Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister Retno L.P. Marsudi will meet with her Australian and Japanese counterparts this month. (Antara Photo/Andika Wahyu)

Indonesia Petitions for Visa Free Benefits From Europe, Russia and South Korea

AUGUST 06, 2015

Jakarta. Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi has reiterated a request to the governments of Russia, South Korea and European Union member countries to impose a visa-free policy for Indonesians.

Retno made the request during her bilateral meetings with senior officials from the respective countries on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Foreign Ministers Meeting in Kuala Lumpur, which is set to conclude on Thursday, the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a press statement.

In the meeting with South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se, the two countries agreed to organize a joint commission on bilateral cooperation meeting in December to boost their bilateral partnership. Yun also expressed his support of Indonesia's proposal on maritime cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region at the East Asia Summit, which is intends to alleviate tension and resolve the escalating South China Sea dispute between China and other Asean member states.

“The meeting [with Yun] also followed up on our request to grant Indonesian citizens visa-free benefits when traveling to South Korea,” the statement said.

The issue was also reaised during Retno's meetings with her Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, and with the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini.

“The Russian foreign minister said he would follow up on the Indonesian foreign minister's request,” the statement said.

The statement failed to mention, however, whether the South Korean and European Commission officials have responded to the request.

After formally announcing in June its visa-free regulations for citizens of 45 countries, including South Korea, Russia and half of the European Union member states, Indonesia has continued to request for reciprocal gestures.

President Joko Widodo has also formally requested visa-free travel regulations for Indonesians traveling to Britain during British Prime Minister David Cameron's visit to Jakarta last month.

Investment opportunities for infrastructure development, more specifically for the construction of seaports and airports in Kalimantan, were among also discussed in Retno's meeting with Lavrov.

“The two countries agreed to boost cooperation in the sectors of education, trade and investment. Foreign Minister Retno specifically asked Russia to support exports of Indonesian fishery and crude palm oil products to Russia – which have been hampered by nontariff barriers,” the statement said.

Forging partnerships in combating anti-terrorism and in tackling money laundering were among the range of issues on the agenda.

Retno similarly brought up the issue of counter-terrorism in her talk with Sartaj Aziz, a special security adviser to the Pakistani prime minister.

Meanwhile, in a meeting with Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, the two ministers discussed Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla's planned visit to India next month for bilateral talks. Swaraj also formally asked Indonesia to waive visa requirements for Indian citizens and simplify procedures for Indian miners to enter Indonesia's mining industry.

During Retno's conference with Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, the two neighbors – whose relations have turned sour in the past year due to Indonesia's execution of two Australian drug dealers and Australia's strict policy on refugee boats – discussed preparations ahead of the Annual Leaders' Meeting and Indonesia-Australia Dialogue later this year.

“Additionally, Indonesia welcomes Australia's plan to open a consulate in Makassar [South Sulawesi],” the ministry statement read. “The two ministers emphasized that they would continue to encourage people-to-people contact, including through scholarship grants under Australia's New Colombo Plan."

Under the comprehensive scholarship program, more than 5,400 Australian students will have the chance to live, study and work in the Indo-Pacific region, according to Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.