Hungary is making Sweden wait for NATO’s northern expansion – with ever new justifications

Hungary is making Sweden wait for NATO’s northern expansion – with ever new justifications

Victor Orban

The Hungarian prime minister is sending unclear signals with his foreign policy.

(Photo: Bloomberg)

Vienna As Hungary’s parliament on Monday the Nato– ratified Finland’s accession, it was done with almost complete unanimity. 182 out of 199 deputies, including all representatives of the government camp, voted yes. So everyone has Nato-States except the Türkiye agreed to Finnish membership in the Defense Alliance. Ankara announced this step for the near future.

However, Budapest has the Turkish delaying tactics in the admission process for Sweden connected. While Ankara is trying to force tougher action against representatives of the Kurdish Workers’ Party from Stockholm, Hungary’s reservations and demands remain nebulous.

According to the influential government adviser Balazs Orban Swedes have “made it a habit of constantly questioning the state of Hungary’s democracy, thereby insulting our voters, MPs and the country as a whole”. Viktor Orban’s government supports membership, but is having trouble overcoming reservations in its own parliamentary group.

A hardly comprehensible argument – not only because Viktor Orban leads his party Fidesz strictly hierarchically. Also, she doesn’t explain why Hungary Finland and Sweden separates: it was Helsinki that significantly advanced the rule of law mechanism during its EU presidency in 2019. This led to more than six billion euros being frozen from Brussels for Budapest. The reference to comments by Swedish ministers that are critical of Hungary seems pretentious.

Budapest has always found new reasons for the eight-month delay in ratification. First it was said that Parliament was too busy because the EU is constantly setting new conditions for the payment of subsidies. However, Orban has always denied that he would demand concessions in the dispute over the rule of law in return for approval. So far none have been known.

The faction split argument then surfaced in February. The applications of Finland and Sweden were separated in March – after Orban’s trip to Ankara, as the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” notes.

Orban adheres to foreign policy Erdogan

It seems clear that Hungary is clinging to Turkey in order to maximize its foreign policy weight. The strategic goal of the delaying tactics, however, is not: it is most likely to be explained by a combination of domestic and foreign policy motives that are only indirectly related to the Scandinavian countries. First of all, the small state can offer the often perceived as arrogant “old” Europe show that you don’t just nod off decisions.

A “sign here attitude” is no longer accepted, writes a pro-government portal. Orban also made it clear to the Swedes that they could “only be cheeky with the driver if the ticket is in order”. Such pithy sayings are part of Orban’s populist repertoire.

The northward expansion of NATO is also tricky for the government in Budapest because it has been sending conflicting signals to East and West, and not just since Putin’s attack on Ukraine. At the same time, she knows that without EU subsidies and NATO’s military protection, there can be neither economic development nor security. It is therefore grudgingly supporting the sanctions against Moscow.

Hungarian Parliament

Orban pushes disputes in his party.

(Photo: AP)

At the same time, Fidesz has significantly increased its dependence on Russia in the energy sector. In addition, there are political sympathies for an anti-liberal regime that distinguishes itself globally as an advocate of conservatism and “family values”.

Tricky swing policy

A lack of money from Brussels, the inflationary effect of the Ukraine war and gross mistakes in economic policy have created a situation that is difficult for the government to control and which is making it act increasingly erratically. Since Hungary is more exposed than almost any other EU country, any escalation of tension is all the more dangerous. This explains Orban’s seesaw policy.

But it is also the reason why other EU countries no longer see the country as a reliable partner. The country can no longer form coalitions among its European partners, and relations with Poland have also cooled off. If Orban wants to avoid isolation, he cannot afford a long-term blockade of NATO expansion. But even if he finally gives in: the confidence has not grown through his maneuvers.

More: How Prime Minister Orban is running down Hungary

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