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The Hungarian government’s criticism of Sweden is partly about domestic politics, says Emelie Thorburn, assistant researcher at FOI.
At the same time, Hungary and Turkey have strengthened their relationship over the past year.
– I think a lot is about standing up for a domestic audience and showing that you don’t let other countries pick on you, which is perhaps more important than actually negotiating something, says Emelie Thorburn after the Hungarian government’s latest outing against Sweden.
Government spokesman Zoltán Kovács today states three reasons why Hungary does not ratify Sweden’s NATO application. Much boils down to statements that Swedish politicians have made about the Hungarian legal system in recent years.
Sweden tries to present itself as “morally superior”, writes Kovács.
“You are thundering on”
Thorburn, assistant researcher focusing on Central Europe at the Total Defense Research Institute (FOI), says Hungary’s actions follow a pattern. The government likes to take advantage of political situations where the country’s approval is needed in either the EU or NATO.
– They make big statements, but they are aimed at a domestic audience. That has also been the question when it comes to Ukraine, says Thorburn.
To some extent, the criticism can be linked to the 13 billion euros that the European Commission has frozen for the country, something that Sweden has stood behind. This is because the EU points to shortcomings in the independence of the judiciary in Hungary.
– Hungary is in great need of these funds, it has been hit hard by the economic challenge in Europe. Having said that, there is no mechanism that links the decision not to ratify Sweden to the EU funds, she says.
Hungary and Turkey have simultaneously strengthened their ties over the past year. The day before Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that the country will ratify Finland’s application, Viktor Orbán visited him. On Wednesday, Hungarian President Katalin Novák was in Ankara to discuss increased exchange between the countries.
And Hungary has now, just as Turkey intends, chosen to share Finland’s and Sweden’s application.
– I don’t think that Hungary would have acted like this alone. Sweden’s application has been pushed forward the entire time in some sort of protection that Turkey has been the one on which it has depended, says Thorburn.
She believes that Viktor Orbán fits the bill.
– There is nothing to suggest that Hungary would not ratify Sweden’s application, but since Turkey is waiting, there is time to make criticisms.
At the same time, the Hungarian government’s attitude towards Russia is similar to Turkey’s. The countries both have an idea of appearing as neutral and peace-promoting players in the war, says Emelie Thorburn.
– You see yourself as an independent actor who can negotiate or benefit from different parties in different ways.
Hungary has nevertheless, after some noise, agreed to sanctions and condemnations against Russia. The word pragmatic describes Orbán’s stance towards the warring country well, she believes.
– It has been said that Orbán is not driven by ideological beliefs, but that for him it is about where he can get the most out of it.