Sweden and Finland can ‘count on’ Hungary in Nato bid

Hungary said it would ratify the Nordic countries’ accession before the end of the year

Emily Atkinson
Wednesday 09 November 2022 18:48 GMT
Hollywood actor Sean Penn gives his Oscar to Ukrainian president Zelensky

A close ally of Viktor Orban has declared that Sweden and Finland can “count on” Hungary in their bids for Nato accession as Budapest and Ankara continue to stall the progress of the Nordic countries’ applications to the bloc.

Gergely Gulyas, the minister for Mr Orban’s office, told a briefing on Wednesday that discussions around the ratification of the nations’ accession to the military alliance would occur during its autumn session after a series of EU-related bills have been passed.

“Finland and Sweden are our allies and they can count on us,” Mr Gulyas insisted.

The applications from Stockholm and Helsinki have so far been approved by 28 of Nato’s 30 member states, but Ankara and Budapest continue to drag their feet.

“Our aim is that parliament should ratify their application before the end of this year ... we have always said we supported the ratification,” Mr Gulyas said, in reply to a question.

The government under prime minister Orban had submitted the relevant bills in mid-July, but parliament, in which his ruling Fidesz party has a two-thirds majority, has still not tabled the two bills for debate and approval.

Hungary’s commitment comes after Sweden’s prime minister Ulf Kristersson travelled to Turkey to meet his counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in search of Ankara’s hard-fought approval for Stockholm’s Nato bid.

Turkey was immediately resistant to the northern European country’s hopes of joining the alliance – with Mr Erdogan’s opposition derived from his accusation that Sweden was harbouring Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) “terrorists”.

Mr Kristersson met Mr Erdogan at the presidential palace on Tuesday afternoon, ahead of which one Turkish official said he was “cautiously optimistic that the Swedish government will take concrete steps regarding our terrorism concern”.

Sweden’s new prime minister has vowed to take a firmer stance on fighting crime and terrorism during a visit to Turkey, where he is set to seek President Erdogan’s approval for Stockholm’s bid to join Nato.

Speaking to reporters during a visit to the Turkish parliament, Mr Kristersson said: “I think the new government will have an even firmer approach in (relation to) the Nato application from Sweden.

“One of this government’s main priorities is fighting crime, fighting organized crime, fighting the connection between organized crime and terrorism.”

It comes after Turkey also called for the lifting of an arms embargo imposed following its 2019 incursion into northern Syria to combat Kurdish militants. Sweden last month said it would lift the embargo.

Mr Kristersson wrote on Monday on Facebook that “we will do significantly more in Sweden through new legislation that provides completely new opportunities to stop participation in terrorist organizations”. Sweden would also support Nato’s counterterrorism fund to support the alliance’s ability to fight terrorism, he wrote.

Sweden and Finland applied for Nato membership after Russian forces invaded Ukraine in February, fearing that the Russian president Vladimir Putin might target them next.

It comes as Poland announced it will significantly raise defence spending to at least 3 per cent of its annual economic output next year and Slovakia is also investing heavily in its armed forces.

Poland’s prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that next year his government will spend more than 100bn zlotys (£18.7bn) “or maybe even 130bn zlotys (£24.3bn)” on modernising the armed forces.

He said that would amount to between 3 per cent and 4 per cent of Poland’s GDP – one of the highest defence budgets among Nato’s 30 members. Poland currently spends just over 2 per cent of GDP on its military.

Slovakia’s prime minister Eduard Heger said his government was “intensively modernizing the armed forces,” adding that Russia’s attack on Ukraine showed the necessity of regional defence cooperation.

With agencies

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