Kersti Kaljulaid ( born 30 December 1969) is an Estonian politician who is the fifth and current president of Estonia, in office since 10 October 2016. She is the first female head of state of Estonia since the country declared independence in 1918, as well as the youngest president, age 46 at the time of her election. Kaljulaid is a former state official, serving as Estonia's representative in the European Court of Auditors from 2004 until 2016. After several unsuccessful rounds of Estonian presidential elections in 2016, Kaljulaid was nominated on 30 September 2016 by the majority of parliamentary parties as a joint candidate for president, as the only official candidate for that round. Kaljulaid was voted president on 3 October 2016, with 81 votes and 17 abstentions.
Early life and education
In 1987, Kaljulaid graduated from Tallinn Secondary School no. 44. During her studies there, she was a member of the Students' Scientific Association, specializing in ornithology. 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.Her thesis was titled as "Riigi poolt asutatud sihtasutuste juhtimissüsteemi täiustamine" or "The improvement of the management system of state-founded foundations" in English.
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. From 1999 to 2002, Kaljulaid worked as the economic advisor of Estonian Prime Minister Mart Laar. From 2002 to 2004, she was the director of Iru Power Plant, a subsidiary of the state-owned energy company Eesti Energia. She was the first woman to lead a power plant in Estonia. In 2004, when Estonia joined the European Union, Kaljulaid was appointed the country's representative at the European Court of Auditors. Since 2011, Kaljulaid has been the chairperson of the board of the University of Tartu.
Kaljulaid has defined herself as a liberal conservative. She has spoken in support of strong civil society with less state interference, whilst placing high importance on helping those in need. She holds liberal views on social issues such as LGBT rights and immigration. 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". 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, yet did not run in the elections. 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. On 19 September 2016, the freshly founded Development Monitoring Advisory Board at the chancellery of Estonian Parliament voted Kaljulaid to be its chair After several failed rounds in the Estonian presidential elections in August through September 2016, a so-called "council of elders" of the Riigikogu, which included the representatives of all parliamentary parties, the speaker and vice-speakers, asked for Kaljulaid's consent and then 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. 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. Ultimately her candidacy was supported by 90 Riigikogu MPs. She won the elections by 81 votes with 17 abstainers and no votes against her, while the only parliamentary party that had publicly declared not to support her was EKRE which had only 7 votes. 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. 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. In mid-October 2016, the first conducted survey showed Kaljulaid's approval rating at 73%. 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. 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. 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. If she is proposed by the incumbent government as their presidential candidate in the election, this would give her enough votes to be elected by the Riigikogu. The government has not yet indicated if they will support Kaljulaid for a second term.By June 2021, it was stated that the government had "cooled" on the prospective of Kaljulaid serving a second term as president, due to her divisiveness in Estonian society. Nevertheless, Kaljulaid later confirmed that she would stand as a candidate for a second term in the election.
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,and came twenty second among the most influential female political leaders.
Kaljulaid has a daughter and a son from her first marriage. She is also a grandmother of three.Kaljulaid's second husband is Georgi-Rene Maksimovski; they have two sons. Kaljulaid's half-brother, Estonian Social Democratic Party politician Raimond Kaljulaid, served as the Elder of Põhja-Tallinn district from 2016 to 2019, and was later elected to the Riigikogu in 2019.
President Kersti Kaljulaid of Estonia - Global Advocate for Every Woman Every Child
The health and well-being of women, children and adolescents is central to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Yet today, women and children are bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 crisis and are disproportionately impacted by growing conflicts, rising social inequality, and vulnerabilities wrought by climate change. In this complex global environment, putting the most vulnerable at the forefront of the development agenda is critical if we are to build the peaceful, sustainable and inclusive societies we have promised to achieve through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To achieve these goals, the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres is appointing today a new Global Advocate for Every Woman Every Child, H.E. Ms. Kersti Kaljulaid, the President of the Republic of Estonia. H.E. Kaljulaid is a former Co-Chair of the High-level Steering Group for Every Woman Every Child. This is a first-of-its-kind appointment to raise global awareness, inspire greater ambition, and push for faster cross-sectoral action on the Every Woman Every Child Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health. “In a time of complex development challenges, the investments we make today in women’s, children’s and adolescents’ health and well-being will help build the peaceful, sustainable and inclusive societies we have promised to achieve through the Sustainable Development Goals,” said the UN Secretary-General. President Kaljulaid of Estonia embodies the mission of Every Woman Every Child. She has been a champion for multilateralism and addressing inequality through leveraging technology as an ‘equalizer of opportunity’ to reach those left furthest behind. “Improving the wellbeing of the most vulnerable – women, children and adolescents – and their access to healthcare is amongst the biggest challenges we are facing in the following decades. The COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated existing inequities, with severe disruptions in essential health interventions disproportionately impacting the most vulnerable women and children around the world and risks reversing decades of progress for women’s and children’s health. We need to work together – states, agencies, NGOs, every individual – with a strategic view and a focused plan, and use every means to deliver our message, mobilize new supporters and advocates, and help those in need,” said President Kaljulaid of Estonia. The Secretary-General’s Global Advocate for Every Woman Every Child will use her unique platform and leadership to inspire and mobilize the global community and deliver an annual progress report on women’s, children’s and adolescent health and well-being. The Secretary-General has entrusted the Global Advocate with driving action, building ambition, and accelerating progress towards women’s and children’s health during the Decade of Action.
Estonian President: “We Can Never Let Go” in the Battle for Gender Equality
“Progress has been made thanks to these women who have never shut up, who will never shut up,” said the President of Estonia, Kersti Kaljulaid, speaking to a roundtable of 18 female diplomats at IPI. More than one year into the Secretary-General’s gender parity strategy, the ratio of female to male diplomats at the United Nations has increased. But while the number of women in multilateral leadership positions is improving, serious barriers to their full participation in this arena remain. Progress towards gender equality and these remaining barriers were the focus of a March 11th IPI event, co-hosted with the Permanent Mission of Estonia to the UN, and entitled “Women in Diplomacy: Creating Transformative Change.” To introduce the discussion, President Kaljulaid recalled that 15 years ago, 20 percent of Estonian heads of mission were women. This number has now increased to 40 percent. In spite of the obstacles to equality, she insisted, “we can never let go” in the battle for gender equality. She also noted that freedom of the press had allowed women to actively and publicly demand equality, in turn propelling more Estonian women into politics and high-level posts. María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, the President of the UN General Assembly, recalled the enormous changes she had witnessed in her career. When she was appointed minister of foreign affairs of Ecuador, she said that out of 85 ambassadors, there were only three women. These women often were not permitted on missions, because they had families, she explained. The government, in response, passed ministerial codes that allowed for the promotion of women diplomats into higher positions within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, taking action to eliminate references to the physical appearance or marital status of applicants, and basing selection process exclusively on professional and academic profile. “It is important that everything is put into writing so it stays part of cultural and institutional architecture,” she said, reflecting on a time when women with sufficient experience and training were not given opportunity because they were expected to take care of children. In 2018, the Foreign Ministry presented a written “Policy for Gender Equality” to promote gender equity in diplomacy. Ms. Espinosa Garcés addressed a number of ways in which women are currently represented in the multilateral community. She highlighted the disparity among key figures, including that out of 21 vice presidents of the General Assembly, only one is female, and one out of six chairs of committees is a woman. She shared some of the ways she strives for gender equality in her own work, including by objecting when offered a place on panels solely made up of men, and by making sure that 60% of the UN facilitators she appoints are female. “It’s not only about optics and form and numbers, it is about making a difference in the way we exercise leadership,” she said. “We have a lot to do to break stereotypes to share the message” that women’s participation makes a positive difference in decision-making. Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed urged the women at the table to continue sharing their personal experiences. Drawing insights from their own careers, she said, could help support younger generations in achieving more effective solutions. “Things are changing,” she continued, “the intergenerational transition is difficult.” Exchanging strategies for catalyzing change within networks of women leaders could, she indicated, “give the next generation the tools to deal with it.” As international civil servants, women in diplomacy have a “huge job to do from the inside out” to achieve gender parity in the workplace, said Ambassador Mohammed. And to do it, “We need to have women in decision-making roles in the Secretariat.” It is also “incredibly important that men are seen as partners and collaborators” in this process, she said. She concluded, “I think women in positions of leadership will help us get much further than we’ve ever been.”
President Kaljulaid: We all want a country in which we all fare well
In her Independence Day address at the festive assembly at Estonia Theatre in Tallinn marking the 101st anniversary of the Republic of Estonia, President Kersti Kaljulaid addressed ongoing concerns that still exist in the country, but also highlighted various achievements and progress made, and called on Estonians to care for one another and the country. ERR News has reproduced Ms Kaljulaid's speech in full. My dear Estonians! Happy Independence Day! 100 years ago in the winter, our War of Independence was sweeping across Estonia. Snow fell, a cold snow fell. — Why are bright lights driving there, thick feathery snowflakes suspended in air? — The crowd was silent, the cheerful crowd silent. Did you say the trucks come from the railroad, bringing bloodied soldiers from the railroad, young men, young women? Hendrik Visnapuu's poem speaks of city dwellers' merry path going either to or from the opera intersecting with those, whose duty it was to fight our War of Independence. Snow fell, a white snow fell. A resolute notion grappled within. A wordless cry among the din, heard by the hour, heard by the night-time hour. Pain in their step from the opera home, amid white snow falling they went home, young men, young women. A world of contrasts. There wasn't only war in Estonia 100 years ago. Did it weigh heavily upon those cheerful operagoers? Did what they'd just seen weigh heavily upon them for a very long time? I suppose it's only natural that it probably didn't particularly. As if to commemorate the War of Independence 100 years later, we've been given a brighter and lighter winter again for the first time in quite a while. But somewhere, there are still shadows. In those shadows are Estonians who must manage to get by with sick loved ones. Women and children suffering from domestic abuse. But there are also young singers, and female and male television hosts alike who admit that online harassment has brought them to tears, caused depression, and affected their ability to handle their jobs.
February 24 broadcasts to include visually and hearing impaired versions Illnesses are inevitable. Being left without assistance in life's difficult moments is not inevitable. That just does not happen in a caring country. Arguments are inevitable. They do not have to end in physical or psychological violence. And, in an observant society, they don't. Criticism is necessary. How else is one to improve? But degradation is not criticism. Insults with undertones that strike below the belt are degrading to all women who wish to have a say in life in Estonia. It's unfortunate that the internet is full of violence in our native language that is directed against all who wish to do something. First, there comes confusion, because the world is changing around us. That makes us angry. Then come insults, which used to be more anonymous. Now, they are posted proudly on social media under one's own face and name, but are also replicated by fake accounts, which even further facilitates us ripping ourselves, our very own society, apart. Persistent public abuse and figurative violence rapidly break down the barriers that restrain us from lifting a hand against our fellow person. Our society certainly cannot be made safer that way in real life, either. Angry words may lead to acts that shake society. Everyday violence doesn't shake us, unfortunately, even though it still exists and shows no sign of decline. It's unfortunate. We should be speaking about those for whom life is inevitably hard, not creating more of those whose lives are hard but could be easy. Illnesses, accidents, and dealing with their consequences are an inevitability. However, the unwillingness to provide enough help to those whose whole life is a struggle is not an inevitability.
Eighth Friends International event brings together global Estonia allies All of us, even those who express their dissatisfaction through malice, are actually joined together by the exact same desire: to create a country in which we all fare well. A welfare state in the literal sense. Much left to be done There is so much still to be achieved. Hearing about the struggles of those who are left without assistance, we often must ask ourselves: are the values we support with our words still important to us when value-based behaviour is costly for society? Topics surrounding the protection of human dignity are not absent from political agendas and debates. Nor were they absent four years ago. To put it simply, they were somehow no longer as important afterward, once the elections were over. As a state that offers universal forms of assistance and free services to all its residents, Estonia is a leader even among wealthy nations. Nevertheless, these types of proposals multiply with every election cycle. Such promises cannot be left unfulfilled after an election; it would be too conspicuously embarrassing. They can only be abandoned later as the consequence of a severe economic crisis, which I doubt any of us dreams of. No state has the means to provide everything for free to everyone. Even so, we are spending more and more money on precisely that. There is a danger that after these upcoming elections as well, the first things we discuss will not be caregiving, help for abused children, the support system for disabled children, welfare for persons on the autism spectrum, or providing a dignified and, within the realm of possibility, happy life for those in their final days. After elections, we've usually been quick to forget that many municipalities still lack either the will or the wisdom to understand: a municipality is obligated above all to uphold the human dignity of its residents. We do, in words, wish to offer families a support system that ensures the rest of their lives will not be ruined if someone requires constant home care, but in reality, we still do very little. Here among the guests in this auditorium today are also caregivers, employees of children's houses, assistants of persons with autism, teachers and educators of disabled children, social and youth workers, and operators of women's shelters: many of those who would like their worries to not be resting on society's back burner all the time. Yes, something positive does happen on the back burner every day and increasingly more often, because a rising tide lifts all boats. Still, their vessels do not rise evenly, but in fact only when others find the time outside of their own rosier lives. My dear politicians, please take a look at your agendas of four years ago. And after you do, today, look into the eyes of those who are truly accomplishing things in those difficult fields in spite of a lack of greater understanding and care. It is a shame to set attractive undertakings aside, but there is simply no justification for failing to address people's real worries. We all have only one life to live, and all of our days go by at the same speed. All our days are of equal value.
Gallery: Independence Day military parade held at Freedom Square This issue cannot be dismissed over budgetary resources, because our economy is growing briskly at the present. Businesses are making ends meet and adjusting surprisingly well to changes such as rising salaries and labour shortages, which have emerged a result of growth itself. Since half of salaried workers already earn over €1,000 per month, it is clear that to stimulate Estonia's economy, the ABCs of a developing state are no longer enough: low taxes, a well-educated populace that nevertheless constitutes a relatively cheap workforce, and a place in a large free-trade region. Maintaining an entrepreneurial environment is still crucial, as are free-trade ties with the world. But we must act much more cleverly at home: no one is coming to build factories in our backyard anymore. There are much cheaper places elsewhere for that. What's more, the Estonian public puts forth very steep requirements for setting up industrial enterprises. Our companies, both startups and classical production firms that set up factories elsewhere, have shown us that a small economy can be made bigger. The ideas our companies are developing provide jobs to more and more people around the world. There is a great deal of groundwork to be done at home to make sure our globally-minded entrepreneurial eagles do not fly off for good. We must create a cosy and caring society, the likes of which few other countries are capable of providing. A supportive state, not a mean one.
Archbishop Viilma: Voting an act of love for one's country There are enough mean states around the world already. None of them have managed to accomplish what we have, my dear Estonian people. Estonia has seen very unique and rapid economic development over the last 27 years. The basis for our advancement has been an openness to the world and new ideas, a readiness to participate in international cooperation, and an ability to stand up for our own needs while at the same time understanding the worries of others. Estonia and the rest of the world Estonia has the resolve to consistently take a firm stand for others. For example, Georgia and Ukraine made one wrong choice after another in the 90s, most of all underestimating the importance of the rule of law in fostering development. Still, there's no point in saying: it's your own fault. Every nation deserves better. Additionally, keeping the nations that are shackled to the past by Russia today within international dialogues means the continued reinforcement of our own security. All of our partners and NATO allies are more focused on our collective defence capability than ever before. The armies of European states must become stronger, defence cooperation between NATO and the European Union must tighten, and our willingness to accept its unavoidable expense must also strengthen. Of course, everything would be much better if European states were able to agree to each put that 2% of GDP toward the green economy, for example, instead of towards ensuring the readiness of green machines. But we cannot. We must account for the fact that there will always be countries that do not pursue peaceful coexistence. Yes, they may do so in words. But their method is simple: the strongest takes all.
Galleries: Estonian Independence Day begins with flag-raising ceremonies On a global scale, Estonia seems much bigger than its 1.3 million people. Estonian soldiers work as peacekeepers in Mali; they help to ensure civil security on training and military policing missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. The dangerous work Estonia's men and women perform on their missions is of incalculable value. Yet, it is not only with weapons that Estonia is made bigger far from home. It is also with words: meetings, hallway discussions, and assisting other nations through humanitarian cooperation. Estonia's diplomats go to great pains to tell our story with the aim of developing international ties: something done with rather limited resources. It's done during international summits at the expense of sleep and mealtimes, because we are so few. Estonia's campaign for a seat on the UN Security Council has brought us friends and visibility, helping us find like-minded countries even in places where we wouldn't have thought to look. Our notability has increased exponentially around the world. Estonia has become a well-known story. It is a country that has applied innovative solutions in the public sector like no one else; that has established a fantastic business environment, which produces unicorns; that has set up an education system, which feeds unicorns. Today, the story of Estonia is an example and a source of hope for many. Of course, it would not be possible for our diplomats to tell this story if the whole country had not been writing it together for 30 years. It is our story, my dear Estonians, and it resounds proudly and memorably.
In Independence Day address, Ratas encourages listening, common ground This story is simultaneously the source of our security and our prosperity. Positive renown is an important means for boosting security. Unfortunately, states' and nations' reactions to adverse developments always depends on how close they feel to whomever is in peril. You know a friend in need. Yet, friendships must be forged when everything is fine; when you have the time and the strength to do so. Estonian businesses have also begun to peer ever more boldly into the distant corners of the world. We can see that Estonia's story truly supports Estonian businesses. Every contract for developing e-services or manufacturing wooden buildings that is signed somewhere far away means growth for Estonian companies, the likes of which is becoming more and more difficult to achieve with things that are made and produced here at home. We are short on workers, and an ever-increasing part of the global market has lower purchasing power than our own. It's much easier for companies to sign every one of these contracts if the enterprise's homeland has a positive story that underpins its own credibility. The magnitude of Estonia's story is sometimes even shocking: are we really that good? But looking around the world with wide-opened eyes, we must admit that we are, indeed. We have, at long last, accomplished the dream that was created with our War of Independence. The Estonian people has remembered the sacrifice of the fallen and has built a strong state upon what they founded. Our country is no longer poor. Our country is no longer alone. We are part of a pattern of treaties and relationships between independent states. We fit into that pattern while at the same time being distinct and outstanding.
Gallery: President honours over 100 people with state awards This is the type of place in the world that will protect us and our future. It has been earned through diligent work in the European Union, NATO, and the UN. Over the last few years, we have witnessed some countries manage to significantly weaken their place in the pattern of international relations by being sloppy. May we maintain enough political instinct to continue recognizing that the best way to protect our interests is at the table, not behind a door slammed shut. 100 years ago, in the maelstrom of the War of Independence, we were, for the most part, behind that very door we needed to get through. We didn't fully manage to do so before the Second World War. We did indeed win our War of Independence with the support of our former allies, but their support was neither stable nor systematic at the time. We lost our independence due to the carelessness of large states. Following the restoration of that independence, the path from behind the door to the table began all over again. The start to that path was arduous, though Lennart Meri, wearing his elegant white suit and his confident smile as he strode before us, did not let it show. Doors were opened with seeming ease by that man, who would have turned 90 this year. Today, we are more behind the table than ever before. Negotiations are not held over us — we hold the negotiations. Elections and Estonia's future This winter, all of Estonia's political parties have presented to us their ideas for the country's future. It has been an important discussion and thanks to our electoral system, the outcome will be a consensus born of competition between the best ideas. No one in this country can ever decide anything solely on their own, and that is a positive thing. One ideology, one view, even if it seems absolutely right at the moment, is always too narrow to weather the changes in the surrounding world that history wheels before us. We are all connected by a dream of a better Estonia. We all have good ideas for how to achieve it. And although it may sometimes seem like politicians aren't coming up with good ideas at all, each and every one of us must nevertheless determine which of them corresponds the most to our expectations. If you leave your vote uncast, then your dreams will most certainly not be included in our next government's coalition agreement. I am cautiously pleased that a fair amount of time has been dedicated to social issues in our political debates. I am likewise pleased, and still just as cautiously, that this year, which is dedicated to celebrating the Estonian language, a common opinion on the future of Estonian schools is finally taking shape. There are certainly disagreements over how to achieve it, but the overwhelming majority of our political parties want there to be single Estonian-language schools from now on, which no longer divide our people into two separate communities. Our Russian-speaking community is likewise more than ever prepared for this change. However, ahead of us lies a long and difficult path from intention to plan. It is, I might add, also a rather costly path. But we cannot forego the journey, because it leads to the protection of Estonia's independence, language, and culture, as well as to the creation of equal opportunities for all residents of Estonia. I am also very glad that nearly all of Estonia's political parties have realised that without adequate domestic support, it will be hard to continue successfully competing in the international field of science. Now is a busy time that looks forward towards the future. I hope that at this hour of fiscal opportunities and the balancing of promises given, an hour that will come when the winner of the elections begins assembling a new government in the bright sunshine of March, those shadows that presently do not allow Estonia to truly become the country of our dreams will be banished as well. Today is our dear Estonia's birthday. It is a day that belongs to all of us, and it ties together into a common future, into close companions, everyone whose heart it touches. May this sense of unity carry us through the budding spring, and through the complicated choices and negotiations, so that the coming four years may also bring true change for those who cannot keep pace themselves. May this sense of unity be borne into our everyday lives! It has been a bright and sunny winter, cold like in the days of the War of Independence. Global warming has nearly deprived us of winters like these. We cannot be sure we'll get them back even if we do wipe away the footprints of our economy, which still today pollutes more than the world average. But wipe them away we must. No one is given a second planet. Simply, I'd like for the children of Estonia to be able to leave little happy, confident paths in the pure white snow every coming winter for as far as the mind can reach. Let us care for Estonia!