Romania’s Iohannis withdraws NATO candidacy, paving way for Rutte

The Romanian president confirmed he was stepping out of the race and endorsed former Dutch PM Mark Rutte for the role

Romania's President Klaus Iohannis, center, is greeted by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, left, and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, right, in The Hague, Netherlands, Tuesday, June 27, 2023. Leaders of seven NATO allies met in the Netherlands with Secretary-General Stoltenberg for talks ahead of the alliance's summit in Lithuania next month. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
By Dénes Albert
2 Min Read

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis announced on Thursday his intention to withdraw his candidacy for the leadership of NATO, effectively handing the position to former Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

President Iohannis announced after the National Defense Council (CSAT) meeting that he was stepping out of the race to lead the alliance and was endorsing the favorite, Rutte, for the role.

“At the CSAT meeting, the president of Romania announced that he had informed his NATO allies at the end of last week that he was withdrawing his candidacy for the post of NATO secretary-general. President Iohannis asked the members of the Council to give their opinion on Mark Rutte’s candidacy for the post of NATO secretary-general, and they declared themselves in favor of Romania’s support for the Dutch prime minister’s candidacy”, the presidential administration said in a press release.

Iohannis announced his candidacy for the NATO leadership in early March, despite the fact that the U.S. and other states had made it clear that they supported Dutchman Mark Rutte. Asked several times by journalists, the president refused to give details of the negotiations for his support.

In the context of Hungary and Slovakia announcing their support for Rutte, the president said that “the EU is a union of states, not of parties, so what needs to be negotiated must be negotiated in such a way that all states feel involved, empowered, and served in their national interest.

“It is not possible for any member state to be ignored, marginalized or not involved in these negotiations, and if that were to happen, it should be corrected,” the president added.

Iohannis’ candidature was the first time in NATO history when the top position in the military organization was openly contested. In all previous cases, NATO selected its leaders behind closed doors. Current Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg’s second terms expires on Oct. 1 this year.

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