US Envoy Increases Pressure on Orban to Approve Sweden’s Membership in NATO

In an unexpected move to put pressure on Budapest to accept Sweden’s application to join NATO, the U.S. ambassador to Budapest visited the Hungarian parliament on Monday along with ambassadors from a few other NATO members, including Denmark and Poland.

Ratification will now be further delayed. The opposition had requested a special meeting of parliament on Monday to vote on ratification; however, members of his ruling Fidesz party chose to boycott the meeting.

As the only nation in NATO to reject Stockholm’s bid for membership—a move that needs the support of all other members—Hungary has strained ties with the US and alarmed its allies.

The opposition LMP politician Mate Kanasz-Nagy addressed the legislature, his remarks resonating in the half-empty room while the envoys sat in the public gallery. “Its extremely unpleasant that up to today, they (Fidesz) have been blocking Sweden’s NATO accession,” Mate said.

Opposition MP Agnes Vadai stated, “He [Orban] wants to favor [Russian President] Putin, thus breaking the unity of NATO.”

Prior to entering parliament, the ambassadors remained silent, but they are anticipated to speak up following the meeting.

When Hungary’s parliament reconvenes for a regular session, the Fidesz party’s parliamentary group stated earlier on Monday that it expected a visit from the Swedish prime minister to Budapest before ratifying Sweden’s NATO request.

After the winter recess, in late February, Parliament will meet again.

In response to inquiries from Reuters via email, Fidesz stated, “If this is an important issue for the Swedes, then obviously the Swedish prime minister will come to Budapest.”

Requests for reaction from the Swedish prime minister Ulf Kristersson’s office and his foreign minister were not immediately answered.

In the same way that the Swedish leader had traveled to Turkey prior to the Turkish ratification, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto stated late on Friday that it would be “fair” if Kristersson visited Budapest prior to the ratification.

The government supports Sweden’s membership in the alliance, according to Prime Minister Viktor Orban, despite the fact that the appropriate measure has been stuck in parliament since mid-2022. Orban has stronger links to Russia than most other EU and NATO members.

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