Deputy Minister says there are many important issues to be discussed by Parliament, not just Swedish and Finnish NATO accession

November 03. 2022. – 06:58 PM



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The ball is in Parliament's court, the government has done its job, and the government cannot rush Parliament, which has "very important issues" on its agenda all autumn, Levente Magyar, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told Telex on why the Hungarian Parliament has still not voted on the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO. Deputy Defence Minister Tamás Vargha said in response to our question that what matters is that the government has submitted the bill concerning that, we support the accession of the two countries and it will, of course, be voted for.

(English subtitles available.)

It is difficult to understand why the ratification of the accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO is still not on the agenda of the Hungarian Parliament. Out of the 30 member states of the military alliance, only Hungary and Turkey have not yet decided on the issue, the others are waiting for their decision. It was no accident that on Tuesday the Finnish prime minister urged Hungary and Turkey to ratify Sweden's and Finland's applications for NATO membership as soon as possible. We asked Deputy Foreign Minister Levente Magyar and Deputy Defence Minister Tamás Vargha about this in Parliament.

They both basically referred to the fact that Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó had already submitted the bills on the Finnish and Swedish applications for accession to Parliament on 14 July, and that it was now up to Parliament to put them on the voting agenda.

"The ball is in Parliament's court, the bill has been submitted, the government has done its job, it's up to Parliament to act now.

– Deputy Foreign Minister Levente Magyar said in response to a question from Telex. Asked why Parliament was not being pushed, Magyar said the government could not do so because it respects the separation of the branches of power.

When asked what message this sends to our allies, the Deputy Minister said:

There are very important issues on the agenda of Parliament throughout the autumn months. Parliament is in full swing.

The Hungarian government is in ongoing consultations with its Finnish and Swedish partners, as well as with those who have reservations about the accession of the two countries, the deputy minister said.

In the parliamentary corridor, we also met Tamás Vargha, Parliamentary State Secretary of the Ministry of Defence. In response to our question he said that he did not believe there was a time limit or that time was a factor in the approval:

The fact that we submitted it is what counts, we support it and of course, we will vote in favour of it as soon as it is presented to Parliament. We trust it will be sooner rather than later.

(English subtitles available.)

What "sooner rather than later" means is not yet known. Gergely Gulyás, the Minister in charge of the Prime Minister's Office, said at the government briefing on 22 October that the autumn session will last until mid-December, by which time there is a "good chance" that Parliament will ratify the accession proposal.

Sweden and Finland applied to join NATO in May, following Russian aggression against Ukraine. This would add two powerful armies to the military alliance in the Baltic Sea and the Arctic, which the Russians are not happy about. Initially, Turkey had reservations about the two countries joining for a number of reasons, but these were cleared up and the Finnish and Swedish applications received the backing of the 30 member states at the end of June. However, this will require legislative approval from the member states before it can be finalised, which has not yet happened in the case of Hungary and Turkey.

The Swedish Foreign Minister said in mid-October that they expect the ratification process to be completed soon for both countries, "and we see no sign that we will not receive a positive response from the Hungarian Parliament." Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said in an interview ahead of the EU summit at the end of October that she had spoken to both Viktor Orban and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan about Finland's accession to NATO and did not expect any obstacles from the two countries.

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said it was important that Hungary and Turkey ratify the Swedish and Finnish applications for NATO membership as soon as possible. "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," she said.

On Wednesday, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö shared on his Twitter page that he had spoken on the phone with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who confirmed that Hungary would support Finland's NATO accession. "It is good that Finland can count on Hungary in the ratification of its NATO accession. I look forward to further strengthening our Finno-Ugric relations as allies," Niinistö wrote.

The issue came up again on Thursday as Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó met with his Laotian counterpart, Foreign Minister Saleumxay Kommasit, in Budapest, after which they held a joint press conference. At the meeting, Szijjártó spoke about the Hungarian ratification of the Swedish and Finnish NATO membership.

He said that the government had done its work on this, given that a proposal had already been submitted to Parliament. "As everyone has seen since the summer Parliament has been in a hurry to discuss bills, a significant part of which has to be discussed because of Brussels. For my part, I would certainly not choose the tactic of rushing things through Parliament. Parliament will decide when to put on the agenda a proposal that the government has already submitted. I said this to my Swedish colleague perhaps two weeks ago. After the formation of the new Swedish government, I received a phone call from my colleague (Tobias Billström), the new Swedish Foreign Minister, and I told him not to worry about it, Parliament will put this proposal on the agenda."

The subtitles for the videos in the article were created using the Alrite text recognition and transcription software.

The translation of this article was made possible by our cooperation with the Heinrich Böll Foundation.

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