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  1. The Staggers
1 March 2023

Hungary is the main roadblock to Finland and Sweden’s Nato membership

Following Turkey’s lead, Viktor Orbán is discovering his own power to twist circumstances to Hungary’s advantage.

By Wolfgang Münchau

The saga over the Finland’s and Sweden’s accession to Nato continues. Turkey and Hungary are the only two member states yet to approve the Nordic countries’ bid to join the alliance. Turkey imposed its conditions and signed off on an agreement with Sweden and Finland that made them change their laws on counterterrorism and arms embargoes. Is it now Hungary’s turn to make demands?

The Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán has so far supported their bid, but last week he expressed concern for the first time. Among other criticisms, he has accused both countries of spreading lies about the health of democracy and the rule of law in Hungary. Some of Orbán’s MPs bemoan that the two Scandinavian countries have insulted Hungary. A delegation will travel to Sweden and Finland. It is not clear yet how many MPs from the prime minister’s party, Fidesz, could oppose the ratification – or how serious this threat is to induction.

The official narrative is still that Nato accession will go ahead, that it is only a matter of timing. But it is also a question of what price the Nordic countries are willing to pay. As mentioned above, Sweden’s parliament has already modified its constitution to placate Turkey. The latter increased its demands late last year, asking for the extradition of more than 100 individuals, among them activists and journalists, something that the Swedish government said it cannot do.

Turkey’s tone may have softened after the 6 February earthquake, as the news website Al-Monitor observes. But its government is still working on a scenario in which Finland could join separately, keeping Sweden in limbo. Meanwhile, Hungary is just discovering its own power to twist circumstances to its advantage.

Wolfgang Münchau is a columnist for the New Statesman. A version of this piece originally ran on his site

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[See also: Viktor Orbán’s American apologists]

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