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Swedish PM to visit Hungary before ratification of NATO bid

polish prime minister donald tusk meets with his swedish counterpart ulf kristersson in warsaw
Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson will travel to Budapest on Friday to meet his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban before Hungary’s parliament takes a long-delayed vote on Sweden’s bid for NATO membership next Monday.

Sweden applied to join the transatlantic alliance nearly two years ago in a historic shift in policy prompted by Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Hungary is the only NATO member not yet to have ratified the Nordic country’s accession, with Orban’s ruling party repeatedly delaying a vote, citing grievances over Sweden criticizing Hungary over its rule-of law.

Orban said on Tuesday that it would be a “pleasure” to welcome Kristersson in Budapest.

“We are planning to discuss how to strengthen the defence and security policy cooperation between Hungary and Sweden, as well as our plans for the Hungarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, and the EU’s Strategic Agenda,” Orban said in a post on X.

Orban’s Fidesz party proposed earlier on Tuesday that parliament should vote to ratify Sweden’s bid to join NATO on Feb. 26, a move that it would support.

Fidesz has a huge majority in parliament and it could have approved the Nordic country’s membership at any time since the relevant legislation was submitted to the Hungarian parliament in mid-2022.

The delay has soured Budapest’s relations with the United States and raised concerns among allies.

The visit on Feb. 23 follows an invitation to Kristersson by Orban, and the two plan to hold a joint press conference, Sweden said.

Hungary leases Gripen fighter aircraft made by Sweden’s SAAB (SAABb.ST) under a contract signed in 2001.

Local news site Index.hu has reported this week, citing unnamed sources, that a new defence deal could be signed between Sweden and Budapest. A Hungarian government spokesman has not replied to emailed Reuters questions.

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