Mark Rutte nears Nato job after “open talks” with Orbán

Mark Rutte and Viktor Orbán at a meeting of the European Council last year. Photo: Hans Lucas, European Council

Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte has had what his spokesman described as “open conversation” with Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán on the fringes of the EU leaders meeting in Brussels on Monday.

Rutte is hoping for Hungary’s backing in his quest to become the next secretary general of Nato when Jens Stoltenberg steps down later this year. Rutte has the backing of most Nato member states but Hungary has proved a stumbling block.

“It was a good, open conversation and they both agreed to focus on the future,” the spokesman said.

Broadcaster NOS said that its sources in The Hague say the meeting has now cleared the way for Rutte to land the Nato job this summer.

Orbán said earlier this month that he had two main conditions for backing Rutte, the first a matter of honour, the second a military claim.

“There are two statements the Hungarian people will not forgive him for,” Orbán told a Hungarian news magazine. “First he said that Hungarians should be excluded from the European Union, and then he said that Hungary should be brought to its knees.”

Rutte made the comments in 2021 when referring to new anti-LGBTI legislation and said there was no place in the EU if Hungary went ahead with the legislation.

In terms of military conditions, Orbán said Hungary cannot support a Nato secretary general who advocates making military action outside the alliance compulsory.

“We would like to conclude an agreement that we will not participate in Nato operations against the Russians in Ukraine, even if we are Nato members,” he said. Stoltenberg has since given Hungary that assurance.

According to Reuters, Slovakia gave its support to Rutte on Monday, leaving Hungary and Romania as the only two countries that have not yet backed the outgoing Dutch prime minister as Stoltenberg’s successor. The decision has to be unanimous.  

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