EU still Engaging with Aceh Economy 10 years after Tsunami

eu_flagLeading up to the 10th anniversary of the Boxing Day Tsunami on Dec. 26, the European Union (EU) will continue to contribute to the development of Aceh by continuing projects relating to environmental sustainability and development, as well as trying to attract European investors into Aceh, a top envoy has said.

EU Ambassador to Indonesia Olof Skoog said that while the EU did not have any specific programs to support Aceh’s economic development, ongoing projects in the environmental sector would help the province’s economy in the long run through more sustainable usage of its natural resources.

“The focus will be on the environmental sector because it is fundamental to the development of Aceh. Also [in order to improve Aceh’s economy], what we can do is to try and attract European businesses to invest in Aceh. We are in constant conversation with the governor of Aceh in order to discuss how to attract more investors,” Olof told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

Two interventions currently ongoing in the environmental sector include improving Indonesia’s climate change response and raising concerns on the impact of Aceh’s current spatial planning on the EU’s efforts to preserve the functionality and biodiversity of Aceh’s forests.

Olof also reflected on the results of the EU’s humanitarian efforts in Aceh over the past 10 years, describing them as “very successful” and praised Indonesia and Aceh’s ability to eventually build a system of its own which has strengthened the country’s capacity to manage such efforts.

“When you visit Aceh today you will be impressed with how the reconstruction process has happened. It became about rebuilding in a way to increase their resilience towards handling natural disasters in the future. All constructions built in the last ten years are made to stand natural disasters better,” Olof said.

The EU opened the “Europe House” in Banda Aceh in 2005 as part of the European Commission’s humanitarian aid department (ECHO) mission, to ensure the regular monitoring of post-tsunami rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts by the EU. It ended operations in 2012.

A delegation from the European Union embassy as well as 35 foreign ambassadors in Indonesia will attend the 10th anniversary commemoration ceremony on Dec. 26, joining representatives from 33 non-government organizations as well as President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, who is scheduled to attend.

In response to the initial disaster in 2004, the European Commission provided 310 million euros for post-tsunami relief efforts, reconstruction assistance and support to the peace process in Aceh.

The commemoration event will run from Christmas night on Dec. 25 to Dec. 28, with the main event taking place on Dec. 26.

//Jakarta Post