Budapest, Hungary – On Tuesday, Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin once again urged Hungary and Turkey to ratify their NATO membership bids.
“All eyes are on Hungary and Turkey,” says Finland’s PM
“All eyes are now on Hungary and Turkey. We are waiting for these countries to ratify our applications. I think it would be important that this would happen preferably sooner than later,” Prime Minister Marin said during a joint press conference of the Nordic Council in Helsinki.
In a major security policy shift away from decades of military non-alignment, Finland and Sweden declared their intention to join NATO last May in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. They reiterated last week that their front remained united and that they would join NATO at the same time.
Almost all of NATO’s 30 member states have since signed and ratified their applications to join the military alliance, with the notable exception of Hungary and Turkey.
Ankara has accused Sweden, and Finland to a lesser extent, of supporting and harbouring groups it considers terrorists, including Kurdish militant groups like the PKK.
Although Stockholm, in a bid to win Turkey’s support, recently lifted an arms embargo and suspended support for some Kurdish groups in Syria, Ankara indicated it would not budge unless new measures were taken, and more extraditions of alleged terrorists were approved.
Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson is due to visit Turkey and meet with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan next week, a few days after NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also travels to Ankara to discuss NATO expansion.
What is Hungary waiting for?
Despite publicly supporting their accession, Hungary has been stalling for months, keeping both Helsinki and Stockholm in the dark. Early October, MPs from the ruling Fidesz party blocked a motion in Parliament that would have speeded up the ratification process.
Quoted by Euronews, Hungarian political analyst Peter Kreko cites several reasons to explain why Hungary appears to be playing for time.
“Hungary is the most pro-Turkey EU member state” and “the most Russian-friendly government in the EU”, according to Kreko, who additionally highlights Budapest’s isolation in Europe and how the veto can be used “to assert its influence” on other matters, including regarding its dispute with Brussels on the unblocking of EU funds.
“As long as [Turkish President] Erdoğan keeps announcing that he’ll be blocking their accession, Hungary is unlikely to move either,” according to Minna Ålander from the Finnish Institute of International Affairs.
Hungary has been vocal in its desire not to be dragged in the war and its wish to pursue an “independent policy”, maintaining close ties with Russia to the dismay of Kyiv and EU allies despite Moscow’s full-scale invasion.
Pro-Kremlin rhetoric accusing NATO and the US of causing, fostering, and prolonging the war in Ukraine has also been widely echoed by top Hungarian government figures and state-aligned media.
Last month however, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff Gergely Gulyas assured that Budapest supported the two Nordic countries’ NATO membership, and that the ratification would happen by mid-December at the latest.