1st Mar 2024

Hungary links Nato vote and EU money in quid pro quo

  • Nato head Jens Stoltenberg and Finnish prime minister Sanna Marin in Helsinki on Tuesday (Photo:
Listen to article

Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán's MPs are going to Finland and Sweden on a mission to claw back EU money in return for Nato "favours".

That was the impression created by Orbán's top diplomat in a Facebook post this week.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

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

... or subscribe as a group

  • Hungarian foreign minister Peter Szijjártó (Photo:

"How can a country [Sweden] expect a favour [Nato ratification] from us when its politicians continually and repeatedly spread lies about Hungary?," Hungarian foreign minister Peter Szijjártó said after meeting his Swedish counterpart, Tobias Billström, in Stockholm on Monday (27 February).

"How can they [Finland and Sweden] expect speedy and fair decisions when, during the recent period, all we were hearing is there's no democracy in Hungary, the rule of law is not guaranteed in Hungary [...]," Szijjártó went on.

The minister's words amounted to "obvious blackmail" of the Nordic states and wider EU to unfreeze billions being held back on grounds of Orbán's abuse of rule of law in Hungary, for pundits such as Péter Krekó from the Political Capital think-tank in Budapest.

And Szijjártó's statement came as MPs from Orbán's ruling Fidesz party prepared to travel to Nordic capitals, lending a "transactional" agenda to their trip, Krekó said.

Fidesz has so far named only foreign-affairs committee chairman Zsolt Németh and parliament deputy-speaker Csaba Hende as among those going.

Nemeth is known for being more pro-Nato and Russia-critical than Orbán, rather than a loyalist insider.

Hende is a former defence minister who renegotiated a major Hungarian fighter-jet deal with Sweden.

It remains to be seen what they can bring back from their Nordic tour.

But in any case, they'll have to go quickly to report in time for the Hungarian parliament's Nato ratification vote — due no later than 21 March.

They also have no mandate on paper and while Szijjártó said they might meet Nordic government MPs, the Finnish and Swedish foreign ministries declined to tell EUobserver who the Hungarians might speak to.

The audacity of Orbán's Nato-EU gambit aside, the Fidesz mission was "quite illogical" in protocol terms, Krekó added.

It was "strange", said Ágnes Vadai, the shadow defence minister from the opposition Democratic Coalition party.

"There's no precedent in Hungary for the government to send a one-party parliamentary delegation of this type, so we are entering uncharted waters," she said.

Orbán's irregular behaviour made Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan look classy by comparison, she indicated.

Erdoğan also made unpalatable demands of Finland and Sweden in return for Nato ratification, Vadai said — but at least Turkey wrote them down in a trilateral memorandum, which created ministerial and technical-level talks to resolve issues.

"To make yourself the skunk at the lawn-party in both the EU and Nato at the same time is a weird kind of strategy," Nick Witney from the European Council on Foreign Relations, a London-based think-tank, said on Orbán's game.

The Hungarian parliament will hold a plenary debate on Nato on Wednesday, giving ruling coalition MPs an opportunity to clarify what's going on with the Nato process.

The Turkish-Finnish-Swedish talks will next take place on 9 March — the same day Orbán's MPs might first fly north, according to reports.

All 28 other Nato members have ratified Finnish and Swedish accession.

Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg also met Finnish prime minister Sanna Marin on Tuesday to show support for enlargement.

Neither had been briefed by Hungary on the reasons for its ratification delays, they told press.

But amid the swirling uncertainties, Vadai, Krekó, and other Orbán-watchers were sure that if Turkey, Finland, and Sweden strike a deal, then the Hungarian leader wouldn't have the brass neck to stand up against Nato on his own.

"It's great political theatre and good to leave it to the parliamentarians to hold things up while the [Hungarian] government position is still to ratify," said Jamie Shea, a former senior Nato official who teaches war studies at Exter University in the UK.

"But Hungary doesn't want to be the last and if Turkey starts to move I am sure Budapest will speed things up," Shea said.


Gáspár Miklós Tamás — A real Hungarian leftist

Gáspár Miklós Tamás, Hungarian philosopher, politician, and public intellectual died in January. He was often on the same side of the barricades as Viktor Orbán. Later he became key figure opposing Orbán's authoritarian measures, and inspired a new Left.

MEPs to urge block on Hungary taking EU presidency in 2024

"This will be the first time a member state that is under the Article 7 procedure will take over the rotating presidency of the council," French Green MEP Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield, the key lawmaker on Hungary, warned.


Report: Nordics needs to step up the pace to achieve climate neutrality

Nordic countries have a long way to go if they're to reach their climate neutrality goals. According to a brand-new report, strengthened Nordic co-operation can help accelerate the transition. Nordic environment ministers agree that the pace must be stepped up.

Supported by

Latest News

  1. Deepfake dystopia — Russia's disinformation in Spain and Italy
  2. Putin's nuclear riposte to Macron fails to impress EU diplomats
  3. EU won't yet commit funding UN agency in Gaza amid hunger
  4. EU Commission clears Poland's access to up to €137bn EU funds
  5. Right of Reply: The EU-ACP Samoa agreement
  6. The macabre saga of Navalny's corpse
  7. Belgium braces for Flemish far-right gains, deadlock looms
  8. Podcast: Hyperlocal meets supranational

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us