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The Romanian president withdraws his candidacy for NATO secretary general and leaves the way clear for Mark Rutte

The Romanian president withdrew his candidacy for secretary general of the Alliance. Following Klaus Iohannis and Hungary’s decision to lift the veto, the way is clear for Mark Rutte to lead NATO.

The president of Romania, Klaus Iohannis, withdrew this Thursday the candidacy he had presented for secretary general of NATO. The resigned Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, thus becomes the only one left in the race to lead the transatlantic alliance.

In a statement cited by the Romanian press, the Romanian president is said to have asked Romania’s Supreme Council of National Defense to comment on Mark Rutte’s candidacy. That body decided to support the resigned Dutch prime minister. Being so, Klaus Iohannis considered that he did not meet the conditions to carry out his candidacy to the secretary general of the Atlantic Alliance.

Klaus Iohannis was the representative of Eastern Europe in the race for NATO Secretary General, a region that wanted to gain greater prominence within the Alliance, due to the war in Ukraine and the geopolitical implications of the conflict.

However, the majority of Member States (including the United States, Germany, France or the United Kingdom) preferred to support the candidacy of Mark Rutte, who is leaving the Dutch government.

In recent days, Hungary and Slovakia, countries that maintained some animosity towards the candidacy of the Dutch Prime Minister, decided to support the candidacy of Mark Rutte.

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The Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, was very critical of Mark Rutte’s candidacy, due to the tensions between both leaders. In March 2024, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó stated that Budapest could not support “the election of a man to the post of NATO Secretary General who wanted to force Hungary to its knees.”

The statements of Hungary “kneeling” date back to 2021, when Mark Rutte harshly criticized the anti-LGBT measures adopted by the Hungarian government. The Dutch chief executive stated that Hungary “no longer has a place in the European Union” and should be “forced to its knees” on the issue, suggesting that Brussels should pressure the country not to adopt the legislation.

Despite the tension, Hungary lifted the veto. In exchange for this support, Mark Rutte assured Viktor Orbán that Hungarian troops “will not participate in any NATO activities in Ukraine” and that “Hungarian funds will not be used” for this purpose.

Given these conditions, Mark Rutte is expected to become the next NATO Secretary General, with the support included of his predecessor, Jens Stoltenberg. The decision should be announced within a few weeks, the most anticipated moment being the NATO summit, which will take place between July 9 and 11, 2024 in Washington DC.

Source: Observadora

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