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26 Oct, 2023 05:24

Hungary delays vote on NATO expansion

Budapest will be the only remaining holdout once Türkiye approves Sweden’s application
Hungary delays vote on NATO expansion

The Hungarian parliament will not vote on Sweden’s request to join NATO this week, according to a senior opposition lawmaker. The issue will not be considered again until next month, following a series of delays on the decision.

Agnes Vadai, who serves as vice president of the opposition Democratic Coalition party, took to Facebook on Tuesday to slam fellow lawmakers for putting off the vote, accusing the ruling coalition of ignoring the “security of the homeland.” 

Hungary and Türkiye are the only members of the US-led military alliance that have yet to approve Stockholm’s membership bid. However, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed an accession protocol earlier this week, sending it off for ratification by lawmakers. Should they vote yes, the final decision would fall to Budapest.

In its quest to secure Türkiye’s approval, Sweden has amended its counterterrorism laws, resumed arms exports to Ankara, and even banned support for the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) and other groups labeled terrorists by Türkiye.

Hungarian lawmakers first floated the vote on Swedish membership last year, but the measure has been stalled repeatedly amid opposition by the ruling Fidesz party. A ratification vote was scheduled in July, but failed due to a Fidesz boycott, which left parliament with insufficient votes to pass the measure.

On Wednesday, an aide to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said the administration seeks “normal, good relations with Sweden,” but suggested some of Budapest’s conditions had not been met. “If we achieve [good relations], there will be no obstacles for its accession,” the official added, though did not elaborate.

Sweden and Finland both applied to join NATO in May 2022, abandoning decades of neutrality after Russia began its military operation in Ukraine. Finland received Türkiye’s approval earlier this year following similar legal and political concessions to those demanded of Sweden, and officially joined NATO in April. Hungary, meanwhile, ratified Finland’s bid in March, but postponed the Swedish request.