Sweden in NATO: Viktor Orbán gives the green light to join

Sweden in NATO: Viktor Orbán gives the green light to join

After the Turkish parliament gave the OK for Sweden to join NATO on Tuesday, all that was missing was the green light from Hungary. Prime Minister Orbán is now signaling that his country will not stand in the way.

Shortly after the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, it was clear to the northern European countries Sweden and Finland that they wanted to join NATO. The proximity to Russia was too insecure for them – in the case of Finland, even the direct neighborhood. It didn’t take long for the Finns to be included in the defense alliance. The Swedes, on the other hand, had to be patient for a long time. Turkey and Hungary opposed each other.

But now the path for Sweden to join NATO is almost clear. The Turkish parliament voted with a large majority in favor of Sweden joining NATO on Tuesday evening. After a debate lasting more than four hours, 287 MPs voted for accession and 55 against. Now all that is missing is the signature of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. It is still unclear when he will sign. The step is expected in the next few days.

Sweden in NATO: Türkiye and Hungary stood in the way

The only thing missing is Hungary’s consent. NATO expansion must be approved by all 31 member states. The rejection of a state is therefore tantamount to a right of veto. With the exception of Turkey and Hungary, the remaining 29 allies have already agreed to accept the two Nordic states.

However, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said on Wednesday afternoon after a telephone conversation with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: “I have reiterated that the Hungarian government supports Sweden’s accession to NATO.” He emphasized that the Hungarian National Assembly was called upon to vote for Sweden’s accession. Ratification should take place “at the first possible opportunity,” wrote the right-wing national government leader on X (formerly Twitter).

Stoltenberg said on Tuesday evening: “I am also counting on Hungary to complete its national ratification as quickly as possible.” All allies agreed at the NATO summit in Vilnius to invite Sweden to join. The country has fulfilled its obligations. Sweden’s membership makes NATO stronger and means more security.

Türkiye receives US fighter jets for approval

Orbán also said on Tuesday that he had invited Swedish Prime Minister Kristersson to accession negotiations. The EU-critical Orbán, who maintains good relations with Moscow, initially left a date for the talks and possible demands open.

Brussels diplomats see this as a retaliation for EU partner Sweden’s criticism of constitutional deficiencies in Hungary. Against this background, the EU has frozen billions in aid for Budapest.

Because of diplomatic disagreements with Stockholm, Ankara had long blocked Sweden’s accession to NATO. Turkey justified this primarily by accusing Sweden of harboring members of the banned Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) and not doing enough against “terrorist organizations.” There was also anger over Koran burnings in Sweden. Stockholm responded with new anti-terror laws. Stockholm also relaxed arms deliveries to Turkey, as did Finland.

It is unclear when the vote will take place in Budapest

Erdogan also made the ratification of Sweden’s accession dependent on the USA agreeing to the sale of F-16 fighter jets to his country. The White House supports the sale. However, the US Congress represents a hurdle. There, this is justified by the delay in NATO expansion and the human rights situation in Turkey.

Finland’s accession was already finalized in April 2023 and became the 31st member country of NATO.

It remained unclear on Wednesday when Hungary’s parliament would debate Sweden’s accession. The next parliamentary session begins regularly on February 27th. It is still unclear whether there will be an unscheduled special session to ratify Sweden’s accession to the Western military alliance. Parliament’s specialist committees have already approved the ratification. The vote in the plenary session is still pending.

Sharp criticism of Orbán, who has ruled Hungary in an increasingly authoritarian manner since 2010, came from the Hungarian opposition. The socialist party MSZP accused the right-wing populist of an “unspeakable farce” that would damage Hungary’s reputation. The Socialists called for an immediate special session of Parliament.

Sources: News agencies AFP, DPA and Reuters

Source: Stern

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