Who is Taavi Rõivas? A look at Estonia’s likely new prime minister


Last week, when Estonia’s nine-year prime minister Andrus Ansip stepped down, virtually everyone thought that Estonia’s European commissioner Siim Kallas (himself, briefly, a former prime minister) would step into Ansip’s shoes as the Eesti Reformierakond (Estonian Reform Party) prepares to put itself on a stronger footing for expected March 2015 elections.estonia

After all, Kallas helped found the Reform Party in the mid-1990s, served as a highly regarded president of Estonia’s central bank in the early 1990s, and held several posts in government before leaving for Brussels in 2004, where he’s amassed plenty of additional experience — as a vice president of the European Commission since 2010.

Instead, Kallas faced renewed controversy over $100 million in loan guarantees that he signed while central bank governor in 1994.  Moreover, the concept that Kallas could wage a shadow campaign for prime minister while still officially a member of the European Commission ruffled feathers in both Tallinn and Brussels — even more so in light of open rumors that Kallas and Ansip would simply trade jobs, with Ansip stepping into Kallas’s shoes at the Commission.

Kallas formally ruled out a return as prime minister on Wednesday, and the Reform party nominated instead Taavi Rõivas (pictured above), social affairs minister since just December 2012.  At age 34, he would be the youngest head of government in Europe, and notably, the first Estonian leader who was just a child when the Soviet Union collapsed — Estonia won its independence just five days short of Rõivas’s 12th birthday. Continue reading Who is Taavi Rõivas? A look at Estonia’s likely new prime minister

Miliband’s EU hedge makes a disastrous referendum more likely

edmiliLabour leader Ed Miliband announced yesterday that, if elected prime minister after next year’s general election, he would not hold a referendum on the United Kingdom’s continued (now 41-year) membership on the European Union.United Kingdom Flag Icon

At first glance, it sounds like exactly the type of pledge that plenty of pro-European British constituencies, including much of the business community, would applaud — eliminating the uncertainty of the United Kingdom’s future within the European Union that features prominently in the current government’s referendum promise.

It’s hard to see what Miliband has to gain politically or strategically with his new pronouncement on a future EU referendum, a essentially in reaction to Cameron’s position from last year.  It will satisfy neither pro-European nor anti-European voices, allows Cameron to bill himself as a champion of democratic choice, adds additional uncertainty (especially with the likelihood of a new Berlin-led EU treaty effort in the years ahead), and locks Miliband into what could be incredibly short-sighted  policy.

Most of all, it shows why so many Brits, including plenty of Labour supporters, fear that Miliband doesn’t have the skills to make it to 10 Downing Street. Continue reading Miliband’s EU hedge makes a disastrous referendum more likely