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Sweden Joins NATO: Historic Approval from Hungary Clears Final Hurdle

In a historic move, Hungary’s parliament has officially approved Sweden’s bid to join NATO, marking the end of nearly two years of intensive negotiations and diplomatic efforts. The approval from Hungary was the last hurdle for Sweden’s accession to the military alliance.

The crucial parliamentary vote, which took place on Monday, saw overwhelming support for Sweden, with 188 votes in favor, six against, and five abstentions. This development comes after months of delays and negotiations, with Hungary being the final NATO member to ratify Sweden’s bid.

The long-anticipated decision was welcomed by Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, who expressed his gratitude on social media: “Today is a historic day. The parliaments of all NATO member states have now voted in favor of Swedish accession to NATO. Sweden stands ready to shoulder its responsibility for Euro-Atlantic security.”

The journey towards NATO membership began in May 2022 when both Sweden and its neighbor Finland decided to seek NATO membership in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. While Finland joined the alliance last year, Sweden faced delays, particularly from Turkey and Hungary.

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban, known for maintaining close ties with Russia, had withheld approval for Sweden’s NATO bid for over 600 days. However, recent diplomatic efforts and a visit by Prime Minister Kristersson to Budapest resulted in a breakthrough. The two leaders agreed on a defense deal, with Hungary acquiring four new Swedish-made JAS 39 Gripen jets.

The significance of Sweden’s NATO membership is underscored by the changing geopolitical landscape in Europe. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine played a pivotal role in pushing Sweden away from its decades-long policy of military non-alignment. With Sweden’s accession, NATO now counts 32 member countries.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg praised the Hungarian parliament’s vote, stating, “Sweden’s membership will make us all stronger and safer.” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also emphasized the benefits of Sweden’s inclusion, saying, “It is good that the Hungarian parliament approved Sweden’s accession today.”

The road to NATO membership involved navigating diplomatic challenges, including Turkey’s concerns about militants and Hungary’s objections tied to political criticisms. However, with the final approval secured, Sweden is set to formally join NATO after completing the necessary procedural steps, including submitting the instrument of accession to the United States.

The addition of Sweden to NATO strengthens the alliance’s northern flank and enhances its capabilities, with Sweden contributing cutting-edge submarines and a fleet of domestically produced Gripen fighter jets. As the geopolitical landscape continues to evolve, Sweden’s historic decision to join NATO marks a significant chapter in European security and defense cooperation.

This move also holds implications for Russia, which has opposed NATO expansion along its borders. The accession of both Sweden and Finland represents the most significant expansion of NATO since the organization moved into Eastern Europe in the 1990s.

A flag-raising ceremony is expected at NATO headquarters in Brussels later this week, symbolizing Sweden’s formal entry into the alliance. The geopolitical dynamics in the Baltic Sea region are set to undergo further changes, with NATO’s presence expanding and Russia closely monitoring the developments.