NATO: Hungary’s parliament votes for Sweden to join NATO – politics

After almost two years of tough struggle, the last hurdle for Sweden to join NATO has been cleared. The Hungarian parliament approved the country’s inclusion in the military alliance with a large majority on Monday afternoon. This confirms Sweden’s admission as the 32nd member state of the alliance: all other member states have already ratified the application for membership. Hungary’s approval had been expected since Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party had signaled its support.

It was “a historic day,” wrote Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson immediately after the vote on X. Sweden is ready to assume its share of responsibility for NATO security. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also welcomed the vote. Sweden’s NATO membership will make the alliance stronger and more secure, the Norwegian wrote on X.

Sweden submitted its application to join NATO in May 2022 – under the impression of Russia’s major attack on Ukraine and in parallel with Finland. This was a big step for Sweden: the country was militarily neutral for two centuries, even though it joined the EU in 1995 and cooperated closely with the NATO states.

Finland was admitted to the alliance in April 2023. Sweden, on the other hand, fought for months against the resistance of the two NATO members Turkey and Hungary. Among other things, Turkey accused Sweden of not taking decisive action against groups and people that it classifies as terrorists – for example the Kurdish PKK, which is also on the EU’s terror list. At the end of January, Turkey ended its blockade. Immediately afterwards, the US government initiated the sale of F-16Fighter jets on their way to Ankara.

In Hungary, on the other hand, leading politicians from Orbán’s Fidesz party claimed that they were “offended” because there had been criticism of the democratic conditions in Hungary from Sweden. That destroyed bilateral trust. Sweden’s Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson must restore this through a personal visit to Budapest – just as he traveled to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to end his blockade. Kristersson finally came to Orbán on Friday.

Defense policy: A Swedish soldier with an old cannon in front of the Royal Palace in Stockholm.

A Swedish soldier with an old cannon in front of the Royal Palace in Stockholm.

(Photo: Tom Little/Reuters)

It was announced that Hungary would receive four new Swedish-type fighter jets JAS 39 Gripen will buy. The two countries also extended a maintenance and logistics agreement to the previous 14 GripenMachines that Hungary has leased from Sweden since 2006 and are due to become fully Hungarian owned in 2026. Hungary’s pro-government media portrayed this deal as a victory for Hungarian diplomacy, although it remained unclear to what extent Stockholm was supposed to have accommodated Budapest. Details on the financial conditions were not given.

As the pressure on Orbán to finally allow Sweden into the alliance had grown, Kristersson’s visit and the fighter jet deal gave both sides the opportunity to save face. Orbán then emphasized that the defense agreement was not a condition for ratifying NATO membership. “But of course: reaching an agreement on defense and military capabilities definitely helps to restore trust between the two countries.”

After parliament’s approval of Sweden’s accession to NATO, this act still has to be signed by the new Hungarian president, whose election is also on the parliament’s agenda this Monday. The instrument of ratification must then be formally deposited with the US Department of State. Sweden could be welcomed into the alliance as the 32nd member in the following days – with a ceremony in which the Swedish flag will be hoisted in front of NATO headquarters in Brussels.

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