Entering the second half of his tenure in Serbia, H.E. Harry Richard James Kandou, Ambassador of Indonesia, is a witness to strong historical ties and bilateral relations between these two countries that played a crucial role in conceiving and nurturing the Non-Aligned Movement. But ambassador Kandou has also been a strong advocate of the further development of economic relations with Serbia.
-I am very pleased about the increasing level of bilateral relations between the two countries. Over the course of the first half of my tenure we were able to deepen and develop relations even further, and we made numerous bilateral achievements. To name a few: The successful State Visit of President Tomislav Nikolić to Indonesia in April 2016; the inauguration of two Indonesian investments in Serbia, the exemption of visas for Serbian nationals for short visits of up to 30 days to Indonesia. I am happy to note that, as of 14th October 2017, the Serbian Government has also implemented a reciprocal decision granting visa exemption for Indonesian nationals for short visits of up to 30 days to Serbia. However, the potential for cooperation is limitless and there are many more avenues of cooperation that can be further developed, which I hope will be discussed extensively during the 4th Indonesia-Serbia bilateral consultation forum, which Indonesia plans to host in 2018.
You recently announced Indonesia’s candidacy to be a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for the 2019-2020 period and sought Serbia’s support in the 2018 vote. How do you see the possible contribution of Indonesia to the work of the security council, considering today’s numerous political and security challenges?
– Since becoming a member of the United Nations, Indonesia has shown its strong commitment to achieving the principles and purposes of the UN Charter through its active participation in and contribution to UN programmes and activities in the social, economic, environmental and humanitarian fields, as well as countless endeavours to promote peace and security. As a member, Indonesia is also active in the United Nations reform process, including the UN Security Council reform, where it fully supports a more democratic, representative and effective Security Council that reflects the current world realities and all regions equitably. While it is not an easy task facing the dynamics of global political and security landscapes, Indonesia will be able to draw strength from its vast experience in global and regional peace and security efforts, including during its three previous stints as a non-permanent member of the UNSC and active contribution to UN Peacekeeping missions.
As these points make up Indonesia’s posture and worthiness of becoming a non-permanent member of the UNSC, Indonesia’s greatest contribution to the Council will be its ability to act as a moderate voice and a bridge and consensus builder. These are inherent traits that derive from it being the fourth most populated country, the third largest democracy, the largest Muslim population in the world and home to more than 300 ethnic groups, which have made Indonesia a true model of tolerance and pluralism. With these modalities and the support of Serbia and other member countries, Indonesia will play a responsible and constructive role as a nonpermanent member of the UNSC and become a true partner for peace.
Does Indonesia intend to maintain its stance of not recognising Kosovo independence?
– Indonesia consistently upholds the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the member states of the United Nations, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and international law. Therefore, Indonesia will maintain its stance of not recognising the unilateral declaration of independence of Kosovo and respect the territorial integrity of Serbia.
Being the fourth most populated country, the third largest democracy, the largest Muslim population in the world and home to more than 300 ethnic groups, Indonesia is a true model of tolerance and pluralism
Analysts estimate that Serbia, as successor state of the former Yugoslavia, does not sufficiently utilise its historical good relations with the countries of ASEAN. Do you see any progress on that front?
– ASEAN commemorated its 50th anniversary on 5th August 2017. Established as an organisation with the primary objective of ensuring regional peace and security, ASEAN has evolved into a politically cohesive, economically integrated, socially responsible and truly rules-based, people-orientated and people-centred organisation.
With over 622 million people, ASEAN’s potential market is larger than those of European Union or North America. It is also one of the most open economic regions in the world, with total merchandise exports of over $1.2 trillion – nearly 54% of total ASEAN GDP and 7% of global exports, making it the fourth-largest exporting region in the world. ASEAN and Serbia have maintained good relation over the years. Earlier this year Ambassador Slobodan Marinković presented to the Secretary General of ASEAN his credentials as Ambassador of Serbia to ASEAN. We look forward to strengthening relations and developing ever more intensified consultations with Serbia along with Serbia’s accession process to ASEAN Treaty of Amity and Cooperation.
Company Indofood, a world leader in food production, opened a noodle factory in the Serbian town of Indjija a year ago. How are the investors’ experiences?
– We sincerely appreciate the support and facilitation of the Government of Serbia towards Indonesian companies which have been present in the Serbian market. Direct investments from Indonesia in Serbia are still limited, but I am expecting to welcome more, as Indonesia has a large upside potential for outbound investments. Indonesia’s stable economic growth for the last decade has allowed for the rise of a new class of companies with keen eyes on overseas investment opportunities.
Apart from noodle factories and mushroom cultivation, do you see other areas with the potential to expand economic cooperation between Indonesia and Serbia?
– In recent years, there has been a substantive growth in economic relations between Indonesia and Serbia. The instant noodle factory of Indo Adriatic Industry in Indjija is a testimony of Indonesia’s initiative for strengthening economic and business ties with Serbia.
The inauguration of a mushroom plantation owned by Delta Danube in Kovin on 15th April 2016 is another indication of the importance of bilateral economic relations. Serbian market is wide open for the penetration of Indonesian products. Furthermore, Serbia’s unique geographic location and its trade agreements with various countries in the region have attracted Indonesian companies to invest. Indonesian investment is rare in Serbia. However, it continues to show a positive trend.
It is heartening that the Indonesian investment is expanding. On the other hand, it is also important to create a balanced and sustainable two-way trade cooperation and further promote mutual investment between our two countries. In this regard, I would like to encourage Serbian businesses to capture huge and diverse opportunities by Indonesian economy. The sectors to be developed are wide-ranging: infrastructure, transportation, energy, pharmaceutical, agriculture, information technology manufacture, fisheries, defence industry and others. Indeed, we have much to offer for those who seek business opportunity.
The agreement between the Government of the Republic of Indonesia and the Governmentof the Republic of Serbia on Mutual Exemption of Visa Requirements for Holders of Ordinary Passports marks a major step forward in bilateral relations
How present is Serbia on the Indonesian market and have any Serbian products managed to become recognisable?
– Indonesia trade relations with Serbia tend to be modest. The trade between the two countries in 2015 and 2016 amounted at USD 15.3 million and USD 28.1 million respectively. These figures indicate that although the economic and commercial relations between Indonesia and Serbia are showing positive trend, there is room for further improvement. The potentials for partnership are enormous. Each country is endowed with goods, services, technical know-how and opportunities that the other needs. Collaborating and cooperating with Indonesian businesses could enhance the presence of Serbia and Serbian product in Indonesian market.
You stated on one occasion in Čačak that an Indonesian company is interested in constructing a large industrial centre in Serbia and is seeking a city that would provide a plot land of about 250 hectares, with infrastructure. Has any progress been made on that initiative?
– Indonesian companies recognise the potential for exporting goods under preferential terms that Serbia has with many countries. Indonesia is still exploring the possibilities and working closely with the related institutions and the government of Serbia to put that initiative into a concrete project. Considering the current development in Serbia, we are very optimistic that Serbia will be a valuable partner for Indonesia in the region of Southeast Europe.
To what extent can the mutual abolition of visas be improving economic cooperation, but also better familiarising the peoples of Indonesia and Serbia with one another?
– The agreement between the Government of the Republic of Indonesia and the Government of the Republic of Serbia on Mutual Exemption of Visa Requirements for Holders of Ordinary Passports marks a major step forward in the bilateral relations. Visa facilitation can serve as a powerful incentive for the expansion of the scope of people-to-people communications, business relations and development of trade. I am looking forward to visa exemption encouraging further exchanges between Indonesian and Serbian entrepreneurs, helping to implement mutually beneficial projects.
Indonesia trade relations with Serbia tend to be modest. The trade between the two countries in 2015 and 2016 amounted at USD 15.3 million and USD 28.1 million respectively. These figures indicate that although the economic and commercial relations between Indonesia and Serbia are showing positive trend, there is room for further improvement
It seems that cooperation in the fields of education, culture and sports, as well as cooperation among young people, is becoming part of the main focus of relations between the two countries. How is that being realised at present?
– The embassy always considers that cooperation involving young people is very important. This year, we are trying to be even more engaged with the young people of Serbia, one of our big project this summer was the Bali Wonderland Festival. It’s a new concept to promote Indonesian culture with a mixture of traditional and modern culture of Indonesia. We believe the Bali Wonderland Festival was a great success, considering that there were more than 5,000 visitors to that one-day event. To go further, this year the embassy also organised an Indonesian Film Week at the Yugoslav Film archives Cinematheque. The Indonesian Film Week is one of our ways to promote contemporary Indonesian culture and introduce Indonesian cinema to film lovers in Serbia.
Besides that, the Embassy always promotes cooperation in education and sports. This November, in cooperation with the Ministry of Youth and Sports of the Republic of Serbia, Indonesia will be present at the International Sports Expo at the Belgrade Fair. We will introduce the traditional Indonesian martial art of Pencak Silat.
How much interest exists among young people in Serbia when it comes to the scholarships granted by the government of Indonesia for undergraduate and master’s studies in your country?
– I believe that the interest is very high and keep on growing. Therefore, we always encourage Serbian students and young generations to apply for these scholarships. To date, more than 100 Serbian students have received scholarships from the Indonesian government.