By Estonian Public Broadcasting
April 17, 2013

In Kadriorg today, President Toomas Hendrik Ilves presented admiral James Stavridis, NATO’s supreme allied commander in Europe, the first class Order of the Cross of the Eagle.

Ilves said the admiral had an important role in developing NATO’s defense plan for the Baltic countries and Poland, and noted that he is currently overseeing the Baltic air policing mission.

“The [medal] represents our utmost recognition for your work for both our country and for ensuring a vigorous defense for our democratic alliance,” Ilves said in a statement.

The Estonian president said the line between old and new Europe is slowly but surely fading.

“If we look at what is called new Europe, we see that we are doing quite well and have proven ourselves to be good allies. I hope that next year, when we celebrate 10 years since [Estonia] joined NATO, the distinction will have completely disappeared,” Ilves said.

Stavridis commended Estonia for being one of the few NATO allies to have brought its defense spending to 2 percent of GDP.