Sweden to join NATO after Hungarian parliament gives thumbs up

The Hungarian parliament has approved Sweden’s NATO accession, clearing the last hurdle to membership of the military alliance for the former neutral country

Sweden will become the 32nd member of NATO (Photo: Swedish Armed Forces)
Sweden will become the 32nd member of NATO (Photo: Swedish Armed Forces)

Hungary’s parliament voted on Monday to approve Sweden’s bid to join NATO, ending an 18-month delay that frustrated the alliance.

The vote passed with 188 votes in favour and six against and thus clearing the last hurdle for Sweden to become the military alliance’s 32nd member.

Sweden and Finland, two previously neutral countries, applied to join NATO in May 2022 following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. To join, they needed unanimous approval of all member countries.

Finland formally joined NATO in April last year but Turkey and Hungary, for different reasons, held out on Sweden’s membership. Turkey approved Sweden’s accession last month, leaving Hungary as the last hurdle for the Nordic country to join the bloc.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, a right-wing populist who has forged close ties with Russia, has said that criticism of Hungary's democracy by Swedish politicians had soured relations between the two countries. This led to reluctance among lawmakers in his Fidesz party to approve Sweden’s bid.

Addressing lawmakers before the vote, Orbán said: “Sweden and Hungary’s military cooperation and Sweden’s NATO accession strengthen Hungary’s security.”

The vote in the Hungarian parliament came three days after Sweden’s Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson met with Orbán in Budapest where they reached reconciliation after months of diplomatic tensions.

Following their meeting, the leaders announced the conclusion of a defence industry agreement that will include Hungary's purchase of four Swedish-made JAS 39 Gripen fighter jets and the extension of a service contract for its existing Gripen fleet.

Orbán described the deal as a way of helping “to reconstruct the trust between the two countries.”

A flag-raising ceremony is expected to take place at NATO headquarters in Brussels later this week to mark Sweden’s accession.