Hungarian lawmakers approved Sweden's accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) by a resounding majority

Hungary lifts last hurdle to Swedish NATO membership

El primer ministro húngaro, Viktor Orban, habla con miembros del Parlamento durante una sesión del Parlamento húngaro en Budapest el 26 de febrero de 2024 – PHOTO/ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban speaks to members of Parliament during a session of the Hungarian Parliament in Budapest on February 26, 2024 - PHOTO/ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP

Hungary's parliament ratified Sweden's accession to NATO on Monday, lifting the last hurdle to its entry, which ended decades of non-alignment in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. 

  1. The 32nd member

Hungarian lawmakers approved Sweden's accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) by a resounding majority of 188 votes to six. 

"Today is a historic day," Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, whose country will become the organisation's 32nd member, reacted on X social network. 

"Sweden is ready to assume its Euro-Atlantic security responsibilities," he wrote, almost two years after the accession process began. 

Sweden faced a bumpy road to join the military pact, including a difficult negotiation to get Turkey's approval, which ended in January. 

In addition, it had to convince the Hungarian prime minister, the nationalist politician Viktor Orban, as the accession protocol requires unanimous agreement of the members.

Sweden launched its bid to join the alliance in May 2022, after Russia's invasion of Ukraine. It did so at the same time as Finland, which was admitted in April 2023. 

At the start of the parliamentary session, Orban praised Kristersson's recent visit to Budapest, which he said helped build "a fair and respectful relationship between the two countries" beyond "differences of opinion". 

"Sweden's NATO membership will strengthen Hungary's security," he added. 

Orban has always argued in favour of Sweden's membership of the military pact, but kept postponing the vote as he demanded that the Nordic country "respect" his government. 

Kristersson's visit paved the way for negotiations, and during his trip Hungary announced the purchase of four fighter jets from Sweden. 

For some experts, the delay in Hungary's approval was a strategy to negotiate with the European Union to release billions of euros in frozen funds. 

Other analysts pointed to Orban's closeness to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish head of state Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who explained his reluctance for security reasons.

El logotipo de la OTAN se ve en una reunión del Consejo del Atlántico Norte en la sesión de ministros de defensa de la OTAN junto con Suecia como invitada, en la sede de la Alianza en Bruselas, Bélgica, el 15 de febrero de 2024 - REUTERS/JOHANNA GERON
The NATO logo is seen at a North Atlantic Council meeting at the NATO defense ministers' session along with Sweden as a guest, at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, February 15, 2024 - REUTERS/JOHANNA GERON

The 32nd member

"Now that all allies have approved, Sweden will become the 32nd #NATO ally," the alliance's secretary general wrote on X. "Sweden's membership will make us stronger and more secure," he said. 

The head of the German government, Olaf Scholz, said on the same social network that the country's membership of the alliance would "strengthen" the "security of Europe and the world". 

After the parliament's pronouncement, the law will go to the president's office to be promulgated in the next few days. 

Then, according to NATO rules, the candidate country must send the "instruments of ratification" to Washington to become the 32nd member of the pact. 

Sweden's application for NATO membership broke a decades-long policy of non-alignment anchored in the rejection of the majority of the population. 

The invasion of Ukraine marked a dramatic change in the attitude of Swedish political parties and public opinion, and in May 2022 a majority in parliament voted in favour of applying for NATO membership. 

The Swedish armed forces have 50,000 soldiers, about half of whom are reservists, and the prime minister declared in January that his country is ready to provide troops to NATO forces in Latvia. 

But geopolitically, following Finland's accession, Sweden's entry means for Russia that the Baltic Sea is now surrounded by NATO member states, with some analysts describing it as a "NATO lake". 

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