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Alar Olljum

Former Brookings Expert

Alar Olljum was a visiting fellow—as holder of a European Union Senior Fellowship for 2015 to 2016—in the Center on the United States and Europe at Brookings. His primary focus is to map and compare the policies of the EU, United States, and other major powers towards the Middle East and North Africa.

Prior to joining Brookings, Olljum served from 2011 to 2015 as advisor to the managing director for the Middle East and North Africa at the European External Action Service (EEAS), where he helped coordinate and communicate the EU’s response to the Arab Spring and its aftermath. Olljum was also responsible at the EEAS for organizing the EU’s policy dialogues on the Middle East and North Africa with the United States, Russia, China, and other strategic partners.

Before the creation of the EEAS, from 2006 to 2011, Olljum served as head of policy planning at the Directorate General for External Relations at the European Commission. During that time he co-chaired policy reviews on various topics, including on the EU’s relations with Russia. He also initiated and led an inter-agency task force on the EU’s engagement with the Muslim world and political Islam.

Prior to his career in the European Union, Olljum served from 1990 to 2001 in various senior positions at the Estonian Foreign Ministry. From 1990 to 1991 he was special adviser to then-Foreign Minister Lennart Meri during Estonia’s transition to restoring its independence and was later appointed, in accordance with Estonia’s newly-adopted constitution in 1992, as the first secretary-general of the foreign ministry. In 1993, President Meri awarded him the diplomatic rank of ambassador and he later served as ambassador-at-large for regional cooperation and subsequently as Estonia’s ambassador to Lithuania. On leave from the ministry from 2001 to 2005, Olljum was deputy director-general of the secretariat of the Council of the Baltic Sea States in Stockholm.

Olljum holds a bachelor’s in political science (international relations) from the University of British Columbia and in 1989 to 1991 was the Swedish Institute scholar at the International Graduate School of the Social Sciences at Stockholm. During a sabbatical year in 1995 to 1996, he was guest researcher and doctoral candidate at the Peace and Development Research Institute or Gothenburg University where he participated in a UNU-WIDER comparative research project on the relations between regionalization and globalization, with a focus on the Baltic Sea region and the EU.

Alar Olljum was a visiting fellow—as holder of a European Union Senior Fellowship for 2015 to 2016—in the Center on the United States and Europe at Brookings. His primary focus is to map and compare the policies of the EU, United States, and other major powers towards the Middle East and North Africa.

Prior to joining Brookings, Olljum served from 2011 to 2015 as advisor to the managing director for the Middle East and North Africa at the European External Action Service (EEAS), where he helped coordinate and communicate the EU’s response to the Arab Spring and its aftermath. Olljum was also responsible at the EEAS for organizing the EU’s policy dialogues on the Middle East and North Africa with the United States, Russia, China, and other strategic partners.

Before the creation of the EEAS, from 2006 to 2011, Olljum served as head of policy planning at the Directorate General for External Relations at the European Commission. During that time he co-chaired policy reviews on various topics, including on the EU’s relations with Russia. He also initiated and led an inter-agency task force on the EU’s engagement with the Muslim world and political Islam.

Prior to his career in the European Union, Olljum served from 1990 to 2001 in various senior positions at the Estonian Foreign Ministry. From 1990 to 1991 he was special adviser to then-Foreign Minister Lennart Meri during Estonia’s transition to restoring its independence and was later appointed, in accordance with Estonia’s newly-adopted constitution in 1992, as the first secretary-general of the foreign ministry. In 1993, President Meri awarded him the diplomatic rank of ambassador and he later served as ambassador-at-large for regional cooperation and subsequently as Estonia’s ambassador to Lithuania. On leave from the ministry from 2001 to 2005, Olljum was deputy director-general of the secretariat of the Council of the Baltic Sea States in Stockholm.

Olljum holds a bachelor’s in political science (international relations) from the University of British Columbia and in 1989 to 1991 was the Swedish Institute scholar at the International Graduate School of the Social Sciences at Stockholm. During a sabbatical year in 1995 to 1996, he was guest researcher and doctoral candidate at the Peace and Development Research Institute or Gothenburg University where he participated in a UNU-WIDER comparative research project on the relations between regionalization and globalization, with a focus on the Baltic Sea region and the EU.

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