EU countries held EU funds as collateral for Hungary to support Sweden's accession to NATO - expert

  • 2024-01-26
  • LETA/TBT Staff

RIGA - European Union (EU) member states held EU funds as collateral for Hungary to support Sweden's accession to NATO, according to Sandis Sraders, research fellow at the Latvian Institute of International Affairs and lecturer at the Baltic Defense College.

Both Turkey and Hungary previously opposed Sweden's NATO accession, but this week the Turkish Parliament overwhelmingly voted in favor of Sweden's accession. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, for his part, has assured NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg of his support for Sweden's membership.

Sraders told LETA that Turkey is a NATO member, while Hungary is a member of both the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, so it would be geopolitically difficult for it to be the only country in both organizations to oppose the accession of an EU member to NATO.

According to the researcher, EU funds that would be due to a democratic EU Member State (such as Latvia, Estonia or Lithuania) have often been denied to Hungary because of its failure to respect democratic standards. The conservative Fidesz party, represented by Orban, has complete control over various institutions, the apparatus of power and administrative resources, which are often used to ensure that the Hungarian Prime Minister has no political opposition. Moreover, he can use the entire administrative apparatus to serve his own interests.

"It is also important that Orban has always looked to Russia as an ally and tried to work together with it for his own political interests. In reality, Hungary has to choose whether it is a country of the transatlantic community or a Russian Trojan horse in the EU, where EU decision-making procedures, which require unanimity among member states, can always be used to please Russia and make sure that Russian interests are also taken into account in EU decision-making," said the lecturer at the Baltic Defense College.

Sraders said that Russia judges everything in "black or white" categories. At one time, Russia considered Finland as a close ally and a pragmatic country. This changed in May 2022 when Finland and Sweden applied for NATO membership. Russia said at the time that such a decision was the end of 'good cooperation.

"So Hungary has not been the only country seen by Russia as a pragmatic EU member. What Russia considers pragmatism has always been a matter of survival for small countries, which have always faced a direct threat from Russia. This pragmatic approach has allowed Russia to use, for example, certain EU leaders, to involve them in corruption, to give money to journalists to express a favorable opinion of Russia, to conclude agreements to build nuclear power plants (NPPs) in Hungary, Turkey and Finland," the researcher said, adding that the Finnish energy company Fennovoima terminated its contract with the Russian state-owned company Rosatom in 2022 to build NPPs on the west coast of Finland.

Asked whether the Hungarian Parliament would ratify Sweden's accession protocol, the researcher pointed out that Orban is the political leader of Hungary and he can promise many things, but there is always the possibility of invoking democratic procedures and majority decision to support or not Sweden's accession to NATO. In the opinion of the lecturer of the Baltic Defense College, the influence of Orban's political groups in Hungary should be taken into account. His word should be decisive for how the decision-making process in Hungary proceeds. However, Sraders expressed confidence that Sweden will be admitted to NATO at the NATO Summit in Washington, where the alliance will celebrate its 75th anniversary.

On the Turkish Parliament's decision to support Sweden's accession to the Alliance, Sraders suggested that the US would supply military equipment to Turkey in return for a favorable decision on Sweden. The researcher points out that Sweden and the US have successfully played this card, while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been a good bargainer who has been able to use the situation to his advantage, for the country's military capabilities and also domestically.

"Domestically, it is about Sweden's attitude towards the Kurdish community in the country. This was an important condition on the Turkish side. Sweden has suppressed any public protests in its own country. This allows Erdogan to show that he has international influence, especially with regard to the Kurdish communities," said the researcher.