Politico: Pressure Mounts on Iohannis to Withdraw from NATO Race


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The majority of NATO countries believe it is time for Romanian President Klaus Iohannis to withdraw after two months of competing for the top position in the alliance, according to Politico.

This comes as the NATO foreign ministers meet in Prague on Thursday to outline decisions for the July summit in Washington.

Behind the scenes, Politico reports that several European officials and diplomats think Iohannis is using his NATO candidacy to position himself for another high-ranking role in the EU.

Since announcing his candidacy in March, Iohannis has secured the support of only one of the 32 member states—Hungary, which last week threatened to withdraw from certain NATO operations. Slovakia remains undecided, while the other 29 countries support the clear favorite, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

However, this is not good enough for Rutte, because he needs the full support of all members of the alliance to succeed Jens Stoltenberg, who is due to retire at the beginning of October.
As NATO foreign ministers meet in Prague on Thursday and Friday, the fear is that unless Iohannis steps down soon, the search for NATO’s next secretary-general risks becoming part of the backroom maneuvering for EU leadership after the election European from June 6-9.
As usual, the presidency of the European Commission and the European Council are up for grabs, as well as the role of head of EU diplomacy, with the 27 EU countries also trying to get the European commissioner portfolios they want. Now, the head of NATO is part of this mix. “For the first time, NATO is part of the package. Officially it is not, but unofficially it is”, declared, under the cover of anonymity, an EU official.
On the other hand, the Romanian Presidential Administration denied pressured.
“There is no such pressure to withdraw the candidacy. This is the official response of the Presidential Administration,” the Presidency’s press office told Politico.

Scenarios for Iohannis

Several scenarios for Klaus Iohannis are circulating in Brussels. One highly unlikely option is that if Ursula von der Leyen, the favorite, does not secure a second term as President of the European Commission, Iohannis might be considered as an alternative. Like von der Leyen, Iohannis belongs to the European People’s Party (EPP), the EU’s strongest political group. He is a German speaker with over 10 years of experience as head of state. Romania is also a strong example within the EU for rejecting Russian influence, supporting Ukraine, and integrating into the EU, including its recent official entry into the visa-free Schengen area.

Iohannis’s allies insist that his bid for the NATO post is genuine and not merely a stepping stone to an EU position. They argue he “strongly believes in the need for an Eastern European voice in this crucial role within NATO,” according to an official familiar with his thinking.

Another option being discussed is for Iohannis to become the European Commissioner for Defense. Von der Leyen has expressed interest in appointing someone from Eastern Europe to this portfolio, which she aims to create. While Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski is the most mentioned candidate for this position, Iohannis remains a potential contender, according to two EU officials.

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