US senators trust Hungarian lawmakers will ratify Sweden’s NATO accession soon

United States Senator Jeanne Shaheen said a bipartisan delegation of her peers trusted that Hungarian lawmakers would soon ratify Sweden's NATO accession bid, speaking at a press conference in Budapest on Sunday, but expressed disappointment that nobody from the Hungarian government had met with them.

The delegation, on a mission focused on strategic issues confronting NATO and Hungary, included Senator Shaheen, a Democrat, and Senator Thom Tillis, a Republican, who both co-chair the Senate NATO Observer Group, as well as Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat and member of the Committee on Foreign Relations.

Shaheen noted at the press conference that Hungary was the last NATO member whose parliament had still not ratified Sweden’s accession to the alliance, adding that Prime Minister Viktor Orban had earlier said it wouldn’t be the last one to do so.

Shaheen said she trusted Orban would honour a pledge made in his state of the nation address on Saturday that Hungarian lawmakers would ratify Sweden’s NATO accession at the start of parliament’s spring session.

The senators stressed that Sweden’s accession to NATO would strengthen the alliance and the security of the United States and Hungary in the current situation.

Shaheen stressed the importance of NATO being the strongest and most unified alliance possible considering the challenges facing Europe in the context of the war in Ukraine.

Senator Tillis said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a threat against democracy, against Hungary and against Europe, which was why NATO needed to be enlarged.

Senator Murphy said there was no reason for the Hungarian parliament to further delay the ratification of Sweden’s NATO accession.

Fielding questions, Tillis said the US respected Hungary’s independence and sovereignty, but added that the country needed to support Sweden’s NATO accession, just like the other members of the NATO family.

Asked to comment on remarks by Peter Szijjarto, the foreign minister, suggesting Russia was not a threat to NATO members, Shaheen said she didn’t agree at all.

The senators had wanted to review with representatives of the Hungarian government bilateral economic ties, the situation of human rights and matters related to the upcoming presidential election in the US.

Shaheen noted that the US was the second-biggest foreign investor in Hungary.

She said a declaration assessing the situation of Sweden’s NATO accession would be submitted with her co-chair of the Senate NATO Observer Group upon their return to the US.

Szijjarto: Government ‘in no need for lectures from US delegations’

The Hungarian government has no need for lectures from US congress delegations on what should happen in Hungary, as only Hungarians can decide that, the foreign minister said on Monday.

Responding to question regarding a visit to Hungary by a bipartisan US congress delegation, Peter Szijjarto told a press conference on the sidelines of a meeting of the European Union’s Foreign Affairs Council that the delegation had not been received at ministerial level, similarly to Hungarian delegations in the US.

Earlier talks with similar delegations had resulted in “comprehensive lectures on how we should govern Hungary,” he said.

Szijjarto said the way Hungary should be governed was decided by Hungarians whose decisions the government implemented. “We do not need US congressional delegations to lecture us on what should and shouldn’t happen in Hungary.”

The delegation’s press conference had also shown they wanted to discuss EU and internal matters rather than bilateral ones, he said. “None of those [issues] concern them.”

Regarding European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s decision to run for re-election, Szijjarto said the EU’s competitiveness and security had “dramatically” deteriorated on her watch.

“If … she is judged on merit, I think President Von der Leyen will be graded poorly at the end of her term,” he said.

Szijjarto also welcomed Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristensson’s decision to visit Budapest, adding that the meeting could further the Hungarian parliament’s ratification of Sweden’s NATO membership, “although the final date is still unknown”.

He also praised Hungarian-Swedish defence cooperation, adding that Swedish companies “feel good in Hungary” and noting that the Hungarian Armed Forces fly Gripen aircraft.

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