Romanian president announces bid to lead NATO

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, left, shakes hands with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, right, during the welcoming ceremony in Bucharest, Romania, Thursday, July 2, 2015. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
By Dénes Albert
2 Min Read

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis announced on Tuesday, March 12, at the Cotroceni Palace, that he is entering the race for the leadership of NATO.

“I assume this candidacy on behalf of Romania, with full responsibility. This decision is based on Romania’s performance, the experience gained during my two years as president of Romania, and my deep understanding of the challenges faced by NATO, Europe and our region in general,” Iohannis said.

The Romanian Presidential Administration recently notified NATO countries that the Romanian head of state is entering the race for the post of secretary-general of NATO. Two other candidates for the NATO chairmanship have been discussed so far, but no official announcement has been made. They are Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas and former Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

Iohannis is thus the first official candidate for the post of NATO secretary-general. Before his speech on Tuesday afternoon, the Romanian president said he would make an important announcement on NATO, but made it clear that he did not intend to shorten his term as president, which ends on Dec. 21, 2024.

This is the first time since the fall of the Iron Curtain that NATO might have an open competition for the position in full view of the enemy. On the other hand, it is the first time in history that NATO has elected its leadership in the midst of a war within Europe.

Twenty-two countries have already declared their support for Dutch leader Mark Rutte, and so far only Hungary has announced that it did not want the Dutch prime minister at the head of NATO. Romania and Hungary are the first to push for Iohannis. Bulgaria, whose access to Schengen has been blocked for years by the Netherlands, with Rutte at its head, could follow. Then, the rest of the former Warsaw Pact countries could line up behind Romania.

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