Sweden final step to joining Nato reached as Hungary ratifies membership

Sweden's Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson with his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban. Credit: AP

The final hurdle in Sweden joining Nato was removed on Monday when Hungary's parliament voted to ratify its membership after more than a year of delay.

The vote, which passed with 188 votes for and six against, was the culmination of months of wrangling by Hungary’s allies to convince its nationalist government to lift its block on Sweden’s membership.

The government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán submitted the protocols for approving Sweden’s entry into Nato in July 2022, but the matter stalled in parliament over opposition by governing party lawmakers.

Finland applied at the same time as Sweden in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine and joined in May 2022.

The Hungarian parliament approved Sweden's membership on Monday. Credit: AP

Unanimous support among Nato members is required to admit new countries, and Hungary is the last of the alliance’s 31 members to give its backing since Turkey ratified the request last month.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said his country was "now leaving 200 years of neutrality and nonalignment behind us."

"It is a big step, we must take that seriously. But it is also a very natural step that we are taking.

"Nato membership means that we’ve found a new home within a large number of democracies which work together for peace and freedom," he told a news conference in Stockholm.

Orbán, a right-wing populist who has forged close ties with Russia, has said that criticism of Hungary’s democracy by Swedish politicians soured relations between the two countries and led to reluctance among lawmakers in his Fidesz party.

But addressing lawmakers before the vote, Orbán said: "Sweden and Hungary’s military cooperation and Sweden’s Nato accession strengthen Hungary’s security."

Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that Sweden brings with it capable armed forces and a first-class defence industry, and it is spending at least 2% of national gross domestic product on defence, which is Nato’s target level.

The vote "also demonstrates that Nato’s door is open" and that Russian President Vladimir Putin "did not succeed in his attempt to close NATO’s door," he said.

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