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European Union (Definition of Treaties) (Partnership and Cooperation Agreement) (Republic of Indonesia) Order 2010

Volume 723: debated on Monday 20 December 2010

Considered in Grand Committee

Moved By

That the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the European Union (Definition of Treaties) (Partnership and Cooperation Agreement) (Republic of Indonesia) Order 2010.

Relevant document: 8th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments.

My Lords, this partnership and co-operation agreement is an international agreement between the Republic of Indonesia and the European Community—now the European Union—and its member states, which was signed on 9 November 2009. This treaty has not yet entered into force, but will do so once all 27 members of the European Union and the Republic of Indonesia have ratified it. This order is a necessary step towards the UK’s ratification.

The principal effect of the draft order is, first, to ensure that the powers under Section 2 of the European Communities Act 1972 would be available to give effect to any provisions of the agreement; and, secondly, to permit any expenditure arising from the partnership and co-operation agreement to be met from the Consolidated Fund.

We have a strategic interest in developing the UK’s and the EU’s relationships with Indonesia. As south-east Asia’s largest economy and emerging power, its international influence is growing through its membership of the G20 and it is a key country on climate change issues. It is the world’s third-biggest carbon emitter, as well as a major energy producer and consumer. It is also on course to be the fifth-largest economy in the world by 2030, which is only 20 years away. We are talking about a new but vibrant democracy and the world’s largest moderate Muslim-majority country, which certainly is moving towards being rated as having the most liberal stance in south-east Asia.

The partnership and co-operation agreement should enable us to deepen trade and investment links and make the most of the many commercial opportunities which lie in Indonesia today. It is also a necessary precursor to an EU-Indonesian free trade agreement. I should explain that the agreement has been ratified so far by four EU member states. Others expect their domestic processes to be completed by early 2011.

I am satisfied that the order is compatible with the rights contained in the European Convention on Human Rights. This order is important for our nation, for the European Union and for world trade. I commend it to the Committee.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for introducing the order and for the brevity of his presentation, which I shall try to copy. It is good to read a treaty that clearly represents a factor in a good relationship, in this case between the European Union and Indonesia. It includes the sort of good words that you would hope to see in such a treaty, but reading it left me asking what will specifically come out of it, at what pace and through what mechanisms. I wonder whether the Minister could give me some brief insights.

Article 41 of the framework agreement talks about a joint committee that will meet not less than every two years. That does not have a strong sense of urgency about it. The essence of such treaties seems to me to be the rate at which they are taken up and used, with practical steps coming forward, yet in the UK you would expect that to fall to BIS and the FCO, both of which are seeing a reduction in their resources of 25 per cent. However, frankly, the framework has commitments to work between the Community and Indonesia on virtually every area of human activity. Could the Minister comment on what we will do about Article 5, on terrorism? What specific input will the UK make in terms of resources committed to helping Indonesia and ourselves in that extremely important area?

There are two other important areas, one of which is Article 34, on migration. All the people in the world have an interest in humane movement and controls of people, and particularly in the stamping out of the evil of people trafficking. I hope that we will be able to make some contribution to Indonesia in that area. Finally, and probably most significantly, is the whole issue of deafforestation. Indonesia has the second highest rate of deafforestation after Brazil; it is about half that of Brazil but many times greater than any other nation. The Indonesian forests are a key part of the ecology of the planet. Anything that can be done through co-operation with Indonesia to lower the rate of deafforestation has to be good for climate change and needs to be done fairly urgently.

I am interested in how the Minister can illustrate the practical steps that will follow once this treaty comes into force, which we all hope will be quite soon.

We too welcome this partnership agreement with Indonesia. As the Minister pointed out, it is the largest Muslim country, and this agreement is the first with an ASEAN country so it is very welcome. However—he would expect there to be some howevers in such a comprehensive agreement—there are obviously concerns. First, it is undoubtedly true that Indonesia has made significant progress since 1998 in terms of democratic freedoms and human rights. Multi-party democracy is now established and is increasingly becoming entrenched throughout the country, which is no mean feat given the size of the population and the very different traditions evident there. Nevertheless, the agreement—particularly Article 26—is very weak in terms of human rights. It tries to encompass all the European Union’s interests in that area in 56 words—Article 27, on environment and natural resources, runs to a couple of hundred words; I did not have time to record quite how long it was—words that are at best dressed up as hopeful sentiments. Its second paragraph states that:

“Such cooperation may include … supporting the implementation of the Indonesian National Plan of Action of Human Rights … human rights promotion and education”,

and so on. Those 56 words go on to say:

“The Parties agree that a dialogue between them on this matter would be beneficial”.

This is extremely weak and almost inadequate if it is to be a blueprint for how we approach partnership agreements with other countries, particularly in the Muslim world where there are significant concerns about human rights norms. If this is the first such measure, I dread to think what might happen as we proceed with countries with worse records.

Most human rights organisations agree that abuses by security forces have been especially severe in Aceh and Papua. Freedom House recommends that the two most important steps the Government can take to improve civil liberties are keeping the peace process on track in Aceh and engaging in serious dialogue with local leaders in Papua. The Minister will recall that he was asked to deal with some of these questions only last Thursday, 16 December, as recorded at cols. 726 and 727 of Hansard. He was asked about the inability of foreign journalists to travel in these areas and the lack of any transparent, open media coverage of these conflict situations, despite our having raised these issues at the highest level. This raises suspicions that things may be worse than we might imagine. When asked to say what was the response of the Indonesia Government to the Deputy Prime Minister and the ambassador raising these issues, he replied:

“Not in detail, except that they recognised we have these concerns”.—[Official Report, 16/12/2010; col. 727.]

Given that we are just one of 26 EU countries that have these concerns and were involved in the lead-up to this partnership agreement being agreed on 9 November, and that these ongoing situations constitute extremely severe and serious conflicts with significant loss of life, I should have thought that the EU would be able to take on board that we have rather graver concerns than those set out in Article 26.

Women’s rights are also of considerable concern to us. We understand that at some levels Islamic law is incompatible with civil law and that gender equality is still a long way from being achieved. Therefore, it is not only a matter of our exhorting Indonesia to do better but of using the leverage that we had at the point of signing this agreement to achieve something. Naturally, the agreement is set and we will move forward, but I echo the sentiments of the noble Lord opposite that the proof of the pudding will be in the implementation. A joint committee meeting every two years to discuss articles as weak as the ones that I have described will not create the environment whereby we might achieve great advances in these areas.

Finally, Article 44 on resolving differences allows for a party to opt out,

“except in cases of special urgency”.

Given that we are discussing a country that, even after it embraced democracy, has a record of imposing a state of emergency, it does not instil confidence in one to think that these cases of special urgency will be exceptional. Clearly, we can expect that they would be exceptional in a conflict situation but I hope that, as we go forward with this agreement, we will make representations to the Indonesians that we expect them almost never to be invoked.

I am extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, and my noble friend Lady Falkner, for their comments on this issue. We are dealing very briefly with a vast range of issues connected to a vast country. I shall first address the acute points made by the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, about the detail. We have the agreements; where is the detail; if I may use the colloquial, where is the beef?

Let me describe to the noble Lord four policy areas for closer co-operation—one, in particular, on which he concentrated—which have been agreed already but which the PCA will boost, reinforce and create a new forum in which we can carry them forward. First, on trade and investment, we will, under the PCA, explore new areas of co-operation, including research and development, and a series of sectoral committees will help to identify opportunities and more rapidly defuse irritants in key sectors of commercial interests, which is always a very valuable asset, because small irritants can turn into great barriers if one is not careful and does not handle them very positively indeed.

Secondly, on environment issues, the climate change question is a shared political priority. As I said earlier, Indonesia is the world's third largest carbon emitter, and we will use the PCA to boost co-operation in key environmentally sensitive areas, such as fisheries and afforestation—which the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, rightly raised. A partnership agreement with Norway earlier this year, which the UK supports, should put in place a framework with Indonesia to reduce deafforestation and degradation rates. I fully accept that a lot more work is needed to make the framework robust. The UK committed in December last year—a year ago—to support the achievement of Indonesia's climate change objectives through a five-year, £50 million programme. That is particularly relevant when it comes to deafforestation. It is likely to include significant partnership with the province and district governments of Papua, where the potential for emission reductions, development gains and the checking of deafforestation is very important.

In answer to the general question about the detail, the third area that is very important for us is education. Indonesia and the EU will seek to boost a co-operation agreement in the education field through existing programmes, such as the Erasmus Mundus scholarship programme, which funds Indonesian students to study in the EU; and through a new initiative, such as educational fairs, co-operation on research and other programmes. That will all be reinforced within the PCA forum.

Fourthly, on the area on which my noble friend Lady Falkner rightly concentrated—although when I say that it is fourth, one could say that it is first, because there is no priority of numbers here—the EU-Indonesian human rights dialogue was launched on 29 June last year. My noble friend rightly observes—she is tireless in her accuracy and her work on this front—that rhetoric and saying where we have got to is not enough, and that a lot more work is required. The dialogues are under way already.

The PCA is reinforcement for what has been raised in the dialogues. The aim is regularly to discuss issues of mutual interest and concern related to human rights, including through annual meetings of senior officials. It is an avenue to discuss issues such as that which we discussed in the Chamber of your Lordships' House only the other day—the situation in West Papua, in which there is a great deal of proper and understandable interest. The next dialogue will be in June next year. Beyond that, the existence of the partnership agreement will provide opportunities for pressing further. My noble friend is quite right that one can aspire, for example, to greater access for journalists to the situation in West Papua, or that human rights issues are investigated. We can aspire to see that appropriate dialogue toward some settlement of the West Papuan scene is progressed. Those are aspirations, but carrying them forward requires the most constant, intimate exchanges based on trust and respect.

We fully support the territorial integrity of Indonesia as a great nation, but obviously, like everyone else, we want to see the West Papua situation resolved and human rights respected wherever possible. We will carry on with the procedures that I described to your Lordships last week of raising the issues. More than that, once the PCA comes into force—of course, it has yet to be approved in the other place—we will have an additional forum in which we can reinforce these views, press them, turn them into real actions and carry them forward.

I thank my noble friend and the noble Lord for their comments. I believe that further engagement of every kind with Indonesia will help us to achieve greater prosperity in our country because of the huge opportunities of a vast, new consumer market, with an estimated 35 million to 40 million people with incomes in the range of the European Union’s average level of income. This is an enormous, ready-made consumer market, which will grow bigger because the total population is many times that.

It is important to strengthen our ties with Indonesia on the security agenda, about which we have not talked much, but which is very important. It is important to do that while supporting all the ongoing work and reforms to further improve the human rights situation and to entrench democracy and the rule of law. I thank noble Lords for their support and ask that they approve this order.

Motion agreed.