What can we expect from Kaja Kallas in her role as the chief of EU diplomacy?

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas is regarded as one of the anti-Russian and pro-Ukrainian politicians who ran for the post of EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

And Kaja Kallas, if she receives the support of the European Parliament, will replace the Spaniard Josep Borrell as the chief of EU diplomacy.

Russia’s reaction

The news caused outrage in the Kremlin, where they declared the Estonian leader’s “rabid Russophobia” and complained about the lack of expectations for improved relations between Brussels and Moscow.

Russian Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov said that the prospects for relations between Moscow and Brussels are poor, following the approval of Kai Kallas as head of European diplomacy at the EU summit.

She is not only banned from entering Russia, as many democratic and pro-Ukrainian EU politicians are, but she is the first head of government to be officially put on Moscow’s wanted list.

Kaja Kallas’s father’s political career

Kaja Kallas’s father, Siim Kallas, played a central role in Estonia’s independence movement during the Soviet Union and was president of the country’s central bank. 

Siim Kallas was also Prime Minister of Estonia from 2002 to 2003 and European Commissioner from 2004 to 2014.

Kaja Kallas’ jobs in the EU

At the age of 33, Kallas, a lawyer, decided to enter politics, and a year later, she won an election to the Estonian parliament.

In 2014, the year of the annexation of Crimea and the beginning of the Russian-Ukrainian war, Kaja Kallas was elected to the European Parliament from the liberal Reform Party (founded by her father). 

She quickly became a leading European expert on new digital technologies and regulation, as well as EU-Ukraine relations there.

Estonia’s first female prime minister

Kallas returned to Tallinn in April 2018 after winning the Reform Party leadership race and became Estonia’s first female prime minister in January 2021, leading a coalition with the center-left Center Party.

Amid high levels of public support for Estonian government policies following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the prime minister’s ratings have risen to record levels.

Kallas became the first head of government to be included by the Russian authorities in the register of persons wanted by the Russian Interior Ministry on criminal charges.

In total, Kallas has led the Estonian government three times. Her government passed a bill to legalize same-sex marriage, making Estonia the first Baltic state and country to do so.

Estonia became the first EU country to allow Ukraine to use frozen Russian assets to compensate for losses.

Scandal with Kallas’ husband

However, not everything was going smoothly in Estonian domestic politics, and the Prime Minister’s popularity took a significant hit in the late summer of 2023 after the scandal with her husband, Arvo Hallik.

The Estonian media then revealed that her husband’s partially owned transportation company continued to transport cargo to Russia during the Russian war in Ukraine.

The country’s accumulated internal problems compounded this situation. That is why the transition to a prestigious European position looked like a promising option for her. Particularly, Kallas excelled in foreign policy up to this point.

What does Kallas’ selection for the EU diplomacy chief post mean?

Kaja Kallas’ selection as head of European diplomacy demonstrates the EU’s clear understanding that Russia is a long-term strategic threat and that Ukraine, now an open negotiation candidate, will remain in the community’s priorities for a long time.

Late on June 27, EU leaders agreed on a new EU leadership for the next five years. The EU leaders decided on three top jobs for the upcoming institutional cycle:

  • António Costa as President of the European Council
  • Ursula von der Leyen as candidate for President of the European Commission
  • Kaja Kallas to be the appropriate candidate for High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
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