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Orbán Calls for Peace, Stoltenberg Hails Ratification

Ukraine Crisis

Graphic by Tomas Ragina / Shutterstock.com

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán again reiterated Hungary’s stance regarding the war in Ukraine, emphasizing the need for a ceasefire and initiating peace talks, at a NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, on July 11, according to a video message posted on Facebook.

“The Hungarian position remains unchanged, and we will represent it: instead of bringing weapons to Ukraine, we should bring peace,” Orbán said in the video message. “A ceasefire is necessary, and instead of war, peace negotiations should start as soon as possible.”

He stated that Hungary’s perspective is clear: war is “in our neighborhood,” and due to the sizable minority of ethnic Hungarians living in Transcarpathia, just across the border in the southwest of Ukraine, tens of thousands of Hungarian lives were in immediate danger.

Orbán further argued that the North Atlantic organization should not change its previous position. “NATO is a military defense alliance,” Orbán explained. “It was created to protect its member states, not to carry out military actions on the territory of other countries.” He added that Hungary had agreed with NATO’s position “at the start of negotiations” not to send weapons, troops, or even train combat military units, but instead “strengthen the defense capabilities of its own member states. [….] This is necessary and right and Hungary will support it,” the PM concluded.

Meanwhile, the lingering issue of Sweden’s bid to join the military alliance appears to have been resolved on the eve of the summit. According to NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan “has agreed to forward the accession protocol for Sweden to the grand national assembly as soon as possible.”

Ending Neutral Stance

Alongside its neighbor Finland, Sweden applied to join NATO last summer after Russia invaded Ukraine earlier in February, ending the countries’ longstanding stance of neutrality. But while Finland was granted NATO membership earlier this year in April, the process requires unanimous approval from its member states, and that had been withheld for Sweden by Türkiye and Hungary.

Earlier this month, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó said that Hungary would support Sweden’s bid to join the NATO military alliance once Türkiye had indicated that it was ready to do so. With Türkiye’s ostensible approval, Hungary is thus also primed to grant its blessing, finally paving the way for Sweden to join the Western defense bloc. Szijjártó has since described closing the lengthy ratification process in Hungary’s Parliament as a mere “technical matter.”

But while Stoltenberg had said Erdoğan would “work closely with the assembly to ensure ratification,” the NATO secretary-general neglected to give a date for when the Turkish parliament, the Grand National Assembly, would decide on the exact timing.

Following the announcement, Erdoğan appeared to imply that the assembly’s conclusive ratification of Sweden’s NATO bid would be conditional on the European Union granting Türkiye membership it has been seeking since talks began in 2005.

“I am calling from here on these countries that are making Türkiye wait at the door of the European Union,” Erdogan said. “First, come and open the way for Türkiye to the European Union and then we will open the way for Sweden, just as we did for Finland.”

This article was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of July 14, 2023.

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