Jakarta, Berlin Celebrate 25 Years as Sister Cities


Indonesia and Germany have well-established relations on a political, economic and cultural level, but what is perhaps less known is that the capitals of the two countries, Jakarta and Berlin, are sister cities. This year, Jakarta and Berlin are celebrating the 25th anniversary of this special partnership with a series of events.

The federal state of Berlin maintains partnerships with 17 cities worldwide, most of which were established shortly before or after German reunification in 1990. In addition to Jakarta, the cities are Beijing, Brussels, Budapest, Buenos Aires, Istanbul, London, Los Angeles, Madrid, Mexico City, Moscow, Paris, Prague, Tashkent, Tokyo, Warsaw and Windhoek.

“The oldest city partnership we have is the one with Los Angeles, dating back more than 50 years,” said Michael Weiner, who is part of the international relations department at the Berlin Senate Chancellery and in charge of Berlin’s partnership with Jakarta.

“In 2019, we are celebrating our 25th city partnership anniversary with Beijing, Tokyo, Jakarta and Buenos Aires.”

The partnerships link two specific cities that often face similar challenges and obstacles in a globalized world.

“It often happens that a country makes decisions and adopts policies at the national level – be it in the area of climate change or urban development – that will eventually have to be implemented by the cities,” Weiner explained, adding that formats like city partnerships can create the framework to build stronger relations in different fields.

The cooperation between Berlin and its sister cities varies; in the case of Jakarta, collaborations and joint projects have mainly focused on culture, education and sports.

“There are several Indonesian-German organizations and communities in Berlin that are very active,” Weiner said. “Besides, we obviously also organize our own activities. We often receive delegations or members of the legislature from Jakarta and bring them together with their counterparts in Berlin, so they can exchange.”

In May 2017, two deputy governors from Jakarta went to the German capital: Syahrul Effendi visited the city for the International Garden Exhibition in Berlin-Marzahn, where he officially opened the Balinese temple, while Sutanto Soehodho was guest of honor at the Asia-Pacific Weeks, which is held annually.

In the same year, Weiner said, the Senate Chancellery hosted a competition to find university students based in Berlin who were then invited to travel to Indonesia as part of the 2017 Jakarta International Youth Program.

“Jakarta regularly invites two teenagers or students from each of their sister cities, more than 20 in total, to visit the capital,” he explained. “We asked the participants of our competition here in Berlin to submit short essays in which they share their ideas about the 25th anniversary of the Jakarta-Berlin city partnership.”

In August 2017, the lucky winners, Jenny Song Schmidt from the University of the Arts and Kevin Nandzik from Humboldt University, represented Berlin in Jakarta and shared many ideas and innovative approaches to different areas of local government. The itinerary also left them with some free time for sightseeing, including a short trip to the Thousand Islands.

In April and October 2018, delegations from Berlin’s partner cities visited various institutions in Berlin and held meetings with members of the Berlin House of Representatives and with Berlin’s Court of Auditors to gain a deeper insight into the financial policy of the federal state of Berlin and talk about potential arrangements for celebrating this year’s anniversary.

A delegation of StartUp AsiaBerlin, an initiative of the Berlin Senate Department for Economics, Energy and Public Enterprises, traveled to Jakarta for the Asia-Pacific Conference of German Business held from Nov. 1 to 3 last year.

While the city partnership has seen many exciting projects and activities over the past decades, Weiner said that in light of the 25th anniversary they are planning to make 2019 a special year.

One of the highlights is a soccer tournament in June that would bring together teams from Berlin, Jakarta, Tokyo and Beijing – the latter two also celebrating 25 years as partner cities with Berlin this year. What could be a better way to come together than through soccer, the one sport that is said to speak a universal language?

“In November 2018, we sent three coaches from Berlin’s soccer association to Jakarta where they held seminars at soccer schools and academies,” Weiner explained. “Based on this project, we are organizing a tournament here in Berlin with our Asian partner cities where selected teams representing each country will compete against each other.”

Under another program, which is to kick off this year, he said an integrated expert is to be sent to Jakarta by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development in cooperation with Berlin.

This article was first published in the Jakarta Post on February 24, 2019.