BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — The Hungarian parliament on Tuesday refused a proposal to hold a vote on Sweden’s bid to join NATO, further delaying the Nordic country’s inclusion in the military alliance.
Hungary is the main hurdle to Sweden’s admission into NATO after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan submitted a protocol to Turkey’s parliament on Monday to approve its admission. All 31 allies must endorse the accession.
The governing Fidesz party — led by populist Prime Minister Viktor Orbán who is widely considered one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s only allies in the EU — which holds an absolute majority in the Hungarian parliament, has stalled Sweden’s bid since July 2022, alleging that Swedish politicians have told “blatant lies” about the condition of Hungary’s democracy.
Fidesz lawmakers blocked the Tuesday proposal to schedule a vote, according to Agnes Vadai, a lawmaker with Hungary’s opposition Democratic Coalition party and a former secretary of state in the Ministry of Defense.
The next possible time to vote on the ratification will be during the parliamentary session beginning Nov. 6, she said.
Hungarian officials have said repeatedly that their country will not be the last member to endorse Sweden’s bid, but Ankara’s move toward ratification suggests that the time for further holdups may be running out.
The delays have frustrated other NATO allies, who were swift in accepting Sweden and Finland into the alliance after the neighboring countries dropped their longstanding military neutrality after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.
Hungary has always seemed to follow Turkey’s lead when it came to NATO expansion. After multiple delays in ratifying Finland’s NATO bid, Hungary’s parliament swiftly passed the measure in March, immediately after Erdogan indicated his government would move forward on the ratification.
However, speaking from New York before a meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday, Hungary’s Foreign Minister, Peter Szijjarto, said the ratification process by Turkey’s parliament “does not change anything,” and that Hungarian lawmakers “will make a sovereign decision on this issue.”
Last month, Orbán said that Hungary was in “no rush” to ratify Sweden’s accession, and a senior Fidesz lawmaker said he saw “little chance” that parliament would vote on the matter this year.
The press office of the Fidesz party did not respond to a request for comment by The Associated Press.
Erdogan has delayed ratification of Sweden’s membership over accusations that Stockholm of being too soft on Kurdish militants and other groups his country considers to be security threats. But Hungary, on the other hand, has expressed no such concrete concerns.
While Erdogan’s decision to submit ratification protocols to Turkey’s parliament brought Sweden closer than ever to joining NATO, it was still unknown when an actual vote would go to the floor.
Some opposition politicians in Hungary — who have argued for immediate approval of Sweden’s bid — believe that Orbán’s party is following Ankara’s timetable. Vadai, the opposition lawmaker, said that the Hungarian ruling party is likely to act as soon as it seems clear a vote is imminent in the Turkish parliament.
In July, Szijjarto, in a news conference, said he had been in “close and constant communication” with his Turkish counterpart on the question of Sweden’s membership.
“If there is movement (in Turkey’s position), then of course we will keep our promise that Hungary will not delay any country in its accession,” Szijjarto said at the time.
Vadai said that made it clear both countries are in constant dialogue.
“What I’d guess is that the two countries will ratify it, if not at the same time, then very close to each other,” she said.