Turkey's move on Sweden's bid renews focus on Budapest

Turkey's move on Sweden's bid renews focus on Budapest
A+ A-
Ankara's progress stirs up delays in Budapest, hinting at a diplomatic dance on NATO enlargement.

Turkey's recent move towards endorsing Sweden's bid to join NATO has brought a renewed focus on Hungary, which remains a significant roadblock to Sweden's NATO aspirations. While the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, just introduced a protocol in the Turkish parliament to back Sweden's entry into the alliance, the Hungarian parliament, dominated by the governing Fidesz party, chose to postpone their decision on the same matter.

Sweden has eagerly sought membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, especially after the geopolitical shifts in Europe following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. However, Hungary, led by the populist Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who maintains cordial ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, has repeatedly stalled Sweden's application since July 2022. Orbán's party has accused Swedish officials of spreading misleading narratives about the state of Hungarian democracy.

Interestingly, historical patterns suggest Hungary toes the line with Turkey on NATO expansion matters. A prime example is Hungary's ratification of Finland's NATO membership shortly after Turkey showed its intent to do the same. Therefore, with Turkey now green-lighting Sweden's bid, many speculate Hungary might follow suit.

Yet, as reported by the international press, recent statements by Hungarian officials show otherwise. Speaking in New York, Hungary's Foreign Minister, Peter Szijjarto, clarified that the unfolding events in the Turkish parliament wouldn't sway Hungary's stance. His comments echoed sentiments shared by Orbán last month, suggesting that Hungary wasn't in haste to decide on Sweden's NATO membership.

The underlying reasons behind Hungary's reluctance differ from Turkey's. Erdogan held off from supporting Sweden because of alleged leniency towards Kurdish factions, perceived by Turkey as security threats. Conversely, Hungary hasn't expressed such specific apprehensions about Sweden's accession.

The situation puts NATO allies in a challenging position, given the swift acceptance of Sweden and Finland into the alliance by other member nations. While Turkey's step towards ratifying Sweden's membership signals promising progress, both countries' outcomes remain uncertain.

Some opposition figures in Hungary are convinced that the Fidesz-led government is syncing its moves with Ankara. Opposition lawmaker Agnes Vadai believes that the Hungarian leadership will probably make a move when it's clear that Turkey's parliament is about to vote.

With indications of "close and constant communication" between Hungarian and Turkish diplomats, as admitted by Szijjarto in July, the international community remains watchful. Many hope that the two nations, if not in unison, will soon welcome Sweden into NATO's fold.