Sweden faced a bumpy road to join the military pact, including difficult negotiations to get Turkey's approval

Hungary votes to ratify Sweden's entry into NATO

Viktor Orban, presidente de Hungría -PHOTO/FILE
photo_camera Viktor Orban, President of Hungary -PHOTO/FILE

Hungary's parliament is scheduled to ratify Sweden's NATO membership on Monday, the final hurdle to entry for the Nordic country that ended decades of non-alignment following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. 

  1. The 32nd member 

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 North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) accession protocol requires the unanimous agreement of the pact's members. 

Sweden launched its bid for NATO membership in May 2022, after Russia's invasion of Ukraine. It did so at the same time as Finland, which in April 2023 became the 31st member of the organisation.

At the start of the parliamentary session, Orban praised his Swedish counterpart Ulf 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, calling on MPs to ratify the Nordic country's accession to the Atlantic Alliance. 

Orban has always argued that he is in favour of Sweden joining NATO, but has been postponing the vote as he demanded that the Nordic country "respect" his government. 

Kristersson's visit paved the way for the talks, 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. 

OTAN - PHOTO FILE
NATO - PHOTO FILE

The 32nd member

The vote, scheduled for around 4.20 p.m. (15.20 GMT), is not likely to be a surprise as the governing coalition has two-thirds of the seats and the opposition will also vote in favour, with the exception of the far-right Our Fatherland party. 

Following parliament's pronouncement, the law will be passed to the president's office for promulgation in the coming days. 

Afterwards, according to NATO rules, the candidate country must send Washington the instruments of accession to become the 32nd member of the pact. 

Sweden's application for NATO membership broke a decades-long policy of non-alignment anchored in rejection by 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, but 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, and some analysts describe it as a "NATO lake".