NATO: Hungarian Parliament ready to ratify Sweden's membership

The Hungarian Parliament is set to approve Sweden’s accession to NATO on Monday February 26

NATO: Hungarian Parliament ready to ratify Sweden's membership

The Hungarian Parliament is set to approve Sweden’s accession to NATO on Monday February 26. This is the final step for the Nordic country wishing to join the Atlantic Alliance, since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 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. He had certainly given his agreement in principle a long time ago, but before completing the process, he demanded “respect” from Stockholm, considered too critical of his policies.

The situation has finally been resolved in recent weeks, with the visit on Friday of the Swedish Prime Minister, Ulf Kristersson, marking the epilogue of “a long process to rebuild trust”, in the words of Mr. Orban. To seal this cooperation, the two countries announced the purchase by Budapest of four combat aircraft from Sweden, strengthening its current fleet of fourteen Gripen aircraft.

Sweden, 32nd member of NATO

The parliamentary vote, scheduled for the afternoon, promises to be unsurprising given the two-thirds majority held by the ruling coalition. The opposition will also vote for it, with the exception of the far-right Our Fatherland.

Sweden's NATO accession protocol, which requires unanimity among the members of the Atlantic Alliance, has been on hold since May 2022. Once the Hungarian Parliament's approval is received, the law is expected to 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 NATO practices, to become its 32nd member.

In the case of Finland, for example, Ankara gave the green light on March 30, 2023 and Finland submitted the document on April 4, therefore joining the Alliance five days after the Turkish vote. Stockholm announced its candidacy in the wake of the Kremlin offensive in Ukraine, at the same time as Helsinki.

Over the months, Hungary had continued to delay the deadline, each time invoking different pretexts.

Sweden thus puts an end to its military non-alignment

Sweden's accession to NATO will put an end to two hundred years of military non-alignment for the Nordic country, which thus breaks with its policy of neutrality adopted after the end of the Napoleonic wars in the 19th century, then of non-alignment military since the end of the Cold War. This membership marks a profound change for Swedish defense, which is now part of a collective, and a major geopolitical development for the region.

Former Social Democratic Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist still declared in autumn 2021 that he could “guarantee” that he would never participate in an accession process. But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine marked a dramatic shift in party and opinion, and a clear majority of parliament voted in May 2022 to apply for NATO membership.

Sweden’s – and Finland’s – membership in NATO also means that the Baltic Sea is now surrounded by Alliance member countries, with some analysts calling it a “NATO lake”. “This is the last piece of the puzzle of the NATO map in Northern Europe that is falling into place,” Robert Dalsjö, an analyst at the Swedish Defense Research Agency, told Agence France-Presse.