U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan warned the Viktor Orbán government that its patience is running out and called for the lifting of Hungary’s apparent veto on Sweden’s NATO membership.
On a recent Monday, members of the Fidesz party did not attend an emergency parliamentary session—initiated by the opposition—intended to vote on Sweden’s NATO membership. The absence of Orbán’s party, which holds an absolute majority, prevented the ratification. Fidesz lawmakers defend their stance by citing the “lies” of Swedish politicians regarding Hungary’s democratic health.
The issue has now seen 18 months of delays in parliamentary ratification, a necessary step for joining the military alliance. In January of this year, after over a year of tension and negotiation between the two countries, Erdogan lifted his veto, and the Turkish parliament voted in favor of Sweden’s inclusion.
Following Fidesz’s absence from the special session, the opposition accused Orbán of defending “the interests of President Vladimir Putin” and obstructing NATO’s strengthening. Despite threats of sanctions, the Hungarian government continues its standoff with Europe and the United States.
U.S. lawmakers demanded that the Hungarian Prime Minister ratify Sweden’s entry in the Assembly and warned that their patience with Hungary “is wearing thin.” Democratic Senator Ben Cardin, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, criticized Orbán for the delays in parliamentary approval of the Scandinavian country’s entry, stating that Hungary was “the least reliable member” of the Alliance. The Democratic representative called on President Biden to consider imposing sanctions for corruption and human rights violations, as well as removing Hungary from the list of countries whose citizens do not require a visa to travel to the United States.
Viktor Orbán recently stated that “U.S. pressure is increasing on countries where the United States can exert that pressure.” He emphasized that “I often have the feeling that what is pursued in Brussels with certain decisions are not European interests, but American ones.”
Last month, the Prime Minister met with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who urged him to expedite the green light for entry. On that occasion, the Hungarian leader committed to asking his party’s lawmakers to approve “at the earliest possible opportunity.” After meeting at the EU summit in Brussels, Orbán invited the Swedish Prime Minister, Ulf Kristersson (Moderate Party, EPP), to Budapest to discuss the issue and express his concerns, but the Swedish government head declined the invitation until after ratification.
Both Sweden and its neighbor Finland abandoned their policy of military neutrality following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Finland quickly overcame the obstacles and joined NATO in April 2023, despite previously warning that it would not join the Alliance without Sweden. The refusal of Turkey, first, and then Hungary, has delayed Sweden’s potential inclusion.
Sullivan stated that the United States continues to “closely monitor” the Hungarian situation, hoping for a “constructive solution in the very near future.” However, the absence of Fidesz parliamentarians has prevented setting a date for a new session, meaning the issue is unlikely to be revisited until after February 26, the next regular plenum.