February 26. 2024. 6:13

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Hungary ratifies Finland’s NATO application, keeps Sweden waiting

The Hungarian parliament ratified Finland’s NATO membership on Monday but decided to delay ratification for Sweden, with senior MPs from Orban’s ruling Fidesz party citing irritation over Stockholm’s past statements about Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s regime.

Lawmakers in Budapest voted in favour of Finland’s NATO accession with an overwhelming 182 MPs in favour and six against – meaning only Turkey remains.

After eight months of repeatedly postponing the vote since the Foreign Ministry filed its NATO ratification proposal, the vote was considered a formality as the ruling Fidesz party – which has a majority in parliament – had already declared it would be a unanimous yes vote.

For Sweden, however, parliament decided to postpone and review the country’s application for NATO membership separately, with Parliament Speaker László Kövér saying Hungary backed Sweden’s application and could expect ratification “in the near future”.

While Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson (Moderate Party, EPP) failed to receive clarifications on the matter when he met with his Hungarian counterpart in Brussels last Thursday, several senior Hungarian officials cited Budapest’s irritation at Stockholm’s criticism of their country as the main reason for the Hungarian Parliament’s delayed vote on Sweden.

“Some Hungarian MPs feel uncomfortable because they have seen how Swedish ministers have made a habit of questioning democracy in Hungary,” Balázs Orbán, the political advisor to the prime minister who is not related to him, has said.

“They have repeatedly insulted Hungarian voters and politicians and thus the whole of Hungary”, he added, arguing that Hungarian representatives “expect reassurance” from Sweden – words that echo Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto, who last weekend stated that Hungarian politicians had grown tired of the “finger-pointing” from the Nordic countries.

According to opposition MP Ágnes Vadai from the Democratic Coalition (DK), the Finns and Swedes “did not criticise the Hungarian people, but the government”.

Troubling past

But according to Orbán’s political adviser, some high-profile Swedish politicians criticised the current Hungarian government in the context of the disagreements between the EU and Budapest concerning the rule of law in Hungary.

In March 2021, Kristersson – then opposition leader – 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.”

The prime minister’s political adviser also aimed EU Affairs Minister Jessika Roswall, who, at the time when she was the Moderate Party’s EU spokesperson, said that “it is now required that the EU acts clearly and that the new conditionality mechanism stops payments to Hungary.”

Employment and Integration Minister and Liberal Party leader Johan Pehrson was also criticised for previously saying that “Hungary’s xenophobic and nationalist government continues to violate the principle of the rule of law and waivers in supporting Ukraine”.

EURACTIV contacted the Swedish authorities but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

(Charles Szumski | EURACTIV.com and Telex)