Hungary’s Parliament Ratifies Sweden’s Bid To Join NATO

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) Hungary’s parliament voted Monday to ratify Sweden’s bid to join NATO, bringing an end to more than 18 months of delays that have frustrated the alliance as it seeks to expand in response to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The vote, which passed with 188 votes for and six against, was the culmination of months of wrangling by Hungary’s allies to convince its nationalist government to lift its block on Sweden’s membership. 

The government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán submitted the protocols for approving Sweden’s entry into NATO in July 2022, but the matter stalled in parliament over opposition by governing party lawmakers.

“This has been a decision that has taken some time, and we look forward to the process concluding rapidly,” Pressman said.

A presidential signature, which is needed to formally endorse the approval of Sweden’s NATO bid, was expected within the next few days.

Kristersson, Sweden’s prime minister, met last week with Orbán in Hungary’s capital, where they appeared to reach a decisive reconciliation after months of diplomatic tensions.

Following their meeting, the leaders announced the conclusion of a defense industry agreement that will include Hungary’s purchase of four Swedish-made JAS 39 Gripen jets and the extension of a service contract for its existing Gripen fleet.

Orbán said the additional fighter jets “will significantly increase our military capabilities and further strengthen our role abroad” and will improve Hungary’s ability to participate in joint NATO operations.

“To be a member of NATO together with another country means we are ready to die for each other,” Orbán said. “A deal on defense and military capacities helps to reconstruct the trust between the two countries.”

Robert Dalsjö, a senior analyst with the Swedish Defense Research Agency, told The Associated Press on Friday that Hungary’s decision to finally lift its opposition came only after Turkey and its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, voted in January to ratify Stockholm’s bid.

After becoming the last NATO holdout with the Turkish vote, Orbán had to show some results for his government’s delays, Dalsjö said.

“In hiding behind Erdogan’s back, Orban could play, do some pirouettes,” he said. “Then when Erdogan shifted, Orban wasn’t really prepared for adjusting his position, and he needed something to show that could legitimize his turnaround. And that turned out to be the Gripen deal.”

Monday’s vote was just one matter on a busy agenda for lawmakers in the Hungarian parliament. A vote was also held on accepting the resignation of President Katalin Novák, who stepped down earlier this month in a scandal over her decision to pardon to a man convicted of covering up a string of child sexual abuses.

After accepting Novák’s resignation, lawmakers are expected to confirm Tamás Sulyok, the president of Hungary’s Constitutional Court, as the country’s new president. He is set to formally take office on March 5.

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