Written by Jacopo Maria Bosica
Edited by Stef Clement
On 28 June 2023, the Hungarian Parliament’s House Committee rejected a proposal to schedule a weekly plenary vote ratifying Sweden’s NATO membership bid (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 2023). Incidentally, this is the final week of the chamber’s spring session, meaning that Parliamentarians will not return until the ordinary autumn sessions start in late August or early September. Therefore, the only chance to vote on Stockholm’s accession to the alliance is through an extraordinary session, which may only convene upon a motion by the President, the Government or one-fifth of the Parliament’s members (Hungarian National Assembly, n.d.).
It is the latest in a year-long chain of decisions by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and the governing Fidesz party, who have prevented NATO from making a decisive step forward on the matter before the Vilnius Summit on 11 and 12 July (Spike, 2023c). Hungary’s waiting game marks an element of continuity with Finland’s road towards NATO membership, whereby the Parliament eventually ratified Helsinki’s accession on 27 March close to unanimity (Spike, 2023b). This time, Budapest’s grip will likely be stricter as government officials have linked Stockholm’s bid to vague demands of ‘acting differently’ following a bilateral meeting between Hungary’s Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto and his then-Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu in February (Spike, 2023a). Szijjarto referred to the Quran-burning protest outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm on 21 January (Al Jazeera, 2023).
Interestingly, despite reaching opposite conclusions, Hungary’s approach to Finland’s and Sweden’s accession processes result from a mere alignment with the position dictated by Türkiye. For example, the National Assembly’s vote to welcome Finland to NATO followed the Turkish Government’s progress on the accession bid’s ratification. As for Stockholm, Budapest does not distance itself from Ankara’s accusations against Sweden of being soft on Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) members, a proclaimed ‘terrorist organisations’ (Spike, 2023c). One week after Ankara hardened its stance in light of the demonstration outside a Stockholm Mosque on the first day of Eid al-Adha (Henley, 2023), the Stockholm district court sentenced a 41-year-old Turkish Kurd to 4 years and 6 months in prison for gun crime, attempted extortion and attempted financing of the PKK (Al Jazeera, 2023). This event could have been decisive to convince President Erdoğan to support Sweden’s accession bid just prior to the NATO Vilnius Summit, albeit with no timeline given for Turkish Parliament’s ratification vote (Hansler et al., 2023).
Al Jazeera. (2023, 21 January). Turkish anger after Quran burning, Kurd protests in Sweden. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/1/21/turkey-cancels-swedish-minister-visit-over-right-wing-protest
Al Jazeera. (2023, 6 July). Swedish court convicts man of supporting outlawed Kurdish PKK. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/7/6/swedish-court-convicts-man-of-supporting-outlawed-kurdish-pkk.
Hansler, J., Klein, B. and Pokharel, S. (2023, 10 July). Turkey has agreed to back Sweden’s NATO bid, alliance chief says, CNN. https://edition.cnn.com/2023/07/10/politics/turkey-sweden-nato/index.html.
Henley, J. (2023, 28 June). Turkish fury as Sweden allows Qur’an burning risks further delays to Nato bid, The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/jun/28/turkey-rebuke-of-quran-burning-poses-risk-to-sweden-nato-application.
Hungarian National Assembly. (n.d.). The operation of the National Assembly. https://www.parlament.hu/web/house-of-the-national-assembly/operation-of-the-national-assembly.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. (2023, 29 June). Hungarian Parliament Committee Delays Vote On Sweden’s NATO Bid. https://www.rferl.org/a/hungary-delays-ratification-sweden-nato-/32481701.html.
Spike, J. (2023a, 1 February). Hungary FM: Sweden should ‘act differently’ to join NATO, AP News. https://apnews.com/article/russia-ukraine-nato-politics-hungary-government-sweden-8ca1cf7cae4f88805bca2732a03e7f45.
Spike, J. (2023b, 27 March). Hungarian parliament approves Finland’s bid to join NATO, AP News. https://apnews.com/article/hungary-finland-parliament-nato-ratification-8f32a8397031e3dbe9eca4ecd8572d27
Spike, J. (2023c, 28 June). Hungary postpones vote on Sweden’s NATO accession bid ahead of summit, AP News. https://apnews.com/article/hungary-sweden-nato-vote-finland-turkey-65809a5f0e660ae91400e9ff3a8e3092.