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Hungary's Parliament approves Sweden's NATO membership, ending two-year process

Hungary's parliament has officially endorsed Sweden's NATO membership, marking the conclusion of a nearly two-year process since the historically neutral nation applied to join the Western military alliance.

Hungary Parliament approves Sweden's NATO membership, ending two-year process snt
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First Published Feb 26, 2024, 9:31 PM IST

Hungary's parliament has officially endorsed Sweden's NATO membership, marking the conclusion of a nearly two-year process since the historically neutral nation applied to join the Western military alliance. This decision brings an end to months of uncertainty and diplomatic negotiations.

The parliamentary vote occurred in Budapest on Monday, following a meeting between Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Friday.

During the meeting, both leaders agreed to set aside their differences, emphasizing their commitment to each other's countries, stating they were "prepared to die for each other."

As a symbol of their strengthened ties, the two nations signed a new military agreement during a warmly conducted yet carefully orchestrated joint press conference in the Hungarian capital. Among the agreements, Sweden pledged to sell four new Gripen planes to Hungary, adding to the 14 aircrafts Hungary had previously purchased.

Last month, Turkey granted its approval for the Nordic country's NATO ratification, leaving Hungary as the sole remaining country to do so, despite assurances from Orban that Hungary would not be the final NATO member to sign.

The shift in stance followed a suggestion by the ruling Fidesz parliamentary group leader last week to address the issue in Hungary's parliament upon its reopening after the winter break on Monday.

Sweden applied to join NATO in May 2022, alongside Finland, marking a historic shift in its security policy prompted by Russia's invasion of Ukraine earlier that February. The delays have caused frustration among alliance members with Orban, a right-wing nationalist known for his close ties with Russia.

With the parliament's approval, the decision will now be forwarded to Hungary's interim president, Laszlo Kover, who will have five days to endorse it before sending it to the US State Department in Washington.

As per NATO protocol, the US government must receive notification of member states' ratification of a new country. Subsequently, the secretary general extends an invitation to the new country to accede to the treaty, which is then forwarded to the US State Department for the formal invitation to become a NATO member.

After Kristersson’s visit to Budapest, Orban hailed “a new phase of cooperation between Hungary and Sweden”.

Asked by journalists what had made his country drop its opposition to Sweden joining Nato, Orban said, “Being members of Nato means that we are prepared to die for each other. It is based on mutual respect. Taking that process at an appropriate pace has been wise.”

It represented a significant moment for moderate Kristersson's center-right coalition government, supported by the far-right Sweden Democrats. Since assuming office from the Social Democrat Magdalena Andersson's government in 2022, Kristersson's administration has been grappling with the NATO issue.

On Friday, Kristersson said, "We respect each other’s differences and sometimes reach good compromises. Now we are also entering into joint Nato cooperation with precisely the attitude of being prepared to fight for each other in a dangerous time.”

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