Embassies May Have to Relocate After Indonesia Passes Law to Move Capital City

Foreign embassies in Indonesia are being asked to relocate after the government finalized plans on Tuesday to move the national capital from Jakarta to the planned city of Nusantara.

The Indonesian House of Representatives finalized the bill, which officially begins the process of moving the federal government. Nusantara, which was named by Indonesian President Joko Widodo, will be located on the island of Borneo, 1,200 miles away from Jakarta.

However, Jakarta, which is situated on Indonesia's most populous island, Java, will still remain the cultural, economic and financial heart of the nation, according to officials.

The law reportedly describes the "preparations, development and relocation" of Nusantara as a "ten-year national priority." First proposed by Widodo in 2017, the decade-long plan to move the capital was finalized in 2019 in an effort to reduce the environmental strain on Java and help address economic inequality in Indonesia.

The actual transition towards Nusantara was originally slated to begin in 2024. However, due to delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, newsmagazine Nikkei Asia stated that politicians believe the move will not begin until after that year.

Jakarta Legislative Building
Indonesia has asked foreign embassies to prepare to move their buildings to the new capital of Nusantara within the next ten years. Here, the current legislative building in Jakarta, the current capital of Indonesia, can be seen. iStock/Getty

Officials have estimated that the cost of the transition will be approximately 466 trillion Indonesian rupiahs ($32.5 billion USD), although that number has not been updated since the COVID pandemic began.

As the federal government begins to shift towards its new home, Indonesian authorities reportedly asked embassies across the nation to begin to relocate their offices, as well. Nikkei Asia stated that the law expects "foreign embassies and representatives of international organizations...to join state agencies in shifting their offices to the new capital within 10 years of the relocation starting."

The vast majority of foreign embassies to Indonesia have their offices in Jakarta. Over 100 diplomatic missions have their headquarters in the city, in addition to numerous consular missions spread throughout the country.

Also headquartered in Jakarta is the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a ten-member intergovernmental union that includes Indonesia. As a result, a number of countries all have separate ASEAN missions in Jakarta.

Indonesia's request is not unprecedented, as embassies across the world have moved to different cities from time to time.

In 2018, the United States made the controversial decision to move its Israeli embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This move means that the U.S. officially recognized Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, causing an uproar among Middle Eastern countries who have long refused to view the city as such.

Some embassies have even been moved within the same city. Also in 2018, the U.S. opened a new embassy building in London amidst safety concerns—the old embassy was located in a busy residential area of the city, which put it at risk of being attacked.

This caused the U.S. to move the embassy to a more industrial area of London, where entrants to the building could be more securely monitored.

While these actions give embassies in Jakarta precedence to move to Nusantara, no countries appear to have released a statement on the matter. It remains to be seen what the U.S. and other nations will do with their embassies as the Indonesian government begins to enter a new era.

Newsweek reached out to the U.S. Embassy in Indonesia for comment.