May 6, 2019

Indonesia set to review EU’s role in Leuser Ecosystem

JAKARTA ( - Senior Indonesian minister Luhut Binsar Panjaitan has confirmed that he will soon be sending an official letter to EU headquarters to explain the Indonesian government's initial steps in reviewing the EU's long-term engagement in the Leuser Ecosystem. 

This move forms part of a follow up to the joint letter signed by President Joko Widodo and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in which they strongly rebuffed the EU Delegated Act which seeks to phase out palm oil-based biofuels. 

“In principle, we would like to maintain a strong collaboration with the EU, including in efforts for forest protection and nature conservation. However, if its delegated act is enforced, then how is it possible to maintain this?”  

Minister Luhut's statement, which relates to a review of Indonesia's relations with the EU as a whole - including the EU's role in the Leuser Ecosystem - in anticipation of the delegated act truly taking effect, was made at his office (May 3).  

Meanwhile, EU Ambassador to Indonesia Vincent Guérend, on a visit to Aceh in March this year, reaffirmed the EU’s longstanding engagement in, among other things, assisting to ensure the protection and preservation of large forest areas including Gunung Leuser National Park.  

The photos below, taken by the team on World Earth Day, show the Kluet peat forest landscape, one of the most important parts of Gunung Leuser National Park. This national park, spanning an area equivalent to more than 830 thousand soccer fields, constitutes the core of the Leuser Ecosystem

Comprehensive collaboration needed 

Minister Luhut emphasized the hope that the EU continues to support Indonesia in achieving its national commitments to forest preservation, sustainable palm oil production and poverty alleviation, as explained by the President in the joint letter.  

“We need a comprehensive collaboration with the EU, not a partial one, including in the Leuser Ecosystem. This is one of the reasons why the President has laid out his objections to the EU delegated act,” he explained.

Minister Luhut pointed out that President Jokowi's stance on the EU delegated act is clear, as outlined in the joint letter, and his administration has been working to back up the letter in response to any developments concerning the act. 

A misstep

With respect to the phasing-out out of palm oil for biofuels, Indonesian Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya declared that this was a misstep from the EU, as previously reported by in June last year.

The EU, in particular, should be reminded that Minister Nurbaya took the initiative of making a legal move to incorporate the Leuser Ecosystem into the Aceh spatial plan, as this hadn’t been done by the Aceh government.

Without this move, the Leuser Ecosystem would not form an inseparable part of the Aceh spatial plan. The minister previously explained her action, as reported by in early November 2016, stating, “This is part of the government’s commitment to the Leuser Ecosystem.