What do the Indonesian people have in mind when they were asked to describe spontaneous images of the European Union? Four things came up on monetary/economic union; trade/business; euro; and democracy, good governance and rule of law. It seems that the Indonesian people’ points of view on the European Union mostly related to its position as a giant in the international economy. The European Union was not yet a powerful international actor like the United States.
Martin Holland, a professor from Canterbury University, New Zealand, carried out the research on how the European Union is perceived in Asia (2009) by elaborating the expanding role of the EU on trade and investment within the 27 member states including to build strategic partnership with the Asian states based on the Lisbon treaty. It was a small step to play the EU strategy by putting the role of news media to disseminate the EU in Asia. The research gained positive responses from the Indonesian society on the spontaneous images of the EU.
The Lisbon treaty was the main reason beyond the EU images through the eyes of Asian states because the treaty elaborated the EU’s external relations that give big impacts to Asia. Within the high representatives of each member state in the EU, the Lisbon treaty was a toolbox to implement one voice of the EU images to improve the relations with the Asian states.
How the EU is perceived in Asia involved various communications within the EU to include norms, values, communication exchanges, ethnics, gender, and religious matters. Those forms of communications should be implemented to elaborate the Asian perspectives on the EU. The history of the project dated back in the 2006 with six locations (Mainland China, Hong Kong SAR, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and Thailand) continued in 2008 including Indonesia, Philippine, and Vietnam. The research’s evidences based on the EU images in news media, the EU perceptions among general public, and the EU perception among decision makers like politicians, bureaucrats, business elites, NGOs, and civil society.
The Indonesian news media were Kompas, Bisnis Indonesia, The Jakarta Post, and TVRI. Kompas was chosen because its popular paper, Bisnis Indonesia on its business paper, The Jakarta Post was the English language newspaper, and TVRI has prime time news bulletin on the national channel.
The view of the public and decision makers formulated that the EU was best covered in prestigious national daily with the largest circulation newspaper. However the EU’s domesticity was the main focus in the media because the EU was reported as an actor in the context of the third party or what so-called somewhere out there in the world. Furthermore the EU reference stories were about the EU in the European context. The images went on who was the leading or supporting actors in the international affairs resulted with the EU was a minor actor in most Asian countries. Only Indonesia and Philippine who put the EU as the second main actor after the United States. It can be said that the EU was a marginal political actor in the Asian states.
The sources of the EU stories were based on overseas sources either English language or Anglo-Saxon such as Reuters, Agency France Press (AFP), Associated Press (AP), and Bloomberg. The Asian media put the EU as the major international actor in the regions of Middle East, Asia, and its neighbour. The Asian media had difficulties to sell the EU stories because of the following reasons. First, the demand for the EU news was lose. Furthermore the EU diversity in its member states made it harder to report and to consume the EU news. However the EU coverage has potential to grow broader.
The Indonesian decision makers saw the importance of the EU because of the increasing importance by the link. The decision makers put the business respond the Mainland China as the main target above the EU as well as the political report in the Philippine that put the Mainland China still higher than the EU. The main images of the EU on the decision makers were mainly economic power, democracy, and good governance. The euro was a stable and promising currency that gaining importance in the international market.
The EU enlargement to include its 27 member states has become wider opportunities for market economy because its concern on competitiveness. It opened high possibility on trade partnership with the Asian states. So far the EU has 30 European Commission Delegations across the globe however most the host states were unaware of the existence of the EU. Only few host states attended activities organized by the local European Commission Delegations. It can be said that the local European Commission Delegation has a potential role to rise up the EU profile in its host states.
The images of the EU on the Indonesian public opinion went on monetary/economic union; trade/business, euro; and democracy, good governance, and rule of law. What does the EU miss in link with the Indonesian public opinion? The EU has a high profile as an economic power however it does not have high political power in the international affairs. The Indonesian news media kept putting the EU as a development actor as well as environmental actor.
It has been widely known that the EU profile on the Indonesian news media was a giant economic actor. How importance does the EU coverage in the Indonesian news media leads to the quest that the ignorance of the Asian society toward the EU may influence the quality of the EU foreign policy to the Asian regions. However the EU foreign policy might be inappropriate, unrealistic, irrelevant, and even inefficient in the Asian states so that they put the EU as an economic power better than international power. It was inevitable that the Asian states would favour other international power such as the United States as the most importance political actor in the international affairs. (Emilia Yustiningrum)