Kaja Kallas: The EU's Tough New Foreign Policy Boss?

Kaja Kallas, the Estonian Prime Minister, is poised to become the EU's next foreign policy chief. Known for her tough stance on Russia, Kallas has led Estonia in supporting Ukraine while pushing through controversial domestic policies. Her potential appointment raises questions about her ability to represent the EU's diverse views.

Reuters | Updated: 18-06-2024 01:36 IST | Created: 18-06-2024 01:36 IST
Kaja Kallas: The EU's Tough New Foreign Policy Boss?
Kaja Kallas

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas is tipped to become the European Union's next foreign policy boss, but her tough stance on Russia may raise doubts as to whether she can represent views from across the bloc. EU leaders' informal talks on Monday, their first since the European Parliament election, focus on the appointments for the bloc's top jobs, with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen expected to secure a second term and EU diplomats saying Kallas is in line for the foreign affairs role.

Kallas, who turns 47 on Tuesday, has made her name as an eloquent critic of neighbouring Russia and its expansionist aims since she became Estonian prime minister in early 2021. An uncompromising voice in the EU and NATO for unconditional support to Kyiv and for containing Moscow, she led her country of 1.4 million people to become among the highest per-capita military donors to Ukraine.

Kallas has been wanted in Russia since February for her role in removing Soviet-era monuments in her country. Born in Tallinn, she is the great-granddaughter of the first Estonian chief of police as the newly independent country emerged from the Russian Empire after the First World War only to be absorbed into the Soviet Union in 1940.

Kallas' mother was only six months old when her family was forcibly relocated to Siberia in 1949 along with 20,000 other Estonians. "Russia hasn't changed," she said last year on marking an anniversary of her mother's exile. "This evil lives on in Russia."

Unassuming and open, Kallas is well regarded abroad, though not all of the bloc's countries share her dogged defiance of Russia. Above all, Hungary's Viktor Orban has maintained friendly ties with Moscow even after its invasion of Ukraine. However, her popularity at home suffered when local media revealed last year that her husband was involved in a business which continued its operations in Russia even as Kallas publicly criticised all who did so.

Her government also raised taxes shortly after the 2023 elections and legalised same-sex marriage, which almost half of the country opposes. Kallas is a second-generation politician.

Her father was the governor of the newly independent Estonia's central bank, established the liberal Reform Party in 1994, which he led for a decade, and served as Estonia's prime minister and later vice president of the European Commission led by Jose Manuel Barroso. In 2011, Kaja Kallas left a career as a partner at a major Tallinn law firm to run, successfully, for the Estonian and then European parliaments on a Reform Party ticket. After leading the Reform Party from 2018 she became Estonia's first female prime minister in 2021.

Kallas, known for her uncompromising drive in pushing through policies, has been accused of arrogance by some of her detractors. Kallas has no doubt her small country's security depends on Brussels.

"If Europe is united and strong, Estonia will also be strong," she told the Estonian parliament in 2022.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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