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Quarrels in NATO – the new president is late

Published on 2024-04-02 15.32

Happy faces when NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg met with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in The Hague last summer.  Now the latter two are fighting for Stoltenberg's position.  Archive photo.

Time passes without NATO countries being able to agree on a new Secretary General after Jens Stoltenberg. East faces west in pursuit of the white smoke of Brussels.

Ambassadors of the 32 NATO member states recently met regularly to assess the situation on the leadership front. The meetings are chaired by Croatian Mario Nobilo – the longest-serving ambassador – and were last held on Tuesday morning for an hour.

However, there is no result.

– It reminds us of the papal meeting. It is in many ways a mysterious process, like when the cardinals gather in the Sistine Chapel. When there is consensus, the world will find out. But like all other decisions in NATO, unanimity is required, says Sweden's NATO ambassador, Axel Vernhoff.

Dutch favourite

Just a few weeks ago, there appeared to be unity behind Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who is openly supported by countries including the United States, Great Britain and Germany.

But then Hungary came forward and threatened to use its veto.

“Of course, we cannot support the election of a man who previously wanted to bring Hungary to its knees,” Foreign Minister Peter Szijjártó said at a press conference in Budapest at the beginning of March.

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Turkey is also said to be criticizing Rutte, who was also questioned given the fact that the Netherlands is one of the countries that has not yet reached NATO's target of spending the equivalent of at least two percent of its GDP on defence.

External Roman

The official candidate for this position is also Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, who has announced his desire to give Eastern Europe a stronger role in the alliance.

For the United States, both seem acceptable.

– We fully support Mark Rutte as the new Secretary-General, but we have deep respect for our friend President Iohannis, we appreciate that he has entered the game and we wish him good luck, says US Ambassador Julianne Smith in a digital press conference ahead of the meeting of foreign ministers this week in Brussels.

There, the question of the Secretary-General will be one of the hottest questions in the corridors, although a decision is not yet expected.

-We will continue to discuss the pros and cons of these two until we can agree on one of them. At the latest, we want to see a solution to this problem by the Washington summit (in July), says Julianne Smith.