NATO: Hungarian Parliament ratifies Sweden’s membership, last step before joining the Atlantic Alliance

The Hungarian Parliament ratified Sweden’s accession to NATO on Monday, the final step for this Nordic country keen to join the Atlantic Alliance since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Stockholm’s candidacy was approved by an overwhelming majority of MEPs (188 out of 199).

“Sweden’s entry into NATO will strengthen Hungary’s security”

“A historic day,” Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson immediately reacted on X (ex-Twitter), adding that “Sweden is ready to assume its responsibilities in terms of Euro-Atlantic security.” The wait will have been long and the road chaotic: to the negotiations with Turkey, concluded by a positive vote in January, were added the procrastination of the Hungarian nationalist leader Viktor Orban, the last holdout.

At the opening of the parliamentary session, he welcomed the recent visit of his Swedish counterpart, an essential step in building “a fair and respectful relationship between the two countries”, beyond “differences of opinion”. “Sweden’s entry into NATO will strengthen Hungary’s security,” he added.

Viktor Orban had certainly given his agreement in principle a long time ago, but before completing the process, he demanded “respect” from Stockholm, after years of “denigration” of his policies. To seal this new cooperation, Hungary announced on Friday the purchase of four combat aircraft from Sweden to strengthen its current fleet of 14 Gripen aircraft.

Sweden would become the 32nd member of the Atlantic Alliance

Sweden’s accession protocol, which requires unanimity of the members of the Atlantic Alliance, had been pending since May 2022. Once the approval of the Hungarian Parliament has been received, the law should be promulgated by the president in the coming days. Sweden will then be able to deposit its “instrument of accession” in Washington, in accordance with the NATO treaty, to become the 32nd member.

In the case of Finland, for example, Ankara gave the green light on March 30, 2023 and this Nordic country submitted the document on April 4, therefore integrating into the Alliance five days after the Turkish vote. Sweden announced its candidacy in the wake of the Russian offensive in Ukraine, at the same time as Finland. This Scandinavian kingdom has thus broken with its policy of neutrality adopted after the end of the Napoleonic wars in the 19th century, then of military non-alignment since the end of the Cold War.

“He went as far as he could.”

Over the months, Hungary has continued to delay the deadline, each time invoking different pretexts. Some experts saw it as a blackmail strategy to obtain concessions from the EU and the release of billions of euros of currently frozen funds, others a sign of Viktor Orban’s closeness to Russian President Vladimir Putin and the leader of Turkish State Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. But for analyst Mate Szalai, the Hungarian Prime Minister prioritizes national interests above all.

“He went as far as possible,” stopping just in time “so as not to cause serious problems for the transatlantic community,” he told AFP. Just as he blocked crucial aid to Ukraine for months before giving in in early February under pressure from his EU partners. By opting for such a posture, he wants to prove that his small country of less than 10 million inhabitants counts and “should not be underestimated”, judges this researcher from Ca’ Foscari University in Venice.

He does not reap “any tangible results in terms of foreign policy” but this attitude of “confrontation” on the international scene serves him to “maintain his popularity at home”. At the risk of being caught at its own game: if Hungary had ratified Finnish accession three days before Turkey, this time it is the last, despite its promises.

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