Hungary to debate Finland, Sweden NATO bid next Wednesday -agenda

FILE PHOTO: Hungarian Prime Minister Orban delivers annual State of the Nation speech in Budapest

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary's parliament will start debating the ratification of Finland and Sweden's NATO membership next Wednesday, the agenda of next week's parliamentary session showed this Wednesday.

Finland and Sweden sought membership after Russia's invasion of Ukraine last year and have said they want to join "hand in hand", but while most member states have given the green light, NATO requires unanimous consent and Turkey and Hungary have yet to ratify them.

Ankara says Stockholm has harboured what Ankara calls members of terrorist groups. Turkey recently indicated it would approve only Finland for NATO membership, while Hungary says it has been delayed by a flurry of legislation required to unlock European Union funds.

During a trip to Warsaw on Wednesday, U.S. President Joe Biden vowed to "defend every inch of NATO" to reassure allies on Europe's eastern flank and described Russia's suspension of a landmark nuclear arms control treaty as a "big mistake".

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock last week called on Turkey and Hungary to allow Finland and Sweden to join NATO, stating she expects all NATO members to ratify their bids to join the defence alliance "without further delay".

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said in November that his nationalist government had already decided to support Finland and Sweden's NATO accession.

The Hungarian government submitted the relevant legislation in July, but parliament, in which Orban's ruling Fidesz party has a two-thirds majority, has not debated and approved the two bills.

Hungary has sought to salvage energy ties to Russia amid the Ukraine war. Orban, re-elected in 2022 for a fourth consecutive term, reiterated on Saturday that being a NATO member was "vital" for Hungary, but said his government would not send arms to Ukraine or sever its economic relations with Moscow.

(Reporting by Gergely Szakacs, Editing by Franklin Paul and Josie Kao)