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Finland on course for NATO membership after Hungarian vote – POLITICO

Hungary’s parliament on Monday ratified Finland’s NATO membership, bringing Helsinki closer to joining the alliance, but leaving Sweden on hold.

Members of the Hungarian parliament voted by a margin of 182 votes to 6 in favor of Finnish membership.

Helsinki now only needs the approval of the Turkish parliament, expected soon, to become a member of NATO.

Hungary’s move comes after repeated delays and political reversals.

Hungarian officials spent months telling their counterparts that they had no objections and that their parliament was simply busy with other business.

Budapest then changed its narrative last month, with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán – who has an iron grip on his ruling Fidesz party – arguing that some of its lawmakers had qualms about criticizing the state of Hungarian democracy.

Finland and Sweden have been at the forefront of safeguarding democratic standards in Hungary, speaking out on the issue long before many of their counterparts.

But earlier this month – just as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced he would support Finland’s NATO membership – Fidesz’s position shifted again, the chairman of his parliamentary group announcing his support for Helsinki’s candidacy.

The Turkish parliament should soon ratify Finland’s membership. But that keeps Sweden in limbo, as Turkish officials say they want to see the country implement new counter-terrorism policies before giving Ankara the green light.

Following in Turkey’s footsteps, Hungary is also postponing a decision on Sweden indefinitely, drawing criticism from Orbán’s critics.

Attila Ara-Kovács, a member of the European Parliament from the Hungarian Opposition Democratic Coalition, said Orbán’s moves were part of a strategy to stoke anti-Western attitudes in the country.

The government’s goal is “to further incite anti-Western and anti-NATO sentiment in Hungary, especially among Orbán’s fanatical supporters – and in addition, of course, to serve Russian interests”, he said. -he declares.

“It has consequences,” said Ara-Kovács, adding that “support for the EU and NATO in the country is significantly and steadily decreasing.”

A recent Eurobarometer survey revealed that 39% of Hungarians view the EU positively. A NATO report released last week shows that 77% of Hungarians would vote to remain in the alliance, compared to 89% in Poland and 84% in Romania.

But Hungarian officials add the twist that they support Sweden’s NATO membership.

The Swedish government “constantly questions the state of Hungarian democracy” “insults our voters, MPs and the country as a whole”, said Balázs Orbán, political director to the Hungarian Prime Minister (no relation to the Prime Minister) .

It is “up to the Swedes to ensure that the concerns of Hungarian MPs are taken into account”, he added. tweeted on Sunday. “Our goal,” he added, “is to support Sweden’s NATO membership with as large a parliamentary majority as possible.”

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