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Hungary may agree to Sweden’s and Finland’s NATO bids next month

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The Hungarian Parliament may approve Finland and Sweden’s membership in NATO next month, according to the agenda for next week’s legislative session.

Finland and Sweden sought membership after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year and said they wanted to join “hand in hand,” but while most member states have given the green light to applications, Turkey and Hungary have yet to ratify them.

Last week, German Foreign Minister Annalina Berbock called on the two countries to pave the way for Finland and Sweden to join NATO, and said she expected all NATO members to endorse their bids to join the defense alliance “without further delay.”

And news site HVG.hu reported that Hungarian lawmakers may begin debating the legislation on March 1, with a vote on ratification likely the following week.

A Hungarian government spokesman, parliament’s press office and Hungary’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to emailed questions for comment.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban said in November that his government had already decided that Hungary would support Finland and Sweden joining NATO.

The Hungarian government introduced the relevant legislation in July, but parliament, in which Orban’s ruling Fidesz party has a two-thirds majority, has yet to submit the two bills for discussion and approval.

Orban, who will be re-elected in 2022 for a fourth consecutive term, stressed on Saturday that its membership in NATO was “vital” for Hungary, but said his government would not send weapons to Ukraine or sever its economic ties with Moscow.

Sweden and Finland also need Turkey’s approval to join NATO.

Turkey indicated that it was ready to receive Finland into the alliance – but not Sweden.

A scandalous protest in mid-January in Stockholm, in which an effigy of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was hanged from his feet in front of the town hall, particularly hampered negotiations, with a separate Quran-burning session the boiling point.

Turkey summoned the Swedish ambassador and canceled the visit of Swedish Parliament Speaker Andreas Norlin and Defense Minister Pal Johnson to Ankara. Amid a wave of international criticism, dozens of Turkish officials, including the defense and foreign ministers and opposition party leaders, criticized Sweden for allowing the burning of Islam’s holy book by a far-right politician.

Ankara said Sweden should first take a clearer stance against the terrorists. Turkey has repeatedly stated that it does not oppose NATO expansion but criticizes Stockholm for not taking action against elements that pose a security threat to Ankara.

Last June, Turkey and the Nordic countries signed a memorandum of understanding to address Ankara’s legitimate security concerns, paving the way for their eventual membership in the alliance. But recent provocative demonstrations by terror sympathizers and Islamophobic figures in Stockholm have led Turkish leaders to question Sweden’s commitment to taking the necessary steps to gain NATO membership.

Ankara has long criticized Stockholm for harboring members of various terrorist organisations, notably members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and, in recent years, the Gulen Terrorist Group (FETÖ) – the organization behind the defeated 2016 coup attempt in Turkey.

And just before the historic NATO summit, the three countries signed a trilateral pact in June that prevented Turkey from using its veto power. In the memorandum, the Nordic countries said they would stand up to Turkey’s requests to hand over terrorists. In addition, the joint directive stated that Finland and Sweden “will not provide support to … the organization described as ‘FETÖ and terrorist groups'”.

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