Hungary Delegates In Sweden Amid Concerns About NATO Expansion (Worthy News Radio)
By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
BUDAPEST (Worthy News) – Hungarian lawmakers began visiting Sweden and Finland on Tuesday to discuss the Nordic nations’ bid to join the NATO military alliance after Copenhagen and Helsinki expressed concerns about Hungary’s reluctance to ratify their entry.
Following talks in Copenhagen, the Hungarian delegation claimed it would support Swedish and Finnish membership after ironing out what Hungary’s governing Fidesz party called “political disputes.”
Both countries want to join, citing concerns that the Russian invasion of Ukraine could spread into a broader conflict. Hungary is the last European Union country among NATO members to ratify the entry of Sweden and Finland into the alliance.
That’s why the four legislators of Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party met Sweden’s parliamentary speaker and other officials to discuss Hungary’s reluctance to vote for NATO expansion.
Several Hungarian lawmakers objected to NATO membership applications by Sweden and Finland, citing what they called “blatant lies” from Stockholm and Helsinki on the state of Hungary’s democracy.
Copenhagen and Helsinki criticized what they view as Hungary’s crackdown on the rule of law, media freedom, and other democratic standards.
Additionally, Hungary, which has close relations with Russia, fears NATO expansion could further escalate the war in neighboring Ukraine.
Yet, “We support Sweden’s NATO membership,” Hungary’s deputy parliamentary speaker, Csaba Hende, told Swedish media after the talks.
“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,” Hende said.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed the remarks by the Hungarian parliamentarians. “They are sending a positive message and recommending ratification.”
However, he admitted: “So, of course, we still have some way to go, but we are making progress,” Stoltenberg stressed.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who reportedly prepares to visit Kyiv, said he advised legislators to accept Sweden and Finland’s entry into the NATO alliance.
But he denied that Hungary’s reluctance to vote unnecessarily delayed the Nordic countries’ efforts to join NATO.
‘NOT LOST MOMENT’
Prime Minister Orbán said: “I want to emphasize that the Swedes and Finns have not lost a moment in their accession process to NATO because of Hungary. Because Hungary will certainly support the accession, the government already did that, and now the Parliament will follow.”
Hungary is the last EU nation among the 30 NATO members still having to ratify the expansion. The only other country is Turkey.
However, an irritated Swedish foreign minister Tobias Billström has urged Hungary and Turkey to speed up the process. “We are so keen to join because of the deteriorating security situation in our neighborhood, Europe, and the world as a whole,” he added.
“It is quite clear that Russia’s unprovoked and illegal aggression against Ukraine has turned the world’s security architecture over. And we need to reinforce our possibility to defend ourselves,” Billström stressed.
Hungary’s Parliament is due to vote on ratifying NATO expansion on March 20.
Turkey has indicated it may only accept Finland’s entry in the short term amid disagreements with Sweden about its treatment of opponents of the Turkish president, who Ankara views as “terrorists.”
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