US Envoy Joins Pressure on Hungary to Approve Sweden’s NATO Bid

Budapest, Hungary – February 5, 2024 – In a surprise move, the US ambassador to Hungary and representatives from other NATO allies, including Denmark and Poland, attended Hungary’s parliament on Monday, applying additional pressure on the country to ratify Sweden’s membership application.

This unprecedented show of unity comes amidst Hungary’s continued delay in approving Sweden’s bid, souring relations with the United States and raising concerns within the alliance. Hungary remains the sole holdout, with all other NATO members having already given their green light.

The extraordinary parliamentary session, called by the Hungarian opposition to vote on ratification, was ultimately boycotted by lawmakers from Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s ruling Fidesz party, further postponing the decision.

Opposition lawmakers lambasted the government’s stance, accusing Orban of prioritizing ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin over NATO unity. “It’s extremely unpleasant that they’ve been blocking Sweden’s accession,” stated Mate Kanasz-Nagy of the opposition LMP party. Agnes Vadai, from the Democratic Coalition, echoed the sentiment, claiming Orban “wants to favor Putin, thus breaking the unity of NATO.”

While the ambassadors refrained from commenting before the session, they are expected to address the media later.

Fidesz, seemingly softening its stance, acknowledged the possibility of ratification during a regular parliamentary session later in February. However, they made it conditional upon a visit by Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson to Budapest, similar to Kristersson’s visit to Turkey prior to their ratification.

The Swedish leadership did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto previously deemed such a visit “fair,” mirroring Turkey’s precedent.

Orban, known for his relatively warm relations with Russia compared to other EU and NATO members, maintains his government’s support for Sweden’s membership. However, the relevant bill has remained stalled in parliament since mid-2022, raising questions about his true intentions.

With tensions escalating and concerns mounting, it remains to be seen whether a visit from Kristersson will appease Orban and pave the way for Sweden’s accession, or if Hungary will continue to stand as the last obstacle in its path to joining the alliance.

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