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Indonesia “stirred” by EU ban on all Indonesian airlines and other domestic and bilateral issues

Updated On: Jul 03, 2007

Indonesia is shocked by the ban of all its airlines from flying in the airspace of EU countries.

The European Commission announced the blacklist of 51 airlines companies from Indonesia and several from Russia Ukraine and Angola due to safety reasons on Thursday, 28 June. The ban comes when Indonesian authority just announced the results of its audit to all flag carriers. The national airlines Garuda, has improved its safety standards, which is fully complied with the international standards. Six licenses of unsafe companies have been revoked.

Although no Indonesian carriers currently fly to Europe, the warning addressed to EU consumers and travel agencies not to use the country’s airlines will certainly have implications to Indonesia’s tourism sector and its overall image. Some observers even mentioned the implication on trade and investment.

It is hoped that Indonesian airlines and civil aviation authorities will learn a lesson to take actions in improving safety. This news should be treated as a “wake-up call” for Indonesia to ensure appropriate standards of airline safety, said Jakarta Post. Vice President Jusuf Kalla said the ban would not inflict financial consequences; nevertheless it still poses risk to domestic airline industry.

However, the director general of air transportation and Indonesian Transportation Society (MTI) chairman believed that the ban is merely about miscommunication. That Indonesia was not given a chance to have a dialogue to explain and present its recent findings and report on actual condition on airline safety in Indonesia. If this is true, the ban should be temporary and will be lifted once the Indonesian delegates meet the EC, scheduled in October 2007.

In Monday’s news from AntaraIndonesia begins to feel the impact of the EC ban. Air travel operators in Indonesia began complaining this weekend over a blow to the tourism sector. European tourists holidaying in Indonesia are now advised by European travel agents to cancel their domestic flights for scheduled visits to other Indonesian cities. Business operators in tourism sector expressed their concerns and worries over serious impacts of the ban would have. Chief of the South Sulawesi chapter of the Indonesian Hotels and Restaurants Association said that EC decision will have a serious impact on the number of foreign tourists visiting Indonesia. French and German tourists who are traveling from Bali to Surabaya, are now urged to cancel their flights to ManadoNorth Sulawesi, while other European tourists holidaying in Bali and intending to travel to MakassarSouth Sulawesi are also urged to cancel their flight plans.

Tourists from European Union countries planning to visit Indonesia are asked by their travel agents in their countries to sign a statement that they would not use Indonesian aircraft otherwise insurance companies would not cover such trips. On Monday, 2 July, Indonesia’s Ministry of Transportation Jusman Syafii Djamal and President of ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) Roberto Gonzales declared cooperation in aviation safety improvement in Bali. In the declaration, Indonesia will commit to improve airline safety by applying appropriate legal framework and restructuring of the Directorate General of Air Transportation to be able to perform better control and applying proactive and systematic safety system.

While Indonesia tried to improve dialogue with the EU and ICAO to hopefully remove the ban, other domestic and bilateral issues reflect the various challenges that Indonesia continued to face in its political and economic transition.  An incident in Maluku when President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono attended the celebration of the National Family Day reflected the underlying separatist tensions that inflict a country of such geographical and cultural diversity as Indonesia. A group of people performed an unscheduled Cakalele dance and unfurled a separatist flag of the South Maluku Republic (RMS) in front of the president, reports and police said. Some members of the House of Representatives said that the incident has shown that a separatist group still posed a serious threat on the unitary state of Indonesia. This also revealed the weakness of Indonesia’s intelligence and security system.  Startled by such an "illegal activity," the head of state then said that if the dance was conducted with certain purposes, social and moral sanctions should be imposed against the performers. However, the president spokesman assured that it was a small incident that would not disrupt the peace in Ambon. Some speculations and rumors have been spread, about who were involved in the incident. But the police have arrested about 20 separatist protestors and are still investigating and summoning 31 people.

Elsewhere in Indonesia, chairman of the Timor Gap Working Group Ferdi Tanoni has urged the House of Representatives to ask the government not only to cancel its Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA) with Singapore but also its cooperation accord with Australia, as quoted by Indonesian news agency Antara. He said the cooperation agreement with Australia on the Timor Gap and Arafura Sea, which was signed in 1997 also needed to be questioned because it would only benefit Australia and was disadvantageous to Indonesia from the economic, defense and security points of view.

Australia annexed 85 percent of the Timor Sea which was strategically located and rich in oil and natural gas reserves in 1971. This voice, although minor has added to the nationalistic sentiment propagated among Indonesian people recently, especially when it concerns the country’s economy and sovereignty. (2 July 2007)

Sources:

European Commission bans all Indonesian airlines from flying to EU (Jakarta Post, 29 June 2007)

EU bans all Indonesian airlines from its airspace (Reuters, 28 June 2007)

EU`s flight ban begins showing impact on Indonesia (Antara, 2 July 2007)

VP: EU`s plan to ban Garuda flights no problem (Antara, 29 June 2007)

EU`s ban won`t affect domestic flights (Antara, 29 June 2007)

Jatayu loses license; Garuda flying high (Jakarta Post, 26 June 2007)

Indonesia revokes licenses of unsafe airlines (Jakarta Post, 25 June 2007)

EU and Indonesian Airlines (Jakarta Post, 1 July 2007)

EU flight ban a 'good' lesson for RI airlines (Jakarta Post, 30 June 2007)

RI-ICAO declare aviation safety improvement (Detiknews.Com, 2 July 2007)

RI explains aviation safety condition to EU in October 2007 (Detiknews.Com, 2 July 2007)

EU Blacklist can have implications on investment (Detiknews.Com, 2 July 2007)

Maluku incident proves separatists still pose threat: legislators (Antara, 29 June 2007)

Dancing separatists startle President Yudhoyono (Antara, 29 June 2007)

President Yudhoyono orders investigation into "unscheduled dance" (Antara, 29 June 2007)

Ambon police question 31 over unscheduled dance performance (Antara, 30 June 2007)

House urged to also press for cancelation of cooperation accord with Australia (Antara, 30 June 2007)