Arif Havas Oegroseno
Harvard Law School 1992 Alumnus
Biofuel in the EU does not only come from oil palm, but also from rapeseed, sunflower, and soybean grown massively by farmers on 11.5 million hectares. These farmers and other farmers in the EU receive a large subsidy, which is 59 billion Euro or almost Rp1.000 trillion.
Their lobby strength is extraordinary. Catherine Bearder, European Parliament member for Liberal Democrats, opens the data: 25 out of 45 members of European Parliament’s agricultural committee are farmers, ex-farmers, or own business related to farming. Media reported that some of European Parliament members received salary up to £5,000 or 93 million IDR per month from agriculture business. This number is far above the UK minimum wage of £1,300. Greenpeace itself admitted that the suggestion from farmers lobby in EU decision making process is very strong. Meanwhile the EU’s vegetable oil industry has strong lobby, such as Avril Group. According to EU Transparency Register data, Avril allocates budget up to €4.8 Million or about Rp78 billion per year with 76 professional lobbyists to lobby the interest of vegetable oil industry in EU.
One of the lobbying strategies of farmers and vegetable oil industry in EU is to create focus on palm oil with various themes, without paying attention to data and facts. Start from the health to environment to achieve one purpose: removing palm oil from vegetable oil industry in EU.
Bas Eickout, Holland Green MEP, stated that the use of palm oil must be reduced to zero by 2021. Meanwhile the Secretary General of ePURE Emanuelle Desplechin, ethanol producer in EU, stated that EU has to stop promoting the use of palm oil and its derivatives in biofuel. EU itself has officially proposed antidumping to Indonesian palm oil since November 2013.
All the above data show that the anti palm oil ideology in EU comes from the business competition of farmers and rapeseed, sunflower, as well as soybean industries that want to fully dominate the vegetable oil market in EU. Any argumentations and policies from Indonesia will never be accepted by them. Just like football games, Indonesia will never win as the goal is always moved. They do not want sustainability certification of rapeseed, sunflower, and soybean, or even in-depth analysis about Europe farmland on peatlands, the impact of forest fires in Europe.
Indonesia’s main request to conduct a reasonable dialogue based on balanced data and science is always rejected. Rational discussion using data is feared to harm the lobby of farmers and industry as this will lead to the same and non-discriminatory treatment of all vegetable oil products in equality.
This anti palm oil ideology also penetrated in Indonesia with high anomaly level. This is shown in An Open Letter to the President of the Republic of Indonesia and EU Council and the Head of EU State on 22 May 2018, which were signed by 236 people. In article 1, this letter agrees on European Parliament Resolution for banning palm oil, yet still allowing rapeseed, soybean, and sunflower. This means that they agree on the discriminative behavior of European politicians. They do not ask for certification or eco-friendly policies toward rapeseed, soybean, and sunflower industries in EU. Currently, there are 236 Indonesians who agree on policy to punish Indonesian products for foreign politician institutions, whose members are also anti-Islam and anti-Muslim politicians.
The expansion of anti palm oil ideology in Indonesia is a tougher challenge than in EU as this means Indonesia will face one another, where there are Indonesia NGOs are unaware that the motivation of EU’s farmers and industries is not the environment of Indonesia, but the trade interest and agriculture subsidy. We are facing devide et impera strategy once again. This reminds us of Soekarno’s message: “My struggle is easier because it’s expelling colonialists, but your struggle will be more difficult as you have to fight against your own nation.”
The struggle will be long and complex as the ideology must be resisted with the improvement of national policy, along with data and science, as well as international law. It is difficult, but there is no other choice, Indonesia must keep fighting, just like EU commissioner Malmstroem on Trump tariff threat. He said, “Recently we have seen how it is used as a weapon to threaten and intimidate us. But we are not afraid, we will stand up to the bullies.”
Source: KOMPAS Daily Newspaper, 4 June 2018