- Reset + PDFPrint

President Ilves at Arraiolos Group meeting: Europe is only strong if we can protect it

President Ilves at Arraiolos Group meeting: Europe is only strong if we can protect it © Toms Kalniņš (Office of the President of the Republic of Latvia)


"Europe and European values only have meaning if we have the ability to defend them and stand up for these values," said the President, Toomas Hendrik Ilves in Germany, at the meeting of the 11 heads of state of the Arraiolos Group.

As expected, the refugee crisis was the core issue at the two-day discussions in Wartburg and Erfurt, aside from internal solidarity and the responsibility of the European Union, the reach of the political and moral boundaries of Europe, and education as the possible tool to reduce youth unemployment and integrate refugees in their new places of living.

As for the refugee crisis and in reference to the situations in Syria and North Africa, the President emphasised that the European Union must maintain a responsible and solidary approach and must sensibly exert its influence in countries where the climate of violence forces millions of people to flee from their homes in search of a safer life in faraway places, such as Europe.

The Estonian Head of State invited others not to lose focus from the events that are unfolding in Ukraine, which represents a good example of the current external challenges that offer us the opportunity to demonstrate the uniform EU foreign and security policy. Last year, the European Council took a big step ahead and moved from expressing the usual concern to the approval of sanctions against Russia.

The issue of refugees led to another core issue discussed at the meeting – the role of education for the purposes of successful integration and ability to cope in the labour market, above all, among the younger generation. Germany and Austria shared their experience with the implementation of a dual educational system that brings together professional skills and vocational education. In Estonia, the system is also known as apprenticeship education. Several countries that implement the same system have already experienced its positive impact. President Ilves also highlighted the advantages given by early computer lessons in Estonian schools.

At the invitation of the Head of State of Germany, Joachim Gauck, the following heads of state took part in the meeting of the Arraiolos Group: the President of Austria, Heinz Fischer; the President of Bulgaria, Rosen Plevneliev: the President of the Republic of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves; the President of Italy, Sergio Mattarella; the President of the Republic of Latvia, Raimonds Vejonis; the President of Malta, Marie Louise Coleiro Preca; the President of Poland, Andrzej Duda; the President of Finland, Sauli Niinistö, the President of Portugal, Anibal Cavaco Silva, and the President of Slovenia, Borut Pahor.

The Arraiolos Group is the name for a series of informal meetings launched in 2003 that brings together heads of state who, according to their respective constitutions, do not take part in the sessions of the European Council. Estonia was invited to participate in 2011.

Office of the President
Public Relations Department