Prime minister to Vogue: Many of my predecessors didn't face a crisis

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas talking to the domestic media in Estonia.
Prime Minister Kaja Kallas talking to the domestic media in Estonia. Source: Jürgen Randma/ Government Office.

Notwithstanding the current media storm and suggestions, even from the head of state, that a resignation may have been the best move, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas has been able to press on with the international media coverage which has characterized her premiership, most recently with the Greek edition of fashion magazine Vogue.

In an interview, published, in English, online on Tuesday and titled "Good politics have nothing to do with gender," Vogue Greece praised Kallas bravery and integrity.

"Did you never fear speaking so openly against Russia and Putin?" the interview enquires, somewhat gnomically (Kallas' response was that she didn't have time to).

Kallas also talked about her work experience – 14 years of experience in the private sector, a partner in two of the biggest law offices in Estonia.

"At 27, I was already a partner in a law office and at 32, I was a partner at a second one and was playing golf all day, because that was how my distinguished colleagues and partners from other countries, that were around 60 years old, spent their time," she recounted.

Wondering if a career as a partner at a top law firm was the rut she wanted to be stuck in, Kallas said she: "Started writing articles suggesting changes and providing a different approach to the future."

"After one of my talks, a famous politician said to me that he needed people like me, with clear ideas, that knew how to speak and motivate the younger generation. That's how the seed for a career in politics was planted," she went on, recalling an initial resistance to the move over worries about being compared with her father, Siim Kallas – prime minister 2002-2003 and a former European commissioner, and current Riigikogu MP.

As it turned out, the reverse was the case, Kallas went on.

"It's funny though, because recently a lady took a picture with my father and when she showed it to her daughter, she said, 'Oh, that's Kaja Kallas's father,'" the prime minister added.

Thus followed stints as an MEP and MP, alongside her ability to speak "several languages," something far beyond many of the men involved in politics in Estonia, Kallas said.

"If you take the résumé of one of my male colleagues, for example the leader of the opposition party (Martin Helme – ed.), you will find that his first professional experience was as a parliament member and then minister, and that he speaks one language."

As for her term so far, Kallas said: "I've been Prime Minister for two-and-a-half years, but I feel it's been double that time. Many of my predecessors didn't have to deal with a single crisis during their terms, but I have had to face a pandemic, an energy crisis, and a war."

"I do enjoy my work though; we have a very strong program to implement, and I wish to believe we will manage to improve life in Estonia."

As for the NATO secretary general post, an appointment her name had last year been linked with, at least in the media, Kallas said that this was "unlikely, as there's still a long way to go for that, but even the fact that my name was mentioned is flattering."

The full Vogue Greece interview is here.

The prime minister had, particularly after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022, been an ever-present on the websites of many of the major international publications, including Politico – which ranked her fifth on its "Class of 2023" list of influential Europeans last year, Newsweek – which dubbed her Europe's "Iron Lady," the BBC, the FT, The Telegraph, Deutsche Welle, Le Monde, Bloomberg and others.

Kallas has very much been the darling of many of the foreign embassies in Estonia, too.

A dichotomy between this coverage and how she was viewed at home was apparent, but often put down to envy or political point-scoring.

Last month, the domestic media revealed that Kallas' husband, Arvo Hallik, had a significant stake in a company which had continued to provide logistics services to another, related Estonian firm exporting to Russia, beyond the February 2022 invasion and down to the present.

While only one of many such firms still doing business with or in Russia – even if just to fulfil orders placed prior to the invasion – the prime minister had consistently called for a Europe-wide tough line on Russia which would have included as a bare minimum decoupling business ties with that country.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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