Finland’s bid to join NATO clears hurdle

Finland's membership bid has been backed by 29 of NATO's 30 members, with only Turkiye having not yet done so, although its government has also signaled its support.


A general view as the Hungarian parliament debates the ratification of Finland's NATO membership in Budapest, Hungary, March 27, 2023. [Photo/Agencies]

March 29, 2023

LONDON – Lawmakers in Hungary have formally backed Finland’s application to join the NATO military alliance.

Monday’s vote in Hungary’s National Assembly followed earlier approval from the country’s government and its president.

It means Finland’s membership bid has been backed by 29 of NATO’s 30 members, with only Turkiye having not yet done so, although its government has also signaled its support.

Hungarian lawmakers are set to consider Sweden’s bid to join NATO at a later date, although the nation’s government has given its backing to that application as well.

Sweden and Finland launched their applications to join NATO last May, shortly after the start of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. They will need unanimous support from all NATO members to be successful.

Mate Kocsis, leader of the Hungarian parliamentary faction comprising the ruling Fidesz party and Christian Democratic People’s Party, said ahead of Monday’s vote that coalition members would “vote unanimously in favor” of Finland’s bid, the Russian news agency TASS reported. But he said “the parliamentary group will decide on Sweden later”.

He did not explain why the vote on Sweden’s bid had been deferred, or say when it may happen.

TASS said some lawmakers in the Fidesz party had “expressed discontent” over criticism from politicians in Finland and Sweden of the level of democracy in Hungary.

Kocsis said a recent Hungarian delegation to Sweden and Finland had hoped to resolve sticking points, but had not been entirely successful.

Balazs Orban, a political adviser to Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban, added in a March 23 social media post that Hungary and Sweden had been failing to cooperate within the European Union and would likely also fall short in another international alliance. He said politicians in Hungary wanted politicians in Sweden to convince them that would not happen.

Turkiye’s Parliament has also not yet considered Sweden’s bid to join NATO, saying its reasons for doing so include perceived support from Sweden for Kurdish extremists that Turkiye regards as terrorists.

The Budapest Times said on Monday that Balazs Orban had distanced himself from earlier criticism of Sweden, saying on public radio on Sunday that “it is clear as day that we support Sweden’s accession, with the government having already passed a decision, and it is now up to Parliament, but there is a little problem”.

He said “certain Swedish government members” had “made a habit of continually questioning the state of democracy in Hungary “and that it had to stop because it was “insulting Hungarian voters and MPs, and, through them, the whole of Hungary”.

He said Hungary had managed to “get reassurances” from Finland that such criticism would “not persist in the future”, which opened the door to Hungary supporting Finland’s membership bid. It now needs the same from Sweden, he said.

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