February 2024International NewsU.S.Europe

Hungary Declines Meeting with US Senators over Sweden’s NATO Bid

Sofia A. Diaz
Staff Writer

On February 16, Hungary, the last NATO member to approve the accession of Sweden, declined to meet with U.S. Senators over Sweden’s bid to join the military alliance. A bipartisan Congressional delegation on behalf of the U.S. traveled to Hungary with the intent to stress the urgency of ratification, reports Reuters. This refusal from Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was noted to be “strange and concerning” by Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) in a news conference documented by the Associated Press

Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), co-chair of the Senate’s NATO Observer Group, stated “I’m disappointed to say that nobody from the government would meet with us while we were here” at the same news conference on February 18, reports The New York Times.  

Sweden and Finland formally applied for NATO membership in May 2022, shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Finland was accepted to the military alliance in April 2023; however, Sweden has endured challenges in accomplishing the same. 

NATO members are concerned over the stalling of the vote for Sweden’s entry. U.S. Ambassador David Pressman stated earlier this month that Sweden’s accession to NATO is an issue that directly affects national security within the U.S., but in other NATO countries as well, Reuters says. Prime Minister Orbán is considered to have a well-grounded relationship with Russian President Vladmir Putin in comparison to other European Union leaders. However, Orbán made an initial claim announcing his support for Sweden’s entry to the military alliance while confirming that it was his legislative counterparts that were reluctant. Despite this, Katalin Cseh, a Hungarian Member of the European Parliament, stated last year that the delay in the bid for Sweden was “quite simply, another favor to Vladimir Putin,” CNN says. 

The delay of ratification—a process that requires support from all NATO members—was repeatedly noted by Orbán to be due to Stockholm’s criticism of the state of democracy and the rule of law in Hungary, according to Al Jazeera. However, pressures have been placed on the Hungarian Prime Minister to expedite their vote for ratification after Türkiye’s vote in support of Sweden’s entry left Hungry as the one remaining member holding out, CNN continues. 

The Associated Press reports that action on the path towards ratification is being taken, as there are implications suggesting the two countries are approaching a military equipment acquisition agreement. The New York Times reports that Prime Minister Orbán stated how a military cooperation agreement had a significant role to play in what he described to be “a confidence-building process” between the two countries. Orbán stated that although Hungary and Sweden are not in accordance with all issues at hand, he felt the process of confidence and trust-building was essential to persuade Hungary to support Sweden’s entry, according to ABC News

Following the bilateral meeting on Friday, ABC News outlined Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson’s summary of the country’s agreement with Hungary. Kristersson announced that Sweden will be selling four Swedish-generated JAS 39 Gripen jets to Hungary, expanding their already existing fleet while also extending service provisions and overall support systems of the jets. Prime Minister Orbán’s party announced earlier this week that Hungary’s vote concerning the ratification of Sweden’s bid to join NATO will now be held on Monday, February 26, according to The Associated Press. 

Image courtesy of Viktor Orbán/Facebook

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