Parliament approves Finland's application for NATO membership after eight months of delay

March 28. 2023. – 11:00 AM


Parliament approves Finland's application for NATO membership after eight months of delay
Photo: Attila Kovács / MTI


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Parliament has adopted the proposal to ratify Finland's accession to NATO, which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade submitted to Parliament more than eight months ago.

In the vote, 182 of the MPs voted in favour and only six against. However, the request from Sweden was not voted on.

All government politicians present voted yes, with six MPs from the far-right Mi Hazánk ("Our Homeland") voting no.

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In the debate preceding the decision, Mi Hazánk MP Előd Novák said that the accession of Finland would increase the chances of a world war, and therefore they do not support Finland's accession. He added: "The future of Europe, and perhaps even the world, is in our hands." Left-wing opposition DK's MP Ágnes Vadai said the Finns and Swedes were not criticising the Hungarian people, but the government. She called the last eight months unnecessary, as the accession applications could have been approved last summer.

"I apologise to Sweden and Finland," said Koloman Brenner, Jobbik-Conservative MP. According to him, the reason for not voting on the accession of Sweden is that the government is "looking to the Turks for Hungary's sovereignty", so they are acting as the Turks ask. "How does it feel when the boss says something and you just do it?" – Márton Tompos asked the government MPs. He added that he regretted that it took a diplomatic scandal to make them understand what they were doing to the country.

Barna Pál Zsigmond, an MP of the governing party Fidesz, called today a day of celebration, as a country with a significant military force is joining NATO. Another Fidesz MP, Béla Turi-Kovács said opposition MPs lacked "consideration", which was why they would have decided so quickly on the issue. "It's incomprehensible that they object to the government's deliberation," Turi-Kovács said.

It has been dragging on for eight months, but the Swedes will have to wait

The process of Sweden and Finland joining NATO started almost a year ago. In April last year, two months after the outbreak of the Russian-Ukrainian war, the two countries announced that they too would like to join the military alliance. A few weeks later, they submitted their application, and at the June summit, the member states agreed to open the way to NATO for the Swedes and Finns. The decision needs the approval of the parliaments of the 30 member countries to be finalised, and by the end of September 28 of them had ratified the applications.

If it had been up to a majority of NATO member states, the accession of the two countries could have been finalised by the end of September, but Turkey and Hungary delayed the decision.

Last autumn, the government and politicians from the governing parties talked about approving the proposals in the autumn session, which were submitted to Parliament on 14 July. However, this did not happen, the postponement was first justified by the social consultation, and later it was said that the parliament was busy negotiating the legislation needed to reach an EU agreement – read more about when and why the issue was postponed in this article.

At the end of February, after the Fidesz-KDNP's external faction meeting in Balatonfüred, the governing parties came up with an unexpected reason. Fidesz faction leader Máté Kocsis said that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán wanted the proposal to be adopted, but the faction was divided on the issue, leading to a serious debate. Many in the faction complained that Sweden and Finland had "insulted" Hungary, so a negotiating delegation was sent to the two countries to settle the conflict issues. At the end of the diplomatic programme, Csaba Hende, who led the delegation, said they were satisfied and supported the accession of the countries.

Finally, after the return of the negotiating delegation and the debate on the accession proposal – during which government MPs went on at length about how the two countries had insulted Hungary – it was announced that only the application of Finland would be approved on 27 March. At last week's EU summit,the Swedish prime minister said he "demanded answers" from Viktor Orbán on why he had separated the applications of the two countries.

On the government side, Balázs Orbán, the prime minister's political director, said at the weekend that Hungarian MPs "expect reassurance" from Sweden because "they have insulted Hungarian voters, their representatives and thus Hungary as a whole".

The government continues to stress that they support the accession of Sweden, but they do not talk about what the country would have to do to convince all members of the Fidesz-KDNP parliamentary group. The procrastination has made the proposal on Finland's NATO membership the 13th slowest to be adopted out of 2271 since 2010, according to a newly published database by statistician Tamás Ferenci. We wrote about what has taken even longer to be discussed in the last 13 years in this article.

On Monday evening, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin thanked Hungary for ratifying Finland's accession to NATO. "Thank you for the clear decision," Marin wrote on her Twitter page shortly after the Hungarian parliament voted in favour of Finland's NATO membership application.

At the same time, the Finnish Prime Minister also advocated Sweden's swift accession. "The membership of Finland and Sweden in NATO will strengthen the security of the whole alliance. It is in everyone's interest that Sweden becomes a member of NATO before the Vilnius Summit," Marin wrote in the post.

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