2024February 2024Eastern EuropeFocusInternational NewsEurope

Boycott in Hungarian Parliament over Sweden’s NATO Bid

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Sophie Ulm
Staff Writer

On January 23, 2024, Türkiye voted to approve Sweden’s bid to join NATO, leaving Hungary as the only country that has not yet ratified it. Hungary had an emergency session of parliament called by six opposition parties to ratify the bid on February 5, but the ruling Fidesz party boycotted the session, according to The Guardian

This boycott came shortly after Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban assured Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary general, that he would urge his party to ratify the bid in parliament at the soonest possible opportunity. Orban and the Fidesz party have not raised any official complaints about Sweden’s ascension to NATO membership, nor have they provided any clarity to other NATO members about the cause of their delay.

Agnes Vadai, a member of the largest opposition party in Hungary’s parliament, has accused Orban of delaying the vote due to “personal vanity,” reports Al Jazeera. Vadai asserted that Orban was “undermining the unity of NATO and the EU” in an attempt to make headlines in international news and send a message to Russia. The opposition parties have called this move humiliating, and though they have announced that they will maintain their attempts to vote on Sweden’s bid, many leaders have said that they lack confidence that the Fidesz super majority will allow them to do so.

Orban and his party have recently said that in order to ratify the bid they would like Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson to visit Hungary to negotiate, according to the Associated Press. Kristersson has accepted the invitation to go to Hungary, but only after the Hungarian parliament has voted to approve Sweden’s bid. Fidesz has said that they will now vote on the matter during one of their regular parliament sessions, which are set to begin on February 26, but only after receiving a visit from Kristersson.

Orban and his party have been criticized by many of their NATO allies for standing alone on the issue, reports The Guardian. David Pressman, the United States ambassador to Hungary, said in an interview after the boycott that the U.S. was disappointed in the delay, and in the lack of clarity as to what is causing it. Pressman critiques what he described as Hungarian leaders’ policy of waiting out other leaders and governments to achieve their goals and missing the time to act on issues because of it.

Both the U.S. and Sweden, among other nations, have critiqued Hungarian democracy recently. Pressman, who is a human rights lawyer, critiqued Hungary’s new sovereignty protection office, a government body that has wide authority to investigate citizens without judicial oversight, “a serious step backwards in Hungary’s democracy,” according to The Guardian. In March of 2013, Orban criticized Swedish leaders of spreading “blatant lies” about Hungarian democracy when the European Parliament urged Hungary to draft reforms after declaring Orban’s government “a hybrid regime of electoral autocracy,” reports the Associated Press.

Orban and his party are widely viewed as the most pro-Russian members of the EU and NATO, according to Bloomberg. Several NATO members have recently noted that the recent aid package sent by the European Union to Ukraine was only done by overcoming a veto from Orban to the funding, reports the Associated Press. Orban has openly casted doubts on Ukraine’s ability to defend itself from the Russian invasion in recent televised interviews.

Both Finland and Sweden began the process of joining NATO in 2022, shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Both countries have abandoned decades of nonalignment policy in order to join NATO, reports the Associated Press. Finland’s bid was approved in April of 2023 while Sweden is still in turmoil, despite the two nations applying at the same time. Many Western leaders view Sweden and Finland as key elements of maintaining peace and power in the East and hold that their entrance to NATO is paramount in strengthening the region.

Image courtesy of Getty Images

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