| 18 April 2024, Thursday |

Hungary signals fresh delay in Finland, Sweden NATO approval

The chief of staff to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban suggested on Saturday that Budapest may need to wait until the second half of March to vote on ratifying Finland and Sweden’s membership in NATO.

Following Russia’s complete invasion of Ukraine, Sweden and Finland submitted applications to join the transatlantic defense alliance last year. However, all 30 NATO states must support the applications, and Turkey has objected to Sweden for hosting what it sees as terrorist organization members.

With Hungary’s ratification process stranded in parliament since July, Orban aired concerns about Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership for the first time on Friday. Among other criticisms, he has accused both countries of spreading “outright lies” about the health of democracy and the rule of law in Hungary.

Nationalist Orban said more talks were needed between parliamentary groups before lawmakers vote on the membership bids, which they will begin debating on Wednesday.

A legislative agenda published on parliament’s website this week showed a final vote on the NATO bids could take place in the week of March 6. However, on Saturday Orban’s aide Gergely Gulyas said more time could still be needed.

“Parliament will put this on the agenda on Monday and start debating the legislation next week,” Gulyas told a news conference.

“Based on Hungarian procedure, adopting legislation takes about four weeks, so it follows that parliament can have a vote on this sometime in the second half of March, on the week of March 21.”

Last July, Orban’s lawmakers pushed through legislation overhauling a small business tax hike in just two days.

  • Reuters