Hungary indicates it will continue to block Sweden’s Nato ratification

Hungary indicates it will continue to block Sweden’s Nato ratification
It has become clear that the position of Hungarian strongman Viktor Orban is closely aligned with that of Ankara and the parliament will only make up its mind once Turkey gives its blessing. / bne IntelliNews
By Tamas Csonka in Budapest September 22, 2023

The chance that the Hungarian Parliament would vote on Sweden's entry into Nato in the current autumn session, which will begin next week and last until February 2024, were "low", the ruling Fidesz party's parliamentary leader Mate Kocsis told a press conference during a break at its group meeting on September 21.

Kocsis said Fidesz had been unable to support Sweden’s Nato accession, as they are waiting for an explanation on the "defamatory" film made on Hungary by Sweden’s public television.

The ten-minute educational video produced by a Swedish public-service education broadcaster described Hungary as a country where democracy was eroding.

The film features a young university teacher talking about the expulsion of CEU, the private university founded by Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s nemesis, the Hungarian-born philanthropist George Soros. In the video, Marton Gulyas, the host of one of the most popular YouTube political channels (Partizan) leads viewers through the decline of democratic values since the strongman took power in 2010 and changed electoral laws, dismantled checks and balances, silenced critical media and installed his cronies in institutions.

The producer of the video told the Financial Times that it was "gratifying to hear that Hungarian politicians are watching the video, but added that it is "deeply ignorant to think that Swedish politicians have control over its content".

Hungarian lawmakers ratified Finland's accession to Nato in Mach, nine months after the country applied for membership in the military alliance only after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced his country's support.

Hungary remains the only EU member state not to have ratified Sweden's accession yet. Budapest expressed its dissatisfaction with unfriendly remarks made by Swedish politicians over Hungary and engaged in discussions, sending a delegation to Stockholm.

Erdogan changed course and promised at the Nato summit in July to ratify Sweden's bid in the autumn. The Hungarian government, caught off-guard by the change of events, said at the time that the vote on Sweden's accession was just a technical issue.

Government officials repeated that Hungary will not be the last to ratify this agreement.

It has become clear that the position of  Orban is closely aligned with that of Ankara and the parliament will only make up its mind once Turkey gives its blessing.

Analysts are split over reasons for the Hungarian government’s defiance over the issue. Some see that it is aiming to exert leverage in talks with the EU over the release of EU funds or possibly receiving concessions of some kind for supporting EC President Ursula von der Leyen.

Fidesz is preparing a narrative for next year’s elections (EP and local government elections) as one over who decides about the country’s sovereignty.

Behind the doors, Orban told the caucus that 2024 will be about these opponents trying to "bring Hungary to its knees and take away its sovereignty", according to the speech published in pro-government media.

He identified the "Soros empire, the Brussels bureaucracy and their allies" as Hungary’s opponents from whom the country’s sovereignty had to be defended.

The "obviously unlawful" withholding of funds from Hungary is an attack against the country’s political sovereignty.

Hungary’s cultural sovereignty is under threat from the push to force migrants onto the country to set up "Europe’s largest migrant ghetto here", he added. Orban accused the EU and the Soros network of financing "pseudo-civil groups and the self-proclaimed independent local media" that have sprung out of nowhere and aim to create tensions and scaremonger against nationally-minded local councils, the prime minister claimed.