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Defense: Sweden’s NATO accession: Green light from Hungary?

Defense: Sweden’s NATO accession: Green light from Hungary?

With the final yes from Turkey, Sweden has removed a major hurdle on the way to NATO membership. Now Hungary is tipping the scales. How is Hungarian Prime Minister Orban behaving?

With Turkey’s approval, Sweden’s accession to NATO is now within reach. The decision became final on Thursday evening with the publication of the so-called accession protocols in the Turkish government gazette.

Hungary is the last of the 31 alliance members to have not yet agreed to join the alliance. Prime Minister Viktor Orban says he wants to push for a vote in parliament. But questions remain unanswered.

In view of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, Sweden and Finland applied for NATO membership in May 2022. Finland was welcomed into the alliance as the 31st member at the beginning of April last year. However, Hungary and Turkey have so far blocked the expansion to include Sweden. Despite the invasion, both states maintain good relations with Russia and are critical of Western sanctions.

Türkiye’s consent

Ankara abandoned the blockade this week after more than a year and a half of political tug-of-war. In the next step, Turkey must inform the US State Department of acceptance in accordance with the admission rules. This is considered a formality.

The final Turkish approval was received with goodwill in Stockholm. “We welcome Turkey’s ratification of Sweden’s accession to NATO,” said Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson on the online platform X. “We have now reached a crucial milestone on the way to full NATO membership.”

But there is another one to win, namely Hungary. Following Turkey’s approval, Hungary’s Prime Minister Orban pledged to press ahead with his country’s long-delayed ratification. He will urge Parliament to vote on it as soon as possible. However, it remained unclear when a vote on this could take place.

Orban invited Kristersson to visit Hungary to “negotiate” accession to NATO. Sweden’s head of government initially promised Orban a meeting in Brussels. “I look forward to discussing all these matters in more detail with you in Budapest at a time convenient for both of us,” Kristersson wrote. “We will also have an opportunity to meet at the important European Council in Brussels on February 1st.”

Reasons unclear

What motivated Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to agree remained unclear. Turkey had originally justified its blockade stance with what it considered to be inadequate use of the country against “terrorist organizations”. Ankara was primarily concerned with the banned Kurdish Workers’ Party PKK and the Syrian Kurdish militia YPG. Sweden, for example, responded with stricter terror legislation. Most recently, Erdogan publicly linked his country’s approval to fighter jet deliveries from the USA. The US government now wants to push ahead with the sale.

President Joe Biden informed the chairmen of key committees in Congress in a letter that he intends to officially inform Parliament about the sale of F-16s to the NATO partner as soon as Turkey ratifies Sweden’s NATO accession protocols has completed. A representative of the US government confirmed this to the dpa in Washington on Thursday. In the letter, Biden called on members of Congress to immediately move forward with the sale of the F-16.

Opposition politicians in Ankara now see Erdogan’s yes vote as a strategic step. Erdogan wants to finalize the fighter jet deal before the local elections at the end of March so that he can sell it to voters as a negotiating success.

Source: Stern

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