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

editor: REMIX NEWS
author: Thomas Brooke
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán

The Hungarian parliament will begin to debate Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership bids on Wednesday; however, there are “serious discussions” to be had regarding the countries’ criticism of Hungarian democracy before ratifying their accession to the defense alliance, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has said.

Some in Europe have accused Hungary of dragging its feet on approving the applications made by Stockholm and Helsinki in May last year — only Hungary and Turkey have yet to ratify the NATO accession applications. And while Orbán says his administration supports their NATO accession in principle, he has insisted on addressing some of the misinformation spread about Hungary by the respective governments before signing off on their applications.

“I’ve asked our parliamentary group to support Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership, and this is why the government has submitted this proposal to parliament, asking MPs to vote for it. 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 last Friday.

He revealed there is a strong counter-argument against the membership bids by some within his party. “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.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó announced on Monday a Hungarian delegation would visit both Helsinki and Stockholm as part of the parliamentary ratification process “to dispel their concerns about unfounded lies about the state of Hungary’s democracy.”

“In recent years, lies and made-up news about Hungary have been spread by government officials in Sweden, quite regularly,” Szijjártó told Swedish broadcaster SVT.

“To deal with legitimate concerns about this, we have decided to send a delegation to both parliaments who will ask the speakers of the respective parliaments to put together a delegation to discuss this issue,” he added.

Some in the Swedish capital aren’t very pleased and have accused Hungary of “resorting to ransom again,” as reported by Politico’s Playbook. “Everyone is getting tired of the same blackmail tactics,” said one Swedish government official.

During a visit to Helsinki on Tuesday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg urged both Turkey and Hungary to ratify the membership bids as soon as possible. “In a more dangerous world, we can no longer afford to treat defense as optional. It is a necessity,” he said in a speech to the Cooperation Committee of the Nordic Labour Movement (SAMAK).

Ahead of the parliamentary debate in the Hungarian parliament, President Katalin Novák posted on social media: “Some people think that this is an easily resolved, technical issue. It’s not like that. It is a complex decision with serious consequences, so it should be carefully considered. My position is clear: In the current situation, the NATO accession of Sweden and Finland is justified.”

The Hungarian parliament’s ratification process is estimated to take a few weeks with a vote on the matter expected in late March.

Ankara, however, remains a major stumbling block, particularly for Sweden. Recent rows over the Swedish government’s decision to permit anti-Islam demonstrations outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm led to strained diplomatic relations, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan suggested last month his administration may green-light Finland’s membership while rejecting Sweden’s.

He also called for Stockholm to stop harboring anti-Turkish government activists viewed by Ankara as terrorists.

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