Hungary is the last one to approve Sweden's NATO bid

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Turkey ratifies Sweden's NATO accession, Hungary still blocks the bid

Turkey has approved Sweden's NATO accession, leaving Hungary as the last member yet to greenlight the bid. Despite persistent calls from Western allies urging progress on Sweden's application, Hungary remains a focal point after more than a year of delays.

The country's far-right prime minister Viktor Orbán, who has consistently pledged that Hungary wouldn't be the last NATO member to endorse Sweden's entry into the alliance, is under scrutiny following Turkey's parliamentary nod on Monday.

While Orbán asserts that Hungary's government supports Sweden's NATO membership, dissent lingers among lawmakers within his ruling Fidesz party. They express reservations fueled by what they perceive as "lies" from certain Swedish politicians, who have criticized the state of Hungary's democracy. Hungary's parliamentary speaker, Laszlo Kover, said there was "no urgency" in approving Sweden's NATO membership bid.

Legal gaps allow the allocation of public funds to NGOs backing the ruling party

The Hungarian government has exploited legal loopholes, enabling state funding for civil society organizations engaged in political activities—a practice forbidden by Hungarian law. While legislation generally prohibits state support for civil society groups involved in political affairs or collaborating with political parties, Orbán's administration navigates these constraints.

According to a report by investigative outlet Átlátszó, the government employs the Urban Civilian Fund and the state-owned Bethlen Gábor Fund Management Inc. to channel funds to pro-government entities. Átlátszó highlighted the Bethlen Fund's discernible bias toward non-governmental organizations led by local officials affiliated with the ruling Fidesz party.

Hungarian election law permits NGOs to nominate candidates for parliamentary and local council elections. Transparency International Hungary, speaking to Átlátszó, pointed out the exploitation of legal gaps, such as altering the criteria for eligibility to receive support from the central state budget. Funds from the Urban Civilian Fund are technically separated from the Bethlen Fund, effectively skirting legal restrictions on funding allocation. 

Fico does not back Orbán with the EU veto

During his visit to Ukraine, Robert Fico said that Bratislava will not veto the €50 billion EU aid package for Ukraine. The Ukrainian and Slovak governments want to pursue a new pragmatic policy that will benefit both countries despite their differences, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denis Shmihal said at a meeting with Slovak Prime Minister Fico in Uzhhorod on Wednesday, according to Slovak public news agency TASR.

Fico assured his Ukrainian counterpart that Slovakia supports Ukraine's efforts to become a member of the European Union. The Slovak prime minister said ahead of the meeting that Bratislava respects Kyiv's efforts in this direction but expects the conditions for accession to be met. "Bratislava will not veto the €50 billion EU aid package for Ukraine, nor will it veto Ukraine's purchase of weapons from Slovak companies," he said. The €50 billion package has not been approved by the Council yet, because of Orbán's veto at the EU summit.

European Parliament urges suspension of Hungary's voting rights amid rule-of-law dispute

A decisive majority in the European Parliament has expressed concerns over the escalating erosion of democracy, the rule of law, and fundamental rights in Hungary, as indicated by a vote tally of 345 in favor, 104 against, and 29 abstentions, Politico reports. MEPs have called on the European Council, comprising EU member states, to urge to examine the potential deprivation of Hungary's voting rights. This call stems from concerns about the "serious and persistent breaches of EU values" attributed to the Orbán government.

MEPs expressed disappointment with the Commission's decision to release approximately €10 billion in previously frozen funds to Hungary. They argued that the Orbán government has failed to meet the stipulated reforms regarding judicial independence. While the resolution intensifies the political pressure on other EU institutions to take action, it is noteworthy that the resolution is nonbinding. Within its provisions, MEPs have threatened legal action against the Commission if it proceeds to release additional frozen funds to Hungary.