Kaja Kallas: Estonia’s new figurehead at the head of EU diplomacy

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, chosen to be the voice of EU diplomacy, is a determined opponent of the Kremlin and a convinced European.

Having given resolute support to Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion in February 2022, she immediately stressed that “war in Europe” and “growing instability in our neighbourhood and in the world” were the main challenges of European foreign policy.

An uncompromising voice of Europe on the international stage


The daughter of former Estonian head of government and European Commissioner Siim Kallas, this lawyer by profession was born when Estonia was still an integral part of the Soviet Union.

Aged 47, she was first elected as an MEP in 2011 for the Reform Party, a liberal party founded by her father, before winning a seat in the European Parliament, appearing on several lists of the most influential MEPs.

She returned to the national political scene in 2018, taking over as leader of the Reform Party and becoming Estonia’s first female prime minister in 2021.

The Baltic country, which has a population of just 1.3 million, has become one of the most generous donors to Ukraine, with aid exceeding 1% of its GDP.

“If such aggression pays off in Ukraine, it can be an incentive to do the same elsewhere. We must completely discredit the tool of aggression,” the leader said in an interview with AFP in December 2023.

Kallas, who speaks fluent English, Russian and French in addition to her native Estonian, has openly expressed interest in replacing Norway’s Jens Stoltenberg as NATO chief.

Lawyer, politician and prominent figure in Estonia


Her combative attitude towards Russian President Vladimir Putin has earned her the support of several EU countries, including Poland, but has at one point hampered her ambitions, as she herself has acknowledged.

“The problem (for the Baltic States) is that next year it will be twenty years since we were members of these organisations, the EU and NATO, but we are not considered equal candidates for high-level positions,” she lamented at the end of 2023.

“And if I hear this argument that I am a provocation for Russia, then I retort that we are giving Russia too much power to dictate our decisions,” she added.

Sought after by Russia


And from this point of view, the one nicknamed “the Iron Lady” in Estonia has never feared provoking Moscow.

In a symbolic break with its past, the Estonian government led by Kallas has removed Soviet-era war memorials from public spaces, a process that accelerated after the invasion of Ukraine.

“When we regained our independence, we had many other things to worry about. When the war started, it reopened, in fact, all the wounds,” Kallas said.

This steadfastness earned her a wanted list from Moscow last February, ostensibly for “destroying monuments to Soviet soldiers.”

Kaja Kallas’s passions and commitments


Despite her popularity, she faced a crisis of confidence in 2023 after local media reported that a company partly owned by her husband continued to operate in Russia.

Rejecting calls to resign, Kallas was re-elected as leader of the Reform Party, her international image untarnished by the scandal.

The mother of one son, Kallas was a member of a folk dance ensemble in her youth that also performed abroad. As an adult, she complained that she never had enough time to dance.

This article is originally published on .geo.fr

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