A Hungarian delegation on official visits to Stockholm and Helsinki this week has given its approval to Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership bids, but asked the countries’ governments to refrain from telling lies about the state of democracy in Hungary.
Csaba Hende, Hungary’s deputy parliamentary speaker and a member of the governing Fidesz party who led the Hungarian delegation in Scandinavia this week, told reporters of the frank exchange between the Hungarian MPs and the Swedish government, in which he urged Swedish lawmakers to stop perpetuating myths about Hungary’s democracy.
“It was warm, friendly, and forward-looking and carried with it the hope of a new beginning,” Hende said.
“We made it clear that the Hungarian government, the Hungarian president, the prime minister, and most of the Hungarian parliamentarians clearly support Swedish NATO membership.”
He urged Stockholm to show Hungary “more respect,” insisting this was vital to improve relations between the two countries.
“It would be good if in the future, Swedish politicians, members of government, MPs and MEPs would avoid portraying Hungary in a false light by alluding to an absence of rule of law that is based on clearly untrue facts,” he added.
“You shouldn’t spread lies,” he said in a frank exchange with reporters from Sweden’s SVT broadcaster on Tuesday.
The following day, the Hungarian delegation traveled to Helsinki where it met with Finnish government officials to hold similar talks.
“We had a conversation that cleared the air,” said Matti Vanhanen, the speaker of Finland’s parliament. “The delegation didn´t confirm a concrete schedule (for ratification). It is up to the Hungarian parliament to decide.”
The Hungarian parliament began its debate on accession to the defense alliance for the two Nordic nations earlier this week, and a parliamentary vote is expected on the issue toward the end of the month.
Last week, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán revealed that a number of his governing party’s MPs were less than enthusiastic about supporting NATO accession for two countries often found broadcasting disparaging remarks about the country’s democracy.
Hungarian MPs lack enthusiasm for Sweden and Finland NATO bids, Orbán warns
The Hungarian parliament is expected to vote on the matter in late March
“But, between you and me, MPs aren’t very enthusiastic,” the Hungarian prime minister said in an interview with Kossuth Radio’s “Good Morning Hungary” program.
“If they expect us to be fair to them, then they should also be fair to Hungary,” Orbán added.
Nonetheless, the country is expected to green-light the applications, leaving only Turkey as the last remaining NATO member to ratify the process.
Talks are due to recommence between Ankara and Stockholm on Thursday after a political fallout over the Swedish government’s perceived unacceptable decision to allow protesters to burn copies of the Quran outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm earlier this year led to Turkey pulling out of a planned meeting in January.