Hungarian government officials hit back at criticism from Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson on Thursday after the Hungarian parliament’s ratification of Sweden’s NATO membership bid was delayed.
Hungary and Turkey are the last remaining NATO members to approve the applications made by both Sweden and Finland to join the defense alliance in March last year. Despite the parliamentary debate on the matter commencing in Budapest earlier this month, a final parliamentary vote has been delayed, prompting a sharp response from Stockholm.
Balázs Orbán, a Hungarian MP and the political director of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, took to social media on Thursday evening to explain in no uncertain terms Hungary’s reluctance to sign off on Sweden’s membership bid.
“The Swedish prime minister is asking what the Hungarian MPs’ problem is. Let me help you understand with some examples,” Orbán tweeted, before detailing a number of examples of recent criticism by Swedish government officials of the Hungarian government and its democratic processes.
He outlined an incident on March 3, 2021, during which Ulf Kristersson, then the leader of the Moderate Party in Sweden and now the country’s prime minister, said: “For the EU, large parts of the job still remain to break the development in Hungary, to put pressure on the Hungarian government and to support the increasingly strong opposition.”
In addition, Orbán cited the remarks of then EU spokesperson for the Moderate Party, now the country’s EU Affairs Minister, Jessika Roswall, who said on June 30, 2021: “It is now required that the EU act clearly and that the new conditionality mechanism stops payments to Hungary.”
Lastly, Orbán reminded the Swedish government of comments made by Sweden’s Employment and Integration Minister, Johan Pehrson, on May 10, 2022, who at the time was the leader of Sweden’s Liberal Party. Pehrson slammed “Hungary’s xenophobic and nationalist government,” which he claimed “continues to violate the principle of rule of law and waivers in supporting Ukraine.”
Orbán signed off his tweet with: “Good morning, Stockholm!”
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The Hungarian response highlights the reluctance of some Hungarian politicians to lend a hand to Sweden, a country that has relentlessly chastised Viktor Orbán’s administration and from which a large number of its MEPs voted last year to label Hungary as experiencing a democratic deficit, so much so it should now be considered an “electoral autocracy.”
The relationship between the countries appeared to be on the mend after a Hungarian delegation visited Stockholm earlier this month, led by Csaba Hende, Hungary’s deputy parliamentary speaker and a member of the governing Fidesz party.
Hende described the discussions during the visit as “warm, friendly and forward-looking” with the hope of a “new beginning,” and revealed that most of the Hungarian government and parliamentarians “clearly support Swedish NATO membership.”
He did, however, urge Stockholm to refrain from making continuous derogatory remarks about Hungary’s democracy and to show the country’s government “more respect.”
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“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,” Hende told reporters at the time.
During an interview on national radio earlier this month, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán told listeners a number of his governing party’s parliamentarians had expressed their reluctance to help Sweden out given the recent criticism by government officials.
“They’re spreading blatant lies about Hungary, about the rule of law in Hungary, about democracy, about life here; how, the argument goes, can anyone want to be our ally in a military system while they’re shamelessly spreading lies about Hungary?”
“If they expect us to be fair to them, then they should also be fair to Hungary,” Orbán added.