Hungary to send delegation to Sweden, Finland over NATO bids

February 23, 2023 GMT

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Hungary plans to send a delegation to Sweden and Finland to resolve “political disputes” that have raised doubts among some Hungarian lawmakers of whether to support the two Nordic nations’ applications to join NATO, a senior Hungarian lawmaker said Thursday.

Mate Kocsis, the head of the nationalist Fidesz party’s parliamentary caucus, said during a news briefing that a “serious debate” had emerged within the caucus over the NATO accession of Sweden and Finland, according to state news agency MTI.

Some ruling party lawmakers, he said, resented that “politicians from these countries have insulted Hungary in a crude, unfounded and often vulgar manner in recent years, and now they are asking for a favor.”

A parliamentary delegation will travel to Sweden and Finland seeking to clarify their positions, Kocsis said. The trip was not expected to delay the Hungarian parliament’s debate, set to begin next week, on ratifying the NATO applications, he said.

Hungary is the only NATO member country besides Turkey that has not yet approved Sweden and Finland’s bids to join the Western military alliance. The northern European neighbors dropped their long-standing military neutrality and sought NATO membership in May in response to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

A unanimous vote of all 30 NATO members is needed to admit new countries.

Hungary’s parliament was expected to vote on letting Finland and Sweden join NATO late last year. But the process was delayed several times by what the government said was a crowded parliamentary agenda as lawmakers voted on legislation aimed at releasing billions in frozen European Union funding.

Kocsis said Thursday that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban was committed to admitting the two countries but that some in his Fidesz party were divided, with some arguing that NATO’s expansion “could represent an escalation in the existing conflict.”

“Fundamentally, we are committed to maintaining, enlarging and strengthening both NATO and the European community,” Kocsis said.

Earlier this month, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto defended Turkey’s refusal to ratify Sweden’s NATO bid, saying that Stockholm should “act differently” if it wanted to secure Ankara’s backing.