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Orban says Hungary ‘able’ to again Dutch PM Rutte’s NATO leader bid | NATO Information


Hungary’s Prime Minister Victor Orban has backed Mark Rutte to become the next head of NATO after the outgoing Dutch prime minister gave written guarantees that he would not force the country to take part in the military alliance’s new plans to provide support to Ukraine.

Rutte’s assurances, contained in a letter to Orban, remove a major obstacle to him becoming the next NATO secretary-general – the organisation’s top civilian official.

It could also allow NATO to put on a major show of unity and demonstrate solidarity with war-ravaged Ukraine when US President Joe Biden and his counterparts meet in Washington on July 9-11. The summit is to mark NATO’s 75th anniversary.

At talks in Budapest last week, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who is due to step down in October, clinched a deal with Orban to ensure that Hungary would not block NATO’s plans for Ukraine.

Stoltenberg accepted that Hungary should not be obligated to provide personnel or funds for the collective effort, but Orban wanted to hear it from Rutte, too.

NATO takes all of its decisions by consensus, giving any of the 32 member countries an effective veto, including on whether they should take part in any joint effort or operation.

Taking to social media, Orban said it was important for Hungary to establish “that this agreement can stand the test of time.”

He posted Rutte’s letter, dated June 18, a day after the two men had met in Brussels on the sidelines of a European Union summit.

Rutte wrote that “in a possible future capacity as NATO Secretary General I will fully support this outcome of the talks between Jens Stoltenberg and you.”

It was enough for Orban.

“PM Mark Rutte confirmed that he fully supports this deal and will continue to do so, should he become the next Secretary General of NATO. In light of his pledge, Hungary is ready to support PM Rutte’s bid for NATO Secretary-General,” he posted on X.

Budapest had also complained about unidentified remarks that Rutte had made about the Hungarian government three years ago and demanded an apology.

Rutte wrote that he “took note” that his past remarks “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”.

Following Hungary’s announcement, Dutch national broadcaster NOS reported that Rutte will succeed Stoltenberg as NATO chief.

Speaking at a news conference alongside US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington, Stoltenberg neither confirmed nor denied the media report.

“With the announcement of … Orban, I think it’s obvious that we are very close to a conclusion … to select the next secretary-general, and I think that’s good news,” he told reporters, while praising Rutte.

“I think Mark 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,” he said. “And that will be good for all of us, for NATO and also for me.”

NATO secretaries-general are responsible for chairing meetings and guiding sometimes delicate consultations among member countries to ensure that an organisation that operates on consensus can continue to function.

Rutte is far and away the preferred candidate of the majority of NATO allies, including the United States and Germany. Earlier this year, Turkey voiced opposition to Rutte’s bid but lifted its objections in April.

The candidature of Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, who is nearing the end of his second five-year term as head of state, remains a hurdle but officials and analysts believe it will not pose a major problem.

Stoltenberg is seen as a steady hand at NATO’s helm for a decade and his mandate has been extended several times. Biden and his NATO counterparts had been due to name a successor when they met in Lithuania in July 2023, but no consensus could be found about a replacement.

“I mean it sincerely, you’ve been great. I just wish you’d extend your term another 10 years,” Biden said as he met the former Norwegian prime minister at the White House on Monday.



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