Hungary has once again delayed a vote on the ratification of Sweden and Finland’s NATO accession bids, further frustrating Western allies. Hungary is the only NATO member, aside from Turkey, that has not yet approved the two Nordic countries’ bids to join the alliance. The latest delay pushes the vote back by two weeks to the parliamentary session beginning March 20.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban has accused the Swedish and Finnish governments of spreading “blatant lies” about Hungary, which have raised questions among lawmakers in his party on whether to approve the bids. However, Orban confirmed that Hungary would send a parliamentary delegation to Sweden and Finland to seek clarification on the issues before the ratification could come to a vote in parliament.
According to a statement from the Riksdag sent to The Associated Press, the Hungarian delegation is scheduled to meet with Swedish assembly Speaker Andreas Norlén and other lawmakers in Sweden's parliament, the Riksdag, on the upcoming Tuesday.
The delays have frustrated some members of the European Union, as well as members of Hungary’s opposition parties. A liberal lawmaker and a former secretary of state in Hungary’s Ministry of Defense, Agnes Vadai, criticized the governing Fidesz party for the numerous delays and accused them of deliberately dragging their feet on the vote.
Finland and Sweden applied last year to join NATO due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The countries have said they want to join NATO together, but Hungary and Turkey are the only NATO members to not yet have ratified the bids. The other 28 countries have approved the bids. Adding a new member requires unanimous agreement.
Turkey has pressed the two countries to crack down on exiled members of Kurdish and other groups it sees as terrorists to secure ratification. The country has signaled that it might vote for Finland’s accession but not for Sweden’s. U.S. President Joe Biden wants both Finland and Sweden in NATO and is more focused on both countries joining rather than them doing so at the same time.
In regards to Finland's bid, the country's parliament "passed all the legislation necessary for joining NATO" on Wednesday in advance, with Hungary and Turkey still to ratify the bid. However, concerns remain about Finland's border with Russia, with some members of the Hungarian government expressing worries about adding a country that shares an 800-mile border with Russia. Finland began constructing a border fence on Tuesday, with most of its border currently protected by wooden fences to prevent livestock from crossing.