28th Nov 2023

Sweden expects Hungary to soon ratify its Nato membership

  • Swedish EU presidency decorations at EU Council building in Brussels (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)
Listen to article

Sweden is demanding Hungary ratify its Nato accession, following fears Budapest may try to leverage concessions on the rule of law and frozen EU funds in exchange.

Tobias Billström, Sweden's minister of foreign affairs, told reporters in Stockholm on Wednesday (11 January) that they expect Budapest to start ratification in February.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"We will see such a commencement start in the beginning of February. That is the knowledge we have so far," he said.

Hungary and Turkey are the only two Nato members, out of 30, that have yet to OK Sweden and Finland for Nato membership.

Turkey wants Sweden to first extradite dozens of its political enemies who sought asylum there in an increasingly ugly row.

Hungary's prime minister, Viktor Orbán, last November, announced Hungary's parliament would ratify Nato membership for Finland and Sweden early this year, possibly in March.

Orbán's foreign minister Péter Szijjártó made similar comments.

But with Sweden making rule of law one of its top priorities during its six-month rotating EU presidency, fears are mounting Budapest may renege or continue to drag out the process.

Ágnes Vadai, the shadow defence minister in the opposition Democratic Coalition party in Budapest, told EUobserver that "the proof [of a Nato-EU funds link] is that there's simply no other reason not to ratify."

"We even work with Sweden and Finland in a special Nato programme [called C17] and we've bought Swedish fighter jets, so we know them very well," she said, also on Wednesday.

"Orbán has always said it [the rule-of-law dispute] has nothing to do with it [Nato]. But you should take that with a pinch of salt, because he's a liar", she said.

"It used to be said: 'Maybe Orbán is delaying ratification to support [Turkish president Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan'. But this doesn't hold water — the Turkish-Swedish dispute is in a league of its own. Erdoğan doesn't need Orbán for this, so it's either [about] EU money, or even worse, the Russians", she added, referring to Orbán's friendly ties with Erdoğan and with Russian president Vladimir Putin, who opposes Nato expansion.

Budapest has in the past already used its veto threat on EU-level decision making amid proposals to suspend some €7.5bn in EU payouts due to suspected corruption in Orbán's government.

Budapest was blocking both an €18bn EU aid package for Ukraine and a minimum global corporate tax rate last December.

But an agreement was then made to lower the suspended payout to €6.3bn, in what Orbán spun as a win.

Other EU governments have also approved the country's €5.8bn post-Covid pandemic recovery plan.

However, the money won't be released until Hungary completes 27 anti-corruption and judicial independence reforms.

The situation arose just ahead of Sweden's EU presidency, which has made rule of law one of its four top priorities over the next six months.

Sweden's EU affairs minister Jessika Roswall said the presidency will maintain pressure "as long as there is a systematic threat to the rule of law in member states."

She also welcomed last year's agreement on the conditionality mechanism, which links EU funds to the functioning of rule of law in a member state.

The EU has sanctioned Orbán for curbing the independence of the judiciary and widespread misuse of EU funds.

But when pressed on Hungary, Nato ratification, and rule of law, Roswall refused to draw a link.

"I see it as a parallel process. One of the priorities of the Swedish presidency is the rule of law. It's very crucial for Sweden. I don't see that that will affect the Nato process," she said.

The Swedish presidency plans to discuss the Hungarian and Polish rule-of-law cases in so-called General Affairs Councils in March and April.

The Swedish EU presidency paid for travel from Brussels to Stockholm and Kiruna, as well as accommodation and food.

Poland and Hungary sanctions procedure back after pandemic

The Article 7 sanctions procedure was initially launched against Warsaw in 2017 by the EU Commission and triggered by the European Parliament in 2018 against Budapest. Now it is back on the table, after the pandemic.


Why Sweden's Nato accession is still on hold

Curiously, it is not easy to ascertain exactly why Sweden could not enter the alliance on the same day as Finland, given the submission of parallel bids, writes former Swedish ambassador to Ankara, Michael Sahlin, and Kjell Engelbrekt.

Musk's Tesla problem in Sweden — how a strike snowballed

Tesla is facing combined opposition from its Swedish employees, trade unions and even companies in the industry itself. A small industrial dispute over the rejection of a collective agreement has snowballed in little over a month.


Northern Europe — the new Nato/Russia frontline

The world has changed, not least in northern Europe, which is rapidly becoming one of the new frontlines between Nato and Russia. It is sometimes said that even the largest avalanche is caused by something small. Watch Northern Europe.

Supported by

Latest News

  1. EU belittles Russia's Lavrov on way to Skopje talks
  2. Member states stall on EU ban on forced-labour products
  3. EU calls for increased fuel supplies into Gaza
  4. People-smuggling profits at historic high, EU concedes
  5. EU bets big on fossil hydrogen and carbon storage
  6. How centre-right conservatives capitulate to the far-right
  7. My experience trying to negotiate with Uber
  8. Key battlegrounds in EU's new media legislation

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  2. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?
  3. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  4. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  5. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  2. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersGlobal interest in the new Nordic Nutrition Recommendations – here are the speakers for the launch
  4. Nordic Council of Ministers20 June: Launch of the new Nordic Nutrition Recommendations
  5. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  6. ICLEISeven actionable measures to make food procurement in Europe more sustainable

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us