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18 Sep, 2023 11:59

Sweden’s NATO membership in the balance – top Hungarian MP

Budapest does not need an ally that accuses it of democratic failings, the parliamentary speaker has said
Sweden’s NATO membership in the balance – top Hungarian MP

A leading Hungarian MP has questioned whether his country should ratify NATO membership for Sweden, after Stockholm accused the Eastern European nation of a crackdown on democracy.

In an interview with the HiR TV broadcaster on Friday, Hungarian parliamentary speaker Laszlo Kover rebuked Stockholm over a film released by the Swedish Educational Broadcasting Company (UR) in 2019, which criticized what it described as the poor state of democracy in Hungary.

“It is not certain that we have to vote on this [membership ratification for Sweden]. I think that we don’t need an ally that has the same opinion about us and our patriotism as this little film reflects,” Kover stated.

The ten-minute video also prompted a backlash from Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto. The diplomat last week wrote to his Swedish counterpart, Tobias Billstrom, expressing outrage at what he called “serious accusations” and misinformation being spread among Swedish students.

“You urge our parliamentarians to ratify your accession to NATO, while you continue to accuse them as if they had destructed democracy in Hungary,” Szijjarto said. He claimed that these efforts contradict each other and “definitely [do not] help” in paving the way for Sweden’s eventual membership in the US-led military bloc.

The UR responded to the accusations by insisting that the film is “more important than ever,” while the broadcaster’s CEO, Kalle Sandhammar, said the company should not be afraid of criticism. He argued it is “very easy to defend [the film],” claiming it is based on “credible and clearly reported sources.” 

Sweden and Nordic neighbor Finland applied to join NATO in May 2022, following the start of the Ukraine conflict. While Finland became a full-fledged member of the bloc in April, Sweden’s accession has yet to be ratified by Hungary and Türkiye.

Ankara has long demanded that Stockholm crack down on groups it considers to be terrorist as a prerequisite for ratification. Meanwhile, Budapest has repeatedly denounced what it calls “blatant lies” disseminated by Sweden about the state of Hungarian democracy. As a result, Hungarian MPs have been reluctant to hold a ratification vote for more than a year.

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