Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves emphasized in his lecture at the Institute for Strategic Studies in London to commemorate Alastair Buchan that Europe is standing on the crossroads of change and faces new external and internal threats, particularly following the tragic events that took place in Paris.
A lecture to commemorate the first head of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), Alastair Buchan, has been delivered by several key persons since 1976, including Henry Kissinger, Helmut Schmidt, Shimon Peres, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and Kevin Rudd.
Estonian president as a leader of Europe was appointed to deliver this year's lecture, attended by members of the British Parliament, foreign policy strategists in London, officials of government institutions and British IT experts. His speech focused on the refugee crisis, the anti-terrorism fight and security in Europe. According to Ilves, recent events will put to the test everything that Europe has achieved over the last 60 years.
"The leaders of Europe have grown accustomed to tackling crises, one by one, whether we are talking about the financial crisis, insolvency of Greece or annexation of Crimea and military activities in Eastern Ukraine. It is important for Europe to emerge from today's various crises a stronger and more uniform union. However, this will require statesmanship from our politicians – a readiness to take decisions that look beyond popularity polls and re-elections," Ilves emphasized.
He noted that the one million refugees and immigrants in Europe this year and, according to the predictions, the further two million over the next two years to come will, no doubt, put a strain on social cohesion and pressure on budgets. "However, the call for restoring borders within the Schengen Area should be treated as disturbing. Some countries refuse to accept refugees while others are unable to cope with the crowds that are entering their territories. Populist politicians are fanning anti-immigrant moods," he added.
According to him, it is important to control and protect the external borders of the European Union: "The uncontrolled currents of migration represent a threat for the security of our citizens. However, we must not close our borders to people who really need our help."
Ilves also touched on the recent tragic events in Paris and the fight against the ISIS terrorist organization. "The events in Paris must bring the Member States of the European Union closer. The purpose of the terrorist organization known as Daesh is to scare the Western world until we abandon the foundations of a free society and our solidarity," he said, reaffirming again that: "Europe must tend to its security, but Europe must not be afraid."
When speaking about security in Europe and the Russian-Ukrainian crisis, Ilves stated that independent countries, no matter how small, must have the opportunity to speak up for themselves in the 21st century. "We know very well, from the recent history of Europe, that closing our eyes to aggression will only result in even bigger problems in the future," he said.
A video recording of the lecture can be viewed here.
Editor: M. Oll