Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party has boycotted a meeting in parliament called by the country’s opposition to ratify Sweden’s bid to join NATO.
Ambassadors representing 16 NATO countries attended the extraordinary parliamentary session in a show of support for Sweden’s application to join the military alliance.
Sweden applied to join NATO in May 2022 three months after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, ending two centuries of Swedish neutrality.
Most NATO countries, with the exception of Hungary and Turkey, approved the applications of Sweden and Finland to join the alliance as early as September 2022.
Under Article 10 of NATO’s Treaty, all alliance members must approve the application of a new member state.
Last month, the Turkish parliament overwhelmingly approved Sweden’s application.
Only 51 of the Hungarian parliament’s 199 MPs attended today’s parliamentary session, which was too few to take a vote on the matter.
The populist Fidesz party, led by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and in government since 2010, holds a two-thirds majority in parliament.
The Fidesz government has objected to comments that a number of Swedish politicians made in recent years about the rule-of-law and the state of democracy in Hungary.
Last month, Mr Orbán stated on social media platform X that he had reaffirmed Hungary’s support for Swedish membership during a phone call with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
“I also stressed that we will continue to urge the Hungarian National Assembly to vote in favour of Sweden’s accession and conclude the #ratification at the first possible opportunity,” posted Mr Orbán on X on 24 January.
US Ambassador David Pressman was among the diplomats to attend today’s extraordinary session of the Hungarian parliament in Budapest.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Pressman said Mr Orbán had “pledged to convene parliament, to urge parliament to act at its earliest opportunity. Today was an opportunity to do that”.
Last October, Mr Pressman openly criticised Mr Orbán on X, formerly Twitter, after Hungary’s prime minister met and shook hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a conference in China.
Máté Kocsis, leader of Fidesz’s parliamentary group, posted on Facebook that the ratification of Sweden’s NATO bid may take place at the beginning of the regular parliamentary session.
“But for this, the meeting of the two prime ministers in Budapest is required. If its is important for the Swedes to join, they will come here as they went to Turkey,” posted Mr Kocsis.
Hungary’s parliament will reconvene on 26 February.
Additional reporting by Reuters