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Hungary becomes last member to approve Sweden’s NATO accession

Viktor Orban Hungarian Prime Minister (People's Party)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Hungary’s parliament on February 26 approved a bill to allow Sweden to join NATO, clearing the way for the Nordic country to join the Western defense alliance as war rages in Ukraine.

Hungary was the last member of the alliance to ratify Sweden’s membership after months of foot-dragging on the matter by the ruling Fidesz party of Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Lawmakers voted 188-6 in favor of the move, ending more than a year of delays by Budapest that had angered NATO allies.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said it was a “historic day” and Sweden stands “ready to shoulder its responsibility for Euro-Atlantic security.”

Kristersson also predicted Russia’s reaction would be negative.

“The only thing we can expect with any certainty is that they don’t like Sweden becoming a member of NATO, nor Finland,” he said at a news conference.

Sweden and Finland ended their long-standing stance of nonalignment and applied to join NATO shortly after Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022.

While Finland became the 31st member of NATO in April last year, Sweden’s bid to become the 32nd member had been held up by Turkey and Hungary. Turkey only ratified it last month.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Sweden will make the alliance “stronger and safer,” and the United States said the vote was a welcome move.

“We certainly do welcome the vote in the Hungarian parliament today and look forward to it being finalized,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters.

Orban had asked lawmakers to approve Sweden’s bid.

“The Swedish-Hungarian cooperation in the military industry and Sweden’s accession to NATO will strengthen Hungary’s security. Therefore, I am asking my fellow lawmakers to vote today for the parliamentary resolution on Sweden’s accession to NATO,” Orban told parliament earlier on February 26.

Orban is expected to sign the bill on Sweden’s entry into NATO in the coming days.

The parliamentary session on February 26 also took up the nomination of Tamas Sulyok to be the next president following the resignation earlier this month of Katalin Novak.

Deputy speaker Sandor Lezsak announced that the parliament elected Sulyok, head of the Constitutional Court, as president in a secret ballot. Sulyok, who is to be inaugurated on March 5, was then sworn in as president-elect.

Novak, a longtime ally of Orban, resigned on February 10 after coming under pressure for pardoning a man convicted of helping to cover up sexual abuse in a children’s home. The scandal triggered a huge street protest in early February.