Romania has notified NATO allies of its proposal for President Klaus Iohannis…

Sursa Foto: Inquam Photos/ Autor: Octav Ganea

Romania has notified NATO allies of its proposal for President Klaus Iohannis as the alliance’s Secretary-General – sources / What are Iohannis’s chances against Dutch PM Mark Rutte?

Romania has officially informed NATO allies that it is nominating President Klaus Iohannis for the role of Secretary-General of the alliance, according to government sources for G4Media.ro.

When approached by G4Media.ro, the Presidential Administration stated that it “does not comment on rumors.” Nonetheless, this announcement would not come as a surprise, considering that in the past, the President has publicly expressed his willingness to assume NATO’s leadership.

Sources indicate that the acting Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, who is seen as the favorite for the NATO top job, may not garner enough votes due to resistance from some eastern allies such as Bulgaria, Hungary, Turkey, and Romania. This information was also confirmed by Bloomberg earlier this month.

Turkey has stated that it would first like to receive assurances of neutrality from Rutte, including that he would not favor EU members in his NATO role. Additionally, Hungary could prove to be an obstacle to Rutte’s candidacy because of longstanding disagreements with the Dutch Prime Minister.

In the past, there was speculation in the international press that the alliance might prefer a female candidate for Secretary-General. The Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas and Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins had previously expressed interest in the position, but their countries eventually decided not to nominate them as candidates.

It should be noted that President Iohannis stated at a press conference in Strasbourg in early February that it would be unacceptable for no significant EU position to be held by someone from Eastern Europe following this year’s European parliamentary elections. He felt that a mistake was made in 2019, and this is one of the reasons many Eastern Europeans feel sidelined.

„It would be unacceptable for no position to be filled by someone from the new member states, that is, from the East. I believe a mistake was made in 2019, all relevant positions were filled by very competent people from old Europe, and this is one of the reasons many Eastern Europeans feel left out. It’s a mistake and it would be good not to repeat it,” Iohannis stated then.

In other news, US President Joe Biden expressed his support for Rutte in the race for NATO’s leadership on Wednesday, and the United Kingdom, another key ally, announced on Thursday that it supports the Dutch Prime Minister. According to Western media, he also enjoys the backing of Germany.

Bloomberg sources express skepticism about Iohannis’s chances, with some officials suggesting that the Romanian President’s attempt would likely only prolong the process before Rutte eventually secures the position. Two American officials, who requested anonymity, discussed the matter with Bloomberg, noting that President Joe Biden thinks highly of both candidates, but the US has already thrown its support behind Rutte.

A spokesperson for Rutte stated that it is up to NATO allies to decide on the next Secretary-General and declined to comment further, the source added.

In recent years, with the exception of Spain, the North Atlantic Alliance has been led by leaders from Northern Europe. Romania’s candidacy could be seen as a way out of the impasse, the sources added. They also mentioned that at the NATO summit in June in Washington, the US intends to announce the next Secretary-General of the alliance.

On the other hand, Klaus Iohannis’s name has not appeared in recent articles by major Western publications listing European leaders shortlisted for the NATO leadership.

Asked in July 2022 during a press conference at Cotroceni, Iohannis said that „if such a proposal were made, I would evaluate the situation very seriously and make a public statement.”

The government’s spokesperson, Mihai Constantin, said in a press briefing at the end of the government meeting on Thursday that „it is a subject of interest not only for Romania, but at this moment on behalf of the government I do not have information to communicate on this topic.”

„At NATO level, decisions are taken unanimously. There are political discussions that are not rushed, especially since we are talking about the highest position in this essential organization, particularly in the context we are living. We will see. If we have public information about this, I will certainly be able to communicate it,” Constantin added.

The information was initially revealed by Bloomberg journalist Jennifer Jacobs, a White House correspondent, in a post on X.

„Romania has notified other NATO members that it intends to nominate the country’s President, Klaus Iohannis, as a candidate for NATO Secretary-General. It will complicate other allies’ efforts to install Mark Rutte as the next Secretary-General,” Jacobs wrote.

Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu announced on Wednesday evening that PSD proposes advancing the presidential elections, which were supposed to take place in December, to September, exactly the month when Jens Stoltenberg’s term as Secretary-General expires.

If the elections were moved to September, it would allow Iohannis to take up a potential NATO post without shortening his term.

If the elections were to be moved to September, it would allow President Klaus Iohannis to take up a potential NATO post without cutting short his term.

When asked on Wednesday evening whether there had been coalition discussions regarding a future role for Klaus Iohannis after his term expires, Marcel Ciolacu stated, „As a Romanian, I would be proud for the President of Romania to hold a high-ranking political office. In this alliance, I am firmly convinced that both of us, together with the MEPs, will negotiate the most important position possible for the Romanian commissioner and for significant roles in the European Parliament. Romanians desire a strong, Romanian voice within European structures.”

NATO regulations stipulate that any candidate for the leadership of the alliance must be designated by a unanimous decision of all 31 allies.

NATO member states are attempting to reach an agreement on a successor for Stoltenberg by the time the Foreign Ministers meet in Brussels at the beginning of April, coinciding with the 75th anniversary of the alliance. The allies wish to prevent this role from being caught up in the negotiations for EU leadership positions following the June European parliamentary elections.

The role of NATO Secretary-General will be particularly important in the coming years, amid growing concerns in Europe regarding the US commitment to the region’s security. Republicans in the American Congress have blocked funding for Ukraine, and former President Donald Trump has induced panic among European allies after threatening that they would no longer benefit from US protection if they do not fulfill their commitment to allocate a minimum of 2% of GDP to defense.

As the war between Russia and Ukraine drags on, the next NATO chief will need to find a balance between avoiding any direct repercussions or a broader escalation between the alliance and Russia, while at the same time encouraging allies to maintain military and financial support for Ukraine, as a „fatigue” in the face of commitments necessary to support Kiev begins to settle in Western public opinion.

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