Hungary lawmakers debate Finland, Sweden NATO bids

The representatives of the Hungarian Parliament vote in the main hall of the parliament building in Budapest on October 03,2022.

Budapest, Hungary -- Hungarian lawmakers on Wednesday started debating the NATO bids of Finland and Sweden, with the ruling party voicing concerns ahead of a vote expected this month.

The parliamentary voting was officially scheduled for March 6-9, but parliament's website on Wednesday showed the vote would  take place from March 20 at the earliest.

Hungary's government recently had already indicated that it might postpone the ratification voting until the second half of the month.

Turkey and Hungary are the only NATO members still to ratify the bids from the two Nordic countries, which must be accepted by all 30 existing members of the military organisation.

A meeting between Hungarian and Swedish parliamentary delegations to "clarify (Hungarian) MPs' concerns about the ratification of NATO accession" is due to be held in the coming weeks, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said on Monday.

"MPs aren't very enthusiastic," Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said, voicing  his concerns during a radio interview last week.

The Hungarian opposition has repeatedly accused Orban's ruling party Fidesz of dragging its feet over the vote.

Along with its Christian democratic partner KDNP, Fidesz retains a two-thirds majority in parliament.

Some lawmakers worry the direct border between Russia and Finland of more than 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) could present a "great potential for war", Orban said.

During the opening remarks of Wednesday's parliamentary debate, opposition MP Agnes Vadai called Fidesz' alleged internal debate a mere tactic to delay the ratification.

Orban, a close ally of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has been keen to maintain ties with Moscow despite Russia's invasion of neighbouring Ukraine.

While Orban has condemned Russian aggression, he has refused to criticise Russian President Vladimir Putin by name.

Finland and Sweden dropped decades of military non-alignment and applied to join NATO last May in response to Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

Turkey has so far held off on ratifying Sweden and Finland's NATO membership applications, but has indicated that it is ready to accept Finland into NATO.

© Agence France-Presse

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