The Hungarian government has long done its homework on Sweden’s NATO membership application, having submitted the Swedish ratification document to parliament last year. MEPs will have the opportunity to decide when to vote on the issue at the autumn plenary session, starting in September, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó told Turkish television channel TRT World.
He underlined that so far it has not been possible to settle the political disputes with Stockholm, adding that he regrets Hungary has become a target and victim of this international political discourse that is “determined by criticisms and judgments” which interferes in Hungarian domestic politics.
The government does not want to become an obstacle to Sweden’s membership to NATO and has been in constant consultation with Turkish leaders on the Swedish and Finnish applications for NATO membership.
Most recently, this was discussed during Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Budapest on August 20, but Péter Szijjártó also frequently talks with his Turkish counterpart, Hakan Fidan, about the issue. As a NATO ally, Hungary takes Turkey’s interests and position into account, as a military-defense alliance must be based on trust, the minister stressed. Just like Hungary, Turkey will discuss Sweden’s membership in the autumn parliamentary session as well.
Turkey and Hungary have opposed Sweden’s accession to NATO. The latest NATO summit
in Vilnius in July did not bring tangible results for the Nordic country either, while neighboring Finland has already gotten the approval from Hungary and Turkey. The Hungarian government’s main reason behind not yet approving Sweden’s bid is that Swedish-Hungarian relations are currently somewhat rocky, as Stockholm has joined an international legal challenge against Budapest’s child protection legislation. However, at a Government Info
press conference, Gergely Gulyás, the Minister heading the Prime Minister’s Office, said earlier that Hungary has promised not to block Sweden’s accession to NATO, although this would not be unjustified for several reasons.
As for Turkey, the government cited concerns about Kurdish terror groups operating in Sweden, namely the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. Another issue is the anti-Islamic protests, which Turkey says the Swedish government has been complicit in.
On the war in Ukraine, Szijjártó said that as a neighboring state, Hungary is in a special position because of the 150,000 Hungarians in the Transcarpathian diaspora (formerly part of Hungary, now Ukraine). This is why Hungary is demanding an immediate ceasefire and peace talks as soon as possible, and why it does not supply arms or allow the transit of arms through the country.
The foreign minister stated that Hungary has also had to fight for its freedom and independence throughout its history, and therefore firmly and unconditionally respects Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
It also supports the more than one million Ukrainian refugees who have arrived in Hungary so far.
Accordingly, Hungary also expects Ukraine to restore and guarantee to members of the Hungarian community there the minority rights they enjoyed until 2015: the right to use their mother tongue, cultural rights, and the right to run their own offices.
The minority rights of the Hungarian community in Transcarpathia are much more restricted today than in 2015, and this is unacceptable, the minister emphasized, adding that if Ukraine wants to become a member of the European Union, it must adopt the common EU values and guarantee national minority rights.
Regarding Hungary’s energy security, Szijjártó underscored the importance of Turkey and the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP). He also recalled that Hungary helped to build the TurkStream pipeline together with Turkey, Russia, Bulgaria, and Serbia, and that as things stand, it could transport up to 8.5 billion cubic meters of gas to the country via this route.
At the same time, the government had already started energy diversification long before the war in Ukraine, and Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Qatar would be the most important players in the Hungarian energy mix, alongside Russia.
Under a recent agreement with Turkish oil and gas company BOTAŞ, nearly 300 million cubic meters of Turkish gas will arrive in Hungary next year, the first time Turkey will become a source country as well as a transit country.
The foreign minister emphasized that the supply of natural gas from Azerbaijan and Qatar would also require significant regional infrastructure investments, but the EU is not providing the necessary support. Instead, the countries in the region – Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey – have already negotiated a series of investments to develop the capacity to supply large volumes of gas to these countries.
Via MTI, Featured photo via MTI/Miniszterelnöki Sajtóiroda/Benko Vivien Cher