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CEE members mark accession anniversaries as NATO vows to back Ukraine

| 2024-04-04 2 min read

CEE members mark accession anniversaries as NATO vows to back Ukraine

Reading Time: 2 minutes

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg agreed to progress with planning a greater role in coordinating aid to Ukraine on the first of two days of meetings at the NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on Thursday 4 April, the 75th anniversary of the signing of the defence alliance’s founding document.

Stoltenberg said in a speech that “NATO is bigger, stronger, and more united than ever,” adding that Ukraine can rely on NATO support now and for the long haul.

Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) countries Czechia, Hungary and Poland marked their 25th accession anniversaries. Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia celebrated their 20th accession anniversary, and Albania and Croatia their 15th.

All 12 foreign ministers from the CEE countries delivered statements to mark the occasion. Sweden became the defence alliance’s 32nd member on 7 March, and its foreign minister was attending a meeting for the first time.

Hungary calls for next NATO chief from CEE

Hungarian Prime Minister Peter Szijjarto called for the next NATO secretary general to be someone from Central or Eastern Europe, noting that many of the countries on the alliance’s eastern flank have now been members for two decades, on Thursday, 4 April.

The top diplomat of Hungary, seen as Russia’s biggest ally in NATO, said “if we acknowledge, as we do in NATO, that the primary challenge comes from the East, then appointing a secretary general from the Eastern half of NATO seems fitting.”

Szijjarto rejected the candidacy of frontrunner Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte favourite to replace incumbent General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg. Romanian President Klaus Iohannis is currently the CEE frontrunner for the post, a decision on which will be made at the NATO summit in US capital Washington DC in July.

Also on the agenda were security challenges in NATO’s southern neighbourhood, including possible terrorism threats.