The European presidents pictured together in front of Wartburg Castle.
The refugee crisis in Europe was the main theme of discussions at an unofficial meeting of European presidents on 21–22 September. President of the Republic Sauli Niinistö participated in the meeting between a total of 11 heads of state held in Wartburg and Erfurt in Germany.
“The European Union is being put to the test. We have serious problems, the most urgent of which is the refugee crisis that is challenging Europe from the south all the way to Finnish Lapland in the north,” said President Niinistö at a press conference held after the meeting.
President Niinistö stated that the EU must find a way of controlling the flow of people, since uncontrolled migration is unsustainable from the viewpoint of refugees themselves and the recipient countries. A common EU solution would be better than individual, national ones. President Niinistö also expressed the hope that next week’s UN summit of world leaders would find solutions to the conflicts underlying the refugee crisis, particularly that in Syria.
European solidarity and education as themes
Federal President of Germany Joachim Gauck was the host of the two-day meeting between the presidents. At the first working session, held in the historical setting of Wartburg Castle, the theme was the strengthening of European solidarity, with discussions touching on issues such as our common cultural heritage, the European identity, the economy and security. Many of the heads of state expressed their concerns about the effects of the refugee crisis on European unity and called for a joint European response to the situation.
Education and participation were the themes of the second session, held in Erfurt. The discussions emphasised the role of education in integrating immigrants and preventing their radicalisation.
The programme also included a business dinner and lunch and bilateral meetings. President Niinistö met with Andrzej Duda, the new President of Poland, before the meeting. The presidents discussed the refugee situation in Europe and cooperation in the Baltic region in areas such as the environmental and energy questions and security and defence policy.
The meeting of the so-called Arraiolos Group was attended by the presidents of Bulgaria, Italy, Austria, Latvia, Malta Portugal, Poland, Germany, Slovenia, Finland and Estonia. This group convened for the first time in 2003 in the location after which it was named – Arraiolos in Portugal. It met in Finland in 2005 and 2012.