Estonian President says small country cannot afford dual defence arrangement
Toomas Ilves' first state visit while in office is to Finland
Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves feels that it is vital for the European Union and NATO to increase their defence cooperation.
On Wednesday, the first day of his visit to Finland, Ilves said that it is nonsensical to have two parallel organisations with little contact with each other.
"Large countries might be able to afford a dual system, but not small ones", said Ilves, whose country is a member of both NATO and the European Union.
Ilves did not want to take a stand on Finland's relationship with NATO, for instance.
"Each country makes its own decisions", Ilves said at a press conference with President Tarja Halonen. He added that Estonians have been told for the past ten years what they should and should not do, and that consequently they do not want to give advice to others.
Ilves began his state visit to Finland on Wednesday. It was his first official foreign trip since taking office in October.
The two presidents mainly discussed bilateral issues between Estonia and Finland. In addition to security in the Baltic Sea region, the discussions touched upon energy issues.
"We are friends, so it is easy to talk without unnecessary formality", Ilves said. He has been to Finland many times and Halonen has visited Estonia regularly.
On EU matters, Halonen and Ilves observed that Finland and Estonia have common interests. Ilves noted that Finland has been ranked as best in following the EU's competitiveness plan, and that of the new EU member states, Estonia is the only one with a good ranking.
"As we are the best, we should also lead the EU", Ilves quipped.
Finland and Estonia also have common interests in energy questions. Ilves noted that both countries are northern countries where much energy is used, resulting in a large amount of pollution.
Ilves also met with Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen and outgoing Speaker of Parliament Paavo Lipponen. Today, Thursday, Ilves and his wife visit Oulu.
An interview with the Estonian President will be included in our weekly features on Tuesday
Previously in HS International Edition:
President Ilves says Estonia and Finland have similar views on EU (17.10.2007)
Estonia´s President-elect Toomas Ilves wants to unite nation (25.9.2006)