Former Prime Minister Joins FIRST STEP FORUM

General February 20, 2008


Mr. Mart Laar, former Prime Minister of Estonia, is the latest member of the First Step Forum group. Mr. Laar, a member of the Estonian Parliament, accepted an official invitation yesterday in Tallinn, Estonia.

First Step Forum is an independent vision driven group of former Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers, Ambassadors, current Members of Parliament and international experts in media, law and investment. For more information please contact Johan Candelin, Executive Director of FSF (
[email protected]) (phone: + 358 40 5147611)

Mart Laar (born April 22, 1960 in Viljandi) is an Estonian statesman and historian. He was the Prime Minister of Estonia from 1992 to 1994 and from 1999 to 2002. [1]

Laar was a member of the right-of-center Pro Patria Union, which in 2006 merged with the more technocratic Res Publica Party. In addition to being a politician, Laar has written several books on Estonian and Russian history. He was also a history teacher in Tallinn, as well as the past president of Council of Historians of the Foundation of the Estonia Inheritance, the Society for the Preservation of Estonia History and the Estonian Students' Society. Laar graduated form Tartu University in 1983, and received his masters degree from the same university in 1995. Among his books is War in the Woods: Estonia's Struggle for Survival, 1944-1956. It is about all those who continued to fight in the woods against the Soviet authority after WWII.

His installment as Prime Minister, by the Riigikogu on 21 October 1992, launched what is perhaps the single most dramatic transformation of a politician (even in purely physical terms) on the Estonian scene: Laar went from bespectacled young Turk with a bookish cachet as a heritage scholar, to a politician's politician, a somewhat senatorial figure -- in the Roman sense -- with appetites to match, and murky dealings that extended far out of Estonia's geopolitical realm. In a 1994 no-confidence vote, parliament removed Laar from office amid opposition accusations of lying to the people, following sale of billions of ruble banknotes collected during the Estonian monetary reform of 1992 to the cash-deprived Chechen Republic of Ichkeria instead of delivering them for free to Russian Federation, as the latter had demanded.

Five years later, in 1999, Laar returned to the post, with his main policy goals being to pull the economy out of a slump and lead the country toward the European Union. He remained in the post until he stepped down in 2002.

Many credit Laar for leading Estonia through lightning economic reforms that won Western praise and ultimately laid the groundwork for rapid economic growth and acceptance to European Union entry talks. [2] It is also believed that Laar's economic reforms led to the Baltic Tiger period starting for Estonia after 2000.

Laar has been involved in assisting and counseling other democratic activists and reformers in the region and beyond, including in Yugoslavia (before 2000), Moldova, Ukraine (before 2004), Mexico (after its own transition in 2000) and Cuba (the Miami-Dade city council in Florida enacted a "Mart Laar Day" in 2003). Together with Václav Havel, Filip Dimitrov, Árpád Göncz, Petr Pithart, Vytautas Landsbergis, Patricio Aylwin and other transition leaders, he participates in the International Committee for Democracy in Cuba.

Laar is a member of the International Council of the New York-based Human Rights Foundation.

In 2003, Laar received the Wharton Infosys Business Transformation Award for his contributions to the development of the electronic systems in Estonia.

After the Rose Revolution in Georgia, Laar became advisor to President Saakashvili and assisted his government in carrying out radical liberal reforms.

Laar was the 2006 recipient of the Cato Institute's Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty which is awarded biannually to "an individual who has made a significant contribution to advancing human freedom."

In September 2006, Laar announced that he will come out of political retirement to run for the candidacy for Prime Minister of the new Union of Pro Patria and Res Publica party.

In January 2007, it was announced that Mart Laar would become a Mont Pelerin Society member.

On 26 May 2007 he was elected a Chairman of the Union of Pro Patria and Res Publica.