Sweden is keen on building a stronger partnership with Indonesia with a main focus on enhancing economic links, democracy, human rights and climate change, says the Swedish Ambassador to Indonesia, Ewa Polano.
The Nordic country’s related activities are slowly becoming ubiquitous even in remote areas like Papua and Palu in Central Sulawesi through the partner driven cooperation (PDC) scheme.
“We consider Indonesia a strategically important country in Asia. We have been actively cooperating with Indonesia in many areas. The main pillars of our bilateral relationship are trade, investment, democracy, human rights, climate change, education and healthcare,” Ambassador Polano told The Jakarta Post on Monday in connection with Swedish National Day, which falls on June 6.
Commenting on the fast growing friendly ties between Sweden, the third-largest country in Western Europe, and Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous nation, Polano said both countries made several milestones in a short time span.
In the economic field, based on Indonesia’s Central Statistics Agency’s data, bilateral trade has been growing in double digits despite the global downturn.
In the first quarter of this year, two-way trade reached US$383.42 million, a 63.84 percent surge from $234.02 million during the same period in 2011. Total trade value was $1.05 billion in 2011, a 19.78 percent increase from $882.11 million in 2010.
“We are very much impressed by the increase of our trade. With an intention to boost our trade, we opened our Swedish Trade Council in Jakarta in 2010,” the ambassador said.
According to Polano, there are around 44 Swedish companies, including big ones like Volvo, Ericsson, Oriflame, ABB, Electrolux, SKF and Tetra Pak, operating in Indonesia.
“What is interesting is more and more big Swedish companies are coming to Indonesia. For example, IKEA will open three department stores in Indonesia in February 2014. Fashion giant H&M will also open outlets in July 2012,” she added.
She said another good example of bilateral cooperation was the establishment of the Human Rights Dialogue in 2008.
“We have organised the Human Rights Dialogue four times,” Polano said, adding that the two countries also have bilateral political consultations every two years.
Sweden is also very active in the field of climate change, and has signed agreements with the authorities of Palu and Sleman, Yogyakarta, regarding waste management as well as a memorandum of agreement with East Lombok regency to build an ecotourism village.
“We are also ready to build environmentally friendly airports in Indonesia,” she said.
When asked about future relations, the ambassador said both Indonesia and Sweden had a strong determination to strengthen the growing relations.
“Our King has invited President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to visit Sweden in early 2013. President Yudhoyono accepted the invitation. This state visit will be a turning point in the history of our relations,” Polano said.