Hungarian parliamentarians broadly favor Finland’s NATO membership, but it is unclear when Budapest’s parliament will confirm the Nordic country’s bid, according to a legislative delegation from Hungary in Helsinki on Wednesday.
Csaba Hende, Hungary’s deputy parliamentary speaker, stated that while most members of Hungary’s national assembly support admitting Finland to the Western military alliance, more time is required to gain ratification.
“It takes time to process international accords,” Hende told Finnish public television YLE, adding that the four-person team had flown to Finland’s capital to clarify the country’s position on numerous current international issues.
Apart from Turkey, Hungary is the only NATO member country that has not approved Finland and neighboring Sweden’s joint application to join the alliance.
In reaction to Russia’s war in Ukraine, the Nordic countries sought NATO membership in May, abandoning their long-held positions of military neutrality.
Several Hungarian MPs have expressed reservations about supporting the countries’ NATO application, citing “blatant lies” from Helsinki and Stockholm regarding the health of Hungary’s democracy.
According to Matti Vanhanen, the speaker of Finland’s Eduskunta, or parliament, admitting Finland, which shares a 1,340-kilometer (832-mile) border with Russia, would enhance NATO.
“We had a conversation that cleared the air,” Vanhanen told reporters after meeting with the Hungarians. “The delegation didn’t confirm a concrete schedule (for ratification). It is up to the Hungarian parliament to decide.”
The Finnish lawmakers added in a separate statement that the delegation “clearly emphasized that they are not tying any other issues to (Finland’s NATO bid) approval” and that Budapest regards the country of 5.5 million as meeting NATO membership standards.
The Hungarian delegation’s journey to Helsinki followed a similar meeting with Swedish authorities, during which the Hungarians stated their support for Sweden’s NATO membership.
On Tuesday, Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström voiced optimism that Hungary would approve Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership aspirations by the end of March.
The confirmation of the two countries’ NATO membership has been postponed multiple times since it was initially presented to Hungary’s parliament in July 2022. Legislators are now slated to vote on the issue in a session beginning March 20.