• Friday, 19 July 2024

Romania clears way for Dutch PM Rutte to become NATO chief

Romania clears way for Dutch PM Rutte to become NATO chief

Bucharest, 20 June 2024 (dpa/MIA) - Romania is endorsing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte to become NATO secretary general, clearing the final hurdle on Rutte's path to the top job, according to a press release published by the office of Romanian President Klaus Iohannis on Thursday.

Iohannis had put himself forward for the role, but "informed his NATO allies at the end of last week that he had withdrawn his candidacy for the post," the press release said.

On Thursday, Romania's Supreme Council of National Defence "declared themselves in favour of Romania's support for the Dutch prime minister's candidacy," according to the statement.

The announcement means no obstacles remain to Rutte becoming the next NATO chief. Romania was the only NATO country that had not yet endorsed Rutte, who needs the unanimous support of all 32 member states. Hungary and Slovakia endorsed Rutte after a European Union leaders' summit earlier this week.

The term of current Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is due to end on October 1. In Washington on Tuesday, Stoltenberg said: "I think it's obvious that we are very close to a conclusion in the alliance, for allies to select the next secretary general. And I think that's good news."

Romania's opposition to Rutte's candidacy followed from its support for Iohannis, the country's head of state. But Romania's northwestern neighbour, Hungary, resisted Rutte in particular until this week.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán ended his opposition on Tuesday. "Hungary is ready to support PM Rutte’s bid for NATO Secretary General," Orbán said on X, alongside a copy of a letter from Rutte promising to respect an agreement between Orbán and the current secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, that Hungary will not be required to contribute to Ukraine's war effort.

Rutte's letter, also dated Tuesday, noted that remarks he made in 2021 "have caused dissatisfaction in Hungary. My priority in a possible future capacity as NATO Secretary General will be to maintain unity and treat all Allies with the same level of understanding and respect."

EU leaders have accused Orbán's government of undermining the rule of law in Hungary, and European Union courts have also ruled against Budapest.

Rutte and Orbán met on Monday ahead of a dinner for EU leaders in Brussels, after which Rutte told reporters that he would soon be sending a letter to Orbán. Rutte told members of the press that the Hungarian premier had not asked him to apologize, and that they were focused on the "future."

Slovakia's new president, Peter Pellegrini, also said in Brussels on Monday that his country would back Rutte, Slovakian national news agency TASR reported.

Stoltenberg said on Tuesday: "I think Mark Rutte is a very strong candidate. He has a lot of experience as Prime Minister. He's a close friend and colleague, and I therefore strongly believe that very soon the Alliance will have decided on my successor, and that will be good for all of us, for NATO and also for me," he added.

MIA file photo