Hungary to approve Finland, Sweden’s NATO membership

The Hungarian parliament could approve Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership next month, according to the agenda of next week’s legislative session.

Finland and Sweden sought membership after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year and have said they want to join “hand in hand,” but while most member states have given a green light for the applications, Türkiye and Hungary are yet to ratify them.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock last week called on the two countries to pave the way for Finland and Sweden to join NATO, stating she expects all NATO members to ratify their bids to join the defense alliance “without further delay.”

News website reported Hungarian lawmakers could start debating the legislation on March 1, with a vote on ratification taking place probably the following week.

A Hungarian government spokesman, parliament’s press office and the Hungarian Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to emailed questions for comment.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban said in November that his government had already decided that Hungary would support Finland and Sweden’s NATO accession.

The Hungarian government submitted the relevant legislation in July, but the parliament, in which Orban’s ruling Fidesz party has a two-third majority, has not yet brought forth the two bills for debate and approval.

Orban, re-elected in 2022 for a fourth consecutive term, reiterated on Saturday that being a NATO member was “vital” for Hungary, but said his government would not send arms to Ukraine or sever its economic relations with Moscow.

Sweden and Finland also need Türkiye’s approval to become NATO members.

Türkiye has signaled it is ready to receive Finland into the alliance – but not Sweden.

A scandalous mid-January protest in Stockholm, wherein an effigy of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was hanged by its feet in front of the city hall, has particularly impaired negotiations, with a separate Qur’an burning session as the boiling point.

Türkiye summoned the Swedish ambassador and canceled a visit by Swedish Parliament Speaker Andreas Norlen and Defense Minister Pal Jonson to Ankara. Amid an outpouring of international denouncements, dozens of Turkish officials, including defense and foreign ministers and opposition party leaders, slammed Sweden for allowing the burning of Islam’s holy book by a far-right politician.

Ankara said Sweden must first take a more explicit stance against terrorists. Türkiye has frequently voiced that it does not oppose NATO enlargement but criticizes Stockholm for not taking action against elements posing a security threat to Ankara.

Last June, Türkiye and the two Nordic countries signed a memorandum to address Ankara’s legitimate security concerns, paving the way for their eventual membership in the alliance. But recent provocative demonstrations by terrorist sympathizers and Islamophobic figures in Stockholm have led Turkish leaders to question Sweden’s commitment to take the steps necessary to gain NATO membership.

Ankara has long criticized Stockholm for housing members of various terrorist organizations, particularly members of the banned PKK and, in recent years, the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) – the organization behind the 2016 defeated coup attempt in Türkiye.