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Hungary to Ratify Sweden NATO Accession02/26 06:07

   

   BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) -- Hungary's parliament is to vote Monday on 
ratifying Sweden's bid to join NATO, likely bringing an end to more than 18 
months of delays that have frustrated the alliance as it seeks to expand in 
response to Russia's war in Ukraine.

   Hungary's government submitted the protocols for approving Sweden's entrance 
to NATO in 2022, but the matter has stalled in parliament since then over 
opposition by governing party lawmakers. Unanimous support among all NATO 
members is required to admit new countries, and Hungary is the only one of the 
alliance's 31 members that has not given its backing.

   Prime Minister Viktor Orbn, a right-wing nationalist 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 and led to 
reluctance among lawmakers in his Fidesz party.

   But the vote on Monday is widely expected to approve Sweden's membership in 
NATO, removing the final hurdle after it first applied to join the alliance in 
May 2022.

   Ulf Kristersson, Sweden's prime minister, met with Orbn on Friday in 
Hungary's capital, where they appeared to reach a decisive reconciliation. 
Following their meeting, they announced the conclusion of a defense industry 
agreement which will include Hungary's purchase of four Swedish-made JAS 39 
Gripen jets and the extension of a service contract for its existing Gripen 
fleet.

   Orbn said the additional fighter jets "will significantly increase our 
military capabilities and further strengthen our role abroad" and will improve 
Hungary's ability to participate in joint NATO operations.

   "To be a member of NATO together with another country means we are ready to 
die for each other," Orbn said. "A deal on defense and military capacities 
helps to reconstruct the trust between the two countries."

   Monday's vote on Sweden's NATO accession is just one matter on a busy agenda 
for lawmakers in the Hungarian parliament. A vote is also scheduled on 
accepting the resignation of President Katalin Novk, who stepped down earlier 
this month in a scandal over her decision to pardon to a man convicted of 
covering up a string of child sexual abuses.

   After accepting Novk's resignation, lawmakers are expected to confirm Tams 
Sulyok, the president of Hungary's Constitutional Court, as the country's new 
president.

   Some opposition parties have said they will not participate in a vote to 
confirm a new president. But Sulyok was nominated by Orbn's Fidesz party, 
which has a two-thirds majority in parliament and is expected to easily approve 
his presidency.

   A presidential signature is required for approval of Sweden's NATO bid to 
take effect, but it was unclear when that final endorsement would take place.

   Hungary's allies in NATO and the European Union have put increasing pressure 
on it in recent months to drop its opposition to Sweden's membership. Last 
weekend, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators visited Hungary and announced it 
would submit a joint resolution to Congress condemning Hungary's alleged 
democratic backsliding and urging Orbn's government to immediately lift its 
block on Sweden's trans-Atlantic integration.

 
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