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Sweden will not negotiate with Hungary on NATO

Sweden will not negotiate with Hungary over its application to join NATO, which Budapest is the sole member of the alliance to yet ratify, Swedish Prime Minster Ulf Kristersson has said.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, however, said he now expected Hungary’s parliament to give a green light at the end of next month.

Sweden, along with Finland, applied to join the alliance in 2022 after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

But its membership hasbeen held up by Turkey and Hungary, leaving the country in limbo and frustrating NATO allies, who see Sweden as a key player in ensuring security in the Baltic region.

Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan signed Sweden’s accession documents yesterday, leaving Hungary as the last hold-out.

The Swedish and Hungarian prime ministers will meet next week at the European Council meeting in Brussels, but Mr Kristersson said Sweden would not make any new promises on NATO.

“No demands that are related to NATO membership – that’s not on the table,” Mr Kristersson told Sweden’s TV4.

However, he said the two countries had much to discuss,including cooperation inside NATO, Hungary’s upcoming EU presidency, support for Ukraine and how to get the widest synergies from their airforces sharing the same fighter jet programme – Sweden’s JAS Gripen.

Turkish President Erdogan shakes hands with Mr Kristersson after a meeting last July (file photo)

All of NATO’s 31 members have to ratify an applicant country’s accession before it can join the alliance and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been angered by Swedish criticism of democratic developments under his government.

He has invited Mr Kristersson to Budapest for negotiations over NATO, but he also repeated on Wednesday that his country supports Swedish membership.

Mr Stoltenberg said he expected Hungary’s parliament to ratify Sweden’s accession when it reconvenes at the end of February.

“So we have to wait for that,” Mr Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels today.

“But I am absolutely confident and I count on Hungary that the ratification of Sweden will be ratified as soon as the parliament reconvenes at the end of February.”

Mr Kristersson said he did not know when Sweden would become NATO’s 32nd member, but expected it to be “very soon”.

Turkey is expected to send the final instrument of ratification for Sweden’s NATO membership to Washington as early as today, in a move that Turkish and US leaders say clears the way to Ankara’s purchase of US F-16 fighter jets.

Under NATO rules, the final document in the process, theinstrument of ratification, needs to be deposited in the US State Department archives in Washington.

A person familiar with the issue said that may happen today, marking the last step in a process that began in 2022.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US welcomed Erdogan’s approval, while British Foreign Secretary David Cameron told Reuters he was “delighted” by the decision.

“We look forward to receiving the instruments in Washingtonand welcoming Sweden as NATO’s 32nd Ally,” Blinken said on X.

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