Indonesian President Joko Widodo kicked off his short European tour on Monday (18/04) in Berlin (Germany) where he met German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Bilateral relations between Indonesia and Germany are important because Germany is Indonesia's largest trading partner in the European continent and Indonesia's seventh-largest investor. Merkel praised Indonesia's economic development amid the complex context (having more than 255 million citizens and consisting of over 17,000 islands). Both state heads talked about strengthening existing partnership in vocational education in several sectors.
During the meeting Widodo expressed his desire for German assistance regarding vocational education, especially in the power plants, textile, and maritime sectors. Both nations are expected to continue discussions about cooperation in vocational education in May 2016. Other matters that were discussed at the meeting included the establishment of a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement between both nations, and the fight against terrorism.
Meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron in the United Kingdom
On Tuesday (19/04) Widodo arrived in London (Great Britain) where he - accompanied by Indonesian Finance Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro and Bank Indonesia Governor Agus Martowardojo - met British Prime Minister David Cameron. Their meeting particularly focused on strengthening the nation's partnership in the creative economy. Both leaders signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on this matter. Other topics that were on the agenda included the Indonesia-EU Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) and the fight against terrorism.
On Wednesday (20/04), Widodo met chief executives of several British companies and he addressed the UK-Indonesia Business Forum in London, a forum that was attended by Mark Price, Britain's Minister for Trade and Investment. Other (less formal) activities on this day included attending an exhibition of five Indonesian designers in a prestigious London shopping area and a Football for Peace initiative at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
In Indonesian media it was reported that Widodo's visit to the United Kingdom resulted in 12 business agreements worth USD $19 billion.
Widodo's Visit to Belgium
On Thursday (21/04), Widodo met Belgian King Philippe at the Royal Palace in Brussels. In this meeting the Indonesian president expressed his condolences over the recent radical Islamic bomb attacks at a local Belgian airport. Earlier this year Muslim radicals attacked in the center of Jakarta. Radical Islam has a long history in Indonesia and Widodo is therefore well aware about the importance to combat international terrorism through inter-government cooperation and coordination.
King Philippe and Widodo also discussed bilateral matters between both nations. Earlier this year, a Belgian mission - led by Princess Astrid (the sister of King Philippe), accompanied by four ministers and 301 participants (including 127 company representatives) - visited Indonesia in an effort to strengthen bilateral economic cooperation between both nations and boost foreign direct investment from Belgium into Indonesia. Meanwhile, King Philippe complimented Widodo for the nation's economic development, and religious tolerance.
Another topic that was touched upon was Indonesia's palm oil exports. After France proposed to impose a progressive tax on palm oil imports, Indonesia is concerned that other European nations will also impose "discriminatory" measures toward palm oil.
Still the same day, Widodo met European Council President Donald Tusk in Brussels. In this meeting Widodo emphasized that Indonesia is a country that fosters democracy and religious tolerance. Tusk replied stating that the European Council praises Indonesia's efforts to foster democracy, human rights (although there are many western voices that would not agree to this, for example due to Indonesia's ongoing executions of drug traffickers) and religious tolerance. The European Council announced it will also take a look at the possibility to impose a visa waiver program for Indonesian citizens that visit the region for holiday purposes.
Widodo also met European Commission Vice President Frederica Mogherini in Brussels on Thursday (21/04) to discuss the Indonesia-European Union Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IUECEPA). Widodo is positive about enhancing trade relations with the European Union. Negotiations about a comprehensive partnership are expected to start soon.
First Visit Indonesian President to the Netherlands in 16 Years
On Friday (22/04) Widodo arrived in the Netherlands, the former colonial power in Indonesia. Diplomatic relations between both nations have been volatile ever since. However, Widodo was warmly welcomed by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in the Hague. Widodo is the first Indonesian president that visited the Netherlands since the year 2000 when Abdurrahman Wahid paid an (unofficial) visit. The last time Widodo and Rutte met was when the former was still Governor of Jakarta in 2013 during a large Dutch trade mission to Indonesia.
The meeting between Widodo and Rutte mainly focused on bilateral trade relations, investment, water management and maritime partnerships. The Dutch are known as experts in the field of water management (as most of Dutch surface is located below sea level). Indonesia is plagued by a couple of water management issues. For example, the northern part of Jakarta (Indonesia's capital city) is sinking at an alarming rate. Meanwhile, Jakarta is often plagued by severe floods in the rainy season. Off the coast of Jakarta there are also grand land reclamation projects under construction (projects joined by Dutch companies). Lastly, Indonesia still needs to tackle the issue of clean water supply. Indonesia and the Netherlands are already engaged in a partnership that focuses on infrastructure projects that deal with flooding and shoreline abrasion. This partnership will be extended to 2020.
Other partnership agreements that were signed at this occasion involved higher education and science. After these ceremonies (and after Widodo also took some time to take pictures with the many Indonesians living in the Netherlands who came to The Hague to see the president) Widodo took off to visit the Port of Rotterdam. After this visit he will meet 20 chief executives from Dutch companies in the Indonesia-Dutch Business Forum (this forum will also focus on maritime and water management issues). Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said this forum will produce about USD $601.2 million worth of commitments.
Friday evening Widodo will meet Dutch King Willem Alexander and Queen Maxima at Noordeinde Palace, not in his capacity as Indonesian president but as United Nations adviser for inclusive economic issues.