The dream of the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to integrate their legal system or to make laws compatible within the group should be seen as a long-term goal despite a commitment to have an Asean community by 2015, a legal expert says.

John Riady, executive dean of the Pelita Harapan University’s School of Law and Editor at Large of the Jakarta Globe, said during a seminar on Asean integrity through law at the Aryaduta Hotel on Monday that it would need time to create an integrated legal system inside the grouping.

“Internally, Indonesia still needs to do a lot before it is ready. I think the same also applies to other members,” he said, arguing that legal integration would strengthen legal certainty and provide a better investment climate in the region and in turn create prosperity for everyone.

John said even the European Union needed a long time to establish a compatible legal system among member states.

“I am sure that many things will not be achieved by 2015. But that will not be a problem as we can always find solutions in the process,” he said.

Asean leaders have declared security, economy and socio-culture as requirements for integration, without mentioning the legal system.

All of the Asean nations have different national laws. Most inherited their legal systems from different colonial rulers. While Indonesia has copied Dutch law, Singapore and Malaysia inherited laws from Britain. Indochina countries such as Laos and Vietnam have laws based on the French legal system.

Many experts have pointed out that harmonizing laws so that they can apply throughout Asean was still a sensitive matter as it would be seen by member-states as surrendering part of their sovereignty.

John, however, believes in the longer run the countries need laws that can be applied universally, arguing that it would harmonize other sectors, including economy and trade.

Also speaking at the event, Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said people’s understanding and awareness that they belong to the same community could make integration easier.

“What we should focus on, is a harmonization of national laws and regional commitment, and the other way around. We must have local, regional and global perspectives,” he said, citing several issues in which laws applied differently in various Asean countries and became sources of problems, such as a haze treaty, terrorism, and labor and human trafficking. –Kharina Triananda,