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Hungary joins Turkey in raising more hurdles for Sweden to join NATO, with Budapest expected to extract further concessions from its Western allies before approving an expansion of the military alliance.

Hungarian pro-government media last week unearthed Swedish Education 2019 video It describes Hungary as a country where democracy is eroding. On Sunday, Speaker Laszlo Kovir, a close ally of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, said Hungary and Sweden disagreed on issues of patriotism and were therefore not in the same coalition.

“NATO is a defense alliance and we do guarantee collective defence,” Koville said on a pro-Orban television show. “But I don’t think we need allies like this . . . spitting on us.”

Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto also used the video as an excuse to remind Stockholm not to take the Budapest vote for granted, writing to his Swedish counterpart last week not to be “surprised” by the Hungarian parliament’s reaction.

Orban agreed to approve Sweden’s bid after Turkey dropped its objections in July. But in recent weeks, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he was concerned about a series of burnings of Qurans in the Scandinavian country, including one in front of a Turkish embassy. Jepp Tayyip Erdogan has expressed reluctance to take this step.

The Hungarian government admitted to coordinating its position with Ankara on the issue. In the past, Orban has used his veto power on NATO expansion and other issues within the EU to force concessions from Western allies.

Turkey and Hungary’s vetoes mean Sweden is decoupling from Finland after it jointly applied to join NATO in May 2022 following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Finland joined the alliance in April this year.

Hungary’s warning raised eyebrows in Sweden and added to the feeling that the NATO application is still far from certain.

Kalle Sandhammar, the head of small Swedish public broadcaster UR, which released the educational video, said it was “pleasant in itself to hear that Hungarian politicians are watching UR”. But he added: “It is very ignorant to think that Swedish politicians can control the content of UR.”

Sweden’s foreign ministry declined to comment. Nordic diplomats have long argued that Hungary does not want final confirmation of Sweden’s accession, so the increased opposition in Budapest may be a sign that Turkey is not yet close to ratifying Sweden’s accession.

Budapest’s long-standing refusal to approve enlargement has sparked outrage in Washington: US Ambassador to Budapest David Pressman has listed the issue as one of the most pressing in the bilateral relationship.

“The prime minister himself has expressed support for Sweden joining the alliance,” he said on Friday. “We look forward to swift action by the Hungarian government and its parliament.”

“Every fighter aircraft flown by the Hungarian Defense Forces is a Swedish jet. Every one of them,” Pressman said. “Hungary is very aware of the huge benefits that Sweden will bring to the union.”


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