Hungary Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Hungary Prime Minister Viktor Orban. (Akos Stiller/Bloomberg)

Hungary’s parliament speaker said the chamber was in no rush to ratify Sweden’s accession to NATO, after the government in Budapest became the last holdout this week following Turkey’s approval.

“I don’t feel like we need to rush, in fact I don’t think there’s an extraordinary circumstance” that would require urgency, Speaker Laszlo Kover said, according to comments published on Index news website on Thursday. The ruling party politician also said he doesn’t currently back Sweden’s accession, though added that he hoped Sweden would “give him a reason” to change his position.

The comments from the ruling party politician appeared to pressure Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson to accept Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s invitation to come to Budapest to mend frayed bilateral ties, providing the Hungarian leader a way toward ratification without loss of face. Orban and his ministers have in the past accused Stockholm of undermining relations by criticizing Hungary for democratic backsliding, and have asked for a courtesy visit from a Swedish leader before ratification.

On Wednesday, Orban told NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg that he’ll “urge” parliamentary approval “at the first possible opportunity,” which is seen to be on Feb. 26 when the legislature is set to reconvene. The opposition would fail if it tried to convene a special session before then, Kover said.

Orban has worked hard to build a narrative whereby the cabinet backs Sweden’s bid join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization but where ruling party lawmakers, hurt by Stockholm’s criticism, needed convincing. In fact, Orban, as chairman of the ruling Fidesz, handpicks his lawmakers who are known to toe the party line. They also hold more than a two-thirds parliamentary majority, enough to pass any law.

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