shortly after the Second World War when the Dutch tried to reconquer their former colony.
In the speech Rutte also mentioned the great potential of Indonesia: the presence of a large and young population, while complimenting Indonesia on matters such as poverty alleviation, the strengthening civil society, a rapidly expanding middle class, and the young yet stable democracy.
"In fact, Indonesia is one of the biggest democracies in the world, and the biggest in this region. Today, Indonesia is a prominent member of the G20 and the United Nations (NU) and it has assumed a leading role in the region, in particular through ASEAN. I salute you for all you have achieved so far. And I am convinced your achievements hold the promise of even greater things to come," Rutte said.
Back in 2013 Rutte already headed a big Dutch trade mission to Indonesia when both nations agreed on a joint declaration for a comprehensive partnership. During the 2016 trade mission Rutte and Indonesian President Joko Widodo both witnessed the signing of several agreements related to vocational training, diplomatic cooperation and the certification of fisheries.
Dutch companies will also provide Indonesia with experts to assist in enhancing waste sorting, waste collection, as well as the re-use process. This is important as 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions are caused by waste. Dutch Minister for the Environment Sharon Dijksma and her Indonesian counterpart Siti Nurbaya Bakar will conclude an agreement for wide-ranging collaboration in the fields of waste processing, the circular economy, and combating climate change, on Thursday (24/11).
Besides the historical relation, ties between both nations are tight. About 200 Dutch companies are active in Indonesia, while there exist 250 academic partnerships between both nations' knowledge institutions (it is estimated that about 1,500 Indonesian students study in the Netherlands).
In a televised speech Widodo said both heads of states discussed cooperation, specifically in terms of trade, investment, water management, and maritime infrastructure development. The Netherlands is one of Indonesia's largest trading partners in the European Union. Moreover, the Netherlands forms the main access point for Indonesian products into Europe. As such, Widodo is eager to enhance both nations' diplomatic and trade relations.
Local media report that Indonesian authorities will work together with the Netherlands to investigate the mysterious disappearance of three shipwrecks (that were sunk by the Japanese during the battle in the Java Sea in 1942) from the bottom of the sea. It is believed that scavengers plundered the site (previously declared a war grave and thus protected by international law) in search of scrap metal.
Program Dutch Trade Mission to Indonesia:
|20 November 2016||• 20:45 (local Dutch time) flight from Amsterdam (KL0809)|
|21 November 2016||• 18:10 (local Indonesian time) arrival in Jakarta
• Kick-off meeting
|22 November 2016||• Seminars, visit companies, and network events in Jakarta
• Flight to Semarang (Central Java)
• Visit companies, and network events in Semarang
• Flight back to Jakarta
|23 November 2016||• Visit companies
• Network events
• Trade reception and dinner
|24 November 2016||• Visit companies
• Network event (lunch)
• Flight Jakarta-Amsterdam (KL0810)
Diplomatic Relations between the Netherlands and Indonesia
Relations between Indonesia and its former colonial masters have been volatile over the years. Notable examples of turbulent relations in the recent past (both positive and negative) include the following:
• In 2010 then-President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called off a state visit to the Netherlands at the very last moment after the separatist group 'Republic of South Moluccas' (RMS) - located in the Netherlands since 1966 - asked for Yudhoyono's arrest when touching ground in the Netherlands. Being head of the Indonesian state Yudhoyono would be held responsible for past war crimes. The Indonesian government requested certainty from the Dutch government that Yudhoyono would not be arrested and prosecuted. However, the Dutch government explained that such matters fall outside the scope of its authority (trias politica).
• In 2012 a tank deal (involving the purchase of 100 Dutch second-hand tanks), worth around USD $280 million, failed between Indonesia and the Netherlands after Dutch parliament disapproved the deal on concern that the Indonesian government could use these vehicles against its own people. Indonesian authorities were angry about this explanation, and it was particularly sensitive considering the Dutch are the former colonial power in Indonesia.
• In November 2013 diplomatic relations between both nations were good again when a group of Dutch politicians and more than one hundred Dutch company delegates, led by prime minister Mark Rutte, paid a four-day visit to Indonesia aiming to enhance bilateral relations and search for business opportunities between both countries.
• In January 2015 diplomatic relations between both countries went downhill after Indonesia went ahead - despite fierce resistance from Dutch authorities - with the execution of several convicted foreign drug traffickers, including one Dutch citizen. The Netherlands then temporarily recalled its ambassador from Jakarta.
• In April 2016 Indonesian President Joko Widodo paid a two-day state visit to the Netherlands (part of his short visit to the European Union) where he was warmly welcomed by Dutch King Willem-Alexander, Queen Maxima and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. It was the first time in 16 years that an Indonesian president visited the Netherlands. This visit reportedly resulted in about USD $606 million worth of Dutch investment commitments in Indonesia.
• In late August/early September 2016 Queen Máxima of the Netherlands was in Indonesia for a three-day visit primarily to talk about the importance of financial inclusion (she came in her role as United Nation's Secretary-General's Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development). Queen Máxima was warmly welcomed by Indonesian President Joko Widodo.
• In September 2016 Lilianne Ploumen, Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, announced the Netherlands plans to stop sending development aid to Indonesia (and four other nations) from 2020 onward because the economy of Indonesia has strengthened significantly. Therefore relations between both countries can be labelled "trading partners" from 2020.
• In November 2016 divers found out that three Dutch warships that had been sunk by Japanese forces during the Battle of the Java Sea in February 1942 (and had been lying on the bottom of the Java Sea off the coast of Java) were missing. This site was declared a war grave and is therefore protected by international law. Possibly scavengers looted the site in search of scrap metal. Indonesian authorities stated that they had never been asked to protect the site and can therefore not be held responsible. However, Indonesia and the Netherlands will work together the investigate the matter.