Hungary threatens to block Dutch PM Rutte as new Nato chief

Hungary threatens to block Dutch PM Rutte as new Nato chief
Dutch Prime Minister said in 2011: "My goal is to bring Hungary to its knees on this [rule of law] issue.” / Dutch Government Office
By bne IntelliNews March 7, 2024

Hungary opposes Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s candidacy for the position of Nato's next secretary-general, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said on March 5.

The opposition complicates the process of replacing Nato’s incumbent chief Jen Stoltenberg, whose term expires on October 1, since a unanimous agreement is needed.

The potential veto comes as the alliance is now at its most difficult moment in decades, gearing up to become better equipped to respond to the risk of Russia prevailing in Ukraine and threatening the alliance's Eastern Flank members next.

Hungary fell out with Rutte due to the Dutch politician’s tough stance on Budapest’s violations of the rule of law that has now left Orban isolated in the EU after his Polish allies Law and Justice (PiS) lost power last October.

“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,” Szijjarto said.

The minister referred to Rutte’s applying pressure on Hungary over the rule of law in 2011 when the Dutch PM said: "My goal is to bring Hungary to its knees on this issue.”

Hungary has been the EU’s big troublemaker on the issue of Russia’s war in Ukraine and the Nato expansion to Finland and Sweden that the Russian aggression prompted.

The Hungarian parliament – firmly in the grip of Prime Minister Viktor Orban – only approved Sweden's accession to Nato in late February, marking an end to an 18-month saga that has further strained Hungary’s ties with allies, undermined the country’s credibility and reinforcing views that Orban serves Russian interests.

Nato reportedly intends to announce the new chief early next month at the planned meeting of the alliance’s foreign ministers. The process of transition is expected to begin at the Nato's leaders' summit in Washington from on July 9-11.