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Pressure intensifies on Hungary to approve Sweden’s NATO membership

Sweden’s NATO membership

Pressure is growing on Hungary, the last NATO member that has not ratified Sweden’s membership. The Prime Ministers of Hungary and Sweden plan to meet on the sidelines of the EU Summit in Brussels on Thursday (February 1) to discuss this issue.

In May 2022, three months after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Sweden and Finland applied to join NATO at the same time. Finland officially joined in April last year, becoming the 31st member of the Western military alliance.

Yet Sweden is still waiting. Turkey’s parliament finally approved Sweden’s EU membership application on January 23, after Ankara and Stockholm resolved their long-standing dispute over Sweden’s alleged support for Kurdish separatists.

This makes Hungary the only NATO member that has still not approved Sweden’s membership, although Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has promised that Hungary will not be the last NATO member to approve Sweden’s application for membership.

Speaking to reporters on Monday after meeting NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Budapest to quickly approve Sweden’s membership.

Blinken said: “Sweden brings tremendous capabilities to the alliance in various fields. Hungary must act now to complete the Swedish accession process. But I fully expect this to happen when the Hungarian parliament resumes in a few weeks.”

Since Sweden After submitting the application to join NATO in 2022, MPs from Prime Minister Orban’s party Fidesz, have been delaying the vote.

Last week, however, Prime Minister Orban apparently reversed course. He said he supported Sweden’s membership of NATO and suggested that lawmakers vote for Sweden’s membership when they return from the winter recess in mid-February.

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Opposition lawmakers on Monday called for a special session of parliament to vote on the matter, although the motion is not expected to succeed.

Laszlo Kover, Speaker of the Hungarian Parliament and founding member of Fidesz, said on January 25 that he did not see any urgency in the vote. “Also, I don’t think there is anything special about this situation,” he told the Hungarian news website Index.

Senior Fidesz MPs have expressed anger at Sweden’s criticism of Hungary’s democratic backsliding. Balazs Orban is Prime Minister Orban’s political affairs director, but the two are not related. He told Hungarian television last week that “the way the Swedish political elite has attacked Hungary over the past 10 years… has created a basis for Hungary to demand further political consultations with Sweden as it relates to our commitment to a military alliance.”

Zoltan Pogatsa, a political economist at the University of West Hungary, said that Hungary is trying to flex its diplomatic muscles on the world stage.

Pogasa told the media: “I think Orban wants to remind Western countries from time to time: ‘Don’t criticize us because we have cards, we don’t come to the table without cards, we do have our cards. “So if you want to criticize us for corruption, the rule of law, or the quality of our democracy, just be careful.”

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson rejected an offer by his Hungarian counterpart to discuss the matter in Budapest. An invitation to start negotiations for Sweden to join NATO. “There are no demands related to NATO membership; that is not an issue on the table,” Kristersson told Swedish TV4. But he added that the two countries had a lot to discuss, including cooperation within NATO, Hungary’s upcoming EU presidency, and support for Ukraine.

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The two leaders are scheduled to meet on the sidelines of an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday. Kristersson said in a letter to Orban: “I agree with you that it would be beneficial for our two countries to have a more intensive dialogue.”

At the same time, Russia was in early January It has been said that Russia will take “retaliatory measures” if Sweden joins the NATO alliance.

“Sweden becoming a member of NATO will have an extremely negative impact on the stability of the Nordic and Baltic regions,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova told reporters in Moscow on January 26. “We will take retaliatory measures of a political and military-technical nature to stop threats to our country’s defense capabilities.”

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