Kover: Government backs NATO enlargement, but ‘we are nobody’s pawns’

Hungary's government made it clear from the start that it supports NATO's enlargement, regardless of the opinions of the ruling party MPs, but at the same time, "we are nobody's pawns," Speaker of Parliament Laszlo Kover said in an interview with news portal Index on Thursday on Sweden's NATO accession.
25. January 2024 17:02

Asked if he found the situation awkward, as it seems Hungary will be the last to ratify Sweden’s NATO accession, Kover said: “Why should this be awkward for us? If the Swedes don’t find it so, I don’t feel bad for a moment. On the other hand, someone has to be last.”

Asked whether this was a failure for Hungarian diplomacy, Kover said Hungary had made its problems concerning Sweden’s bid “quite clear” before.

“Hungary takes it seriously that NATO — in contrast with the one-time Warsaw Pact — is a defence alliance of equal and sovereign states, and it is in our interest to be a member of this alliance,” the speaker said. “To make it clear to everyone: member states here make a voluntary commitment whereby, if any other ally is attacked, it will automatically be considered an attack directed against them and they will provide military assistance to the attacked party. Does everyone understand how great a responsibility this is? We will collectively enter a military conflict if someone is attacked.”

“But now the Swedes — and let me note that the Finns as well — have gone to a point in defaming Hungary and its democratically elected government and restricting its room for manoeuvre, which cannot be dismissed,” he said. After Hungary’s parliament ratified Finland’s accession to NATO, Finland immediately joined a European Court procedure against Hungary, the speaker added.

Kover said the situation was handled by Hungarian diplomacy in “the most correct manner”, arguing that it had supported the enlargement, submitted the relevant motions to parliament and showed openness to help deal with the situation that caused uncertainty among some of the MPs. However, in a democracy, the final word is not given by the government, but by parliament, he added.

“Despite the fact that the entire process of NATO enlargement is lacking in the seriousness of thought and democratic thoroughness appropriate to the weight of the matter, the parliamentary majority behind the government supports it in principle,” Kover said. “I initiated a parliamentary delegation to visit both countries, to make them see that there is a small problem. The response given at the time was not satisfactory, to put it mildly. And now it seems the Swedes do not even appreciate the final gesture.”

Asked what the Swedes should do, Kover said it would be a good idea “to take each other seriously”. “Or do you think we should beg them to clarify the problems? If I may use a slang term, we are nobody’s pawns. I think there is a serious misunderstanding in the Swedes’ minds,” he said.

As for cooperation with Turkiye, Kover said he had made it clear in several interviews that Hungary had no agreement with Turkiye on who should ratify the enlargement and when, adding: “we can decide on our own when such a step should be taken.”

“We are not influenced by how Turkiye otherwise manages its own problems,” he said. “Let me note, though, that Swedish diplomacy made big efforts very quickly in order to settle its disputes with Turkiye. Sweden’s prime minister also visited Turkiye. I regret that the Swedish politicians did not even try to take advantage of the time created by the delay in the Turkish ratification to talk to us as well.”

Kover said the government did not expect Sweden to “do penance”, but that they should not give the impression of ignoring Hungary. “I don’t believe this would be too great a demand. For us, Hungarian interests come first — perhaps this is only natural,” he added.

Asked whether parliament would convene for a special session to discuss Sweden’s accession, Kover said he had no doubt that one of the opposition parties “which typically do not serve Hungarian interests” would initiate such a session, “probably in vain”. “Anyway, I don’t feel that anything is pressing us, in fact, I don’t think there is an extraordinary situation,” he added.

Asked whether it was possible to know which Fidesz MPs did not support Sweden’s NATO accession, Kover said: “You are talking to one of them now. But let me clarify: I would also be happy if our hopeful allies gave me the chance as soon as possible to change my position in good conscience”.

On the motivation behind his position, Kover said “we have simply had enough of our country being treated as a cheap game for bored politicians who couldn’t think of anything better to do or want to draw attention away from something, and wipe their muddy shoes in Hungary. Let me be clear: this whole circus would have been over a long time ago if Mr. Stoltenberg had put half as much effort into convincing Swedish politicians as he put into sending us messages,” Kover said.

Leave a Reply