* 26.12.1953 in Stockholm
President of the Republic
President Toomas Hendrik Ilves was born into a refugee family in Stockholm on 26 December 1953. In 1957, Ilves moved to the U.S. with his family, where he graduated from Columbia University in 1976 and obtained his master’s degree in psychology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1978.
In 1984, Ilves moved to Munich, Germany, to work at Radio Free Europe.
In 1993–1996, Ilves was the ambassador of Estonia to the United States in Washington, D.C. During that time, he initiated the Tiigrihüpe (Tiger’s Leap) programme in Estonia.
In 1996–1998 and 1998–2002, Ilves was the minister of foreign affairs of Estonia. The main aim at the time was membership of the EU and NATO, and it is thought that Estonia received the unexpected invitation to begin membership negotiations in 1997 thanks to him.
In 2002–2004, Ilves was a member of the Riigikogu. In 2004, he was elected to the European Parliament, where he became the vice-chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs. As a member of the European Parliament, he initiated the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region, which became an official regional policy of the European Union.
In 2006, Ilves was elected as the president of the Republic of Estonia, and in 2011, he started his second term in the position. During his time in office, President Ilves led several important institutions of the area of information and communications technology.
In 2011–2012, Ilves was the chairman of the EU Task Force on eHealth, and in 2012–2014, the chairman of the European Cloud Partnership Steering Board. In 2013, he chaired the High-Level Panel on Global Internet Cooperation and Governance Mechanisms convened by ICANN. In 2014–2015, Ilves was co-chair of the advisory panel of the World Bank’s World Development Report 2016 ‘Digital Dividends’ and since June 2014, he has been the chair of World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Cyber Security.
Ilves’ interest in computers began in his childhood – he learned programming at the age of 14, leading to the Tiigrihüpe idea a quarter of a century later. Since the restoration of Estonian independence, he has promoted the development of the e state.
Ilves continued his work on the e-state and cybersecurity after his term as president ended. In 2017, Ilves began working at Stanford University. In the same year, he joined the Advisory Council of the German Marshall Fund’s Alliance for Securing Democracy. In 2018, he joined the advisory council of the Centre of Technology and Global Affairs of the University of Oxford. In the same year, he became a member of the Kofi Annan Commission on Elections and Democracy in the Digital Age.
In recent years, President Ilves has given speeches in many international forums about the integration of Europe, transatlantic relations, the e-state, cybersecurity, and ensuring democratic processes in the digital age.
Toomas Hendrik Ilves’ activity as an initiator of the e-state and a promoter of liberal democracy has been recognised with numerous awards, including the World Leader in Cybersecurity Award by the Boston Global Forum, Reinhard Mohn Prize by the Bertelsmann Stiftung, Knight of Freedom Award by The Casimir Pulaski Foundation, and the Freedom Award by the Atlantic Council.
Ilves has published essays and articles on numerous fields of expertise, spanning from Estonian language, history, and literature to global foreign and security policy. His books include essay collections in Estonian, Finnish, Latvian, Russian, and Hungarian.