As the war in Ukraine rages on, the ongoing hostilities have ripped holes in the former security fabric of Europe. It is thus both commendable and understandable that two of Scandinavia’s powerhouses, namely Finland and Sweden, are stepping up to the table to secure their positions in the new geopolitical environment and wish to be admitted into NATO as soon as possible.
However, in the case of Sweden, there is an ample amount of grievances that need to be addressed before the country’s admission is ratified.
Reason one: Sweden’s constant undermining of relations
As Balázs Orbán, the political director for the prime minister, recently pointed out, Swedish representatives have been repeatedly keen to bash Hungary through diplomatic means, using their political influence to harm Hungarian interests.
We are not talking about the usual bureaucratic meddling of Brussels in this case, and it is not even limited to the Swedish left. There is a declared and open hostile attitude that has been going on for years, prior to current events.
For instance, the current prime minister of Sweden, Ulf Kristersson, back when he was leading the Moderate Party, had this to say about Hungary in 2021:
“For the EU, large parts of the job still remain to break the development in Hungary, to put pressure on the Hungarian government and to support the increasingly strong opposition.”
Another Moderate Party leader, Jessika Roswall, currently acting as Sweden’s EU affairs minister, also shared this sentiment when she said, “It is now required that the EU act clearly and that the new conditionality mechanism stops payments to Hungary.”
In layman's terms, “bleed them dry” and pressure the Hungarian government into submission.
Their reasoning? Sweden’s Employment and Integration Minister Johan Pehrson, on May 10, 2022, was kind enough to share that “Hungary’s xenophobic and nationalist government continues to violate the principle of rule of law,” whatever that means.
And this leads us to…
Reason two: The crumbling throne of moral superiority
The above suggests a perceived moral superiority that is laughable at best. I would like to kindly remind the dear reader that it was not the “xenophobic” Hungarian state or its “oppressive regime” that openly burned the Quran in the middle of the negotiation process for Sweden’s admission to NATO, a process that involved a major Muslim power.
And it was not Hungary, the supposed rampant violator of the rule of law, that justified this provocation against Turkey, NATO, and basically any reasonable person by saying it was an “expression of freedom,” coating evident racism in the guise of moral superiority.
Reason three: A lack of care and respect
Relations between our countries have been worn down over years, making bridging the gap more challenging in these trying times.
In a radio interview a couple of weeks ago, Prime Minister Orbán stated clearly that Sweden’s admission to NATO is the “correct behavior in terms of logic, humanity and honor,” as it “doesn’t harm Hungary’s interests.”
What’s more, both Foreign Minister Szijjártó and President Novák have expressed numerous times that “the NATO accession of Sweden and Finland is justified.” However, we see the need to clear the air with Sweden in order to proceed.
I would not call this unreasonable, following years of derogatory remarks and an openly hostile stance toward two NATO nations involved in this debate — Hungary and Turkey.
With Swedish-Hungarian relations deteriorating in recent years, the Hungarian government deemed it necessary that a parliamentary delegation be sent to Sweden, to discuss and potentially deal with the plethora of issues between them.
However, the Swedish government appears to simply not care. According to Politico, Swedish officials deemed Hungary’s efforts to reconcile as “blackmail tactics,” declaring that giving in to such attempts was equal to paying a “ransom.”
Adding Ankara’s woes and grievances to the mix does not leave much room to maneuver, at least not until the Swedes start changing their tune and help these lingering wounds heal.
Time is of the essence, and with the region’s security hanging in the balance, it would be in everyone’s interests that the Swedes start embracing our shared goals. But it seems they are not letting this grudge go for now.