Speaker Profiles

Toomas Hendrik Ilves

Toomas Hendrik Ilves


Republic of Estonia

Toomas Hendrik Ilves was born on December 26, 1953, to an Estonian family living in Stockholm, Sweden. He acquired his education in the United States – he graduated from Columbia University in New York City in 1976 and received his Master’s degree in Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1978.

Upon graduation, president Ilves worked in the academia – as a teacher and researcher at Columbia University and at the Open Education Center in Englewood, New Jersey. He also chaired the Vancouver Centre of Literature in Canada in the
early 1980s. Since 1984 he moved to Europe, to work at the office of Radio Free Europe in Munich, Germany, first as a researcher and foreign policy analyst and later as the Head of the Estonian Desk.

From 1993 to 1996 Toomas Hendrik Ilves served in Washington as the Ambassador of the Republic of Estonia to the United States of America, Canada and Mexico. From 1996 to 1998, he was the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Estonia. After a brief period as Chairman of the North Atlantic Institute in 1998, he was again appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs, staying in office until 2002.

From 2002 to 2004, Mr. Ilves was a Member of the Estonian Parliament; in 2004 he was elected a Member of the European Parliament. As an MEP, he initiated the Baltic Sea Strategy that later was implemented as official regional policy of the European Union.

Toomas Hendrik Ilves was elected President of the Republic of Estonia on September 23 and sworn into office on October 9, 2006. Ilves was re-elected for a second term in office on August 29, 2011 and renewed his oath of service on October 10, 2011.

During his presidency Toomas Hendrik Ilves has been appointed to serve in several high positions in the field of ICT in the European Union. He served as Chairman of the EU Task Force on eHealth from May 2011 to May 2012, and since November 2012 he became Chairman of the European Cloud Partnership Steering Board at the invitation of the European Commission. His interest in computers stems from an early age – he learned how to program at the age of 13, and he has been promoting Estonia’s IT-development since the country restored its independence. During recent years, president Ilves has spoken and written extensively at international forums on e-government, cyber security and other related topics.

President Ilves has published many essays and articles in Estonian and English on numerous topics ranging from Estonian language, history and literature to global foreign and security policy. His books include essay collections in Estonian, Finnish, Latvian and Hungarian.

Toomas Hendrik Ilves is married and has three children, a son and two daughters.

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