Hungary clears final roadblock to Sweden's entry to NATO

The results of the vote on the ratification of Sweden's NATO membership can be seen on a monitor during the parliamentary session. Marton Monus/dpa
The results of the vote on the ratification of Sweden's NATO membership can be seen on a monitor during the parliamentary session. Marton Monus/dpa
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The Hungarian parliament ratified Sweden's membership in NATO by an overwhelming majority on Monday, clearing the last hurdle on the Scandinavian country's path to join the Western military alliance.

In the vote, 188 members of parliament decided in favour of ratification. Six voted against.

"I welcome the Hungarian parliament’s vote to ratify Sweden’s membership in NATO. Now that all Allies have approved, Sweden will become the 32nd NATO Ally," said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on X, formerly known as Twitter. "Sweden's membership will make us all stronger and safer."

Stockholm applied to become a member of NATO in May 2022 following Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine. All existing members must sign-off on applications before a new country is admitted.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said in a post on X: "Today is a historic day. The parliaments of all NATO member states have now voted in favour of Swedish accession to NATO. Sweden stands ready to shoulder its responsibility for Euro-Atlantic security."

Hungarian government spokesman Zoltán Kovács posted on social media, "Hungary has a vested interest in Europe’s security, and I am sure, that in Sweden we have a strong and reliable ally who will benefit the future of NATO for the better."

Hungary was the final NATO country to ratify Swedish membership, even though Budapest had promised allies that it would not be the last.

Hungarian leaders didn't raise any specific objections to Sweden joining the alliance, but nevertheless held up the decision for several months.

In a speech ahead of the parliamentary vote, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán told legislators, "Before we let a new member into this alliance, we must first settle our disputes," according to an English-language government press release.

"Hungary and Sweden, as long-established European countries, know how to resolve our differences without the need for unsolicited guardianship or disrespectful intervention," Orbán said.

Kristersson visited Budapest on Friday at Orbán's invitation. Later that day, Orbán announced Hungary would buy four Gripen fighter jets from Sweden.

The Gripen deal would "put an end to a discussion which is extremely important for Hungary," Orbán told Kristersson in a speech, a subtitled video excerpt of which was posted to the Hungarian premier's X account.

The four Gripen jets will be added to an existing fleet of 14 in 2025 and 2026, Kovács said.

Before Hungary emerged as the final holdout, the previous obstacle to Swedish membership had been Turkey. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sought the extradition from Sweden of individuals allegedly involved in the Gulen movement, which Ankara views as a terrorist organization.

Sweden applied for NATO membership together with neighbour Finland. But Finland's path was far smoother: It was welcomed as the 31st member of the alliance at the beginning of April last year.

A general view of the Hungarian parliament during the parliamentary session to vote on the ratification of Sweden's NATO membership in Budapest. Marton Monus/dpa
A general view of the Hungarian parliament during the parliamentary session to vote on the ratification of Sweden's NATO membership in Budapest. Marton Monus/dpa
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjen take part in the parliamentary session to vote on the ratification of Sweden's NATO membership in Budapest. Marton Monus/dpa
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjen take part in the parliamentary session to vote on the ratification of Sweden's NATO membership in Budapest. Marton Monus/dpa