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Photograph: EPA/Noemi Bruzak HUNGARY OUT

The European Union and the rest of the world, faced with terrorism and other threats, are at a turning point and they must be ready to make strong decisions, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic said at the opening of the annual Atlantic Council Energy and Economic Summit in Istanbul on Thursday.

This is a turning point for the European Union and the global community which are faced with terrorism and other threats. We cannot pretend any longer that this is the time of peace and we must stand united and face reality, Grabar-Kitarovic said in her speech at the summit which started by paying respects to the victims of terrorist attacks, not only those killed in last week in Paris, but all victims of extremist violence over the past year. 

We need to stop taking security for granted. The world has changed, the Croatian president said, adding that EU member states had unanimously supported France's request to invoke Article 42 a never used clause of the EU treaty, triggering mutual defence among the 28 member states.

During the most difficult times of our history, a true leadership had always depended on a joint comprehensive approach based on trust, solidarity and courage to make strong decisions, Grabar-Kitarovic said, calling for action and unity.

In his keynote speech, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addressed the problem of refugees which Turkey had so far handled on its own, which posed an enormous economic burden.

However, his country was unable to close its doors to refugees.

There are half a million refugees from Syria in Istanbul alone, he said. "The international community does not have the luxury to say that Turkey will handle this on its own."

"We are at a crossroads in the fight against terrorism after the Paris attacks," Erdogan told the meeting of the Atlantic Council think-tank in Istanbul. He added that a special resolution on standing united in fighting terrorism was adopted at the recently held Summit G20.

Erdogan underlined that it was wrong to associate any religion or nationality with terrorism. "I strongly condemn the terrorists, who believe in the same religion as me, and I am calling on all leaders of Muslim countries to put up a united front," he said.

Grabar-Kitarovic also spoke about the informal initiative Adriatic-Baltic-Black Sea, the purpose of which is the strengthening of central European cooperation on the political, economic and security fronts. She added that gathering countries from that region was "a strong foundation for the release of the full economic potential.

The annual Atlantic Council Energy and Economic Summit started today and is being attended by over 600 distinguished speakers from 40 countries. This year’s theme, “Building Global Stability and Business Resilience in Volatile Times,” will focus on “examining business opportunities, economic and energy developments, and geopolitical challenges in a region that is currently at the crossroads of history,” according to the event’s official website. 

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