Swedish PM Ulf Kristersson to meet with Viktor Orbán to end deadlock over NATO membership

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson has agreed to meet with his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orbán, who invited Kristersson to Budapest to discuss Sweden’s accession into NATO, Swedish media reported on Thursday.

Kristersson said he thinks more dialogue between the countries would be beneficial. 

Orbán’s invitation comes as Hungary and Turkey remain the only NATO members not to have ratified Sweden’s bid to join the defence alliance.

“I look forward to discussing all these issues in depth with you in Budapest at a time convenient for both of us,” Kristersson wrote in a letter to Orbán, according to Swedish news agency TT. 

The Swede also pointed out they will meet in Brussels on 1 February for a European Council meeting.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban arrives for an annual international press conference in Budapest, Hungary in December

Admission into NATO requires unanimity among all member countries, but more than a year of delays in Budapest and Ankara have frustrated other allies who want to expand the military alliance amid Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Turkish legislators have endorsed Sweden’s NATO membership, lifting a major hurdle on the previously non-aligned country’s entry into the military alliance. Lawmakers ratified Sweden’s accession protocol 287 to 55, with ruling party members saying the country’s tougher stance on Kurdish militants was key to winning approval.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who still has to sign the ratification, has also previously linked the ratification to Turkey’s desire to buy fighter jets from the US.

Turkey had been delaying Sweden’s membership for more than a year, accusing the country of being too lenient towards groups which Ankara regards as security threats. It sought concessions from Stockholm, including moves to counter militants.

Orbán, a right-wing populist who has been lukewarm in his support for neighbouring Ukraine and maintained a friendly relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, has long promised that Hungary would not be the last NATO member to ratify Sweden’s bid.

Sweden and Finland moved to formalise their close military alignment with NATO with full membership and protection under NATO’s security umbrella, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. 

Finland joined the alliance in April, becoming NATO’s 31st member, after Turkey’s parliament ratified the Nordic nation’s bid.

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