Hungary ends block on Sweden joining NATO, after months of delays and diplomatic wrangling

Sweden's Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, left, and his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban pose at the Carmelite Monastery in Budapest, Hungary, on Feb 23, 2024.

Hungary’s parliament voted Monday to ratify Sweden’s bid to join NATO, ending months of delays and diplomatic wrangling following the Scandinavian country's security policy shift in response to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The vote was the last major hurdle to Sweden joining the military alliance. It passed 188 to six.

Historically neutral Sweden applied to join NATO at the same time as Finland, in May 2022. Finland became NATO's 31st member in April. Sweden's application was held up by objections from Turkey and Hungary.

Turkey expressed reservations about Sweden's support for Kurdish separatist groups and restrictions on arms exports to Turkey. Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, a right-wing nationalist who has forged close ties with Russia, had said that criticism of Hungary’s democracy by Swedish politicians had soured relations between the two countries and led to reluctance among lawmakers in his Fidesz party to support Sweden's NATO bid.

Russia has long opposed NATO expansion. President Vladimir Putin has said Russia will respond if NATO begins to establish military infrastructure in either of the two nations. Russia has an 830-mile border with Finland.

"Several people tried to intervene from the outside in the settling of our disputes (with Sweden), but this did not help but rather hampered the issue,” Orbán said as the voted passed. "Hungary is a sovereign country, it does not tolerate being dictated by others, whether it be the content of its decisions or their timing."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Hungary’s parliament approves Sweden’s bid to join NATO