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  • Writer's pictureBalint Botyanszki

Sweden Set to Join NATO After Deal with Hungarian PM

On Friday, February 23rd, 2024, Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson of Sweden made a visit to Budapest to finally discuss the terms by which the Hungarian Parliament could be persuaded to withdraw its power to veto Sweden's entry into NATO. Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary has been stalling the decision with this veto for over 19 months, as the alliance requires a unanimous vote to allow new members to join. Despite having said that the nation would not be the final holdout against Sweden, the remaining opposition in Turkey relented its veto on January 23rd of this year, making Hungary the final obstacle against the decision.

Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson of Sweden and Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary shaking hands after their conference on Friday in the Carmelita Monastery in Budapest; Attila Kisbenedek for Getty Images.

Since Viktor Orban, and his associated FIDESZ political party, entered office in 2010, the state has made extensive use of its power as a member of the EU and recently of NATO to veto the passing of policies to draw large amounts of funding out of the union. Though these funds are often requested to be used in their entirety to balance out an unstable Hungarian economy and diminish the rate of inflation in the country, the Prime Minister has sparked controversy in his decision to spend the money on the construction of championship-size football stadiums in Budapest.

Prime Minister Orban additionally has been known to foster a relationship with Vladimir V. Putin of Russia despite the conflict in Ukraine, which, in tandem with his manipulation of union policymaking, has raised concerns from allied nations such as the United States regarding the reliability of Hungary as a member. The most recent action Hungary has taken in the war was to deny an EU financial package for Ukraine worth $54 billion.

Though the exact details of Friday's conference were kept behind closed doors, the Hungarian government's deal with Sweden includes the acquisition of four Swedish Gripen fighter jets and the opening of a Saab AB— the warplane's manufacturer— A.I. research center in Hungary.

The decision to become open to a Swedish agreement in Hungary may have also been in part influenced by the government's desire to divert attention from a recent crisis in which the now-former Head of State and member of Parliament Novak Katalin pardoned a man convicted of sexual abuse of a child that resulted in her ejection from her position. The Hungarian Liberal Party— SZDSZ— and other opposed parties has since accused Orban of agreeing with, or initiating, the pardoning himself and putting the blame onto his Head of State upon receiving backlash. The Prime Minister addressed this accusation at the recent Parliament meeting closely trailing the vote on Sweden, in which he blamed the opposition for leaving the convicted pedophile in his position for 20 years, denounced Katalin's decision to pardon the man, and expressed it necessary to maintain his sentence.

The vote to clear Hungary's veto and officially allow Sweden to join NATO took place earlier today on the 26th of February, marking the end of a 649-day campaign to become a member of the alliance.

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