Although on the opposite sides of Europe, Estonia and Croatia have a lot in common, including the experience of a totalitarian communist regime, and as border countries they understand well some of the problems Europe is currently faced with, said Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, who is on an official visit to Croatia.
We have a lot in common, although we are on the opposite sides of Europe. Both countries were under a strong German influence and also share the experience of a totalitarian communist regime and the experience of being border countries, Ilves said during a talk he gave at the University of Zagreb.
As a member of the EU and NATO, Croatia can serve as an example to other countries in the region which have not yet made sufficient progress in their transformation to become part of Euro-Atlantic associations and it help them on that path, he said.
Speaking of security threats the European continent is faced with, Ilves condemned the terror attacks which took place earlier today in Brussels and for which the IS terrorism group claimed responsibility, saying that this was a dark day for Europe. He warned, however, that because of terrorism one must not turn against refugees fleeing their homes for fear of terrorism.
He underscored that Europe should have foreseen the extent and complexity of the migrant crisis much earlier, expressing hope Europe would finally take matters into its own hands.
The EU must make a distinction between refugees fleeing war and economic migrants and ensure that the burden of the migrant crisis is divided among member states, he said.
In his talk, the Estonian president also commented on the other, "totalitarian" threat from the east.
Alluding to the regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ilves mentioned Ukraine and "the illegal occupation" of the east of the country and the annexation of Crimea.
We must keep sanctions against Russia, Ilves said, adding that "dialogue is a good thing but it's not politics." He underscored the importance of raising the defence budget to two per cent, announcing a debate about it at a NATO summit in Varsaw in July.
Some will call me a warmonger, Ilves said, adding that there was no alternative to European liberal democracies.