Member of Cabinet: Mark Rutte Prime Minister, Minister of General Affairs

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Speech by the Prime Minister of the Netherlands at the celebration of Indonesian Independence Day

Short speech by the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte, at the celebration of Indonesian Independence Day, Indonesian embassy, The Hague, 21 August 2013.

Ambassador Marsudi, ladies and gentlemen, ibu-ibu dan bapak-bapak,

Selamat sore, hello, and terima kasih: thank you for inviting me to be here for the 68th anniversary of the Proklamasi of 17 August 1945. The day the Republic of Indonesia declared its independence.

The Netherlands and Indonesia are closely related. Our histories are interwoven. You can see it in the signs for kantor pos you find in Jakarta. In the 400,000 Dutch nationals with Indonesian roots. In the Villa Isola in Bandung, designed by Dutch architect Wolff Schoemaker. And in the many Indonesian tokos in the Netherlands.

Our shared past has been turbulent. We can't ignore that reality on a day like this. But we have been through this experience together, and together we have come out on the other side. Today we can again show that Indonesia and the Netherlands have not only a shared past but also a shared future. Two sovereign nations, each with its own territorial integrity. We can show that we stand side-by-side, looking ahead. I consider it a special honour that I – as prime minister of the Netherlands – have been invited to join the Independence Day celebrations here at the embassy. Thank you again.

My own personal history is also tied up with your country. My father moved to Jakarta in the early 1930s. He, his first wife and their three children spent the war there, in Japanese camps. After the war, he and his second wife – my mother – returned to Indonesia and remained there until the 1950s.

Although I have never been to Indonesia myself, I feel a connection. Almost as if I’d lived there. It’s partly because of my childhood and my life in The Hague – the most Indonesian city in the Netherlands. It's no secret that the restaurant Soeboer is one of my all-time favourites. But mainly it’s down to my father, who never got tired of telling me stories of his life in Indonesia, and to the nasi goreng my mother made every Saturday for dinner. I remember she always used to buy her spices from Bali, a restaurant in Scheveningen.

I admit I’m a bit nostalgic, but I’m not the only one. Ten per cent of Dutch people have some kind of link with Indonesia. Every year, tens of thousands of Dutch tourists travel to your beautiful country. Our shared history, community and culture are great assets. And starting from that shared past, our countries have a lot to offer each other in the future, too.

Because alongside our historical and emotional bond, we also have firm economic ties. Thanks to Schiphol airport and the port of Rotterdam, the Netherlands is Indonesia's gateway to Europe. In 2012 we were the sixth-biggest investor in Indonesia – to the tune of one billion dollars. Within the EU, the Netherlands is Indonesia's top export destination and second-biggest trade partner. Many Dutch companies are based in Indonesia. In fact, Indonesia is a key market for companies like Unilever and FrieslandCampina.

The give-and-take between our countries is also reflected in our cultural relations. Dutch and Indonesian culture come together at the Erasmus Huis in Jakarta. And since the 1950s, more than 20,000 Indonesians have studied in the Netherlands. Many Dutch students have found their way to Indonesia too.

For years now, water management has been a vital area of cooperation between us. The benefits are mutual: by working closely with Indonesia to help protect Jakarta from flooding, the Netherlands is also learning a lot about the kinds of flood risks we could face in the future. So it’s good news for both countries that our cooperation agreements in this area were recently renewed and reinforced.

Despite these difficult economic times, Indonesia is doing well. And I admire your success. Your economy is growing and poverty is declining, creating a growing middle class. Since the Reformasi you have also made substantial progress in enhancing the legal order. In doing so, Indonesia has shown that a robust economy and a robust society feed into one another. This is all reflected in the increasingly prominent role Indonesia is playing on the world stage. It is an active and important member of the G20, the UN and, above all, ASEAN.

Minister Timmermans visited your country in February this year. And I’m delighted that I will be visiting Indonesia myself in November, along with a large Dutch business delegation. There we will reaffirm our comprehensive partnership agreement, with an eye to the future and our economic relations. It will be the first visit by a Dutch prime minister since 2006. So it’s about time! After all, face to face contacts are vital for the long-term success of our relationship.

I’m looking forward to my visit, for personal as well as professional reasons. But I realise, of course, that the Indonesia of my father’s fond tales has now evolved into a global economic and political powerhouse.

Let us raise a glass to the ties that bind us, and to the future success of our countries’ partnership.

Terima kasih.

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