Swedish Premier Visits Hungary in Effort to Lift Roadblock to NATO Membership

In an effort to remove a final obstacle blocking his country’s admission to NATO, the prime minister of Sweden traveled to Hungary on Friday for talks that his Hungarian counterpart, Viktor Orban, said would smooth the Nordic nation’s entry into the military alliance and commit it to a “military-industrial and military agreement” with Hungary.

Hungary, the last holdout on NATO expansion, has been stalling for 19 months on ratifying Sweden’s admission, a delay that has puzzled and dismayed the United States and other members of the military alliance.

The visit to Budapest, the Hungarian capital, by the Swedish leader, Ulf Kristersson, reversed his earlier position that he was ready to travel to meet Mr. Orban, but only after the Hungarian Parliament had voted to approve his country’s NATO membership. That vote is now expected on Monday when Parliament, in which Mr. Orban’s governing Fidesz party has a large majority that invariably follows the prime minister’s instructions, reconvenes after a winter break.

Hungary has given differing explanations for its foot-dragging. Speaking in a radio interview shortly before Mr. Kristersson’s arrival in Budapest, Mr. Orban added a twist to the saga, linking Sweden’s NATO admission to the resolution of what he described as “pending military and armament issues” between the countries.

Swedish-made Gripen warplanes, provided to Hungary under a lease agreement, form the backbone of the small East European nation’s air force, and pro-government news outlets in Hungary have reported that Mr. Orban has been pushing for a better deal.

“This process will be concluded today in Budapest,” Mr. Orban said Friday morning on Kossuth Radio. “We will conclude a military industrial and military agreement, a serious one considering the size of our country, and we will also lay down some directions and goals for military cooperation.”

Back to top button