COLUMN, INTERVIEWS, POLITICS

Interview with Indonesian Ambassador to BiH: Relations between the two Countries have been improving Steadily

His Excellency, Ambassador of Indonesia to Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) Mr Roem Kono arrived in Sarajevo in February this year, and has presented credential letters to the Chairman of Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Milorad Dodik. Speaking about what he knew about BiH before his arrival and what are his perceptions now, H.E. answers that he arrived to Sarajevo for the first time in December 2020 with his family to conduct his assignment as the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Indonesia to Bosnia and Herzegovina. 


”I have conveyed my Credential Letter to the Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Milorad Dodik, on January 29, 2021. I have been living in Sarajevo for five months now. During that period, I have had the opportunity to explore Bosnia and Herzegovina, and I find it beautiful with warm people, the culinary is very delightful and delicious. My family and I feel like we are in our second home,” H.E. explains.

”Bosnia and Herzegovina is known to Indonesian people since it was still part of Yugoslavia, when the leaders of both countries, the President Soekarno and President Tito were close, and together with other world leaders had initiated the Non-Alignment Movement. Also, it is known for the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1992 to 1995 when Indonesia also sent its peacekeeping force under the command of the United Nations. Moreover, we also learned about the historical visit of Indonesian President, Soeharto, to Sarajevo and his meeting with President Alija Izetbegovic during the war in 1995. Further, Indonesian people also keep a concrete memory in a form of a mosque that has been built in Sarajevo from their donation as a support to the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina, namely the Istiqlal Mosque in Novo Sarajevo municipality. We will always remember it as it also shares its name with the Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta, Indonesia, which is one of the most vital mosques in Indonesia,” Mr. Kono explains. 

Indonesia recognized the independence of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina on May 20, 1992, and full diplomatic relations between the two countries were established later. Speaking about the diplomatic relations between the two countries, H.E. says that the diplomatic relations between the two countries were established in April 11, 1994.

 

”Since then, the relations between the two countries have been improving steadily. It is shown with the state visit of two Indonesian President to Sarajevo: President Soeharto on March 13, 1995; and President Megawati Soekarnoputri on September 22, 2002 followed by other prominent officials from both countries. Both countries have opened its representative offices in each other capitals. In terms of economy, the trade relations between two countries increased every year before the pandemic situation. There is cooperation not only on a government level, but also in the private and business level, as well as community and people to people level. I hope that the relations between Indonesia – Bosnia and Herzegovina can be boosted further after the pandemic situation is getting better during my assignment in this country,” H.E. adds.

 

Earlier, H.E. stated that he believes that the exemption from the visa regime between the two countries can be a key factor that opens opportunities for cooperation and encourages the improvement of bilateral relations between the two countries after the improvement of the pandemic situation.

 

”In these past five months of my assignment, I have met some of important officials from Bosnia and Herzegovina. From the meetings, I learned that both side, Indonesia – Bosnia and Herzegovina, agreed that the relations should be maintained and advanced at all aspects. To expand the cooperation, I suggest that it should be started with reciprocal visa exemption regime for regular passport holders. Indonesia has given the visa-free visit for Bosnian passport holders to enter Indonesia for a maximum of 30 days since 2016. This visa-free regime, I believe, will ease entrepreneurs to intensify business trips which can drive the growth of trade cooperation between two countries. It will also trigger tourist visits, both from Indonesia to Bosnia and Herzegovina and vice versa, as it has cut some hassle in visa application procedures for a short-stay visit,” Mr. Kono explains.

 

Earlier, speaking about the modules for strengthening bilateral relations, the need was expressed to make additional efforts to improve cooperation in the field of culture and tourism.

 

H.E. explains that Indonesia’s population is around 270 million people, with a composition of 185.34 million at productive age group, between 15 to 64 years old. Among them, there are about 9.5 million outbound tourists from Indonesia who are actively doing tourism trips abroad, based on the data released by UNWTO in 2020. The data also stated that total expenditure of Indonesian tourists abroad reach to 11.3 million US dollars in 2019. This shows that Indonesia is a huge potential market for tourism businesses in Bosnia and Herzegovina to have cooperation relationship with their counterparts in Indonesia.

 

”As for your information, there are about 250 thousand Indonesian tourists come to Turkey every year. Some of them continue their trip to other Balkan states that has visa-free regime for Indonesian passport holders. This inspires me to promote Indonesia more to the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as to encourage Indonesians to come to Bosnia and Herzegovina to enjoy its incredible natural beauty.  I am quite sure it will be mutual beneficial for both sides,” Mr.Kono adds.

 

During his visit to General Hospital “Abdulah Nakas” in Sarajevo, H.E. Mr. Kono proposed cooperation in the field of education between the largest hospital and the university in Jakarta and the General Hospital in Sarajevo.

 

”I learn that there are a Memorandum of Understanding for cooperation that has been signed by the University of Indonesia as one of top universities in Indonesia with some universities in Bosnia and Herzegovina. So, I would like to support the implementation of these Memorandum into some concrete programs in the field of education, such as exchange experts, researchers and teaching professors, joint research, as well as exchange public lectures and students in the field of public health and medical science, engineering, as well as other fields of studies.

 

Further, the government of Indonesia also offers scholarships of undergraduate, post-graduate and doctoral programs for students from Bosnia and Herzegovina to study in Indonesia every year under the scheme of

Kemitraan Negara Berkembang (KNB) Scholarships, which are given to all developing countries in the world as part of South-South Cooperation. The program has not been taken seriously, as seen from the low interest of the youth to apply for the program. I really hope that next year, I would be able to send some students from Bosnia and Herzegovina to pursue their higher study in Indonesia.” he adds.

”I have several goals that I would like to implement through some programs during my assignment in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The visa-free regime is one of them, while other is to actively promote Indonesia’s leading economy assets such as: trade commodities; tourism activities and destinations; and to provide information about Indonesia in general through a comprehensive one-stop-service promotional platform, such as a gallery, both in physical and virtual format. This gallery is expected to be a supporting facility for business practitioners from both countries to explore possibilities and potentials in improving cooperation. In terms of social and culture, engagement with various stakeholders will be done as part of our effort to mutually advancing bilateral relations and to support each nation’s interests at international community,” H.E. concluded.

Interview by Zejna Yesilyurt

 

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