The Ambassador’s Round Table highlights the important diplomatic relationships Indonesia has with the global community, made possible through well-established, Jakarta-based embassies. Hosted by NOW! Jakarta Founder, Alistair Speirs, this forum gives a platform for prominent Ambassadors to Indonesia to share more about their respective country’s programmes and on-going objectives here in Indonesia.

Edition 1 welcomes three extremely well-informed European ambassadors, who take a seat in one of Jakarta’s top restaurants, Amuz Gourmet. The three ambassadors joining this first discussion are:

H.E. Austrian Ambassador Dr. Thomas Loidl, educated at The University of Vienna and Georgetown University in Washington D.C. Prior to his position as Ambassador of The Republic of Austria to Indonesia, Timor Leste and ASEAN, he served in many countries including Vietnam, Japan, Nigeria and back in 2000 – 2003 in Jakarta. 

H.E. Ambassador Ina Lepel from Germany is also ambassador to ASEAN and Timor Leste and previously also served in Japan, Pakistan, The United Nations, and Thailand. She studied at Kiel, Bonn and Indiana Universities with a Masters Degrees in Economics. 

H.E. Lambert Grijns, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Indonesia, was previously Ambassador in Manaqua, Nicaragua and Deputy Chief of Post in San Jose Costa Rica, and Kigali in Rwanda. He has a Doctorate in Planning from University of Amsterdam, and a degree in Geography from Vrije University.

What is your current (or recent) initiative with Indonesia that you are proud of?

H.E. Thomas Loidl: 2024 is an important year in Austria’s bilateral relationship with Indonesia. We celebrate the 70-year jubilee of the establishment of diplomatic relations back in 1954 with a number of special events in the field of culture and science, economy and also in the political sphere – both in Indonesia and in Austria. 

Just to mention a few of the highlights of the jubilee year the Austrian Embassy is currently preparing: We will bring Austrian musicians and authors to Indonesia in order to promote Austrian literature and classical music. We will also work on the 8th round of the successful Inter-faith Dialogue between Austria and Indonesia which this year will touch upon questions of religious literacy and the new topic of the influence of climate change on religion.

In the political sphere the Austrian Embassy currently prepares the next high-level political dialogue, which is the most important bilateral forum for an exchange on political questions and we also prepare for more high-level political visits to Indonesia.

Our bilateral relationship after 70 years is a stable and mature one and is characterised by mutual trust and friendship. The Austrian Embassy is convinced that the by the end of the jubilee year the close and friendly ties between Indonesia and Austria – in particular in the field of people-to-people exchanges – will be strengthened and our cooperation will have intensified.

Ina Lapel: Germany has a long-standing cooperation with Indonesia in the energy sector. These days, we support the Indonesian energy transition on all levels, in metropolitan as well as in outer island regions. One very tangible example that comes to my mind is our Solar Ice Maker. Here, applied research and industry partners from Germany and Indonesia worked together to create a new technology that produces ice from solar energy for fishing communities, free of any carbon emissions. 

This ice is used to keep the fish fresh until they reach the markets, increasing incomes for small-scale fishers, while at the same time reducing fishery value losses. Indonesia is the second biggest fish producer worldwide, but an estimated 40% of the catch is lost after harvest due to inefficient or cost-prohibitive cooling. Pilots are already running in NTT and Maluku. It is a remarkable initiative because it demonstrates how smart innovative solutions can make a real difference and bring about positive change for people’s lives.

This is just one example of many for our cooperation with Indonesia on reducing CO2 emissions in industrial and international supply chains – addressing the protection of our natural resources, boosting skills for a greener economy, and improving the livelihood of communities. Overall, we need to accelerate the energy transition everywhere and integrate renewable energy for power generation at large scale, together with Indonesia.

Lambert Grijns:  Netherlands and Indonesia  are strong partners, with Netherlands being the  4th top foreign investor in Jakarta. Apart from that Netherlands is the biggest European Union investor in Indonesia. These numbers are based on people-to-people contact. In all fields Indonesia and Netherlands connected: businesses, education & science, government, leisure and culture. Here are some very relevant examples:-

• The cooperation with ASEAN as Development Partner 
• The Renewable Energy Summit, and the follow up: setting up a solar thin film factory by Pertamina and Hyet 
•The Urban Flood Resilience Project in Semarang 
• A number of Sustainable Palm oil projects with smallholders
• The repatriation of important artefacts to Indonesia

What do you like most about Jakarta? Which area do you like best? What events do you like to attend and what, if any, suggestions do you have to improve the city? 

Thomas Loidl:  It is a privilege that after 2000 to 2003 I am posted for the second time in Jakarta. I always cherished the energy of the “Kota Raya” and the incredible diversity of its ever-increasing number of inhabitants. Manifestations, performances and possibilities to explore the traditional culture of Indonesia were always manifold in Jakarta. Coming back after more than two decades I am pleasantly surprised that also the scene of contemporary culture is now a very lively one with many new galleries, art spaces, initiatives and art exhibitions involving contributions from across the south-east Asian region.

This is where you will find me often during my free time and on weekends. The people living in Jakarta know very well what is needed in order to improve the city. What I would love to see – this may be an unrealistic wish of mine – are a greater number of newsstands carrying international papers and magazines, including publications that publish stories about Jakarta and Indonesia.

Ina Lapel: as a “big city person” I feel right at home in Jakarta. I like the bustle and the huge choice of activities going on. There is always something new to discover. Concerts, fashion shows and art exhibitions are events I particularly like to attend. I also enjoy exploring the various rooftop bars and restaurants. The food is excellent, whether I try a warung or one of the fancier places. 

Of course, traffic jams can be a nuisance, but after more than two years, I have developed coping strategies. Still, I hope that development of public transport, bicycle lanes, and sidewalks will continue. It is always a pleasure riding MRT or Transjakarta on the special bus lane to beat the traffic jam. 

Lambert Grijns: I see Jakarta as a plate of rujak, a city with different people and backgrounds, which all have their unique and interesting stories. Like rujak, it is spicy, sour and sweet, but the dynamics every day are fresh, and the daily life can be unexpected.

The residence of the Dutch Embassy is in Menteng. Together with a few neighbours we created the Sahabat Menteng community. This community focuses on preservation of historical buildings in Jakarta.  I’m passionate about architecture and heritage, so in my spare time I like to walk around in Menteng. The result of this you can see on my Instagram (@lambert_grijns_dubes_belanda). NOW! Jakarta readers can help me out and give me recommendations of historical buildings in Jakarta which need to be featured? 

My advice to improve Jakarta is to plant more trees and build pedestrian and cycling paths that are integrated with public transportation, so we can reduce pollution in the city. Taking our bike more often will also benefit our mental and physical health. I really embrace the car free Sunday initiative of Jakarta, especially because people can ride bicycles easily, and hope that this idea will further spread out of the city. 

What is your favourite destination in Indonesia?

Thomas Loidl: This is a question impossible to answer given the diversity of Indonesia. For me the favourite destinations are always the many places and sights I have not yet had the opportunity to visit.  

Ina Lapel:  This is a difficult question, especially since there are quite a few destinations I have not even visited yet! One destination I always enjoy is Yogyakarta, where I went for my intensive language course. It is an amazing place to explore works of both, traditional Javanese culture and cultural avant-garde. And a wide range of spectacular landmarks–from the UNESCO World Heritage Sites Borobodur and Prambanan, to the majestic Mount Merapi—is right around the corner. So, time is always too short and there is always something left to see or do the next time.

Lambert Grijns: Not easy to pick a favourite destination in Indonesia.  Each island has their unique character comprising of a different culture, traditions, food, vegetation, and religion. I strongly recommend exploring the unknown destinations in Indonesia – in addition to the wonderful islands such as Bali and Java: 

Last December I visited to Sumbawa. An island between Lombok and Flores, which isn’t visited frequently by tourists. And one of the few places where you can spot the whale shark. The flora and fauna are impressive. During a long weekend, I prefer to stay in Java and go for a hike (Mount Gede) or visit for example Kebun Raya Cibodas. The less well-known version of the Botanical Garden in Bogor, less touristy and even more beautiful. 

Or, Bandung – a city with a special place in my heart. The city is full of old heritage buildings, I suggest you join a heritage tour where it will be explained in detail. I advise to take the train because the whole journey is very beautiful. You can encounter rice fields, mountains along the train lines. 

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The article is produced by editorial team of NOW!Jakarta