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Europe's most pressing problems: Russian resurgence, the migrant-crisis and Brexit

Estonian President - Kersti Kaljulaid,who will take up the European Council Presidency spoke exclusively to euronews on the most pressing issues Europe faces.

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Europe's most pressing problems: Russian resurgence, the migrant-crisis and Brexit

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For this edition of The Global Conservation, euronews was in Tallinn, Estonia: the Baltic nation that will spend the next six months in the EU hotseat.

This comes at a time when the 28-member club is facing a number of huge challenges: an ongoing migration crisis, Brexit and a resurgent Russia.

Euronews met with the Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid, who took up her post as head of state in October last year.

Euronews – James Franey

Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid. Welcome to The Global Conversation.

The President of Estonia – Kersti Kaljulaid

Thank you.

Euronews

I just want to begin by asking you, the Italian government have threatened to close off their ports to humanitarian ships, which are not from Italy. What’s your reaction to that? With migration being really at the top of the agenda as you look set to take over the EU presidency.

President Kaljulaid

We need to break this situation where some countries are saying that they will not accept any part. They will take no responsibility at all. And then there are other countries who have this burden. We need to break this situation. We need to bridge the two differently thinking sides.

And there are different mechanisms. After all, because (the) EU by its nature is also quite a strong redistributor. It redistributes resources between the countries so that they can manage better the difficult situations which they are in. I think we need to look at all possible options. We also need to understand this – that people coming to Europe who have the right to seek asylum, they have certain preferences to where they go. And we have to discuss this through as well.

People, because they can freely move, move, of course, around in Europe. They tend to go where probably their income level in the future might be higher. And it’s human. It’s a very understandable situation. Because if you have lost everything. If you have lost your home already, you will try to get the best conditions for you and your family. Middle-income countries face difficulties here. We need to discuss those issues as well.

Euronews

And you said about ‘possible options’ to bring these countries onside, who are not living up to their commitments as it were. What kind of options could you be talking about?

President Kaljulaid

I am thinking of the possibility to support financially more those countries who are ready to accept people coming from other countries. On the other hand, you cannot create a moral difficulty for those governments, who will then have (to face) questions.

‘They are asylum seekers. They are settling here. You are supporting them better than the people who are your own poor.’

We need to have all these points on the table and discuss them through. But it is not a situation that will be solved by itself. Good faith is needed.

Euronews

President Trump, he’s been – let’s say lukewarm – with regards to his commitments towards NATO. How confident are you that he’s fully behind the alliance?

President Kaljulaid

He takes to the Twitter and his words might not be exact or spot-on as we expect maybe, or hope them to be.

But if you look outside of the Twitter world, and if you look at the whole administration’s policy, it’s rock solid. I have absolutely no doubt that it has been for all these six months. The messages that me and my colleagues around this region have received are exactly the same. There is no wavering. There hasn’t been any wavering. And, of course, we feel secure because – you know – being prepared because you have an unpredictable neighbour doesn’t mean being afraid. We don’t deal every day with thinking: “What if?”.

We do trust NATO. We do trust our allies. And we have an alliance based on our democratic values. Based on the international security architecture. We all respect our signatures on international contracts and agreements. Indeed, there is a country – our neighbour – who unfortunately at this moment does not respect its own signatures on these international agreements.

Euronews

Russia has some 300,000 troops stationed on its western flank. What do you think Mr. Putin’s intentions are?

President Kaljulaid

What Mr. Putin has been after, already before the Georgian war, in fact, was to renegotiate, rearrange exactly this what we talked about – the international security architecture built on the Helsinki Final Act, which says every country has the right to decide with whom they do business, with whom they associate themselves. And this does not suit him. He is out to change it.

In Georgia, I believe that the Western world made an error because they didn’t see that they are teaching the wrong lesson. There was a try to renegotiate before that, when Medvedev was president, in fact. It was a no-go. But then in Georgia, Russia learned that if you act, the reaction is relatively mild. And so the avalanche arrived in Crimea. And then, I guess… Then I am quite sure that everybody understood what is behind it. It is a threat to our international security architecture. The right to every country to decide needs to be defended.

Euronews

I just want to look at this issue of unity because the standard line in the European Union is that ‘we are all united’. We did indeed see the extension of sanctions against Russia over Ukraine. But there are lots of other divisions as well. Take the example of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, we had 13 countries speak out against it in Brussels just a few days ago. But Germany and France seem to be fully behind it. What’s your take on that?

President Kaljulaid

Gas is just losing its importance, anyway. And you cannot hold anybody hostage anymore by pipelines. Of course, that also means that you cannot guarantee anybody big revenues by using their pipelines. And that now brings us to the Ukrainian question. You may have NordStream 2 or you may not have NordStream 2, but you have to understand that the supply of gas will be diversified through other options in the whole of Europe anyway. Technology is just changing so quickly.

Euronews – James Franey

Do you think Mr. Putin uses gas and energy as a means of dividing the EU?

President Kaljulaid

He definitely tries to use every crack to put a wedge in and show that Europe is not united.

Euronews – James Franey

The British Prime Minister Theresa May has made an offer on citizens rights. I believe there’s roughly 10,000 Estonians living in the United Kingdom. Do you think the offer that she has made is sufficient?

President Kaljulaid

We do hope and we are quite sure that we can trust the UK to protect their rights.

Euronews – James Franey

And how can that be done?

President Kaljulaid

The United Kingdom is a democratic country, a free country, which shares our values, which will remain in Europe, which will remain our partner and ally, even after the Brexit happens. We will not allow any of those discussions to break down those links and this is not anybody’s objective in Europe, I can assure you.

Euronews – James Franey

You said something very interesting there….“when Brexit happens.” There are still some people in Brussels who think that Brexit is reversible and might not happen.

President Kaljulaid

I would very much hope that it could be the case. But I don’t see how this could happen. Of course, I am not happy to see the UK leave the European Union. I am more sad maybe for the British people because, as I said already, I don’t think that even economically this is a decision that will pay off.