Sweden Eyes More Contacts With Indonesian People

As Sweden and Indonesia celebrate their 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations this year with buoyant economic ties, Swedish Ambassador to Indonesia Ewa Polano is eyeing success in other mission: improving people to people contacts.

Polano, who started her three-year term here last year, told The Jakarta Post in an interview Monday that while trade and investment relations remained an important pillar in the relations with Indonesia, it was also similarly important to increase the level of awareness of both Indonesia and Sweden among the people of each country.

“Indonesia is a very impressive country. You are a member of G20, have a resilient economy and democracy. We must invest more in human relations, that can be through people-to-people exchanges, and more scholarships for Indonesians,” she said. 

Polano said she had organized around more than 100 Indonesian graduates from Sweden, most of whom had studied in the Scandinavian country on Swedish scholarships, to promote Sweden to the Indonesian people.

“There hasn’t been enough information about Sweden in Indonesia even though Indonesians are accustomed to Swedish technology including the mobile phones,” she said.

Swedish telecommunications giant Ericsson, has had a presence in Indonesia since 1907 and others have followed suit.

Polano said some 35 CEOs from Sweden visited Indonesia last February to learn more about market prospects.

Swedish exports to Indonesia – chiefly telecommunications and IT products – stood at US$700 million in 2009, while Indonesia exported $200 million worth of mostly furniture, agricultural and forestry products to Sweden in the same year.

Sweden will establish a Trade Council Office in Jakarta in August to increase trade contacts between both countries, said Polano.

She said Sweden looked into developing relations in every aspect – political, economic, educational, cultural – with the largest economy in Southeast Asia and the world’s third largest democracy. Sweden was also among the first countries to recognize Indonesia’s independence on Dec. 29, 1949, two days after the Netherlands handed Indonesia its sovereignty.

Polano said transportation, clean energy and environmental management were areas both countries could work together on. Stockholm airport Arlanda has been named the world’s first carbon-neutral airport in the world by the Airport International Council. Sweden has also cooperated with Jakarta and Palu on waste management.

In transportation, Polano said Swedish ethanol biofuel buses were looking to make inroads into the Indonesian market, especially for government-owned public transportation, such as the “busway”.

Polano said that, besides the bilateral interaction, Indonesia has everything Swedish business people, students and tourists look for.

“The number of tourists *to Indonesia* is increasing from year to year, although the number might not be many because the Swedish population is only around 9 million,” she said.

Tuesday’s reception to honor King Gustav Vasa, who laid the foundation of Sweden as a separate state in 1623, will be celebrated in June, which Polano greeted as the “most joyful and beautiful days of the year in Sweden”: the arrival of Summer.

Polano said two Swedish chefs living in Bali had flown to Jakarta to cook Swedish food for hundreds of guests at the celebration.

This year will also mark the wedding of Crown-Princess Victoria and Daniel Westling on June 19 this year, said Polano.

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