Kaja Kallas

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Kaja Kallas
Kallas in 2024
19th Prime Minister of Estonia
Assumed office
26 January 2021
Preceded byJüri Ratas
Leader of the Estonian Reform Party
Assumed office
14 April 2018
Preceded byHanno Pevkur
Member of the Riigikogu
In office
3 March 2019 – 26 January 2021
In office
6 March 2011 – 1 July 2014
Member of the European Parliament for Estonia
In office
1 July 2014 – 5 September 2018
Succeeded byIgor Gräzin
Personal details
Born (1977-06-18) 18 June 1977 (age 46)
Tallinn, Estonia
Political partyEstonian Reform Party
Roomet Leiger
(m. 2002; div. 2006)
Arvo Hallik
(m. 2018)

Kaja Kallas (Estonian: [ˈkɑjɑ ˈkɑlːɑs]; born 18 June 1977)[1] is an Estonian politician and the current prime minister of Estonia since 2021, the first woman to serve in the role. The leader of the Reform Party since 2018, she was a member of parliament (Riigikogu) in 2011–2014, and 2019–2021. Kallas was a member of the European Parliament in 2014–2018, representing the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe. Before her election to Riigikogu, she was a lawyer specialising in European competition law.

Ancestry, early life and education[edit]

Kaja Kallas was born in Tallinn on 18 June 1977. Her father, Siim Kallas, served as prime minister of Estonia from 2002–2003, and as a European Commissioner from 2004–2014.[2]

Kallas's paternal great-grandfather lawyer Eduard Alver (1886–1939) was the commander of the Estonian Defence League during the Estonian War of Independence who also served as the head of the Estonian Police and the Estonian Internal Security Service.[3]

During the Soviet June deportation of 1941, Kallas' mother Kirsti, six months old at the time, was deported to Siberia with her mother and grandmother. They were allowed to return to Estonia ten years later.[3]

Apart from Estonian, Kallas patrilineally also has distant Latvian and Baltic German ancestry, as discovered by investigative journalists researching her father's ancestry shortly after his premiership.[4][5]

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.[6] From 2007, she attended the Estonian Business School, earning an Executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA) in 2010.[7][8]

Professional career[edit]

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.[9] In November 2018, Kallas published her memoir MEP: 4 aastat Euroopa Parlamendis (MEP: Four Years in the European Parliament), in which she described her life and work in Brussels from 2014 to 2018.[10]

Political career[edit]

Member of the Estonian Parliament (2011–2014)[edit]

In 2010, Kallas joined the Estonian Reform Party. In the 2011 parliamentary elections she won a seat in the Riigikogu (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.[9]

Member of the European Parliament (2014–2018)[edit]

In the 2014 European Parliament election in Estonia, Kallas received 21,498 votes.[9] 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.[1] In addition to her committee assignments, Kallas was a member of the European Parliament (MEP) Intergroup on the Digital Agenda,[11] and was also a vice-chair of the Youth Intergroup.[12]

During her period in 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, 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.[1]

Kallas served as rapporteur for six reports: opinion on the ePrivacy Regulation,[13] civil law rules on robotics,[14] on the Annual report on EU Competition Policy,[15] and on Delivering a New Deal for Energy Consumers,[16] legislation on Custom infringements and sanctions,[17] and the own-initiative report on the Digital Single Market.[18] During her time in Parliament, she was also nominated as a European Young Leader (EYL40).[19] 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.[20][21][22]

Return to national politics (2017–2020)[edit]

On 13 December 2017, the Reform Party leader Hanno Pevkur announced that he would no longer run for the party leadership in January 2018, and suggested that Kallas should run instead.[23] After considering the offer, Kallas announced on 15 December 2017 that she would accept the invitation to run in the leadership election.[24] Kallas won the leadership election held on 14 April 2018 and became the first female leader of a major political party in Estonia.[25]

In the 2019 Estonian parliamentary election on 3 March, the Reform Party led by Kallas received about 29% of the vote, with the ruling Estonian Centre Party taking 23%.[26] The Centre Party managed to form Jüri Ratas' second cabinet with the conservative Isamaa party and the far-right EKRE, leaving the Reform Party out of power.[27] On 14 November 2020, Kallas was re-elected as leader of the Reform Party at a Reform Party Assembly.[28]

Prime Minister of Estonia (2021–present)[edit]

Kallas met with then Finnish prime minister Sanna Marin in Helsinki, 2021.

On 25 January 2021, after the fall of the Centre Party led cabinet with conservative parties, Kaja Kallas's first cabinet, a coalition with the Centre Party, was formed.[29] In doing so, she became the first female prime minister in Estonia's history.[30]

Kallas met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv, 2021.

During the latter half of 2021, the global energy crisis 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.[31] Kallas initially resisted calls for government aid, suggesting that the government should search for long-term solutions rather than handing out benefits, and that a free market should not require consistent government intervention to keep people afloat.[32] The energy crisis nearly caused the collapse of the coalition government.[33] Kallas observed in a speech that the high cost of natural gas coupled with the Russian invasion of Ukraine 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.[34] In January 2022, Kallas announced a 245 million euro plan to reduce the cost of energy from September 2021 to March 2022.[34] The energy crisis impacted her popularity in Estonia.[35]

Kallas met with U.S. secretary of state Antony Blinken in Tallinn, 2022.

On the eve of Russia's invasion of Ukraine in January 2022, Kallas said 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.[36] 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.[37] When Germany delayed in giving an answer, Estonia sent American-made Javelin anti-tank missiles instead in the first weeks of February 2022.[38] Following Russia's recognition of the Donetsk and Luhansk people's republics, Kallas demanded that the European Union introduce sanctions on Russia.[39] Kallas was praised domestically for her leadership during the Russia-Ukraine crisis.[40] Subsequently, her approval rating soared, making her Estonia's most popular politician.[41]

After the Russian invasion of Ukraine started on 24 February 2022, Estonia along with other allies triggered Article 4 of NATO.[42] Kallas pledged to support Ukraine with political and materiel support.[43] 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 as a leading pro-Ukrainian voice in the war, with the New Statesman calling her "Europe's New Iron Lady".[44] She also strongly supported the admission of Ukraine to the European Union, saying that there was "a moral duty" to do so.[45] In April 2022, she warned against "peace at any price" with Russia.[46]

Kallas met with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez in Brussels, 2022.

On 3 June 2022, Kallas dismissed all Centre Party ministers,[47] after the Centre Party had sided with the opposition to vote down the preschool education bill, that would have made teaching Estonian language mandatory in preschool.[48] Kallas symbolically resigned on 14 July 2022, to form a new coalition[49][50] with Social Democratic Party and Isamaa.[51]

As prime minister, Kallas attracted international attention as a leader in efforts to support Ukraine during the Russian invasion, delivering more military equipment to Ukraine as a proportion of GDP per capita than any other country in the world.[52] In September 2022, in the context of a plan by three other bordering nations to restrict Russian tourists, she said: "Travel to the European Union is a privilege, not a human right." She added that it was "unacceptable that citizens of the aggressor state are able to freely travel in the EU, whilst at the same time people in Ukraine are being tortured and murdered."[53] In February 2023, Kallas was mentioned as a possible candidate to replace NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg following his expected retirement that same year.[54] She rejected any peace agreement that would cede part of Ukrainian territory to Russia.[55]

In March 2023, Kallas led the Reform Party to a decisive victory in the 2023 parliamentary election, increasing the party's seat count in the Riigikogu by three seats.[56][57][58] Following the election result, Kallas negotiated a coalition government with Estonia 200 and the Social Democratic Party, and her third cabinet was sworn in on 17 April.[59][60][61][62] In June 2023, the government passed a bill legalising same-sex marriage and adoption in Estonia. The bill came into effect on 1 January 2024, making Estonia the first Baltic state and country formerly occupied by the Soviet Union to legalise same-sex marriage and adoption.[63][64][65]

Kallas met with North Macedonia Prime Minister Dimitar Kovačevski in Vilnius, 2023.

She is frequently named as a potential candidate to succeed Jens Stoltenberg as Secretary General of NATO, a role she has expressed interest in.[66]

Kallas condemned Hamas' actions during the 2023 Israel–Hamas war and expressed her support to Israel and its right to self-defence, but added that Israel "must do so in a way that spares innocent lives and adheres to the norms of international law." She said the conflict in the Middle East "is useful to those seeking to distract the free world from its support for Ukraine."[67]

Husband's business scandal[edit]

In August 2023, the media reported that Kallas's husband, Arvo Hallik, had a 24.9% share in the transportation company Stark Logistics, which had continued to transport raw materials to Russia following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, despite Kallas having previously called for Estonian companies to cease operations in Russia.[68][69][70][71][72][73] The company had generated approximately €1.5 million in revenue from providing a transport service to a company operating in Russia since the beginning of the invasion.[74]

Kallas later admitted to her husband's share in the company, but denied wrongdoing on the part of herself or her husband and stated that the company's business in Russia was to assist an Estonian client, identified by the Estonian media as the company Metaprint, end its production in Russia, adding that "not a single euro, dollar or ruble" was spent in Russia as part of the activity.[75][76][77] Stark Logistics seconded Kallas's claim that the company's dealings in Russia were to assist an Estonian client end their production in the country, and that their work did not contribute to the Russian economy in any way nor did it violate Estonian law, as Kallas's government had prohibited only state-owned companies from working with Russia.[75][78] The Estonian media has separately reported that Metaprint sold €17 million worth of goods to Russia between the start of the invasion in February 2022 and November 2022.[77][79][80] Hallik's business partner Martti Lemendik later admitted in the Estonian media that the company had sold over $32 million in goods on the Russian market between February 2022 and August 2023.[81] The company also collaborated with sanctioned individuals, such as Polish-sanctioned Sergei Kolesnikov.[82][83] Hallik later stated that he would sell his shares in Stark Logistics.[74]

Tanel Kiik of the opposition Centre Party noted that "the scandal has severely damaged the reputation of the Estonian state", while President of Estonia Alar Karis stated his worry for seeing "the credibility of the Estonian state called into question, in its relations with its allies" and fears that it "creates a precedent for the future and affects the reputation of Estonian democracy".[84][85] Two opinion polls conducted by Norstat and Turu-uuringute AS showed that 57% and 69% of respondents, respectively, thought Kallas should resign due to the scandal.[86][74] Kallas continued to refuse to resign in September 2023, calling the controversy a "witch-hunt" by political opponents.[87]

Russian arrest warrant[edit]

On 13 February 2024, Russian officials stated that Kallas had been put on the Russian interior ministry's register of people wanted on criminal charges, reportedly related to the removal of Soviet World War II monuments in Estonia.[88] Kallas is the first head of government known to be added to the register by Russian authorities.[89] Kallas dismissed the warrant as a "scare tactic" by Russia.[90]

Personal life[edit]

From 2002–2006, Kallas was married to Roomet Leiger. She lived together with former Estonian politician and businessman Taavi Veskimägi (the country's minister of finance in 2003–2005). Kallas and Veskimägi have one son; they separated in 2014. In 2018, she married Arvo Hallik, a banker and investor. Hallik has two children from a previous relationship.[91][92][93]

Apart from her native Estonian, Kallas is fluent in English, Russian and French.[94]

Awards and honours[edit]

Other activities[edit]

Since 2020, Kallas has been a member of the Board of Trustees of the Friends of Europe.[98] Additionally, she is a member of the European Council on Foreign Relations,[99] an advisory board member of the Women Economic Forum,[100] and a patron of the Model European Union Tallinn.[101][non-primary source needed] She is also a mentor of the European Liberal Youth, a member of the European Young Leaders, a MEP ambassor of Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs, a member of the MEP Library Lovers Group, a political member of the European Internet Forum, a member of the extended board of the European Forum for Renewable Energy Sources, a member of the Global Young Leaders, a member of the Women Political Leaders, and a MEP ambassador of the European Entrepreneurship Education Network.[102]


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  101. ^ "Model European Union Tallinn". Retrieved 26 January 2021 – via Facebook.
  102. ^ "Organisatsioonid". Kaja Kallas. Retrieved 26 January 2021.

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by Leader of the Reform Party
Political offices
Preceded by Prime Minister of Estonia