Hungary Opposes Dutch PM Rutte’s NATO Candidacy, Foreign Minister Says


By Alexandra Brzozowski

(EurActiv) — Hungary’s government cannot support Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte to become NATO’s next secretary-general, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said on Tuesday (5 March).

“We certainly can’t support the election of a man to the position of NATO’s secretary general, who previously wanted to force Hungary on its knees,” Szijjártó said referring to Rutte’s position over Hungary’s rule of law standoff with Brussels.

Szijjártó’s words echoed similar comments made by his Prime Minister Viktor Orbán back in 2021 during a tense EU summit over a Hungarian anti-LGBT law when Rutte bluntly said Hungary must respect fundamental rights or leave the bloc.

“My goal is to bring Hungary to its knees on this issue,” Rutte had said at the time.

The Netherlands has in recent years been among the most vocal critics of the democratic backsliding in Hungary.

Dutch Commissioner Frans Timmermans, when in charge of the rule of law, had been very outspoken over the democratic shortcomings of both Hungary and its then ally Poland.

Budapest’s clear opposition is likely to significantly complicate the selection process as the decision for NATO’s next boss needs to be taken by unanimity of all its members.

Rutte, a longtime head of government and frontrunner for the NATO job, has already won the endorsement of a majority within the Western military alliance, including some of its biggest members.

Most importantly, support from the United States, the largest defence spender and the biggest army in NATO, is seen among members as almost a seal of approval.

Discussions among NATO members are continuing, with an agreement coming “soon”, one NATO diplomat told Euractiv recently, as the upcoming horse-trading over the distribution of the top EU jobs after the June elections and the US elections in November may slow down or complicate the process.

People with knowledge of the process said the name would be revealed during NATO’s foreign ministers meeting on 3-4 April, leaving incumbent NATO Secretary-General Stoltenberg to chair the leaders’ summit in Washington from 9-11 July.

Stoltenberg’s term is scheduled to end on 1 October, after ten years on the job.


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