Hungary's prime minister, Viktor Orban, has instructed his party to back the accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO, Finnish public broadcaster Yle reports.
Both countries applied to join the alliance last summer, in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and while nearly all the alliance's current 30 member states soon ratified their applications, two states have stood out as hold-outs: Turkey, and Hungary.
The news comes as the Hungarian parliament, prepares to debate the membership applications next week, Yle reports on its English-language page. This will be followed by a vote on ratification.
Máté Kocsis, parliamentary group chief of Fidesz, Orban's party, said last Thursday that many rank-and-file MPs fear an escalation of the war in Ukraine, should Finland and Sweden become full NATO members.
Some Fidesz European Parliament members have meanwhile said that politicians from both Sweden and Finland have in the past "insulted" Hungary, while they are now asking the country for a favor in ratifying their NATO membership.
The "insults" likely relate to criticism of alleged breaches of EU law, by authorities in Hungary, Yle reports, while Kocsis has reportedly asked the parliamentary speaker for permission to send a delegation to both Finland nd Sweden, to clarify matters.
While Fidesz is split on the issue of Finnish and Swedish NATO accession, Kocsis was unable to put a figure on how many MPs fall into each camp, adding that in any case the vote on the matter is unlikely to be delayed, he said.
Orban himself has also given mixed messages on both countries' joining NATO. Speculation over how close Orban is to Russian leader Vladimir Putin predated the current war in Ukraine, while the perceived treatment by Kyiv of the Hungarian-speaking minority in the far west of Ukraine – the two countries share a border – is likely also to have had an influence on Budapest's line.
Hungary justice minister: Government supports Finland, Sweden joining NATO
Fidesz Justice Minister Judit Varga has said that the government supports Swedish and Finnish accession to NATO.
Varga told Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat (link in Finnish) that: "We believe that NATO represents an important defense alliance for the nations of Europe. As Prime Minister Viktor Orban has frequently stated, this is to be discussed at the Hungarian parliament's spring session, starting next Monday," adding that representatives of the executive will be there, and will express their support for the ratification.
The actual vote on ratification takes place in early March, Helsingin Sanomat reported.
Should Hungary ratify Finnish and Swedish NATO membership, this would leave only Turkey still to do so. Ankara has said that Sweden harbors members of various terrorist organizations, including pro-Kurdish groups.
Editor: Andrew Whyte
Source: Yle, Helsing