Rutte is “cautiously optimistic” about work at NATO after a “good conversation” with Orbán

“It was a good conversation,” Rutte said after the interview. Both have decided to “look to the future,” Rutte said. She promised her Hungarian colleague to put in writing exactly what was discussed. That letter will be sent to Budapest in a few days.

Three years ago, Rutte – and other EU leaders – angered Orbán because they attacked his bill to restrict LGBTI rights. Rutte asked Orbán why he was still a member of the EU and told the press that he would bring Hungarians to their knees at that time. The Hungarian Prime Minister was furious about this and seized the opportunity when Rutte announced that he wanted to lead NATO. All NATO countries must agree to this, including Hungary.

About the Author

Marc Peeperkorn has been De Volkskrant’s EU correspondent since 2008. He lives and works in Brussels.

There are no excuses

Orbán demanded an apology from Rutte, otherwise he would block the NATO appointment. According to Rutte, Orbán did not apologize during the conversation on Monday. The outgoing Prime Minister will state in the letter that he is aware of the anger that his words have sparked in Hungary.

Rutte spoke of the ‘good relationship’ he maintains with ‘Viktor’ at the European meeting table. Rutte has been there for fourteen years, Orbán a few more months, and together they are, by far, the veterans in the EU.

If Orbán stops opposing Rutte’s appointment as NATO secretary general, he is still not completely sure of his position. Romania and Slovakia are also opposed. Romanian President Klaus Werner Iohannis has also run as a candidate. These two countries are expected to give in if Orbán expresses his support for Rutte.

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