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Hungary’s Viktor Orban lauds new phase with Sweden ahead of vote on its NATO bid

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said his country had opened a new phase with Sweden during a joint press conference with Swedish counterpart Ulf Kristersson on Friday as Budapest prepares to ratify Stockholm’s long-delayed NATO bid.

Hungary is the last member of the military alliance to approve Sweden’s application to join NATO, which it made in May 2022 after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine.

Orban, who said last week that the Hungarian Parliament would vote on ratification on Monday, met with Kristersson on Friday and announced at the press conference that Hungary had bought four fighter jets from Sweden.

The Gripen fighter jets would expand Hungary’s fleet, Orban said, “thereby significantly increasing our military capabilities and further strengthening our ability to play a role abroad.”

The Hungarian Parliament will convene on Monday to decide on the matter, thus closing one phase and opening another, he said.

“Being members together in NATO we [will be] able to reconstruct the full trust towards each other,” Orban added later.

Sweden and Finland applied for NATO membership in 2022 and Finland joined NATO in April 2023 – doubling the alliance’s border with Russia. But Sweden’s bid was mired in challenges.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan objected to Sweden’s accession, accusing Swedish officials of being too lenient on militant groups, including the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Sweden has since tightened its anti-terror legislation and pledged closer cooperation with Turkey on security concerns.

Orban, considered to be the European Union leader closest to Russian President Vladimir Putin, initially indicated he was not opposed to Sweden joining the bloc, before working to stall it. Katalin Cseh, a Hungarian Member of the European Parliament, said last year that Orban’s blocking of Sweden’s bid was “quite simply, another favor to Vladimir Putin.”

But, after Turkey approved Sweden’s bid, Orban appeared to finally greenlight Sweden’s NATO bid, saying in January that he had invited Kristersson to visit Hungary to negotiate the terms of Sweden’s accession.

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