Toomas Hendrik Ilves

Toomas Hendrik Ilves

name = Toomas Hendrik Ilves

order = President of Estonia
primeminister = Andrus Ansip
vicepresident =
term_start = 9 October 2006
term_end =
predecessor = Arnold Rüütel
successor =
birth_date = birth date and age|1953|12|26|df=y
birth_place = Stockholm, Sweden
death_date =
death_place =
spouse = Evelin Ilves
party =
profession = Diplomat
alma_mater = Columbia University
University of Pennsylvania
religion =

Toomas Hendrik Ilves (pronounced|ˈtoːmɑs ˈhendrik ˈilves; born 26 December 1953) is the current President of Estonia. He is a former diplomat and journalist, was the leader of the Social Democratic Party in the 1990s and later a member of the European Parliament. He was elected to the post by an electoral college on September 23, 2006 and his term as President began on October 9, 2006.

Childhood and education

Ilves was born in Stockholm, Sweden; his parents were Estonian refugees. [cite news|url=|title= U.S.-Educated Diplomat Wins in Estonia|publisher=Associated Press|date=September 23, 2006|accessdate=2006-09-23] He grew up in the United States and graduated from Leonia High School in Leonia, New Jersey in 1972 as valedictorian. [Feibel, Carolyn. [ "Baltic president has N.J. roots"] , "The Record (Bergen County)", November 29, 2006. Accessed January 2, 2008. "Toomas "Tom" Ilves grew up in Leonia, which not only rhymes with Estonia, but was the perfect nursery for his foreign political ambitions, his 79-year-old mother said.... The irony of the whole thing was that Toomas clearly had no problem expressing independent thought, and his later success in life reflects well on Leonia High School."] He received a bachelor's degree in psychology from Columbia University and a master's degree in the same subject from the University of Pennsylvania.

As a result of his upbringing, Ilves speaks English and Estonian.


During the 1980s, Ilves worked as a journalist for Radio Free Europe and became actively involved in politics prior to Estonia's independence in 1991. Ilves subsequently became Ambassador of Estonia to the United States in 1993; [ [ List of Estonian ambassadors to the United States] , U.S. State Department website.] he also served as Ambassador to Canada and Mexico for several years.

In December 1996, Ilves became Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs, serving until resignation in September 1998, when he became member of a small opposition party (Peasants' Party, agrarian-conservative). Ilves was soon elected chairman of the People's Party (reformed Peasants' Party), which formed an electoral cartel with the Moderates, a centrist party. After the March 1999 parliamentary election he became foreign minister again, serving until 2002, when the so-called Triple Alliance collapsed. He supported Estonian membership in the European Union and succeeded in starting the negotiations which led to Estonia joining the European Union on May 1, 2004. From 2001 to 2002 he was the leader of the People's Party Moderates. He resigned from the position after the party's defeat in the October 2002 municipal elections, in which the party received only 4.4% of the total votes nationwide. In early 2004, the Moderates party renamed itself the Estonian Social Democratic Party.

In 2003, Ilves became a member of the European Parliament and, on May 1 2004, a full member. In the 2004 elections to the European Parliament, Ilves was elected MEP in a landslide victory for the Estonian Social Democratic Party. He sat with the Party of European Socialists group in the Parliament. Katrin Saks took over his MEP seat when Ilves became President of Estonia.

Presidential elections

Ilves was nominated by the Reform Party, Union of Pro Patria and Res Publica and his own Social Democratic Party on March 23, 2006, as a candidate for the 2006 presidential election.

On August 29, Ilves was the only candidate in the second and the third round of the presidential election in Riigikogu, the Parliament of Estonia (he was supported by an electoral coalition consisting of the governing Reform Party plus the Social Democrats and the Union of Pro Patria and Res Publica which form the parliamentary opposition). The elections were boycotted by the Centre Party and the People's Union (the MPs were called upon by the party leaders not to participate in the election). Ilves gathered 64 votes out of 65 ballots. Therefore, one deputy of the three party alliance supporting Ilves did not vote in favour of his candidacy. A two-third majority in the 101-seat Riigikogu was required, so he was not elected in Riigikogu. His candidacy was automatically transferred to the next round in the Electors' Assembly on September 23.

On September 13, 2006, a broad spectrum of 80 well-known intellectuals published a declaration in support of Ilves' candidacy. Among those who signed were Neeme Järvi, Jaan Kross, Arvo Pärt and Jaan Kaplinski. [cite news | title=80 kultuuritegelast hakkasid Ilvese usaldusmeesteks | publisher=Eesti Päevaleht | url= | date=September 13, 2006 | accessdate= 2006-09-23]

On September 23, 2006 he received 174 ballots in the first round of the presidential election in the "Electors' Assembly", thus having been elected the next president of Estonia. His five-year term started on October 9, 2006.

Ilves has promised to concentrate more on foreign policy; according to Ilves, "The road to Moscow goes via Brussels." He also wishes to move Estonia politically more towards the centre of Europe. With regard to Estonia's domestic policies, he has supported re-affirming the president's role as a moral arbitrator in case of leading politicians' misdeeds. Ilves has severely criticised alleged political pressure exercised by the Centre Party and People's Union leaders over their parliamentary deputies and local politicians. Edgar Savisaar in turn has expressed dissatisfaction with Ilves' victory.

Personal life

Toomas Hendrik Ilves has been married twice. With his first wife, American psychologist Dr. Merry Bullock, he has two children: son Luukas (b. 1987), currently attending Stanford University, and daughter Juulia Kristiine Ilves (b. 1992). In 2004 he married his long-term partner Evelin Int-Lambot with whom he has one daughter Kadri Keiu Ilves (b. 2003).Toomas Hendrik Ilves has a brother, Andres Ilves, head of the Persian and Pashto World Service of the BBC. Andres is an avid follower of hip hop, graduated from Princeton University in the early 1980s and was awarded a fellowship with the prestigious public affairs leadership training program Coro Southern California based in Los Angeles, California. Until the early 2000s, Andres Ilves was head of the Afghanistan bureau of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty based in Prague, Czech Republic. Ilves almost exclusively wears bow ties in public. He says that this is because his late father used to do so. [cite news | title=Online intervjuu: Toomas Hendrik Ilves | publisher=Eesti Päevaleht | url= | date=September 3 2002 | accessdate= 2006-09-23]


* 2001 Commander of the Légion d'Honneur of the Republic of France.
* 2004 Third Class Order of the Seal of the Republic of Estonia.
* 2004 Three Star Order of the Republic of Latvia.
* 2006 The Collar of the Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana (Estonia).
* 2006 The Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath of Great Britain.
* 2007 Order of the White Rose of Finland.
* 2007 The Grand Cordon of the Supreme Order of the Chrysanthemum of Japan. []
* 2008 The Collar of the Order of the National Coat of Arms (Estonia), also known as the "Presidential Chain". []

See also

* Valdas Adamkus, Lithuanian President and, like Ilves, a former U.S. citizen.
* Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga, Latvian President and a former Canadian citizen.


External links

* [ Estonians elect former exile as new president] , DPA, September 23, 2006
* [ Ilves wins Estonia's presidential election] , AP, September 23, 2006
* [ Official Website of the President of the Republic of Estonia]
* [ Personal website]

NAME=Ilves, Toomas Hendrik
SHORT DESCRIPTION=Estonian president
DATE OF BIRTH=December 26, 1953
PLACE OF BIRTH=Stockholm, Sweden

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