NATO member may delay vote on expansion

NATO member may delay vote on expansion

A Hungarian official has suggested lawmakers may need more time to consider bids from Sweden and Finland to join the bloc

Hungary, one of only two NATO members yet to formally approve bids from Sweden and Finland to join the western military bloc, may need more time than expected for its lawmakers to vote on ratification, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff has said. specified.

Budapest had planned to raise the issue during the year’s first parliamentary session, earlier this month, but Orban said on Friday that lawmakers need more time to debate the issue. He has accused both Nato aspirants of questioning the soundness of Hungary’s democracy and rule of law with “pure lies”.

The Hungarian National Assembly said as recently as earlier this week that it could hold a final vote on NATO’s proposed expansion during the week of March 6. However, Orban aide Gergely Gulyas told reporters on Saturday that lawmakers may need more time.

Parliament will take up the issue on its agenda and on Monday and will start debating Sweden and Finland’s NATO bid next week, Gulyas said at a press conference. “Based on Hungarian procedure, it takes about four weeks to pass legislation, so it follows that parliament could have a vote on this sometime in the second half of March, the week of March 21,” he said.

The delay comes amid strained relations between the two proposed NATO members and the bloc’s lone recalcitrant states, Hungary and Turkey. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last month he had ruled out accepting Sweden’s bid, blasting Stockholm for allowing a Koran-burning demonstration outside the Turkish embassy. Any proposed NATO member must be approved by all 30 members of the alliance.

Erdogan had previously expressed reluctance to let either of the two Nordic countries join the bloc, citing their support for Kurdish groups that Ankara considers terrorists. Turkey, Sweden and Finland signed an agreement last June to address these concerns and pave the way for NATO expansion. But Erdogan said the Koran-burning stunt violated that agreement.

READ MORE: NATO member condemns Sweden’s response to Koran burning

Sweden defended its approval of the Koran demonstration by saying it could not be banned because of the country’s freedom of expression protections. Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto took Turkey’s side in the line and stated that Sweden’s response was “just pure stupidity”.



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