Ilves Caps State Visit to Finland by Meeting Political Leaders
More meetings with top government officials are on the agenda today for Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves as he continues a two-day state visit to Finland.
Ilves met with the President of Finland, Sauli Niinistö, yesterday, and their talks focused on the changed security situation in Europe due to Russia's annexation of Crimea and its encouragement and support of separatism in eastern Ukraine.
"Russia has destroyed the Helsinki Accords of 1975 and any written and unwritten agreements that the security of Europe has relied on since the end of the Cold War," Ilves said on his website. "Therefore, defending and maintaining our shared values upon which organizations that bring together democratic countries rely is becoming more and more important."
"With the deputy prime minister of Russia admitting that the European Union is an alien bloc for his country, he is showing us a new reality that has arrived and that we all must learn to live with, side by side," he said.
Ilves also had warm words for Estonian-Finnish bilateral relations, which he said were growing in strength every year. He said at a press conference that he was wishing for a quick solution and decision regarding the location of the planned LNG gas terminal project between the two nations.
"Estonia and Finland are like two sons of the same family, always looking out for their brother and willing to support each other, and our meetings are always open-minded and straightforward," Ilves said. "We are connected by dozens, even hundreds of thousands of human relations; close co-operation in the sphere of economy, trade and culture, e-governance, Estlink power cables, soon the Balticconnector gas pipeline and in the future, hopefully, also the Rail Baltic railway, together with shared responsibility for the Baltic Sea and the security of the region."
"The depth and closeness of relations between Estonia and Finland should set an example of internal integration within the European Union," he said.
Niinistö pointed out that commerce between Finland and Estonia is growing despite the economic situation in Europe. He said there are concrete examples, including collaboration in the IT sector and the planned children's hospital in Helsinki, which could also provide Estonian children with specialized hospital care.
Niinistö said that he viewed European security primarily as a matter for the European Union as a whole, pointing out that the original task of the EU was maintaining the peace.
"Can the EU fulfill this key task through NATO only? Or is it so that the union itself and its member states should do their best to maintain peace? And this is linked to defense, that is why Finland has been and will continue to be active in discussing the EU's Common Security and Defence Policy. If we have a basic value, we should also maintain that by ourselves. I do not mean that we should exclude NATO, but excluding Europe is not the right way," he said.
Niinistö said that Finland aims to increase its contribution to the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission in the near term.
The two presidents attended a Finnish-Estonian business seminar on Wednesday, and Ilves spoke at the Finnish National Opera House to an audience of alumni of the Finnish Higher National Defense Courses. His speech was entitled "North Europe After the Destruction of the Finnish Accords in Ukraine." He also visited several Helsinki-area businesses.
This afternoon, Ilves will lay a wreath today at the Hietaniemi Cemetery and visit the Finnish Parliament, where he will meet Speaker Eero Heinäluoma and Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen. Ilves will also visit Vuosaari Harbour and the presidential couples will spend some time together on Suomenlinna, a fortress island.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to the name of the First Lady of Finland. It is Jenni Haukio.