Turkey Lifts Objection, but Hungary Still Holds Key to Sweden’s NATO Accession

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Turkey’s Approval and Remaining Hurdle

The Turkish parliament’s recent vote approving Sweden’s NATO membership bid marks a significant development, removing a major obstacle that hindered Sweden’s accession to the military alliance. With Turkey’s approval secured, only Hungary’s opposition remains, preventing NATO from achieving the unanimous backing necessary for the inclusion of a new member. Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson expressed optimism about the progress, stating that the country is now “one step closer to becoming a full member of NATO.”

Turkey’s Delays and Conditions

Turkey’s approval, though delayed for over a year, was crucial for Sweden’s NATO aspirations. Ankara had raised concerns about Stockholm’s perceived leniency towards groups deemed terrorist threats, particularly Kurdish militants. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had linked Turkey’s ratification of Sweden’s bid to the purchase of 40 F-16 fighter jets from the US. Sweden addressed these concerns by amending its anti-terrorism legislation and curbing financial activities linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Remaining Uncertainty with Hungary’s Stance

Despite overcoming Turkey’s objections, Sweden faces uncertainty with Hungary’s reluctance to support its NATO bid. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has not explicitly stated the reasons for opposing Sweden’s accession. Orbán’s resistance appears to be connected to concerns about Hungary’s democracy, which has been eroded under his leadership. Hungary’s democracy score, according to the Washington-based NGO Freedom House, indicates a decline, with controversial legal and constitutional changes consolidating Orbán’s control over independent institutions.

Orbán’s Authoritarianism and Russia Relations

Orbán’s leadership has been characterized by increasing authoritarianism, with accusations of democratic backsliding. Hungary’s alignment with Russia’s stance on Ukraine’s invasion has also set it apart from NATO allies. The prime minister’s invitation to discuss “future cooperation in the field of security and defence” with Sweden raises questions about potential alignment and partnerships, given Hungary’s departure from NATO’s united front. Russia has expressed dissatisfaction with Sweden’s desire to abandon its non-alignment policy, as it would result in the Baltic Sea being surrounded by NATO countries.

Next Steps and Potential Resolution

With Hungary holding the key to Sweden’s NATO accession, the timeline remains uncertain. Unless an emergency session is called to address Sweden’s bid, the next scheduled assembly of Hungary’s parliament is expected on 26 February. The resolution of Hungary’s concerns and its stance on Sweden’s NATO membership will determine whether Sweden can proceed with its longstanding goal of joining the military alliance.

SOURCE: Ref Image from PBS

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