June 5, 2023 5:37 am

Hungary to delay vote on NATO membership for Sweden, Finland

A long-delayed vote in Hungary’s parliament on ratifying the NATO accession bids of Sweden and Finland will likely be postponed again following a proposal from a senior government official.

In a letter published Tuesday by Hungarian news website hvg.hu, Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjen requested that a parliamentary session scheduled to begin on March 20 — during which lawmakers were expected to vote on the two Nordic countries joining the military alliance — be postponed to a week later.

Semjen cited Hungary’s ongoing negotiations with the European Union’s executive branch over Budapest’s alleged breaches of the bloc’s rule-of-law requirements as the reason for the delay. The speaker of Hungary’s parliament, himself a member of Semjen’s ruling coalition, must approve the request for a postponement.

Hungary remains the only NATO member country — besides Turkey — that hasn’t yet approved the two Nordic countries’ bids to join the Western military alliance. The delay is the second in two weeks and only the latest of many that have come in succession since July 2022.

On March 2, the ratification vote was pushed back by two weeks as Hungary sent a delegation to Sweden and Finland to resolve “political disputes” that had raised doubts among some ruling party lawmakers on whether to support the NATO applications.

Yet members of the delegation spoke positively about their meetings with Swedish and Finnish officials, indicating that Hungary’s parliament was likely to ratify the bids some time soon but without giving a timeline.

The northern European neighbors dropped their long-standing military neutrality and sought NATO membership in May in response to Russia’s war in Ukraine. On Tuesday, Sweden’s prime minister acknowledged that it is likely Finland will join NATO before his country does due to Turkey’s opposition to the Swedish bid.

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