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Mar 24, 2023
Hungary Delays Sweden NATO Vote After Rule-of-Law Criticism
(Bloomberg) -- Sweden’s criticism of Hungary’s democratic decline is behind Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s delay in ratifying the Nordic country’s bid to join NATO, according to a senior Hungarian official.
“The Swedish prime minister asks what problem Hungarian parliament members have, so let’s help him understand,” Balazs Orban, the prime minister’s chief political adviser, who’s unrelated to the premier, wrote in social media posts late Thursday.
He listed comments from Swedish cabinet members admonishing Hungary over its rights record. “Good morning, Stockholm!” he added.
Until recently, Orban hadn’t clarified why his government is moving slowly on approving the accession of Finland and Sweden into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which made Hungary the only nation alongside Turkey in the 30-member defense alliance to have yet to ratify enlargement.
For months, he said parliament was too busy dealing with legislation related to European Union demands to reduce graft and bolster judicial independence, which are key to unblocking access to more than $30 billion of the bloc’s funding.
Recently, Orban’s officials have said Finland and Sweden’s support for a tough EU line against Hungary were behind the delay.
Throughout, Orban has followed Turkey’s cue on ratification. The Hungarian parliament moved quickly to schedule a vote on Finland’s accession for Monday after Turkey threw its support behind Finland’s bid, while holding up Sweden’s. The Hungarian parliament for now hasn’t scheduled a vote on Sweden’s accession.
Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, who met with Orban at an EU summit in Brussels, said he’s received no clarification for the hold up.
“I didn’t get an actual explanation, only the message that they have no intention of delaying any country’s accession,” Kristersson said after the meeting. “I don’t see any reason for delay, but we are aware that every country makes its own decisions.”
--With assistance from Kati Pohjanpalo.
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.
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