Swedish PM in Hungary ahead of crunch NATO ratification vote

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson arrived in Budapest on Feb. 23 for talks with his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban ahead of a key parliamentary vote on Stockholm's bid to join NATO.

Hungary remains the last obstacle to the Nordic country's NATO membership after Türkiye's ratification last month, but its parliament is set to vote on Sweden's bid on Feb. 26.

Following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Sweden alongside neighboring Finland applied to join NATO in May 2022.

"Welcome to Hungary, Swedish PM!" Orban posted on X, formerly Twitter, with a picture of him shaking hands with Kristersson.

The two leaders plan to discuss the strengthening of their "defense and security policy cooperation," according to a statement by the Swedish government.

This week, Hungarian pro-government news site Index reported that a "large-scale military and defense contract" between the two countries is in the works.

Hungary has a fleet of 14 Swedish-made Jas-39 Gripen fighter jets it operates under a leasing contract signed in 2001, which has since been extended twice.

Earlier on Feb. 23, Orban told state radio that "some pending [bilateral] military and arms issues" had to be worked out before the Hungarian parliament on Feb. 26 "can put the final seal" on ratification.

"We are pro-peace, and the Swedes are pro-war in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict," Orban said but added that the "clear differences in values" could be bridged.

Faced with increasing pressure from the United States, as well as fellow EU member states to greenlight Sweden's NATO bid, Orban announced last week that Budapest was "on course" to ratify it.

Orban's nationalist Fidesz party - whose ruling coalition with the Christian democratic KDNP...

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