East Timor Regional and International Relations
For Timor-Leste, membership in the Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries (CPLP, Comunidade dos Países de Língua Portuguesa) is of fundamental importance. In 2014, the country hosted the 10th Conference of Heads of State of the CPLP and held the presidency until October 2016. Since 2003 it has belonged to the movement of the non-aligned states. In the same year it joined the European Union’s ACP partnership agreement. Timor-Leste was accepted into the ASEAN Region Forum (ARF) in July 2005. Since 2010 it has had observer status with the Melanesian Spearhead Group. In 2016 it joined the Pacific Islands Development Forum (PIDF).
According to extrareference, Timor-Leste is trying to become a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and in March 2011 submitted an application to the Indonesian ASEAN chairmanship. Indonesia supports Timor-Leste and is actively involved in joining the regional alliance. Singapore, in particular, speaks out against rapid admission. In terms of its capacities, it sees the young state not yet in a position to fulfill all the tasks and obligations associated with accession. To promote the necessary economic development of the young country, Indonesia and Timor-Leste have a Human Resources Partnership Agreement. With the opening of an embassy in Cambodia in June 2016, Timor-Leste now has diplomatic missions in all 10 ASEAN countries. The country is confident that it will soon be accepted into ASEAN.
The membership in ASEAN for the government of high priority. The integration into the regional community of nations is of fundamental importance for the development of Timor and gives the country further security and stability. Khoo Ying Hooi from the Department of International and Strategic Studies at the University of Malaya, on the other hand, sees the ball in the field of ASEAN: Timor-Leste has made great strides since applying in 2011 to ensure that it is ready to become the 11th member state of the To become ASEAN. The decision was in the hands of ASEAN, and if some member states continued to oppose the adoption of Timor-Leste, ASEAN, as the Timor-Leste regional block, owed a statement.
But once again ASEAN did not discuss Timor-Leste’s application for membership at its 2019 annual meeting. Timor-Leste has made significant progress in meeting the requirements of ASEAN. The current geostrategic trends also speak for an expansion of ASEAN. Ultimately, the refusal to join says more about the state of ASEAN than it does about Timor-Leste.
Civil society organizations are involved in the ASEAN Peoples’ Forum (APF) and participate in the ASEAN Civil Society Conference (ACSC). In 2016 the ACSC took place in Timor-Leste.
Timor-Leste is active internationally and is involved in a leading position in the G7 + forum. The aim of the forum is to find more local perspectives and solutions for post-conflict LDC countries. A great diplomatic success was the appointment of women’s rights activist Milena Pires as an expert member of the commission for monitoring the implementation of the CEDAW from the beginning of 2010 (until 12/2014). In 2011, the country sent its first 14 blue helmets to Lebanon to take part in the UNIFIL mission. The Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and former President of Timor-Leste, José Ramos-Horta, brings its expertise to the United Nations (UN). In 2013, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appointed him special envoy and head of the United Nations’ Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau. In November 2014, the Secretary General established the High Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations and appointed Ramos-Horta as its chair. In the fight against climate change, Timor-Leste is involved in the V20, the Vulnerable Twenty Group of Ministers of Finance, which was founded in October 2015 in Peru at the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF).
In terms of foreign policy, Timor-Leste maintains close ties to the former colonial power Portugal, which is primarily involved in the education and judicial sector as well as in the professionalization of the armed forces. The government’s expulsion of Portuguese judges and staff in the judiciary in October 2014 severely damaged relations. The Ministry of Justice in Portugal then stopped the cooperation. Timor Leste accused the judges and advisers of incompetence after several legal proceedings over tax claims against the oil company ConocoPhilipps did not bring the expected results. The Portuguese side saw a connection with investigations against ministers on suspicion of corruption. Although the then Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão admitted mismanagement at times, the waves of indignation were high. It was not until February 2016 that the justice ministers of the two countries signed a protocol in Lisbon on the resumption of cooperation in the judiciary.
Due to its geographical proximity, relations with Australia are very close – Australia is the largest donor – but politically, relations are not always smooth. The dispute over the maritime border and the associated oil and gas deposits in the Timor Sea put the relationship to a severe test. In 2016 Timor-Leste appealed to the United Nations for an arbitration procedure under the Convention on the Law of the Sea. A general agreement was reached on August 30, 2017, the anniversary of the independence referendum. In the presence of the UN Secretary General, the two states signed a new treaty on March 6, 2018over a permanent maritime border. A historic moment for Timor-Leste. Chief negotiator Xanana Gusmão was enthusiastically celebrated as a hero on his return. The next issue is the question of whether the processing of the extracted gas should take place on the south coast of Timor-Leste or in Darwin, Australia. With the aim of relationships, Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop traveled to Dili in July 2018. The two countries are slowly approaching each other again. At the end of August 2019, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison attended the celebrations to mark the 20th anniversary of the independence referendum and the mission of the INTERFET protection force in Dili. The program also included the exchange of a diplomatic note confirming the treaty on the maritime border by the parliaments of the two states. Nothing stands in the way of resuming good relationships.
Maintaining good neighborliness with the former occupying power Indonesia is of central importance for Timor-Leste, on the one hand for security reasons, on the other hand the country is the country’s largest trading partner. Around 31% of all imports come from Indonesia. For both states, the chapter of the burdened past is over with the end of the work of the Friendship and Reconciliation Commission, despite criticism from victim and human rights organizations. During his first state visit in January 2016, Indonesia’s President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo was awarded the highest order of Timor-Leste.
Timor-Leste maintains good relations with Mozambique, Cuba, the USA, Japan and the EU, as well as with China and other countries in the region. The young country is gradually building up its diplomatic missions around the world. Timor-Leste is endeavoring to position itself more broadly in its external relations in the region. In doing so, it balances the strong influence of Australia.
In addition to Australia, Brazil, the EU, Cuba, Portugal and the USA, among others, states from Asia in particular have diplomatic missions in Timor-Leste.
Relations with Germany
The relations between Germany and Timor-Leste are amicable, according to the Foreign Office and find political, economic and scientific level expression. Timor-Leste has received extensive support from Germany since 1999, after it was placed under the interim administration of the United Nations. Recognition under international law and the establishment of diplomatic relations took place with independence on May 20, 2002. In 2005, the then Foreign Minister J. Fischer visited the young state. The commitment of German development cooperation is highly valued in East Timor and the local specialists (with staff from Misereor, AGEH, CIM and GIZ, among others) enjoy a high reputation.
The Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste does not have an embassy in Germany. She officially appointed Peter Badge as Honorary Consul in the Federal Republic of Germany on August 3, 2011.