Projecting Indonesia’s Influence in the Global Political Stage

by Rendy Wirawan K., Post Graduate International Relations Student at the University of Melbourne

Scholars argue that Indonesia today is climbing up to achieve the rising power status, if not at the global stage, at least at the regional level. Rising Indonesia affects its ability to influence other states both at the regional and international arena. So, where is Indonesia compared to Australia, Singapore, China, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam and Japan? Those are some countries listed under the Lowy Institute Asian Power Index where the survey puts Indonesia on the 10th rank, ahead of Thailand and Vietnam. On this commentary, I would like to argue that Indonesia is placed at least in the middle-up position among those countries. Of course, the argument was not determined on the basis of neither a science nor statistical research with an exact number of rank, and the result might vary accordingly to each factor we examine through. Among various factors that shape Indonesia as a rising power in the global arena, this commentary only investigates two of the most significant factors or components that contribute more: (1) normative power that bridges East and West; and (2) global diplomacy.

The two components of our discussion above are derived from the soft power approach. Based on those factors, Indonesia is more appealing than some countries on our list. Many scholars undermine Indonesian capacity to influence other countries by soley investigating its material capacity such economy and military. While I do not dimiss the validity of such indicators. For instance, Robinson and Hadiz offer a very insightful perspective in viewing Indonesia as a middle country rather than rising power due to the failure of the government to achieve the expected economic boom after the fall of Soeharto’s regime. Similarly, Weatherbee argues that Indonesia is not significantly moving forward, trapped in a condition where the country can foster its influence international arena but fail. Borrowing Emmerson’s argument that ‘the rise of Indonesia is led by the country’s prominence and lagged by its performance’, therefore, Indonesia might be positioned in the under-rank class.

However, this commentary is designed more optimistically, finding that there are keys for Indonesia to successfully climbing up towards international status and influences other countries. The influence we refer to is the ability to give impact towards the other preferences in making a decision. Two factors mentioned earlier are the finest that Indonesia has compared to other countries. First, Indonesia position as the third largest democratic country combined with more than 80% of the Muslim population in size, composes a unique social architecture that could bridge Western liberal values with Eastern traditionalism. Muslims in Indonesia are more flexible and welcome to accept new norms, including democracy, as part of their life. This feature enables Indonesia to act as a bridge between the West and Muslim worlds. At a glance, Indonesia can improve the image of Islam as a peaceful and humanistic religion, also prove that the clash of civilisation is incorrect, that Islam dan democracy is compatible with each other. Beyond, Indonesia plays the role of a trustworthy actor in international forum representing both Muslim countries and Western interests. Bruinessen articulates that although Indonesia had no remarkable role in Organisation of Islamic Conference, back in the Reformation era, the government had performed a modest role in mediating international conflicts under “Muslim” narratives, e.g. the Philippines and the Middle East. Progressive moves have been taken during Megawati until Jokowi administration. Beginning as the first Muslim majority country to declare war on terror led by the US to the very active role of Indonesia in global Islamic forums. This beneficial setting of Indonesia is beyond any other seven countries on the list but does not mean Indonesia is more influencing than others in the general context.

The second component is the Indonesian active global diplomacy. This commentary believes that Indonesia is on the middle-up rank of the list, leaving South Korea, Singapore, Australia, Thailand and Vietnam behind. Undoubtedly, unbeatable are China and Japan, their influence in global politics, or at least at the regional level, remain very significant. Both countries enjoy a constructive reputation. For China, in many occasions portray itself as the role model of the Third World countries to follow, enabling itself to manage disputes through diplomacy with its allies easily. The most evident issue is the South China Sea conflict where ASEAN never come for a consensus against this dispute because China tries to block the negotiation through member states like Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar. Japan, on the other hand, has taken more significant roles in the region with two objectives, as a balance to China and representative of the US in the region. By 2005 Japan has successfully managed to extend East Asian Summit 2005 with the participation of the US although China initially refused and its attempt as WTO regional leadership and G7/G8 member considered successful in channelling Asian voice.

For Indonesia, Santikajaya shows how Indonesia becomes an influencing middle power through its global diplomacy where Indonesia could manage its international and regional reputation via normative values and regional leadership. Santikajaya notices that Indonesia has taken many roles at various prestigious international forums and convincingly produces normative results. For instance, Indonesia’s involvement in G8 allows the country to struggle for developing countries, its contribution to peacekeeping enables the country to propose a reformation within UNSC and in the global environmental forum that actively advocates for nature conservation. In the regional context, Indonesia’s role in ASEAN as a natural leader gives the country lots of homework to deal with. Indonesia focus on ASEAN’s development brings the country to ambitiously expand the role of ASEAN in the Asia Pacific, creating a house for peaceful countries with shared objectives and policies. All these examples lead Indonesia as a critical regional and global player with the ability to influence other by its global diplomacy skill, and this is what other five countries on the list have no tantamount position with Indonesia. Except for Singapore with its recent ability to create a breakthrough in international relations by successfully carrying out a historical meeting between North Korea and the US. The success of Singapore is a total embarrassment to Indonesia as the first country North Korea sought to mediate the talk between herself and the US. For this, Singapore must be seen as an essential player in shaping current global politics ahead of Indonesia.

To wrap up, this commentary has examined two significant components that contribute to the ability of Indonesia to influence other countries through soft power: democratic Islam and global diplomacy. Of course, Indonesia would never be on the top of the list, at least soon, but to put Indonesia down under is an insult. Therefore, this commentary argues that Indonesia is on the middle-up list because the country has successfully maintained the relation between Western and Muslim worlds as well as managing its prominent role in both key international and regional forums. However, it is necessary to examine Indonesia’s influence in other factors, such as military and economy, and it does not rule out the possibility that Indonesia might be ranked even to the very bottom of the list.

(Disclaimer: This article has been edited and was submitted as one of the writer’s assignments in his post-graduate course).

Why the Regional Comprehensive Agreement Jeopardizes Australia’s Refugee Obligations

by Dio Herdiawan Tobing, Senior Policy Advisor for Foreign Affairs at the Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands in Indonesia

To understand this commentary, it must be understood that Australia, International Organization for Migration (IOM), and Indonesia entered into the so-called ‘Regional Cooperation Agreement’ (RCA) in 2000. The RCA was established to intercept asylum-seekers en route to Australia and redirect them to be temporarily hosted in Indonesia. In return, Australia provides border-control equipment and training to Indonesia in these refugees and especially upgrade of refugee facilities in Indonesia. With ‘pushback’ operations done by Australia to transfer refugees from their boats to Australian vessels and then pushed them to Indonesian territorial waters to be saved by the Indonesian authorities, Australia argued that it may shed its responsibilities as Indonesia provides effective protection for refugees.

However, this becomes problematic on its own because international law does not impose obligation to a state to process an asylum if another state is willing to do so (first country), such action may bring serious legal implications, especially when the safe country of asylum (SCA) is ‘unsafe’ for refugees. The UNHCR stated, SCA is applicable when,

‘asylum-seekers/refugees may be returned to countries where they have, or could have, sought asylum and where their safety would not be jeopardized, whether in that country or through return there from to the country of origin.’

Although the RCA conveys another legal obligation, the implications on the implementation of the agreement could have brought a serious breach of international refugee law as follows.

First, by transferring refugees to Indonesia, Australia may have contravened the non-refoulement principle under the Convention Against Torture (CAT) due to its lack of assessment on safety of refugees under Indonesia’s jurisdiction. A non-refoulement obligation, asserted by the Committee Against Torture (CommAT) in Mutombo v. Switzerland, extends to third countries in which they would face real risk of being tortured or being returned to a country where they might be in danger. In this scenario, Australia did not comply to the prior terms, by declaring Indonesia as a SCA, to ensure the aspect of the safety of refugee ‘would not be jeopardized’. As CommAT describes, the risk  of  torture  ‘must  be  assessed  on  grounds  that  go  beyond  mere  theory  or suspicion’, but does not have to meet the test of test of being highly probable. While torture as such may unlikely to be found, refugees are kept in overcapacity detention centers lacking of adequate facilities in Indonesia. This grossly inadequate detention conditions, ‘can even amount to torture if they are intentionally imposed’. Arguably, Indonesia intentionally imposes such regulation because other options are available and therefore, be attributable to Australia.

Second, we can see that Australia was rather unsuccessful in observing if there are relevant laws which prohibit refoulement in Indonesia. Criteria of a SCA or safe third country (STC) is absent within the region, therefore, it would be fair to reflect on European Asylum Procedures Directive (APD)’s STC standard. Under article 37, a STC must respect ‘the principle of non-refoulement in accordance with the Geneva Convention is respected’. Although this does not apply to Indonesia, in general, it gives a general picture of what constituted of a ‘safe country’. On such criteria, it can be seen that Australia’s shortcoming responsibility is doubled especially in assessing applicable laws that honor non-refoulement in Indonesia and Indonesia’s relation to the Refugee Convention.

Through Indonesia’s legal perspective, Indonesian immigration law permits, a return of an individual when he/she ‘neglects hazardous activities and reasonably suspected to endanger public security and orderliness or without respect or observe applicable laws and regulations’ which somewhat constitutes refoulement. Therefore, whenever a refugee is being returned, if he/she was subject of the RCA, Australia can be held responsible of any persecution that Individual faces in the country of origin.

Nonetheless, in this case, it reflected how Australia had not met the expectations especially in assessing Indonesia’s refugee commitment, as it is a non-party to the Refugee Convention. Whilst the UNHCR had provided that ‘burden-sharing’ are reasonable, if always taking into assurance the protection of refugees and solutions to their problems, it shall follow as the states’ responsibility to examine refugee claims are derived only by the Refugee Convention. Therefore, Indonesia’s non-ratification should have been questioned in the first place by Australia as a state party.

To conclude, there are some drawbacks in Australia’s part in carrying out its obligation in regard ensuring refugee protection by entering into RCA. Moreover, it is possible to assume that they might have failed to assess the safety guarantees of refugees’ livelihood in Indonesia due to detention amounting to torture. In addition to that, this also includes lack of comprehensive examination that look further at applicable laws in Indonesia regarding deportation which they may amount to refoulement, and assess Indonesia’s refugee commitment.

(Disclaimer: This writing was modified from the writer’s LLM paper entitled “Australia’s ‘Burden-Shifting’ of Refugee obligations to an ‘Unsafe Haven’” submitted for the 2017-2018 Privatissimum Course in Leiden University, the piece reflects the writer’s own views).

Perang Dagang dan Indonesia: Kesempatan atau Kesempitan?


oleh Habibah H. Hermanadi, Pemimpin Editor IRregular

Perang dagang kini sedang terjadi di antara negara-negara besar. Negara saling memasang Trade Barriers atau hambatan perdagangan berupa kuota dan bea masuk/tarif menjadi isu utama yang diributkan. Berdasarkan linimasa BBC, perang dagang dimulai sejak dikeluarkannya kebijakan Presiden Trump soal kenaikan tarif sekitar 25% atau lebih dari US$50 miliar untuk barang-barang Tiongkok yang masuk ke dalam AS. Trump juga menuduh Tiongkok melanggar berbagai hak kekayaan intelektual. Oleh karena itu, Trump merasa perlu untuk mengambil langkah guna menahan aliran barang yang masuk ke AS. Tiongkok merespon kebijakan Trump dengan mengumumkan tarif baru sebesar  US$35 miliar terhadap barang-barang yang akan masuk dari AS. Kebijakan gaya “protektionisme” Trump juga menetapkan tarif atas impor aluminium dan baja dengan tujuan melindungi produsen lokal beserta menggenjot kembali industri dalam negeri yang dianggap Trump sebagai sektor yang lesu. Imbasnya, Uni Eropa, salah satu importir baja terbesar untuk AS, bereaksi dengan memberalkukan tarif sebanyak US$3,3 miliar atas berbagai produk AS yang akan masuk daerah mereka.

Kesempitan Untuk Napas Perdagangan?

Dalam jangka panjang, perang dagang tentunya tidak akan hanya menjadi “permainan eksklusif” yang dimainkan oleh negara-negara adidaya yang bisa saling membalas. Namun, hal ini mampu menjadi “disrupsi” yang dapat membahayakan tatanan ekonomi global. Pada situasi sekarang, perang dagang bisa diibaratkan dalam teori permainan-game theory sebagai chicken game atau “permainan ayam.” Analoginya, dua buah mobil melaju kencang di lintasan yang sama seolah akan saling tabrak. Akhir dari permainan dicapai bila ada pihak yang menyerah dan mengelak dari permainan dan sistem ini dibuat untuk hanya memenangkan satu pihak yang mampu bertahan. Pada perang dagang, ada kemungkinan akhir dari permainan negara-negara ini berimbas pada negara lain bahkan mereka yang tidak ikut bermain, sebuah kemalangan bersama dalam bentuk resesi global. Maka dari itu, menjadi penting untuk membahas bagaimana kita harus memaknai perang dagang ini dalam konteks Indonesia sebagai negara yang tidak ikut terlibat.

Untuk merespon isu perang dagang, Organisasi Perdagangan Dunia (WTO) memperingatkan semua pihak mengenai bahaya dari memperpanjang adu tarif antar negara. Hal yang perlu diwaspadai adalah bagaimana perang dagang akan memengaruhi alur perdagangan global, termasuk terhadap mereka yang secara langsung tidak terlibat. Perang dagang secara khusus dapat mempengaruhi supply chain-sistem rantai pasokan  yang menopang arus perdagangan. Bagi Indonesia, perang dagang yang berlarut-larut akan meningkatan kemungkinan adanya kenaikan harga-harga produksi dari negara mitra ekspor utama. Artinya, banyak perusahaan asing yang menembus pasar Indonesia harus menghadapi penurunan pendapatan dikarenakan inflasi domestik negara asal perusahaan. Dengan begitu mereka akan mencoba untuk menerapkan harga yang lebih tinggi meskipun konsumen Indonesia memiliki daya beli yang sama. Melihat karakteristik pasar negara berkembang seperti Indonesia, sangat mungkin perang dagang berdampak pada ekspor Indonesia karena menurunnya kegiatan ekonomi dari para industri olahan tingkat menengah di luar negeri yang menjadi target penjualan Indonesia.

Kesempatan Untuk Berkembang?

Perlu dipahami juga bahwa dalam kondisi perang dagang ini bukan berarti Indonesia hanya akan terkapar tak berdaya. Bisa jadi perselisihan antarnegara adidaya merupakan kesempatan tersendiri bagi Indonesia untuk berkembang. Kerap kali WTO mendorong negara-negara berkembang seperti Indonesia agar lebih membuka pasar. Dengan adanya perang dagang antarnegara maju, tuntutan liberalisasi pasar untuk sementara waktu akan berhenti. Hal ini memberikan waktu untuk pasar yang sedang berkembang seperti Indonesia untuk melindungi industrinya sebelum meningkatkan daya saing. Oleh karena itu, inilah saat yang tepat bagi pemerintah untuk memperhatikan arus produk ekspor keluar dan arus modal, sementara pada saat yang sama mengendalikan masuknya impor final goods-produk akhir domestik.

Dari sudut pandang optimis, perang dagang bisa menjadi alat pemerataan daya saing yang akan memaksa Indonesia menjadi resilient-kuat dalam upaya mempertahankan ekonomi nasional. Selain itu, “pekerjaan rumah” berupa diversifikasi ekonomi harus semakin digalakkan dengan dibarengi kebijakan yang adaptif dalam menanggapi perubahan. Responsi dengan pembuatan kebijakan yang tidak relevan, ketidakpedulian atau bahkan kurangnya kepekaan terhadap perubahan global dapat merusak peluang Indonesia untuk mengembangkan kemampuan perdagangan. Momen ini memberikan potensi bagi Indonesia untuk memperdalam kemitraan strategis bilateral atau bahkan memuncukan koalisi perdagangan yang lebih kecil berdasarkan kekuatan ekonomi yang setara antar negara-negara berkembang.

Apakah perang dagang kali ini akan menjadi kisah klasik pribahasa “gajah bertarung lawan gajah, pelanduk mati di tengah-tengah”? Tentunya, Indonesia juga bisa merasakan “pahitnya” resesi global dikarenakan terguncangnya sistem rantai pasokan global. Atau justru sebaliknya, perang dagang dapat menjadi celah bagi Indonesia untuk mematangkan pasar dalam negeri? Semua tergantung dengan evaluasi dan arah yang  diambil oleh pembuat kebijakan dalam menafsir isu ini.

The Rekindling Old Flame of Indonesia-India Relations

by Habibah H. Hermanadi, Board of Editor IRregular

The two largest democracies were the frontier of South-South spirit during the Cold War, representing the voice of Non-Aligned newly independent nations to unite and resist the contesting hegemony from neither bloc. The significant discord between the two countries happened during Indo-Pakistan war in 1965, where Indonesia offered naval supports for Pakistan. Later on, the action was taken by Indonesia resulting in the creation of shelf boundary agreement in 1973 between India and Indonesia which is a short boundary between Great Nicobar Island and Sumatra. Furthermore, ever since then, the relations went cold; the two became pragmatic in conducting their relationship intertwined among other global affairs but never exclusive. Mainly because domestic political changes that took place replacing Nehruvian style of foreign policy and Soekarno’s anti-west demeanour.

Moving forward, not until 2005 the bridge was rebuilt, as Manmohan Singh tried to reopen India as part of its economic liberalisation efforts. The former Prime Minister extended the bilateral relations of the nations through establishing a Strategic Partnership framework. While Narendra Modi had attended various visits in Southeast Asia under ASEAN-India partnerships narrative, the recent state visit last May push further the bilateral agenda into specific notions for the two nations. In addition to that, what the meeting had achieved had been more specified in comparison to when Jokowi visited India in 2016 and brought up the foundation of the two nations maritime cooperation through a statement of intent.

Some of the ways of understanding the recent meeting can be perceived in how Modi approached Indonesia through the shared cultural and historical experiences, reigniting collective memory of the past in anchoring the foundation of stronger relations. It is interesting to see, the instruments to cement this relationship was somewhat holistic, the Pragmatic Prime Minister has been using cultural jargons and keywords to provoke melancholic narratives between the two countries. Modi’s Diaspora strategy and strength in reaching out to Indian descents living in Indonesia, especially when there at least around 100,000 Indonesians of Indian origin , and Modi mentioned it in the implementation of 30 days free of visa policy for Indonesians. The grand idea was to familiarise the two similar countries especially in the arising of “New India”.

In the past, India has been approaching Southeast Asia especially ASEAN. The recent 25 years celebration of the relations between India and ASEAN signified India’s endeavour to the region. Moreover, India has always had strong ties to the Mekong groups through Mekong-Ganga cooperation in the last couple of years. In this context, the deepening relations India bid towards Indonesia might be one of the ways in completing the puzzle pieces needed for India in facing the great South China Sea dispute and the imminent Belt and Road Initiative. Considering the altering position, Indonesia has for the People’s Republic of China throughout the year and to seize the uncertainty of United States. Modi moves forward and secures its position through assuring good relations with one of the prominent maritime players in the region that is Indonesia. In which resulted in shared objectives in maritime cooperation. While for defence India has a more mature relationship with Singapore in Southeast Asia, but substantive bilateral security cooperation is only logical if Delhi aimed to get Jakarta warming up on the idea of allowing naval ships in Sabang Island. If the framework was set, then the next step means putting forward tangible outcomes in the new outlook for both sides in regard of knowledge or technology transfer through training, exchanges, and better engagement in the defence industries.

The shared ambitions of the two emerging powers are apparent; Jokowi has his vision in making Indonesia as the Maritime Fulcrum while Narendra Modi’s revamped Act East policy drives India into becoming a more prominent actor in the international political stage. Reintroducing these nations reignited the lost South-South old flame coming from charismatic leaders, sending us back to 1955 flashbacks wrapped in contemporary global politics flavour. Nonetheless, the challenge for both nations relies heavily upon the long-term commitment from both parties. Considering that the two countries are facing the upcoming general elections in 2019, there is no guarantee for both sides to share the same maritime spirit and foreign policy views. Naturally, strategic partnership carries the vision of state leaders’ foreign policy perception which might differ once the new leaders come in power. For now, the Shared Vision of India-Indonesia Maritime Cooperation shall give enough room for the relationship to grow; however, it is only fair for the rest to see whether the old flame was just a heat of the moment or whether the two can work it out.

Meninjau Narasi Eksklusi dan Politik Perlindungan dalam Isu Statelessness

oleh Anggita Triastiwi Harianto

Tahun lalu, saat mengikuti program riset mahasiswa di Freiburg, Jerman, saya bertemu dengan seorang relawan dari organisasi pro-pengungsi Rasthaus. Ketika itu, riset saya memang tentang gerakan akar rumput yang membantu integrasi pengungsi di Freiburg melalui kegiatan kerelawanan. Setelah berbicara cukup banyak, ternyata dia lebih banyak menghabiskan waktunya sebagai aktivis anti-deportasi yang menggeluti isu hak dasar komunitas Roma melalui Freiburger Forum.

Etnis Roma bermigrasi dari bagian utara India kurang lebih 1.500 tahun lalu ke Eropa, Asia dan Amerika (Bhanoo, 2012). Walau tersebar di berbagai negara di Eropa, mayoritas etnis Roma terkonsentrasi di Eropa Tengah, Eropa Timur dan Eropa Selatan.

Meski menjadi kelompok minoritas terbesar di Eropa, etnis Roma juga mengalami masalah dengan status kewarganegaraan. Hingga saat ini, banyak orang Roma di Eropa yang tidak memiliki kewarganegaraan. Ini menjadi salah satu faktor yang membuat mereka rentan mengalami deportasi.

Status kewarganegaraan memang seringkali terikat dengan ijin untuk tinggal. Karenanya, mereka yang tidak memegang status kewarganegaraan rentan mengalami ‘pengusiran secara legal’ dari negara melalui agenda deportasi jika dianggap sebagai ancaman.

Si aktivis kenalan saya dan teman-temannya berusaha melihat deportasi orang Roma bukan dari status kewarganegaraan atau elemen legalitas, tapi dari wacana pemenuhan hak dasar—utamanya hak untuk tinggal.

Itu lah kali pertama saya berdiskusi serius mengenai isu kelompok yang tidak memiliki kewarganegaraan, atau yang biasa disebut sebagai stateless.

Narasi Eksklusi dan Diskriminasi

Salah satu faktor penting dalam kasus statelessness adalah konstruksi identitas. Apakah si A bagian dari komunitas saya? Apakah si A layak menjadi bagian dari komunitas saya?

Ada elemen penerimaan dan belonging yang kuat—yakni rasa kepemilikan dan keterikatan dengan suatu kelompok. Oleh karena itu, eksklusi dan penolakan terhadap kelompok minoritas bisa berkontribusi menciptakan atau memperburuk kasus statelessness.  Eksklusi ini bisa bersumber dari rasisme atau antagonisme terhadap suatu kelompok, dan berupa diskriminasi akses untuk secara penuh berkontribusi sebagai bagian dari masyarakat.

Dalam kasus kelompok Roma misalnya, mayoritas masyarakat tidak menganggap Roma sebagai bagian integral dari bangsa mereka. Sebagai kelompok minoritas terbesar di Eropa, Roma mempunyai sejarah panjang diskriminasi dan eksklusi. Kondisi ini diperparah dengan stigma negatif yang semakin menghambat upaya kelompok Roma untuk berinteraksi dan berbaur dengan masyarakat di lingkungan mereka tinggal.

Di Eropa Timur, dan kini di Eropa Barat, ada stigma bahwa etnis Roma adalah orang-orang pemalas, suka mencuri, pengemis, dan pemabuk yang fokus hidupnya hanya membuat banyak anak. Banyak orang akan refleks mengamankan dompet dan barang berharganya saat bertemu dengan orang yang mengaku etnis Roma.

Kondisi ini juga terjadi di Jerman. Stigma negatif ini  membuat banyak orang Roma menjadi tertutup dan memilih menyembunyikan identitasnya. Padahal, banyak juga etnis Roma yang keluarganya sudah hidup di Jerman selama beberapa generasi. “Saya berusaha mendekati komunitas Roma di Freiburg selama bertahun-tahun agar mereka percaya bahwa saya tidak memiliki agenda untuk memanfaatkan mereka,” aku si aktivis kenalan saya.

Di Jerman sendiri, ada kurang lebih 170.000 hingga 300.000 orang Roma dan Sinti yang mayoritas tidak punya kewarganegaraan (Richardson Institute, 2014). Sekitar 3.500 dari mereka tinggal di Freiburg (Kutkat, 2017).

Eksklusi yang berujung pada statelessness juga dialami keturunan Haiti di Republik Dominika, dan Rohingya di Myanmar—kelompok stateless yang paling didiskriminasi di dunia.

Di Republik Dominika, antihaitianismo—rasisme dan sentimen anti keturunan Haiti— telah tumbuh di masyarakat sejak masa unifikasi Dominika dan Haiti pada awal abad ke-19. Pada masa pemerintahan Trujillo, antihaitianismo dijadikan agenda politik pemerintah melalui berbagai kebijakan dan praktik pemerintahan yang diskriminatif.

Diskriminasi ini juga sangat kuat dalam aspek pemberian status kewarganegaraan. Walau pemberian status kewarganegaraan berdasarkan tempat kelahiran (jus soli) berlaku di Dominika, petugas catatan sipil seringkali mempersulit keturunan Haiti dengan menolak mengeluarkan akta lahir. Akibatnya, banyak keturunan Haiti menjadi stateless karena tidak bisa membuktikan status kelahiran mereka untuk mengurus dokumen kewarganegaraan. Kondisi ini diperparah dengan Kebijakan Migrasi 2004 dan Kebijakan Kewarganegaraan 2013 yang mengelompokkan ‘bukan penduduk’ sebagai orang-orang dalam transit, sehingga anak-anak mereka tidak berhak menerima kewarganegaraan Dominika. Karena banyak keturunan Haiti tidak memiliki dokumen kewarganegaraan atau ijin tinggal—sehingga secara otomatis masuk dalam kategori ‘bukan penduduk’— mereka adalah golongan yang paling terdampak. Kebijakan Kewarganegaraan 2013 yang berlaku secara retroaktif, yakni mempengaruhi segala putusan hukum sejak 1929, bahkan mendorong tercabutnya kewarganegaraan ratusan ribu keturunan Haiti.

Di Myanmar, Rohingya juga tidak diakui sebagai bagian dari bangsa Myanmar—alih-alih, mereka dianggap sebagai bangsa Bengali dari Bangladesh. Hukum Kewarganegaraan 1982 membuat klaim individu atas status kewarganegaraan terkait erat dengan garis keturunan dan etnisitas. Akibatnya, hukum ini bisa mempersempit peluang kelompok-kelompok tertentu untuk mendapatkan kewarganegaraan. Praktik pemberian kewarganegaraan di bawah Hukum Kewarganegaraan 1982 dilakukan dengan diskriminatif karena petugas menolak memberikan dokumen identitas kepada orang-orang yang dianggap sebagai bengali.

Pemenuhan Hak Dasar Stateless Masih Bermasalah

Saat di Freiburg, ada satu slogan yang menarik perhatian saya, yakni ‘kein mensch ist illegal’, atau dalam Bahasa Indonesia berarti ‘tidak ada manusia yang ilegal’. Rasthaus dan Freiburger Forum mengamini slogan ini, bahkan menjadikannya salah satu prinsip kegiatan kerelawanan dan politik mereka.

Prinsip ini berusaha menantang cara pandang dominan yang melihat elemen ilegalitas untuk menentukan perlakuan kepada kelompok terpinggirkan. Prinsip ini utamanya mengkritisi minimnya perlindungan hak dasar, atau bahkan minimnya pengakuan hak dasar, yang diberikan kepada orang-orang yang dianggap ilegal dan tidak layak.

Orang-orang tanpa status kewarganegaraan termasuk dalam kelompok yang mendapatkan diskriminasi pemenuhan hak dasar ini. Namun, diskriminasi yang mereka alami umumnya justru dilakukan sesuai dengan prosedur hukum domestik yang berlaku. Deportasi yang dialami keturunan Haiti contohnya, dilakukan sesuai prosedur hukum domestik karena mereka dianggap bukan tanggung jawab Dominika. Begitupun deportasi yang dialami oleh orang-orang Roma. Hak dasar seperti pendidikan; jaminan kesehatan; pekerjaan; hak milik properti; hingga hak untuk tinggal atau menetap diatur negara melalui hukum domestik untuk warga negaranya, sehingga stateless yang tidak punya dokumen identitas kesulitan mengakses hak dasar ini.

Hal ini menunjukkan bahwa memenuhi hukum yang berlaku tidak berarti memperlakukan suatu kelompok sesuai norma kemanusiaan. Menentukan kelompok mana yang ingin dilindungi dan tidak melalui instrumen hukum merupakan sebuah keputusan politik. Pada banyak kasus, kategorisasi legal dan ilegal justru menghambat pemenuhan hak dasar bagi kelompok yang seharusnya paling dilindungi, contohnya stateless—dan pengungsi.



Bhanoo, S. (2012, December 10). Genomic Study Traces Roma to Northern India. Retrieved from New York Times: .

Kutkat, G. (2017, 9 28). Interview: Warum viele junge Roma und Sinti ihre Identität verstecken. Retrieved from–142603167.html .

Richardson Institute. (2014). The Roma People in Europe. Lancaster: Richardson Institute.

Could Trump Ends the Era of Multilateralism: Wait…what?!

by Chitito Audithio Final Year Student at International Undergraduate Program in International Relations, Universitas Gadjah Mada

On the 12th of June 2018, The President of the United States made a historical meeting with the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong in Singapore, making this meeting more than historical, it is beyond imaginable. Marking from the Korean War to this date, it’s quite fair to say that both have gone through so much that conflict resolution needs to prevail so, Donald J. Trump rose up to the challenge and became the first US president to ever meet North Korean Leader. Based on this fact, are we able to say that Donald Trump embrace the idea of cooperation, agreement, and resolution throughout his presidential term? quite not.

We all have to understand that one of the reason World War III has not yet happened, the abolishment of some certain kinds of weapons, international coherence on human rights, and many other generally accepted norms depend on international regime. Based on the definition provided by one of the most famous international relations scholar, Stephen Kasner, ‘sets of implicit or explicit principles, norms, rules, and decision-making procedures around which actors’ expectation converge in a given area of international relations’. Simply put, regime allows states to interact on a certain principles and norms to avoid conflict, this idea can be reach if multilateralism is adhered.

Throughout his one-and-a-half-year presidential term, Donald Trump has done quite the opposite to the definition provided above.

Imposing tariffs on European steel and aluminium

As the US president has warned EU earlier regarding its “trade imbalance” with the US, Trump realizes this notion by imposing 25% on EU steel imports and 10% on imported aluminium, marked since 1 June 2018. The EU has submitted a complaint over World Trade Organization (WTO) and took retaliatory measure to US initiative. EU official has announced that the organization is currently working on the list of US goods that will be imposed tariffs by the EU as a retaliatory procurement. To this day, the list goes around Harley-Davidson Motorcycle, bourbon, peanut butter, cranberries, and many other US goods. Knowing this notion, Trump threatens back by saying one of the most peculiar thing to say, especially regarding the good trade relation that US has obtained with the EU. ‘The European Union has been particularly tough on the united states, they make it almost impossible for us to do business with them and yet their cars and everything else back into the united states’ informed Trump during one of the presidential speech.

Engaging in Trade wars with China

China-US trade has been marked to be reciprocal and for all we know, not all things goes in through a legal system, China has been indicated to force US companies to share its trade secrets over to the Chinese government. Furthermore, China is also indicated to subsidize China domestic producers and violate (one of the) WTO articles. As a retaliatory measure, Trump imposed USD 50 billion on Chinese imports, many experts believe that some sort of punishment has to be imposed over China for its wrongdoings however, it should not be tariffs on China import goods. The condition worsened with China immediate retaliation by also placing tariffs on US goods namely soybeans, electric vehicle, and many other strategically imposed goods.

Abandoning Paris Agreement

It has been one year since Donald Trump announced that the US has withdrawn from Paris Climate Accord. The Accord known to be one of the progressive and extensive environmental international agreement known to this date. The reason why Donald Trump pulled out such move, according to his speech, the accord is not fair to the US businesses, its workers, its people, and its taxpayer. “So we are getting out” said Trump on his presidential speech. Regardless of such move, Trump gave a little hope to the public by saying that it is possible for US to rejoin Paris Accord however, of there are no significant changes made to the accord then US might pursue to create a novel agreement based on US preferences. It is essential to notice how Donald Trump refer to an international agreement like it was easy to build. Mutual trust based on a mutual interest are two main components of an international agreement but yet, the US president said that a new international agreement to replace Paris Climate Accord that inline with US demands can be made.

Threatening NATO

Based on one of the most respected academician that focus on US-Europe relation, Constanze Stelzenmuller, Trump is the first American president that has ever questioned American liberal order. What this statement means is EU and US has the same preference in which mutual understanding has to be made. It is known since the establishment of NATO during the event of Cold War, the organization made and supposed to be led by the US in order to protect and extend US liberal order to Europe therefore, to have US as the leader of NATO is something that is not questionable. Both parties supposed to known this unique relationship. With Trump question the system of NATO, Trump implying that he is not recognizing this unique relationship. To this date,  the effect of Trump speech can be seen throughout EU’s leader behavior such as France eagerness to take over the void of power that left by  the UK after the event of Brexit, Germany Chancellor, Angela Merkel demanded for NATO member states to increase their defense budget vis-à-vis NATO, and several other examples which signing  the eagerness of EU and NATO member states to be more independent regarding their defense system.

Trump actions throughout his presidential term has been in the state of upheaval. This occurrence shown how fragile an international agreement can be and how  easy the durability of multilateralism can be put to test. Now, it is up to member states to maintain multilateralism or finding their own way that can lead to isolationism.

What Indonesia could learn from Turkey

by Hadza Min Fadhli Robby, Lecturer of International Relations Studies at Universitas Islam Indonesia

It’s been a while since Yahya Cholil Staquf (Gus Yahya)’s visit to AJC Forum in Israel has sparked controversies in Indonesia. Many people, especially from Indonesian Muslim communities, has considered his visit as a betrayal not only towards the suffering and struggle of Palestinian people, but also a betrayal towards the spirit of Indonesian constitution. As a well-known mentee of KH Abdurrahman Wahid (Gus Dur), considered his visit and his effort to meet Israeli government to open a new chapter in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Quoting Gus Dur, Gus Yahya thought that to ensure peace between Israel and Palestine, it is very important to involve a ‘moral-religious element’ as an alternative of both ‘political’ and ‘military element’ which was proven to be ineffective in the past. Gus Yahya felt that it is his responsibility to deliver the message of peace and rahmah (compassion) to Israeli people and government. By emphasizing the importance of compassion, Gus Yahya hoped that Israeli people and government could change their perspective towards the Palestinian and towards the conflict as a whole. Gus Yahya also give an important insight that Israel-Indonesia relations could not be normalized if there are no significant attempts are taken in the effort to ensure peace between Israel and Palestine.

With his statement, Gus Yahya is provoking a new debate on the possibility of establishing Israel-Indonesia relations in the new era. Many had thought that the doors are closed since the constitution of Indonesia implicitly prohibited any kinds of efforts and possibilities to open relations with colonizers like Israel.

Despite all pessimism, Gus Dur and Gus Yahya are trying to break the limit by saying that not only Indonesia could establish relations with Israel, Indonesia could also play a significant role – either through governmental or societal approach – to start a new initiative in the Israel-Palestine peace process. This thought is somehow also reflected in the case of Turkey during Erdoğan’s leadership.

At that time, as Turkish new leader, Erdoğan was facing difficult conditions both in home and abroad. Erdoğan had a task to prove he could solve domestic Turkish problems that had undermined international communities’ confidence towards Turkey. In an effort to restore confidence, Erdoğan tried to re-engage and re-connect Turkey with Turkish immediate neighbors. One of these neighbors is Israel.

Although Turkish-Israeli relation was mainly considered as a relation between traditional allies, this relation was grounded more on strategic and defense issues. This is due to Turkish-Israeli relations’ nature as a relation which was built mainly to serve Western powers’ interest during Cold War. Erdoğan’s government tried to further the relations between two countries by emphasizing the importance of building mutual trust.

Although Turkish-Israeli relations suffered some major setbacks due to several incidents, Turkey and Israel still manage to establish communication and continue its diplomatic relations. Turkey’s effort to secure Israel’s confidence has actually resulted Turkey being trusted to channel humanitarian assistance to Gaza Strip. At one moment, Israel even trusted Turkey to broke mediation efforts between Israel, HAMAS and Syria.

In this retrospect, Indonesia could learn several things from Turkey if Indonesia really wants to build relations with Israel:

1. Strong criticism and discourses doesn’t mean that the table couldn’t be set for diplomacy

Erdoğan’s government was widely known for their strongest support towards the cause of Palestine. Many, including Indonesian public, had considered that Turkey is the leading global actor whose role is very critical in ensuring the independence of Palestine. Turkey has also known for its use of strong and agressive language when addressing Israel.

In several occassion, Turkey has considered Israel as an “ apartheid” and “terrorist” state. Despite all criticism addressed, Turkey has never pull itself away from the negotiation tables. Difficult issues, such as Mavi Marmara incident and Gaza blockade, could be solved with the combination of smart diplomacy and strong rhetoric. Although recently Turkish-Israeli relations suffered another major crisis, it is the willingness to return to the table that improves the conditions of Palestinian and Israeli alike, despite all the odds.

2. Know your “enemy” really well

Another important aspect that should be learn from Turkey is that Turkey is willing to know Israel – its “enemy” – really well. Thanks to existing relations, several Turks were able to learn in Israel. Several Turkish prominent experts on the issue of Israel and Zionism, such as Eldar Hasanoğlu and Ufuk Ulutaş, had studied in Hebrew Language in the Hebrew University of Jerussalem.

Moreover, one of prominent public higher education institution in Turkey had opened an undergraduate degree program in Hebrew Language and Literature since 2010. In Indonesia, some actually had obtained their degree in Israel but didn’t gain prominence for their expertise because they prefer to hide their credentials. Hebrew language had also been offered in many universities.

The main problem laid ahead for Indonesia is the eagerness of Indonesian to put away fears and misconceptions about Israel so that Indonesia could know Israel better and could be able to make a more holistic and concrete policy when dealing with Israel-Palestinian conflict.

3. Civil society is an important source to build mutual trust

In some aspects, particularly in trade and cultural aspect, the role of Turkish and Israeli civil society is undoubtedly significant. Turkish-Israeli trade relations continued normally even during critical time. It is the trust built between Turkish and Israeli businessman that allowed Israeli to construct their infrastructures with Turkish steel and also allowed Turkish to use Israeli fuel and oil products in their vehicles. In the cultural aspect, some parties from Turkish and Israeli civil society had been successful in establishing a goodwill relations among each other.

This goodwill relations are mainly backed up by minority group of Turkish Jews which are still living mainly in neighborhood quarters in European part of Istanbul. This Turkish Jews had a huge role of maintaining their own unique culture as “Ladino”, which is the mixture of Sephardic Jewish-Turkish-Andalusian culture. Turkish Jews are thankful for the role of Ottomans that had saved the live of their ancestors, gave them a new land of hope, and enable them to sustain their “Ladino” culture.

Although many Turkish Jews had fled to Israel since year 2000s, they kept their heritage and their connection to their ancestors’ homeland, Turkey. Some Turkish Jews even founded an association called Arkadaş Association which mainly functioned as a forum to promote friendship and tolerance between Israel and Turkey.

In this aspect it is important to notice that Indonesia previously had also many Jews living in various cities of Indonesia. These Jews had married with locals, mainly in Eastern Indonesia and had their ancestors here. It is very important for Indonesia to acknowledge this fact and use this potential – if Indonesia willing to open a negotiation table with Israel.

Pasifik Selatan si Hitam Manis

Oleh Mariana Buiney,S.I.P.,M.St, Ketua Program Studi Ilmu Hubungan Internasional, Universitas Cenderawasih

Istilah ”Abad Pasifik” sebenarnya telah muncul sejak tahun 1980an seiring dengan prediksi bahwa pusat kekuatan ekonomi dunia yang bergeser dari Atlantik Ke Pasifik, hal ini dibahas dalam Far Eastern Economic Review tahun 1984. Optimisme yang sama terkait kemunculan kawasan ini sebagai poros perekonomian dunia juga dikemukakan oleh Mantan Presiden Amerika Serikat Ronald Reagen pada tahun yang sama, yakni:

”You cannot help but feel the great Pacific Basin, with all its nations and all its potential for growth and development. That’s the future…”

Secara geografis, negara kita Indonesia memiliki kedekatan dengan bagian selatan kawasan ini. Letaknya berbatasan dengan Papua yang berada dalam NKRI, Papua New Guinea sampai Pitcairn serta Australia dan Selandia Baru bagian selatan dengan hamparan lautan yang luas dan terdiri atas negara pulau dan kepulauan. Pacific Rim, merupakan julukan yang diberikan bagi wilayah ini karena posisi pulau-pulau yang terbentuk seperti rim (baskom/wadah penampungan). Jika melihat pada sejarah pembentukan bangsa (nation building) di Pasifik selatan sangat beragam. Mayoritas adalah para imigran yang datang dari Asia Tenggara dan Asia lainnya yang kemudian dunia mengenalnya sebagai suku bangsa Melanesia yaitu deretan pulau disebelah utara dan timur laut Australia: Papua New Guinea, Solomon Island, Vanuatu, Fiji dan New Caledonia; Mikronesia dan Polinesia. Bangsa di Pasifik Selatan ini mayoritas identik dengan berkulit hitam dan rambut keriting.

Pasifik selatan si hitam manis. Secara fisik, kulit hitam dan rambut keriting membuat bangsa ini terlihat manis dan menarik. Pada satu sisi, mereka yang berdiam di kawasan tersebut memiliki sejarah pembentukan negara yang diwarnai oleh gejolak. Beberapa negara merupakan negara jajahan yang kemudian memerdekakan diri dan membangun negara sendiri. Namun demikian kemerdekaan tidak kemudian membuat negara-negara tersebut lepas dari gejolak domestik didalamnya, seperti Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Solomon Island dan lainnya.

Sisi lain, Kawasan Pasifik selatan memiliki daya tarik dalam hal sumber daya alam. Selain itu, wilayah ini dipandang oleh negara-negara besar seperti Amerika Serikat, Cina, Jepang dan lainnya sebagai daerah strategis dalam pembentukan sistem pertahanan keamanan. Pada masa pemerintahan Ronald Reagen di Amerika Serikat, beliau mengusulkan dibentuknya Pacific Economic Cooperation (PEC) dan National Commision for PEC. Selanjutnya, ketika mantan Presiden Amerika Serikat Barrack Obama dilantik, beliau pun mengarahkan berbagai urusan kerjasama ke kawasan Pasifik. Cina dan beberapa negara besar maju lainnya juga melakukan hal yang sama.

Indonesia pun memiliki rekam jejak hubungan kerjasama dengan negara-negara di kawasan Pasifik Selatan. Pada akhir dasawarsa 1970an merupakan awal dimana Indonesia mulai mengenal lebih dalam serta serius melihat keberadaan wilayah tersebut. Hal ini dipicu oleh adanya masalah integrasi Timor Leste atau pada waktu itu dikenal dengan Timor-Timur ke Indonesia. Beberapa negara di Pasifik selatan menunjukkan dukungannya terhadap Timor Leste untuk berdiri sendiri dan menentang proses integrasi ke NKRI.

Namun demikian, Indonesia pun telah membangun kerjasama yang baik dengan mereka diantaranya Papua New Guinea, Fiji dan Vanuatu. Berbagai pelatihan teknis dilakukan seperti: pertukaran tenaga ahli dan pengiriman tenaga pendidik serta ahli lainnya. Hubungan yang terjalin meskipun tidak sedekat Indonesia-Australia  tetapi tetap ada upaya untuk menjaga jalinan kerjasama. Jika berdasarkan sisi etnis, di Indonesia juga terdapat etnis Melanesia yang tersebar di Provinsi Papua, Papua Barat, Maluku, Maluku Utara dan Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT). Menurut data Indonesia Investment tahun 2016, bahwa ada sekitar 13 juta jiwa etnis Melanesia yang berdiam di kelima provinsi tersebut diatas.

Kawasan Pasifik selatan kembali menjadi bahan perbincangan hangat di Indonesia baik dari kalangan pemerintahan, politikus, para penstudi hubungan internasional maupun warga negara dari Sabang-Merauke. Hal ini dipicu oleh menguatnya dukungan moral beberapa negara seperti Fiji, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Solomom Island, Nauru, Tuvalu, dan lainnya terkait keinginan sejumlah masyarakat di Papua yang ingin berpisah dari Negara Kesatuan Republik Indonesia.

Melanesian Brotherhood yang adalah konsep persaudaraan berdasarkan agama (pada awal didirikan tahun 1925) menjadi pemersatu kelompok etnis Melanesia yang berada di Kepulauan Solomon, Vanuatu dan Papua New Guinea. Kelompok Persaudaraan Melanesia ini pun berkembang di negara-negara kawasan Pasifik selatan. Kelompok ini kemudian menjadi terkenal seiring dengan dukungan yang diberikan kepada sejumlah masyarakat Papua. Sejumlah masyarakat Papua yang ingin memisahkan diri dan merdeka ini didorong oleh berbagai perlakuan pemerintah Indonesia yang dianggap telah melanggar Hak Asasi Manusia dan ketidakmampuan dalam menangani pelanggaran tersebut serta kesenjangan yang terjadi di tanah Papua.

Dukungan moral yang cukup kuat membuat pemerintah seakan kebakaran jenggot. Kekhawatiran akan ancaman disintegrasi karena pengaruh dan dukungan Melanesian Brotherhood serta negara-negara di Pasifik Selatan telah mendorong Indonesia untuk memainkan strategi diplomasinya secara maksimal guna meredam ancaman tersebut. Berbagai metode dan jalur diplomasi dikerahkan, diantaranya pemberian bantuan, menjalin kerjasama dibidang ekonomi dan lainnya,  kunjungan kenegaraan di beberapa negara kawasan Pasifik Selatan juga dilakukan. Menteri Luar Negeri Indonesia beserta Menteri terkait lainnya dalam hitungan satu (1) tahun bekerja keras (2016-2017) wara wiri Indonesia – kawasan Pasifik Selatan guna menjalankan misi menjaga integritas NKRI.

Jika dianalisa kembali, kerjasama Indonesia dan kawasan Pasifik Selatan semakin intens beberapa tahun belakangan ini karena adanya gejolak dalam negeri yang mendapat perhatian dari dunia luar. Kasus Papua dengan gejolak berbagai isu didalamnya dan keinginan memerdekakan diri seakan menguji kekuatan nation building dan state building Indonesia. Mampukah Indonesia mempertahankan Papua sebagai anggota keluarganya ataukah akan menceraikannya seperti Timor Leste?

Pasifik selatan si hitam manis, seperti yang dikatakan oleh Ronald Reagen tahun 1984, yakni:”You cannot help but feel the great Pacific Basin, with all its nations and all its potential for growth and development. That’s the future….” Harapannya Indonesia menjalin kerjasama atas dasar si hitam yang manis atau bisa dikatakan karena adanya daya tarik sumberdaya alam yang dimiliki serta hal menarik lainnya yang bisa menjadi alasan untuk melakukan hubungan baik dan bukan karena tekanan atau ancaman.

Understanding Swiss: from Watches to Direct Democracy

By Adhi Kawidastra

When asked about Switzerland, one phrase that most probably is the answer is the luxury watch. The Swiss watch industry is the result of an industry based on precision wrapped in a brand “Swiss Made”. The precision of the Swiss watch industry is essentially a reflection of the perfectionism and punctuality that characterize the Swiss society.

As a diplomat posted at the Indonesian Embassy in Bern, Switzerland, I am required to understand Switzerland from A to Z. Although having a small size, Switzerland is a diverse country with 4 official languages, 26 states or what they call as Canton, and three different nations.

All these diversities live in a country that is slightly smaller in size compared to the Province of West Java. Understanding Switzerland is a challenging task for a foreign diplomat, but yet important and crucial to do.

Situated in the middle of Europe, Switzerland plays an important role in shaping the dynamics of the region, despite not being a member of the European Union.

This article will not discuss about Swiss luxury watches and the industry behind it. This article will look into the story behind the Swiss character that places Switzerland as one of the economic superpowers in the region.

There are many factors contribute to the progress of the Swiss economy. However, this article will focus on three distinctive features of Switzerland, namely plurality, the practice of direct democracy and its relations with the European Union.

A Country with Multi Languages

Once I was having lunch with a long-time friend whom I met in from my previous workplace and we talked about life in Switzerland. Since I lived in German-speaking region in Switzerland, he asked whether I had already learned German. He laughed when I said that I had not learned German yet. He then suggested that I should not learn German in Switzerland, especially Swiss German if I were only to stay for a while.

To understand and speak Swiss German, first, you need to learn the High German. After, you need to learn the Swiss dialect, of course, you have to know the which dialect to learn among the different dialects of the 17 German speaking Cantons. It is a long process and ones have to stay for at least a decade to understand and speak the language.

Switzerland was established as a federal state based on the agreement of communal regions or city-states in the Central Alpine region. In 1291, three city-states, namely Uri and Schwyz and Unterwalden agreed to establish what is called today as the Swiss Confederation.

The agreement was realized on the basis of a mutual goal, which was to be independent from the political and power influence of the large neighboring states in Europe.

Since then, Switzerland had grown with the addition of other territories in the French-speaking Romandie region and the Italian speaking Lombard region. The Swiss had also experienced and suffered from civil war as well as annexation by the French Empire during the Napoleon era.

These historical backgrounds explain the Swiss pluralism which divided the country into regions based on the languages they use. In general, Switzerland is divided into three groups of Germanic German (63.5%), French-speaking Romandie (22.5%), and Italian-speaking Lombard (8.1%).

The term “Röstigraben” reflects the cultural boundary between German speaking and French-speaking parts of Switzerland. While the term “Polentagraben” refers to the cultural boundary of the Italian speaking Canton of Ticino. The variety of languages usage shows that Switzerland is a very diverse and multicultural country.

Democratic Deliberation by the People

Despite the cultural and language diversity, there is one common thing that is agreed among the Swiss societies, which is “direct democracy”. Switzerland is known as one of the countries that practice a direct democracy in its political system.

Through this system, Swiss citizens can actively participate in determining a policy through a referendum. Simply by collecting signatures from at least 50,000 Swiss citizens, a group may propose initiatives and hold a referendum to object policies or laws passed by the Parliament or the Government.

Institutionally, the State or Canton Governments can also submit an initiative to hold a referendum at the federal level. To do so, a Canton needs to have an agreement with at least eight other Cantons.

A referendum can also be used as one the mechanism to amend the country’s Constitution and to decide strategic issues at the federal level. Unlike the regular initiative, to carry out the amendment, the initiator of the referendum must collect at least 100,000 signatures of Swiss’ citizens.

The referendum is conducted by determining the preferred choice of the distributed ballot. The result of the referendum is determined by a simple majority in which the proposed initiative will be accepted if it resulted more than 50% of votes from total number of citizens who participate in the referendum.

On the other hand, the result of the constitutional referendum is decided by a double majority system. In order to win, the initiator must get a majority vote not only from the citizens who participate in the referendum but also a majority among the 26 Cantons of Switzerland.

An Island in the Middle of Europe

The result of the referendum sometimes can be decisively against the government’s strategic plan. One of the clear examples of this phenomena is when on 6 December 1992, a majority vote of 50.3% reject the membership of the European Economic Community (EEA).

As a result, the Swiss Government had to suspend negotiations for European Union (EU) membership and eventually formally withdrew its application for EU membership in 2016. All but one, which is the microstate Liechtenstein, of Switzerland’s neighboring countries, are EU member states.

Hence the phrase “A small island in a large European sea” has been a common term to describe the relations between Switzerland and the EU.

Meanwhile, Switzerland is a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). EFTA is a single market trade organization consisting of four European states which are not members of the EU, namely Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

Despite not being part of the European Union Customs Union, EFTA runs parallel with the EU. In its effort to establish a global free trade network, Switzerland often use EFTA as the means to reach agreements with non-EU partner states.

In the meantime, to safeguard its economic relations, Switzerland maintains bilateral agreements with the EU. There are in total ten bilateral treaties between Switzerland and the EU, including the free movement of people and the Schengen membership.

Understanding the Swiss Character

Switzerland is a country with a “hedgehog mentality”, a metaphor that became popular before and during the second world war. A period when the small Switzerland was surrounded by Nazi Germany (including Austria), Fascist Italy and the Vichy France.

Hedgehog are slow, calm and often underestimate because of their small size. However, those having hedgehog mentality are the one who have the advantage of simplifying complex and focusing on single vision.

This mentality makes Switzerland, apart from its relatively small size, able to withstand the turmoil and the rough navigation through the large “European Sea”.

The writer is a mid-career diplomat of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia. He had been assigned to the Embassy of Indonesia in Bern, Switzerland (2013—2017) and underwent a brief assignment at the Embassy of Indonesia in Rome, Italy (2008—2009).