Transitions Online 7 December 2015
The president, himself a son of war refugees, accuses Europe of losing its global standing and passionately defends Angela Merkel’s leadership.
The president was sharply critical of anti-migration sentiment drifting across Europe, warning that the European Union is on the verge of losing its global influence.
Invoking his only family’s flight to Sweden during World War II, President Toomas Hendrik Ilves also defended German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s tough position on the EU’s challenges.
“Either we do things better or, if we don’t, the EU is going to lose its ability, as an entity, to act in the world,” Ilves told the Financial Times. “That’s the test of a state, or a state-like entity. Can it deal with the problems for which the social contract was established?”
Bucking the growing criticism of Merkel, Ilves praised the chancellor’s stands on migration, sanctions against Russia and other European challenges. “When I talk about absence of leadership, she’s one of the few people in European politics who’s doing more than sticking her finger in the air to see which way the wind is blowing,” he told the FT.
Estonia’s president is mainly a figurehead role. However, Ilves has used his office to harshly criticize Russian involvement in Ukraine and has pressed for more western solidarity against the Kremlin.
Ilves’ criticism of the growing mainstream opposition to migration from hardship countries in the Middle East and Africa comes as four other countries that joined the EU in 2004 – the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland – have all taken a hard line against admitting refugees or helping other EU states share the migrant load.
Last week, leaders of the Visegrad group representing the Czechs, Hungarians, Slovaks and Poles all defended the borderless Schengen zone within the EU, the UK Daily Mail reported. Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka told a news conference in Prague that the group – which has fought EU refugee quotas - rejects efforts “to create some kinds of mini-Schengens within the EU."
Meanwhile, some 3,000 refugees remained in limbo on the Greece-Macedonia border since the latter barred refugees from countries other than Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, Al Jazeera reports today. Both countries have strengthened armed forces along the border near Idomeni, Greece, the Macedonian town of Gevgelija amid recent clashes with refugees. The migrants - reportedly from Pakistan, Iran and several African countries - are seeking passage through Macedonia to northern EU countries.
Estonia’s President Toomas Ilves Bashes Anti-Migration Trend (2)