JOHOR BARU: The European Union (EU) is eyeing investment opportunities in the education and tourism sectors of Iskandar Malaysia, said EU ambassador and head of the EU delegation to Malaysia Maria Castillo-Fernandez.

She said the EU viewed Johor as an very important place to set up base not only to capture the Malaysian market but Asean as a whole.

“Iskandar Malaysia has very ambitious plans especially to develop the region. Johor can be a very good test case. We see Johor as a very important place.

“The reason why European companies are attracted to Johor is because of the good infrastructure particularly in the Iskandar Region,” she said, adding that there was legal certainty and a good workforce with working knowledge of English.

Castillo-Fernandez was speaking to reporters after attending a round table discussion between an EU delegation, which is on a trade mission to Johor, and Iskandar Regional Development Authority (Irda) in Johor Baru on Wednesday.

Present were 11 other ambassadors from EU countries namely Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Poland, Romania and Spain.

Castillo-Fernandez said there were many issues that the EU was interested in and the visit on Wednesday was a testament of its cause with hope that it could set up a basis to build a more lasting and stronger relations between Europe and Johor.

“Spain, Germany, the Netherlands and France are already key investors in Johor and we are now bringing in Denmark and some Irish companies. So there is certainly an enormous plan to get to know what this place has to offer and the possibilities for investment.

“There are many issues that we are interested in because this is about working in a firm, transparent and good governance, putting environment and sustainability in our projects together as partners, increasing people-to-people exchanges including academic exchanges involving students,” she added.

Meanwhile, Irda chief executive officer Datuk Ismail Ibrahim said the authority expected more investments from the EU based on what had been discussed and presented to the delegation on Wednesday.

“There is definitely a huge potential for nations from Europe to come in through their multinational companies. What we have presented today is not the end of things that we can offer, there is a lot of sectors that can grow further such as tourism.

“What is more important is that Iskandar Malaysia can serve as a platform for European companies to reach out to Asean’s population of 650 million.

“I think that is the bigger picture that we want to see and Iskandar Malaysia can provide that platform,” he said.

Ismail also added that cumulative investment in Iskandar Malaysia from 2006 until March 2017 stood at RM227.67bil and investments from EU accounted for RM13.67bil.

Spain lead the chart with RM4.18bil, followed by Germany (RM2.77bil), Netherlands (RM1.89bil), France (RM1.63bil), United Kingdom (RM1.07bil) and others (RM2.12bil).

Source: Bernama