Europe

Estonia profile - Leaders

  • 3 March 2015
  • From the section Europe
Hendrik Toomas Ilves
Social Democrat Hendrik Toomas Ilves has occupied the largely ceremonial role of president since 2006

President: Toomas Hendrik Ilves

As head of state, the president is supreme commander of the armed forces and represents Estonia abroad. However, the role is mainly ceremonial.

The president is elected for a five-year term by MPs or, if they fail to agree, by an electoral college of MPs and local councillors, for a maximum of two five-year consecutive terms. Mr Ilves was first sworn in as president in 2006 and re-elected for a second term in August 2011.

Born in 1953, Mr Ilves is a member of the centre-left Social Democratic Party, although he has suspended membership for the duration of his presidency as the Constitution requires.

Born in Sweden to refugees from Soviet rule, Mr Ilves taught psychology and Estonian language in the United States and Canada before heading the Estonian Service of Radio Free Europe in Munich. After Estonia became independent, he served as a diplomat and foreign minister, and was a member of the European Parliament.

Prime minister: Taavi Roivas

Estonian prime minister Taavi Roivas
Mr Roivas wants Estonia to have a "new Nordic" identity

Prime Minister Taavi Roivas became the European Union's youngest head of government in March 2014.

He was designated prime minister by President Toomas Hendrik Ilves when his predecessor Andrus Ansip stepped down after a record nine years in office.

Mr Ansip resigned in an attempt to bring in fresh blood ahead of the liberal Reform Party's run for re-election in 2015.

Mr Roivas, aged 34 at the time of taking office, took over a coalition government of Reform and the centre-left Social Democratic Party which between them had a wafer-thin majority.

He vowed to make security a priority as tensions ran high in Estonia and the other Baltic states over Russia's intervention in Ukraine. His government's criticism of Moscow increased after Russian forces seized an Estonian intelligence official on the two countries' common border in September 2014.

The Reform Party emerged as the winner of the February 2015 parliamentary election, though Mr Roivas will still need to form a coalition in order to have a workable majority. He has ruled out entering into coalition with the runner-up pro-Russian Centre Party.

Shortly before the election, Mr Roivas said that Estonia was closer to countries such as Sweden and Finland in terms of culture, and that he wanted to make it a "new Nordic country" by boosting foreign investment and maintaining economic growth.

Mr Roivas previously served as minister of social affairs in Andrus Ansip's government for 15 months.