Sweden set to join NATO after Hungary approves bid

Sweden on Monday cleared its final obstacle to joining NATO after Hungary's parliament ratified the bid in what Sweden's prime minister called a "historic day", while other alliance members expressed relief at the move spurred by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Sweden would make the alliance "stronger and safer" while the United States, the main alliance power, as well as Britain and Germany welcomed Sweden's now imminent accession.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that having Sweden in NATO "strengthens our defence alliance and with it the security of Europe and the world".

Russia's invasion two years ago prompted Sweden and neighbouring Finland to apply to join the trans-Atlantic bloc, ending their longstanding stance of non-alignment.

Every NATO member has to approve a new country however, and Hungary's vote ended more than a year of delays that frustrated the other 31 nations as Ukraine battled Russian troops.

Finland joined in April last year, but Sweden's bid was stalled by both Hungary and Türkiye, with Ankara approving Stockholm's candidacy only last month.

Hungary then followed, with 188 parliament members voting in favour and six far-right deputies against.

"Today is a historic day... Sweden stands ready to shoulder its responsibility for Euro-Atlantic security," Sweden's Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said on X.

Speaking about Russia's potential reaction, Kristersson told a press conference: "The only thing we can expect with any certainty is that they don't like Sweden becoming a member of NATO, nor Finland".

Going forward, "Nordic countries will have a common defence for the first time in 500 years... we remain friends, and we become allies," he said.

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