8th Dec 2023

Orbán: Ties with Sweden need to improve to join Nato

  • Viktor Orbán, who is the closest EU ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin, is blocking a €500m tranche of EU reimbursements to member states donating arms to Ukraine (Photo: Council of the European Union)
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The relationship between Hungary and Sweden must improve before the Nordic state can join Nato, Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán said at the Qatar Economic Forum on Tuesday (23 May).

Sweden and its neighbour, Finland, asked to join the military alliance last year after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

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Sweden's application has been held up by Turkey and Hungary.

Budapest earlier delayed ratifying Finland's application, and has cited grievances with criticism from both Helsinki and Stockholm of Orbán's domestic record on democracy and the rule of law in Hungary.

Finland and Sweden have been two of the most vocal critics of Hungary among the EU's 27 member states.

"The political relations between Hungary and Sweden are awfully wrong," Orbán said. "We don't want to import conflicts into Nato," he added at an interview with Bloomberg at the event.

Hungary's parliament has set no date yet to vote on the Swedish bid for admission, which has to be ratified by all 30 Nato members, as the alliance holds a summit in July.

But Orbán did specify how he plans to mend ties with Sweden.

The Hungarian PM, who is at odds with EU policies on Ukraine, said that Ukraine's military effort is doomed and sending further aid will only lead to more deaths.

"Emotionally it's tragic, all of our hearts are with the Ukrainians," Orban said, adding that the main issue in the conflict is not who attacked whom, but what would happen the next, which is more deaths.

"There's no chance to win this war," he added, saying a ceasefire and peace talks are needed instead of an escalation of the war.

Orbán said the most important goal was achieving a ceasefire, and then "we could start negotiating a new European security system", MTI news agency quoted him as saying.

Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg has said that the alliance's main focus is to support Ukraine, ensuring that Kyiv wins the war and prevails as a sovereign, independent, democratic nation in Europe.

Orbán, who is the closest EU ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin, is blocking a €500m tranche of EU financial aid, offsetting the costs for member states who send military aid to Ukraine.

His government has also opposed the latest round of sanctions against Russia because authorities in Kyiv put Hungary's OTP Bank on a list of "war sponsors" and blacklisted the bank. Kyiv says that OTP's Russian branch is giving preferential loans to the Russian military.

In Doha, Orban said that if Ukraine needs more money, Kyiv should respect Hungary and not sanction Hungarian companies.

Orbán's foreign minister, Péter Szijjártó, on Monday reaffirmed Hungary's stance at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels —drawing criticism.

"I'm disappointed, or rather irritated, by the behaviour of our Hungarian friends," German defence minister Boris Pistorius told reporters.


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.


Nato summit and key nature restoration vote This WEEK

Nato leaders will gather in Vilnius this week to discuss Ukraine's membership bid. Meanwhile, MEPs in Strasbourg will decide on the future of the nature restoration law, which is facing strong opposition from conservative lawmakers.


What's Slovakia's Fico up to over Ukraine?

It is high time for Slovak PM Robert Fico to realise that any display of compliance or even understanding towards Moscow constitutes a threat to what Fico calls the "national-state interest of Slovakia", writes the former prime minister of Slovakia.

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