Sweden's Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson speaks during a press conference after Hungary's parliament voted 'yes' to ratify Sweden's NATO accession, at the government headquarters in Stockholm, Sweden, 26 February 2024. EPA-EFE/MAGNUS LEJHALL SWEDEN OUT


Sweden to join NATO after Hungary gives green light


The Hungarian Parliament has voted overwhelmingly in favour of Sweden joining NATO, which will see the Nordic country ending a 200-year policy of neutrality.

After almost two years of doubt, with the “yes” vote Sweden has cleared the last possible hurdle for its joining the Western military alliance.

Some 188 Hungarian politicians were in favour and six against Sweden’s elevation to NATO in the ballot on February 26.

Ahead of the vote, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said: “Sweden in NATO increases Hungary’s security, so I ask the members of the Parliament to vote in favour of this resolution today.”

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson spoke of a “historic day” and stressed that his country was “ready” to take responsibility.

After the Hungarian decision, Kristersson called a press conference in Stockholm where he pointed out Sweden and Finland had joined NATO more quickly than any other country previously.

He did admit, though, that the Swedish process had taken longer than hoped for.

With its NATO accession, Sweden has made a “historical shift”.

“For the first time in 500 years, the Nordic region has a common defence,” Kristersson said.

“We become neighbours, we remain friends and we become allies. We will defend freedom together with the countries that are closest to us geographically, emotionally and in terms of values.”

Jens Stoltenberg, the outgoing NATO Secretary General, said Sweden joining the alliance will “make us all stronger and safer”.

Despite its relatively small size, Sweden has a powerful army and a sophisticated defence industry manufacturing, for example, Grippen fighter jets and CV90 combat vehicles. It also operates a Patriot air-defence system and has 120 German-built Leopard 2A tanks.

The country is also the maker of the first non-nuclear-powered submarine with an air-independent propulsion system – the Gotland-class diesel-electric submarine. Alongside its military manufacturing prowess, it has significant expertise regarding the strategic Baltic Sea, thus giving NATO a new edge in the region.

After Turkey, Hungary was the only alliance member that had not yet formally approved Sweden’s accession. Each Member State must consent in accordance with NATO’s admission regulations before another State can join.

Sweden applied together with Finland after Russia invaded Ukraine two years ago.

Before the vote, Hungary and Sweden had signed a new military joint-agreement and Stockholm pledged to supply four more Gripen fighter jets to supplement the 14 Hungary had already purchased.