The World Today for March 06, 2023

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Hungarian objections to Finland and Sweden entering NATO might delay a vote of the allies on accepting the two Nordic countries into the pact.

As Reuters reported, Finnish and Swedish leaders appealed to join NATO last year after Russia invaded Ukraine. Adding new members requires unanimity among the transatlantic alliance’s 30 members. But Hungary and Turkey have been erecting roadblocks to Finnish and Swedish membership.

The Turks’ resistance stems from a dispute concerning alleged terrorists who seek an independent Kurdish state in the Middle East but have received asylum in the two countries, noted CNN. Turkey wants Swedish and Finnish officials to extradite those Kurds, a demand the two countries have so far rejected.

Hungarian officials have a less clear rationale for gumming up the NATO accession process. Hungarian diplomats have suggested that their objections were payback for Swedish and Finnish criticism of Hungary’s so-called “illiberal democracy” over the years, as well as disputes within the European Union over EU funding to Hungary due to related issues, the Associated Press wrote.

The term illiberal democracy refers to the lock on power that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his ruling Fidesz political party have secured over the country over the years, explained the New Republic. Acting with super majorities, they have gutted the press, judiciary and other checks on their power, erecting one-party rule, while also creating and controlling business elites.

This system, coincidentally, has turned Hungary into the most corrupt country in Europe, surpassing Bulgaria, noted Agence France-Presse, citing watchdog Transparency International.

Such concerns have led the EU to hold back more than $23 billion in funds designed to help Hungary integrate into the bloc’s common market and political traditions, Bloomberg added.

Orban and Fidesz happen to also have cultivated close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has many good reasons to oppose Finland and Sweden joining NATO and further encircling his country with potential military rivals.

For example, Orban has been critical of Western efforts to help the Ukrainians defeat Russia. “When Russia launched its attack, the West didn’t isolate the conflict but elevated it to a pan-European level,” Orban stated during a recent nationwide address. “The war in Ukraine is not a conflict between the armies of good and evil but between two Slavic countries that are fighting against one another. This is their war, not ours.”

Hungary also has opted not to send weapons to Ukraine to keep the war from escalating, it says, according to Euractiv.

Orban has said he expects to see Hungary approve the Finnish and Swedish applications at some point. He probably also expects something valuable in return.

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