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Hungary and Turkey are the last two obstacles to NATO membership for Finland and Sweden

In the corridors of power in Stockholm and Helsinki, the champagne is on ice.

After just three months, 28 of NATO’s 30 states have ratified treaty changes in their national parliaments that would approve Finland and Sweden’s membership; while 24 nations have already filed the new documents in Washington.

But there are two reasons why Nordic champagne corks aren’t popping yet: Hungary and Turkey.

In September, Finland’s foreign minister said his Hungarian counterpart had promised to proceed with ratification and assured Finns that there were no objections to Finland or Sweden joining.

A few weeks earlier, at the end of August, the Hungarian Minister for Regional Development (and former European Commissioner) Tibor Navracsics had visited Helsinki and told the Finnish MPs that his country would ratify its application for NATO membership without delay.

“Hungary supports Finland’s NATO membership, but the ratification process in the Hungarian parliament is still ongoing,” said a Finnish government press release noted at the time.

This week, however, Fidesz politicians led by Viktor Orbán blocked the introduction of a motion in Parliament that would have accelerated the vote on the NATO membership process for Finland and Sweden, which has sparked sharp criticism from the opposition.

“It is an incomprehensible and unjustified decision,” said Bertalan Tóth, the Hungarian MP who tried to introduce the motion.

“Finland and Sweden are committed NATO partners, have participated in the Alliance’s Partnership for Peace program since 1994, and have played and are playing an active role in past and present NATO-led peace support operations. NATO,” he added.

The discussion on the accession process is still on the agenda of the Hungarian parliament, in theory. However, no date has been set, which means that, for now, the matter is on the back burner.

What does this mean for Finland and Sweden?

Behind the scenes in Helsinki and Stockholm there will be some frustration among ministers and officials, thinking they have come so far, so fast with joining NATO, only to be stuck at the last hurdles.

So is there anything either country can do to put more pressure on Viktor Orbán and his government?

“There may not be much Finland can do about it,” said Minna Ålanderresearcher at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs in Helsinki.

“Perhaps Fidesz hopes to link Finland’s and Sweden’s NATO membership to the European Commission’s recent proposal to freeze funds for Hungary due to rule of law issues,” he said. she told Euronews.

“However, in this case, it looks like Orban is just joining the Turkish train when it comes to Finland and Sweden joining NATO. As long as Erdogan keeps announcing he will continue to block their membership, as he did a few days ago, Hungary is unlikely to budge either,” Ålander said.

So what is the problem with Turkey?

Turkey’s arguments for delaying NATO membership of Finland and Sweden are more complex than those of Hungary.

The Turks had initially signaled that they supported the NATO offers: in a phone call between President Erdogan and President Niinistö in early April, the Finns were assured that there would be no problems .

But just a month later, Turkey had backtracked, offering a long list of reasons why the two Nordic nations could not join NATO, including supposed support for groups Ankara sees as organizations. terrorists.

Fast forward a month to the NATO summit in Madrid at the end of June, and after intense diplomacy behind closed doors, Turkey reveryone made a deal to support accessions – including the establishment of tripartite talks to iron out sticking points.

These talks started in Finland in August and were due to continue into the fall, but earlier this month Erdogan held back approval of the offers – again.

At the opening of parliament in Ankara on October 1, he told lawmakers that if Finland and Sweden failed to live up to the “promises” they had made to Turkey on security and terrorism, he would block their applications for membership.

“We will maintain our principled and determined position on this issue until the promises made to our country are fulfilled,” Erdogan said.

Another fly in the ointment is Turkish anger over a satirical news program on Swedish public broadcaster SVT, which mocked Erdogan. Sweden’s ambassador to Ankara has been summoned for a bashing, and the timing is far from ideal.

“Officially, it’s up to the Turkish parliament to decide on Sweden’s NATO candidacy, but in the end it’s Erdogan who decides – and he’s an emotional person who can absolutely choose to punish a counterpart s ‘he feels offended’, Paul Levindirector of the Institute of Turkish Studies at Stockholm University, told Swedish news agency TT.

Ankara’s military shopping list comes into play

Turkey is still hoping for a green light for buy American F-16 fighters – and they might seek to use the NATO decision between Finland and Sweden as a way to pressure the Americans into approving a deal (a senior Turkish military commander recently said that if he doesn’t there was no deal on the F-16s, Turkey could buy new warplanes from Russia instead).

“Turkey’s strategic interests have increasingly diverged from the rest of the [NATO] covenant,” said Toni Alarantespecialist on Turkey at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, in a recent information document.

“It is hard to escape the conclusion that the country’s foreign policy elites are extremely doubtful that it is ultimately in Turkey’s interest to support NATO expansion at a time when Turkey is trying with determination to pursue its policy of balancing the West and Russia,” Dr Alaranta said. wrote.

He also said it could be argued that Turkey sees the increasingly northern NATO membership as potentially disruptive, “further straining relations between the West and Russia”. .

However, he concluded that Turkey will eventually approve the membership of Finland and Sweden.

It may just be a matter of time and leverage.

euronews Gt

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