Orban says more talks needed on Finland, Sweden NATO bids

Orban says more talks needed on Finland, Sweden NATO bids

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Friday that more talks between parliamentary groups were needed before lawmakers vote on the ratification of Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership bids which they will begin debating next Wednesday.

Speaking on public radio, Orban said he had asked lawmakers of his nationalist Fidesz party to support their bid, adding however that some deputies were “not very enthusiastic” about the expansion and sought further discussions on the matter.

The parliaments of all 30 members of NATO have to ratify any membership bids for the alliance. Hungary’s lawmakers are scheduled to vote on the matter on March 6, according to the parliament’s agenda published online.

Orban added that in the end, it should be made clear that Hungary supports Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership, but said Turkey’s concerns regarding Sweden’s entry should also be heard, otherwise the expansion effort could fail.

“Regarding Turkey, they are also our allies, and therefore we need to hear their voice,” Orban said.

Ankara says Stockholm has harboured what Ankara calls members of terrorist groups. Turkey recently indicated it would approve only Finland for NATO membership, while Hungary says it has been delayed by a flurry of legislation required to unlock European Union funds.

“We need to pay attention to Turkey as in the end, the entire process will stall. Unless there is a solution to Turkey’s problem, then the expansion could fail.”

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock last week called on Turkey and Hungary to allow Finland and Sweden to join NATO, stating she expects all NATO members to ratify their bids to join the defence alliance “without further delay.”

Orban said some ruling party lawmakers were concerned over NATO’s shared border with Russia extending by over 1,000 kms (620 miles), pointing to potential geopolitical risks arising from Finland’s entry.

Other lawmakers took issue with what Orban described as Finland and Sweden spreading “outright lies” about the health of democracy and the rule of law in Hungary.

He added however that Hungary, dominated by Moscow for decades before the collapse of communism, had a “moral obligation” to support the bid of the Nordic countries.

Earlier this week, Hungary’s European Union funds negotiator flagged a further possible delay in access to billions of euros of recovery money, saying ironing out remaining issues with Brussels over democratic reforms could last until the summer.

The bloc has suspended any payments until Budapest’s nationalist government implements reforms to improve judicial independence and tackle corruption.

“I fall into the camp of those urging calm,” Orban said in describing the debate on NATO expansion among his lawmakers.

“I understand, moreover, I agree with the view of the parliamentary group that not all is well. However, I asked them that in the end, it should be clear that in principle we support Sweden and Finland’s NATO entry. However, some serious discussions will be needed beforehand.” [Reuters]

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