|19th Prime Minister of Estonia|
|Assumed office |
26 January 2021
|Preceded by||Jüri Ratas|
|Leader of the Reform Party|
|Assumed office |
14 April 2018
|Preceded by||Hanno Pevkur|
|Member of the Riigikogu|
3 March 2019 – 26 January 2021
6 March 2011 – 1 July 2014
|Member of the European Parliament|
1 July 2014 – 5 September 2018
|Succeeded by||Igor Gräzin|
|Born||18 June 1977|
|Political party||Reform Party|
(m. 2002; div. 2014)
Kaja Kallas (Estonian: [ˈkɑjɑ ˈkɑlːɑs]; born 18 June 1977) is an Estonian politician who has been serving as the prime minister of Estonia since 2021. The leader of the Reform Party since 2018, she was a Member of Parliament from 2019 to 2021, and previously between 2011 and 2014. Kallas served as a Member of the European Parliament between 2014 and 2018, representing the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe. Prior to her election to Parliament, she was an attorney specialising in European and Estonian competition law.
Early life and education
Kaja Kallas was born in Tallinn on 18 June 1977. She is the daughter of Siim Kallas, who was the 14th prime minister of Estonia and later a European Commissioner. During the Soviet deportations from Estonia, her mother Kristi, six months old at the time, was deported to Siberia with her mother and grandmother in a cattle car and lived there until she was ten years old. Kallas's great-grandfather was Eduard Alver, one of the founders of the Republic of Estonia on 24 February 1918, and the first chief of the Estonian Police from 1918 to 24 May 1919. Kallas has distant Latvian and Baltic German ancestry through her father's side of the family.
Kallas graduated from the University of Tartu in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in law. She lived in France and Finland briefly while training in European law. From 2007, she attended the Estonian Business School, earning an EMBA (Executive Master of Business Administration) in economics in 2010.
Kallas became a member of the Estonian Bar Association in 1999, and an attorney-at-law in 2002. She became a partner in law firm Luiga Mody Hääl Borenius and Tark & Co and worked as an executive coach in the Estonian Business School. She is also a member of the European Antitrust Alliance. In 2011, she was placed on inactive status as a member of the Estonian Bar Association. In November 2018, Kallas published her memoir MEP: 4 aastat Euroopa Parlamendis (MEP: Four Years in the European Parliament), in which she describes her life and work in Brussels from 2014 to 2018.
Member of the Estonian Parliament (2011–2014)
In 2010, Kallas decided to join the Estonian Reform Party. She ran for the Parliament of Estonia (Riigikogu) in 2011 for the Harju County and Rapla County constituency, receiving 7,157 votes. She was a member of the 12th Parliament of Estonia and chaired the Economic Affairs Committee from 2011 to 2014.
Member of the European Parliament (2014–2018)
In the 2014 elections, Kallas ran for the European Parliament and received 21,498 votes. In the European Parliament, Kallas served on the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy and was a substitute for the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection. She was a vice-chair of the Delegation to the EU–Ukraine Parliamentary Cooperation Committee as well as a member of the Delegation to the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly and Delegation for relations with the United States.
During her period in the Parliament, Kallas worked on the Digital Single Market strategy, energy, and consumer policies, and relations with Ukraine. In particular, she defended the rights of small and medium-sized enterprises (SME), maintaining that borders in the digital world hinder the emergence of innovative companies. She is a proponent of innovation and frequently emphasises that regulations cannot and must not hinder the technological revolution.
Kallas served as rapporteur for six reports: opinion on the so-called e-Privacy regulation, Civil law rules on robotics and on the Annual report on EU Competition Policy, and on Delivering a New Deal for Energy Consumers, legislation on Custom infringements and sanctions and the own-initiative report on the Digital Single Market.
During her time in the Parliament, she was also nominated as a European Young Leader (EYL40). At the end of her term, she was cited by Politico as one of the 40 most influential MEPs, and one of the most powerful women in Brussels, who was highlighted for her understanding of technological issues.
Return to national politics
On 13 December 2017, the leader of the Reform Party Hanno Pevkur announced that he would no longer run for the party leadership in January 2018, and suggested that Kallas should run instead. After considering the offer, Kallas announced on 15 December 2017 that she would accept the invitation to run in the leadership election. Kallas won the leadership election held on 14 April 2018 and became the first female leader of a major political party in Estonia.
On 3 March 2019, the Reform Party, led by Kallas, won the general election with about 29% of the vote, with the ruling Estonian Centre Party taking 23%. However, the Centre Party managed to form a right-wing coalition with the conservative Isamaa party and the far-right EKRE, leaving the Reform party out of power.
On 14 November 2020, Kallas was re-elected as leader of the Reform Party at a Reform Party Assembly.
Prime Minister of Estonia
On 25 January 2021, after the resignation of Jüri Ratas as prime minister following a scandal, Kallas formed a Reform-led coalition government with the Centre Party, making her the first female prime minister in Estonia's history.
During the latter half of 2021, the 2021–2022 global energy crisis also disrupted the Estonian economy; businesses were forced to temporarily shut down, while the public requested government aid to pay for the high electricity and heating prices. Kallas initially resisted calls for government aid, suggesting that the government should search for long-term solutions rather than handing out government benefits, and that a free market should not require consistent government intervention to keep people afloat. The energy crisis nearly caused the collapse of the coalition government. Kallas observed in a speech that the high cost of natural gas coupled with the Russia-Ukraine crisis was driving the increase in energy prices; and that the green energy measures Estonia adopted limited what the government could do to handle the crisis. In January 2022, Kallas announced a 245 million euro plan to reduce to cost of energy from September 2021 to March 2022. The energy crisis impacted Kallas's popularity in Estonia.
During the 2021–2022 Russo-Ukrainian crisis, Kallas asserted that the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline was "a geopolitical project not an economic one" and urged that the pipeline be terminated. She also stated that Europe's dependence on Russian natural gas was a significant political problem. In January 2022 Kallas committed Estonia to donating howitzers to Ukraine to assist in its defence against a possible Russian invasion, pending German approval as the howitzers were originally purchased from Germany. When Germany delayed in giving an answer, Estonia sent American-made Javelin anti-tank missiles instead in the first weeks of February 2022. Following Russia's recognition of the Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics, Kallas demanded that the European Union introduce sanctions on Russia. Kallas was praised domestically for her leadership during the Russia-Ukraine crisis. Subsequently, her approval rating soared, making her Estonia's most popular politician.
After the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine started on 24 February, Estonia along with other allies triggered Article 4 of NATO. Kallas pledged to support Ukraine with political and materiel support. By April 2022, 0.8% of Estonia's GDP per capita in military equipment had been handed over to Ukraine. Kallas has been praised both in Estonia and internationally and abroad as a leading pro-Ukrainian voice in the war, with New Statesman calling her "Europe's New Iron Lady". She has also strongly supported the admission of Ukraine to the European Union, asserting that there was a "moral duty" to do so.
She resigned on 14 July 2022 to form a new government that was sworn in on 18 July. The new government was a three-party coalition by her Reform Party, the Social Democrats and the conservative Isamaa party. Her previous government had lost its parliamentary majority after the Centre Party left the coalition.
As prime minister, Kallas has attracted international attention as a leader in efforts to support Ukraine during the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, delivering more military equipment to Ukraine as a proportion of GDP per capita than any other country in the world.
In 2002, Kallas married Roomet Leiger. They divorced in 2006. She lived together with former Estonian politician and businessman Taavi Veskimägi who served as finance minister. They have one son, and separated in 2014. In 2018, she married Arvo Hallik, a banker and investor. He has two children from a previous relationship.
Awards and honors
- European Prize for Political Culture by Hans Ringier Foundation (2022)
- Grand Cross of the Order of the Star of Romania (2021)
- Friends of Europe, member of the Board of Trustees (since 2020)
- European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), member
- Women Economic Forum, advisory board member
- Model European Union Tallinn, patron[non-primary source needed]
- European Liberal Youth (LYMEC), mentor
- European Young Leaders, member
- Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs, MEP ambassador
- MEP Library Lovers Group, member
- European Internet Forum, political member
- European Forum for Renewable Energy Sources (EUFORES), member of the Extended Board
- Global Young Leaders, member
- Women Political Leaders, member
- European Entrepreneurship Education Network (EE-HUB), MEP ambassador
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