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Hungarian Parliament ratifies Sweden's NATO membership

Hungarian Parliament ratifies Sweden's NATO membership


BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) Hungary's parliament voted Monday to ratify Sweden's NATO candidacy, ending 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 in favor and six against, was the culmination of months of wrangling among Hungary's allies to convince its nationalist government to lift its block on Swedish membership. Prime Minister Viktor Orbn's government submitted protocols for approving Sweden's NATO membership in July 2022, but the file remained blocked in parliament due to opposition from ruling party lawmakers.

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Hungary's decision to approve Stockholm's candidacy paved the way for a second expansion of NATO ranks in a year after Sweden and Finland requested to join the alliance in May 2022, following of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, an assault that was allegedly aimed at preventing NATO's continuation. expansion.

Unanimous support from NATO members is needed to admit new countries, and Hungary is the last of the alliance's 31 members to provide support since Turkey ratified the request last month.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson described the day as “historic”.

We are ready to take our share of responsibility for NATO security, Kristersson wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Orbn, a right-wing populist who has forged close ties with Russia, said criticism of Hungarian democracy by Swedish politicians has soured relations between the two countries and led to reluctance among lawmakers in his Fidesz party.

But speaking to lawmakers before the vote, Orbn said: Military cooperation between Sweden and Hungary and Sweden's membership in NATO strengthen Hungary's security.

Orbn criticized the European Union and NATO allies for pressuring his government in recent months to move forward with Sweden in the alliance.

Several people tried to intervene from the outside in the settlement of our differences (with Sweden), but this did not help, but rather hindered the problem,” Orbn said. “Hungary is a sovereign country. She does not tolerate being dictated by others, whether regarding the content of her decisions or their timing.

Last weekend, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators visited Hungary and announced they would submit a joint resolution to Congress condemning Hungary's alleged democratic backsliding and urging Orbns' government to allow integration from Sweden to NATO.

On Monday, the ambassadors of several NATO countries were present in the parliamentary chamber during the vote. US Ambassador to Hungary David Pressman told reporters that Sweden's approval was a decision of strategic importance for the United States of America, for Hungary and for the transatlantic alliance as a whole.

This is a decision that has taken time and we hope the process concludes quickly, Pressman said.

A presidential signature, necessary to formally approve Sweden's NATO membership, was expected in the coming days.

Kristersson, the Swedish prime minister, met with Orbn last week in the Hungarian capital, where they appeared to reach a decisive reconciliation after months of diplomatic tensions.

At the end of their meeting, the leaders announced the conclusion of an agreement with the defense industry which will include the purchase by Hungary of four Swedish-made JAS 39 Gripen aircraft and the extension of a contract service for its existing Gripen fleet.

LEARN MORE: Embattled Orbn addresses nation a week after Hungarian president resigns over scandal

Orbn said the additional fighter jets would significantly increase our military capabilities, further strengthen our role abroad and improve Hungary's ability to participate in NATO joint operations.

Being a NATO member with another country means we are ready to die for each other, Orbn said. An agreement on defense and military capabilities would help rebuild trust between the two countries.

Robert Dalsj, a senior analyst at 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 candidacy.

After becoming the last holdout in NATO thanks to the Turkish vote, Orbn had to show results for his government's delays, Dalsj said.

By hiding behind Erdogan's back, Orban could play, do some pirouettes, he said. Then, when Erdogan changed his position, Orban wasn't really ready to adjust his position, and he needed to show something that could legitimize his change of heart. And that turned out to be the Gripen deal.

Monday's vote was just one topic on the busy agenda of lawmakers in the Hungarian parliament. A vote was also held to accept the resignation of President Katalin Novk, who resigned earlier this month following a scandal over her decision to pardon a man convicted of covering up a series sexual abuse of children.

After accepting Novk's resignation, lawmakers are expected to confirm Tams Sulyok, president of Hungary's Constitutional Court, as the country's new president. He is expected to officially take office on March 5.

David Keyton in Stockholm, Sweden, and Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, contributed to this story.




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