As is his custom in the EU, Viktor Orban is trying to play his cards in NATO to achieve concessions in exchange for giving his approval to the Sweden’s entry into NATO. After the green light from the Turkish Parliament for the Swedish candidacy, the populist leader knows that he has an ace up his sleeve to maintain pressure on Stockholm, one of the biggest critics of Hungary’s authoritarian drift. Not by chance, he is in another fight with his EU partners over military aid to Ukraine worth 50 billion euros.
Before the Turkish “yes”, Orban sent a letter to his Swedish counterpart on Tuesday morning, Ulf Kristersson, inviting him to travel to Budapest to discuss joining NATO. “Today I sent a letter of invitation to Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson for a visit to Hungary to negotiate Sweden’s accession to NATO,” the Magyar Prime Minister wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. Hungary had already tried in vain to invite Swedish representatives to Budapest.
“I invite you to come to Hungary as soon as you have the opportunity to exchange views in all areas, including our complex bilateral relations and our future cooperation in the framework of security and defense as allies and partners,” Orban said in his letter to Kristersson.
At the same time, the opposition Hungarian Social Democratic Party called an immediate extraordinary parliamentary session to vote on Sweden’s accession to NATO, according to the Hungarian news site 24. However, it is Orban’s party, Fidesz, that will have the last say. word, given that it enjoys an absolute majority in the Chamber.
“If Orban doesn’t want to, there will be no additional session,” the deputy told TT Newswire. Agnes Vadai of the opposition Democratic Coalition party. “But, of course, my party supports [la sesión extraordinaria]”.
An additional session would have to be approved by the parliament’s preparatory committee, where the opposition does not have enough seats to win a vote. Fidesz has the majority to decide the legislative agenda.
The opposition has called for a vote on Sweden’s NATO application for more than a year, while Parliament was in session, but without Fidesz’s backing it cannot be approved.
“It is a dark game that, of course, only benefits Putin. I think it is a shame for Hungary and the Hungarian people. That is why we took the initiative to hold an extraordinary meeting in parliament,” he says. Bertalan Tothleader of the parliamentary group of the Social Democratic Party (MSZP).
According to the vice president of the MSZP, Tamas Harangozothe management of Sweden’s application to join NATO has been “a meaningless farce” that “has brought shame to the Hungarian people.”
“By lying about the date of approval and the reasons for the delay, they did not obtain any results. It is time for Orban to stop this stupid, harmful and unnecessary farce,” he said in statements to Swedish public television SVT.
Hungary is the only NATO member that has not yet approved Sweden’s membership application. Orban had previously stated that Hungary will not be the last country to approve Sweden’s request, without giving further details on when it plans to do so.
Last week, the Hungarian government signaled that approval could be delayed. A source close to the prime minister told the Reuters news agency that Sweden “did not seem to be prioritizing NATO membership”adding that the country had not done enough to build confidence in its suitability for membership.
From Stockholm, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tobias Billstromdid not want to answer whether the prime minister will travel to Hungary to meet with Orban or will do so during the extraordinary European Council that will be held on February 1 in Brussels, precisely because of the Hungarian veto of the military aid package to Ukraine.
The head of Swedish diplomacy, who met last Monday in Brussels with his Hungarian counterpart, Peter Szijjartocalled on Hungary to ratify Sweden’s accession to the Atlantic Alliance.
“We addressed, among other things, the issue of ratification. I received again the promise that they intend to continue with this and that the government fully supports Sweden becoming a member of NATO,” Billström said. “Naturally we hope that Hungary will ratify it as soon as possible,” he emphasized.
The Swedish Foreign Minister, in any case, assured that he did not see “no reason” to negotiate with Hungary over Stockholm’s NATO candidacy “at this time”. “We have received the letter from Prime Minister Orbán’s office and we will analyze it in depth and return with a response,” he added.