By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
JERUSALEM/BUDAPEST (Worthy News) – Hungary’s controversial prime minister says his country will only consider ratifying NATO military alliance membership of Finland and Sweden next year.
Viktor Orbán’s weekend comments came shortly after Hungarian President Katalin Novák inspected parts of Israel’s famed Iron Dome missile defense system, which Hungary purchased amid concerns about the war in neighboring Ukraine.
The delivery of the Israeli parts and Norwegian-American missiles that are “components of the rapid defense system” start in early 2023, the government said.
Yet, while Hungary improves its air defense capabilities to support NATO, it is reluctant to embrace allies Finland and Sweden into the alliance.
Orbán suggested after a meeting of the Visegrad Group, which includes Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, and the Czech Republic, that NATO expansion won’t happen this year.
“Hungary will surely give its backing to their accession after the government had done [so], also parliament will do so,” Orban said. However, Parliament normally reconvenes around mid-February following the winter recess.
And with no signs that NATO expansion is on the agenda of the Orbán allies-controlled legislature, it could take months before Finland and Sweden join NATO.
Both Nordic nations had politely asked Hungary to speed up NATO ratification amid concerns that nearby Russia’s invasion of Ukraine threatens their security.
As members, Finland and Sweden would be protected by NATO’s Article 5, which states that an armed attack on a member is an attack against the entire, nuclear-armed, U.S.-led alliance.
Hungary and Turkey are the only NATO states not to have ratified NATO enlargement.
Under NATO rules, all current members must approve membership of new nations seeking to join the world’s largest military grouping.
Hungarian opposition parties criticized Orban for his cozy relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The prime minister signed billions of dollars in energy deals related to Russian oil and natural gas imports and Moscow upgrading Hungary’s sole nuclear power plant.
Hungary also opposes sanctions against Russia over its war in Ukraine. Budapest has been plastered with posters depicting EU sanctions as a flying bomb, and the government asked citizens to participate in a ‘national consultation’ about the punitive measures targeting Moscow.
With Parliament delaying Finland and Sweden joining NATO, Orbán also raises eyebrows within the European Union, the 27-nation bloc of which Hungary is also a member.
Last Thursday, the EU’s executive European Commission suggested holding back EU payouts until Budapest fulfills all conditions related to the rule of law and corruption.
Under the EU’s coronavirus recovery scheme, Hungary could get 5.8 billion euros ($6.02 billion) in grants to make the economy “greener and more digital.”
Separately, the Commission was to recommend this week that EU governments suspend 65 percent of transfers from the EU budget to Hungary, some 7.5 billion euros until many of the same conditions are met.
The more than 13 billion euro total shortfall comes as Hungary badly needs the cash amid surging inflation, slowing growth, and rocketing borrowing costs that have prompted mass anti-government protests.
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