Hungary and Turkey are to move ahead with approving Sweden’s NATO bid.
Hungary’s foreign minister Peter Szijjártó said on October 24 that the Hungarian Parliament will make a “sovereign decision” regarding Sweden’s NATO membership.
On October 23, Turkish President Recep Erdoğan submitted Sweden’s bid for ratification to Turkey’s Parliament.
Sweden applied for membership in early 2022 following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The bid needs to be approved by all the existing NATO members. For more than a year Hungary and Turkey have been the last remaining holdouts.
“We are looking forward to becoming a member of NATO,” Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson wrote on X.
Welcome that President Erdoğan signed Sweden’s ratification protocol to NATO and submitted it to the Grand National Assembly of Türkiye. Parliamentary procedures will now commence. We are looking forward to becoming a member of NATO.
— SwedishPM (@SwedishPM) October 23, 2023
Ankara’s move was welcomed by the US and by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. He said he hoped the bill would pass through the Turkish Parliament with “speedy vote” and that Sweden would become a full-fledged member of NATO “very soon”.
No dates have been set in either Hungary or Turkey for when their votes on the issue are to take place.
Some speculate that there is now going to be a race between the two countries to approve Swedish NATO membership first.
“Hungary has said several times it does not want to be last in this process,” Swedish foreign minister Tobias Billstrom told Swedish news agency TT.
That seemed to be echoed by Szijjártó, who said Hungary was still ahead of the curve with regards to Turkey.
Szijjártó said that “by submitting the bill … to the Turkish Parliament for ratification” Turkey has only arrived at where Hungary has “been for long months now”.
Hungary’s bill to approve Sweden has been sitting in the Budapest Parliament since last year.
Turkey has been the most vocal in obstructing Sweden’s NATO membership. Its main concerns have been what the Turkish Government claimed was Stockholm’s lax attitude to groups associated with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
The PKK is a rebel organisation that has been waging guerrilla warfare against Turkey in its Eastern provinces. It is listed by both the European Union, Turkey and the US as a terrorist organisation.
Others claim that Turkey’s apparent obstructionism was designed to get more concessions out of Western countries.
At a NATO summit in July, this seemed to be why Erdoğan announced his support for Sweden’s NATO membership in exchange for Turkish EU membership.
When European Council President Charles Michel readily agreed to help in Turkey’s EU bid it caused outrage in other institutions in the bloc. The European Commission maintained that the EU and NATO were separate organisations and that membership procedures must be kept so.