Kersti Kaljulaid

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Kersti Kaljulaid
Kaljulaid in 2018
President of Estonia
In office
10 October 2016 – 11 October 2021
Prime MinisterTaavi Rõivas
Jüri Ratas
Kaja Kallas
Preceded byToomas Hendrik Ilves
Succeeded byAlar Karis
Member of the European Court of Auditors
In office
7 May 2004 – 30 September 2016
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byJuhan Parts
Personal details
Born (1969-12-30) 30 December 1969 (age 53)
Tartu, Estonia
Political partyIndependent
Other political
Pro Patria Union
(m. 2011)
RelativesRaimond Kaljulaid (half-brother)
Alma materUniversity of Tartu
Kersti Kaljulaid at the Opinion Festival 2021 in Paide, Estonia

Kersti Kaljulaid (Estonian pronunciation: [ˈkersti ˈkɑljuˈlɑi̯d]; born 30 December 1969) is an Estonian politician who served as the fifth president of Estonia between 2016 and 2021, and was its first and only female head of state since the country declared independence in 1918. She was also the youngest president, aged 46 at the time of her election.[1]

Kaljulaid, a state official who at the time served as Estonia's representative in the European Court of Auditors,[2] entered the 2016 Estonian presidential election race in the sixth round after five previous unsuccessful rounds. She was nominated on 30 September 2016 by the majority of parliamentary parties as a joint candidate for president, and the only official candidate for the sixth round. Kaljulaid was voted president on 3 October 2016, with 81 votes and 17 abstentions.[3][4]

Early life and education[edit]

In 1987, Kaljulaid graduated from Tallinn Secondary School no. 44.[5] During her studies there, she was a member of the Students' Scientific Association, specializing in ornithology.[6] In 1992, she graduated from University of Tartu cum laude as a biologist. She is a member of Estonian female student corporation, Filiae Patriae. In 2001, she graduated from the University of Tartu with an MBA in business management.[7] Her thesis was titled as "Riigi poolt asutatud sihtasutuste juhtimissüsteemi täiustamine" or "The improvement of the management system of state-founded foundations" in English.[8]

University of Tartu Council seminar in 2015.


Business career[edit]

From 1996 to 1997 Kaljulaid was a sales manager in state-owned telecom Eesti Telefon and from 1997 to 1998 a project manager in Hoiupanga Investeeringute AS. From 1998 to 1999 she was employed in Hansabank's investment banking division Hansabank Markets.[8][2] From 1999 to 2002, Kaljulaid worked as the economic advisor of Estonian Prime Minister Mart Laar.[2] From 2002 to 2004, she was the director of Iru Power Plant, a subsidiary of the state-owned energy company Eesti Energia.[9] She was the first woman to lead a power plant in Estonia.[1]

In 2004, when Estonia joined the European Union, Kaljulaid was appointed the country's representative at the European Court of Auditors.[1] Since 2011, Kaljulaid has been the chairperson of the board of the University of Tartu.[10]

Political career[edit]

Kaljulaid, her husband Georgi-Rene Maksimovski, outgoing President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, and his wife Ieva Ilves at Kaljulaid's inauguration, Kadriorg Palace, Tallinn, 10 October 2016

Kaljulaid has defined herself as a liberal conservative.[11] She has spoken in support of strong civil society with less state interference, whilst placing high importance on helping those in need.[1][12] She holds liberal views on social issues such as LGBT rights and immigration.[1] She has often published opinion pieces in Estonian media, considering the position of Estonia in the European Union and on social and economical matters. Additionally, she has been a regular participant in political analysis programmes of Radio Kuku, e.g. "Keskpäevatund".[13]

From 2001 to 2004, Kaljulaid was a member of the political party Pro Patria Union, a predecessor of the current Pro Patria and Res Publica Union,[14] yet did not run in the elections.[2]

As Kaljulaid's term as a member of the European Court of Auditors was due to end on 7 May 2016, she was confirmed as the next head of PRAXIS Center for Policy Studies in November 2015. Although the Estonian government should have proposed her replacement in the court by 7 February 2016, it still had not managed to do so by the end of her term, so she remained in the position.[15][16][17]

On 19 September 2016, the freshly founded Development Monitoring Advisory Board at the chancellery of Estonian Parliament voted Kaljulaid to be its chair.[18]

Kaljulaid with Mike Pence in July 2017
Kaljulaid in 2018
Kaljulaid and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, 18 April 2019

President of Estonia[edit]

After several failed attempts to elect a new president in August and September 2016, a so-called "council of elders" of the Riigikogu, comprising the speaker, vice-speakers, and leaders of most parliamentary parties, asked Kaljulaid if she would be willing to stand for president. With her consent, the "council of elders" proposed her as the only potential presidential candidate to be put before the members of the Riigikogu on 3 October 2016. Her candidacy was officially registered on 30 September.[19] Riigikogu Speaker Eiki Nestor said that Kaljulaid undoubtedly had the required 68 votes from the 101-member Riigikogu, but the exact number remained to be seen.[20] Ultimately her candidacy was supported by 90 Riigikogu MPs.[21] She won the elections by 81 votes with 17 abstainers and no votes against her;[3] the parliamentary party that had publicly declared not to support her was EKRE which had only 7 votes.[22]

Under the Constitution, the president is a ceremonial figure without even nominal executive power; the Constitution explicitly vests executive power in the Government. Nonetheless, Kaljulaid's election was seen as historic, as she was the first female head of state in the country's history.

The main objection raised repeatedly during her candidacy by media as well as politicians and street polls was her being relatively unknown, compared to the candidates that had participated in the campaign.[23][24][25] She confronted the objection in her public letter and during several interviews by promising to become visible across the country, visiting different areas and talking to the people directly.[26] In mid-October 2016, the first conducted survey showed Kaljulaid's approval rating at 73%.[27]

In 2020, the Estonian government nominated Kaljulaid as its candidate to succeed Angel Gurría in the position of Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) for a five-year term.[28] In January 2021, Kaljulaid announced that she had withdrawn her candidacy, citing consultations that led her to believe that accepting the position at the end of her first term as president amidst the COVID-19 pandemic in Estonia would "not be the best solution." She had just advanced to the second round of the interview process.[29]

On 21 January 2021, the opposition Social Democratic Party announced that they would support Kaljulaid should she run for a second term in the 2021 Estonian presidential election.[30] Had she been nominated by the government of Prime Minister Kaja Kallas as its presidential candidate in the election, this would have given her enough votes to be elected by the Riigikogu.[31] By June 2021, it was stated that the government had "cooled" on the prospective of Kaljulaid serving a second term as president, finding her too polarizing.[32] Nevertheless, Kaljulaid later confirmed that she would stand as a candidate for a second term in the election.[33] However, she did not receive enough endorsements from MPs to be eligible; the Constitution requires presidential candidates to be nominated by at least 21 MPs in order to stand.

Life after politics[edit]

In 2021, Kaljulaid served on the advisory panel for the World Bank's World Development Report.[34] Since 2022, she has been co-chairing – alongside Keith J. Krach – the nonpartisan Global Tech Security Commission to safeguard freedom from technological authoritarianism, which was jointly established by the Atlantic Council and the Krach Institute for Tech Diplomacy at Purdue University.[35]

In 2023, United Nations Secretary General António Guterres appointed Kaljulaid as co-chair of the United Nations High-Level Panel on the Teaching Profession, alongside Paula-Mae Weekes.[36]

Other activities[edit]

Corporate boards[edit]

  • Alexela, Member of the Supervisory Board (since 2023)[37]

Non-profit organizations[edit]


In 2017, Kaljulaid became the first Estonian to be featured in the Forbes magazine's list of The World's 100 Most Powerful Women, placed at 78th,[45][46] and came twenty second among the most influential female political leaders.[47]


National honours[edit]

Foreign honours[edit]


  • In 2009, European Movement Estonia awarded Kaljulaid with the European of the Year title.[55]
  • In 2014, the Open Estonia Foundation awarded her the Award of Unity for her analyses and comments explaining the function of European Union for Estonian audiences.[56]
  • In 2020, the Estonian LGBT Association awarded her the Rainbow Hero Award (vikerkaarekangelase auhind), for her public support of the gay community in Estonia.[57]

Personal life[edit]

Kaljulaid has a daughter and a son from her first marriage. She is also a grandmother of three.[58][59] Kaljulaid's second husband is Georgi-Rene Maksimovski; they have two sons.[60][61] Kaljulaid's half-brother, Raimond Kaljulaid, is a politician and member of parliament. [62][63]

Besides Estonian, Kaljulaid is fluent in English, Finnish, French and to a certain extent, Russian.[64][65]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Former European auditor Kersti Kaljulaid elected president of Estonia Estonian World, 2 October 2016. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d Kes on Kersti Kaljulaid? Archived 1 October 2016 at the Wayback Machine Postimees, 27 September 2016 (in Estonian). Retrieved 30 September 2016.
  3. ^ a b Kersti Kaljulaid sai 81 häälega uueks Eesti presidendiks ERR, 3 October 2016 (in Estonian). Retrieved 3 October 2016
  4. ^ "Estonia's parliament elects country's first female president". Reuters. 3 October 2016. Retrieved 6 October 2016.
  5. ^ Tallinna Mustamäe Gümnaasiumi vilistlased (in Estonian). Retrieved 30 September 2016.
  6. ^ Kaljulaid, K. (1986) Vainurästa (Turdus ilacius) pesitsusbioloogiast Eestis. In: Eesti NSV Õpilaste Teadusliku Ühingu VI teaduskonverentsi teesid, Tallinn, p. 24 (in Estonian)
  7. ^ "Kersti Kaljulaid – elu Euroopas, kodu Eestis – Elustiil,". Archived from the original on 3 October 2016. Retrieved 1 August 2022.
  8. ^ a b Kersti Kaljulaid. "The improvement of the management system of state-founded foundations" in ETIS, the Database of Estonian Science (in Estonian) Accessed on 30 September 2016.
  9. ^ ETIS (in Estonian)
  10. ^ Tartu Ülikooli nõukogu esimeheks sai Kersti Kaljulaid, University of Tartu's press release, 2011 (in Estonian). Retrieved 30 September 2016.
  11. ^ Otti Eylandt, Kersti Kaljulaid: inimestega tuleb rääkida – igal pool toimib Eesti Päevaleht, 29 September 2016 (in Estonian). Retrieved 30 September 2016.
  12. ^ Kersti Kaljulaid: pagulasküsimuses on vaja julgust nagu iseseisvuse taastamise ajal. Postimees, 9 September 2015 (in Estonian). Retrieved 3 August 2021.
  13. ^ Eurominutid. Postimees. Retrieved 28 September 2016.
  14. ^ Estonian Business Register[permanent dead link] (in Estonian)
  15. ^ Praxist valiti juhtima Kersti Kaljulaid UT, November 2015 (in Estonian). Retrieved 30 September 2016.
  16. ^ Kersti Kaljulaiu ametiaeg Euroopa Kontrollikojas lõppes, kuid ta jääb valitsuse otsustamatuse tõttu ametisse ega saa asuda Praxise juhiks Delfi, 6 May 2016 (in Estonian). Retrieved 30 September 2016.
  17. ^ Kaljulaid: viivitus teeb kontrollikoja töö keerulisemaks, kuid tuleme toime Archived 1 October 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Postimees, 29 April 2016 (in Estonian). Retrieved 30 September 2016.
  18. ^ Arenguseire nõukoja esimeheks valiti Kersti Kaljulaid Estonian National Broadcasting (ERR), 19 June 2016 (in Estonian). Retrieved 30 September 2016.
  19. ^ "FOTOD ja VIDEO | Vanematekogu tegi ettepaneku esitada presidendikandidaadiks Kersti Kaljulaid" Estonian National Broadcasting (ERR), 27 September 2016 (in Estonian). Retrieved 30 September 2016.
  20. ^ Estonia: Parlt parties voice support of Kaljulaid's candidacy The Baltic Times, 28 September 2016. Retrieved 30 September 2016.
  21. ^ В поддержку кандидатуры Керсти Кальюлайд было собрано 90 подписей. Postimees, 30 September 2016 (in Russian). Retrieved 30 September 2016.
  22. ^ EKRE ei ole muutnud Kaljulaidi suhtes meelt ja oma hääli talle ei anna Archived 5 October 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Postimees, 3 October 2016 (in Estonian). Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  23. ^ DELFI TÄNAVAKÜSITLUS: Kui tuntud on Kersti Kaljulaid rahva seas? Delfi, 27 September 2016 (in Estonian). Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  24. ^ Kaljulaiust: rahvale tundmatu inimene, kelle nimegagi eksitakse. Postimees, 28 September 2015 (in Estonian). Retrieved 11 August 2016.
  25. ^ JANEK MÄGGI: Eestile otsiti presidenti justkui personalifirma kaudu Pealinn, 3 October 2015 (in Estonian). Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  26. ^ Kersti Kaljulaid: minu kiri kõigile Eestimaa inimestele Archived 5 October 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Postimees, 29 September 2015 (in Estonian). Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  27. ^ "New Estonian president's approval rating at 73%". ERR. 21 October 2016. Retrieved 21 October 2016.
  28. ^ OECD announces candidates for next Secretary-General Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), press release of November 2, 2020.
  29. ^ "Kersti Kaljulaid withdraws OECD candidacy". Eesti Rahvusringhääling. 26 January 2021.
  30. ^ "SDE would support Kaljulaid for second presidential term". Eesti Rahvusringhääling. 21 January 2021.
  31. ^ "Center not in rush to support Kaljulaid for second term". Eesti Rahvusringhääling. 28 January 2021.
  32. ^ "Speaker calls Riigikogu presidential election session for August 30". Eesti Rahvusringhääling. 14 June 2021.
  33. ^ "Parties still searching for potential presidential candidates". Eesti Rahvusringhääling. 2 July 2021.
  34. ^ WDR 2021 World Bank.
  35. ^ Atlantic Council and Krach Institute for Tech Diplomacy at Purdue Launch Global Tech Security Commission Atlantic Council, press release of 26 May 2022.
  36. ^ United Nations Establishes Teaching Profession High-Level Panel to Build on Outcomes of Transforming Education Summit United Nations, press release of 19 June 2023.
  37. ^ Former President of Estonia becomes a member of an energy giant's supervisory board Alexela, press release of 12 April 2023.
  38. ^ Advisory Council Munich Security Conference.
  39. ^ International Advisory Board Atlantic Council.
  40. ^ Advisory Board Centre for European Reform (CER).
  41. ^ Members Council of Women World Leaders.
  42. ^ Members European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR).
  43. ^ International Advisory Council GLOBSEC.
  44. ^ Board Yalta European Strategy (YES).
  45. ^ "President first Estonian to make it to Forbes' World's 100 Most Powerful Women list". Retrieved 28 January 2018.
  46. ^ "President Kaljulaid among Forbes' 100 most powerful women". Estonian World. 1 November 2017. Retrieved 28 January 2018.
  47. ^ Howard, Caroline. "Women Who Rule the World: The 25 Most Powerful Female Political Leaders 2017". Forbes. Retrieved 28 January 2018.
  48. ^ "Vabariigi President". Retrieved 28 January 2021.
  49. ^ "Suomen Valkoisen Ruusun ritarikunnan suurristin ketjuineen ulkomaalaiset saajat". Archived from the original on 4 September 2019. Retrieved 14 April 2019.
  50. ^ "Speech: Order of Merit to former President of Estonia Kersti Kaljulaid". Der Bundespräsident. 15 March 2023. Retrieved 16 March 2023.
  51. ^ "Artikel: Besuch in Estland und beim Bundeswehrkontingent". Der Bundespräsident (in German). Retrieved 16 March 2023.
  52. ^ "Le onorificenze della Repubblica Italiana". Retrieved 28 January 2021.
  53. ^ "Par Triju Zvaigžņu ordeņa piešķiršanu – Latvijas Vēstnesis". Retrieved 28 January 2021.
  54. ^ "УКАЗ ПРЕЗИДЕНТА УКРАЇНИ №392/2021". Офіційне інтернет-представництво Президента України (in Ukrainian). Retrieved 24 August 2021.
  55. ^ Aasta eurooplaseks valiti Kersti Kaljulaid Archived 1 October 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Postimees, 9 May 2009 (in Estonian). Retrieved 30 September 2016.
  56. ^ The Unity Award Archived 31 March 2019 at the Wayback Machine, Open Estonian Foundation (in Estonian). Retrieved 30 September 2016.
  57. ^ LGBT+ kogukonna eest seisjad pälvisid vikerkaarekangelase auhinna Retrieved 13 July 2020.
  58. ^ Kersti Kaljulaid ujub presidendiakvaariumis üksinda: nad on kõik mu seljataga olemas, mu perekond Delfi, 28 September 2016 (in Estonian). Retrieved 30 September 2016.
  59. ^ ERR, ERR | (10 May 2020). "Kersti Kaljulaid: I am a relatively useless grandmother". ERR. Retrieved 21 May 2021.
  60. ^ Kes on Kersti Kaljulaiu salapärane abikaasa Georgi-Rene Maksimovski? Õhtuleht, 29 September 2016 (in Estonian). Retrieved 30 September 2016.
  61. ^ TTÜ lõpetajad 1918–2006, Tallinn Technical University (in Estonian). Retrieved 30 September 2016.
  62. ^ "Prosecutor ends criminal proceeding concerning Raimond Kaljulaid"., 10 May 2016. Retrieved 18 October 2016.
  63. ^ Ühe perekonna tähtis nädal: Eesti uueks presidendiks võib saada äsja abielu lahutanud Raimond Kaljulaiu poolõde. Delfi, 27 September 2016 (in Estonian). Retrieved 30 September 2016.
  64. ^ "Biography". Vabariigi Presidendi Kantselei. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
  65. ^ "New President Of Estonia Doesn't Mind to Speak Russian".

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by President of Estonia
Succeeded by