April 24, 2024

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Hungary's ruling party says it is ready to approve Sweden's entry into NATO on Monday

Hungary's ruling party says it is ready to approve Sweden's entry into NATO on Monday

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — A vote in the Hungarian parliament on ratifying Sweden's application to join NATO could take place as early as Monday, according to a senior member of the country's ruling Fidesz party. That would put an end to more than 18 months of delays by the nationalist government that have frustrated Hungary's allies.

In a letter on Tuesday to the Speaker of Parliament, the leader of the Fidesz bloc, Matej Kocsis, asked for a vote to be scheduled on the opening day of the spring session, which begins on Monday.

Fidesz, which has repeatedly objected to votes on the issue, will choose to support Sweden's bid to join the transatlantic military alliance, Kocsis wrote.

Hungary is the only country among NATO's 31 members that has not ratified Sweden's request. The Hungarian government is facing increasing pressure to act after delaying the move for more than a year and a half since accepting a new country into the military alliance requires unanimous approval.

On Sunday, a bipartisan group of US senators visited Hungary and announced they would submit a joint resolution to Congress condemning the country's alleged democratic backsliding and urging Prime Minister Viktor Orban to move forward with approving Sweden's accession as soon as possible.

Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, said in Budapest on Sunday that members of the Hungarian government and the Fidesz party had refused to meet with the delegation — something he called “strange and troubling” — but said the responsibility lies with the long-term. Service leader to push for a vote.

“We are wise enough in terms of politics here to know that if Prime Minister Orbán wants it to happen, Parliament can go ahead,” he said.

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Orban has faced isolation for blocking key decisions by his international allies, including placing barriers to EU funding for cash-strapped Ukraine. But in his State of the Nation address in Budapest on Saturday, Orban indicated that Hungary's legislature may soon back down.

“It is good news that our dispute with Sweden is coming to an end,” he said. He added: “We are moving towards ratifying Sweden's accession to NATO at the beginning of the spring session of Parliament.”

Reacting to news of the vote, Swedish Defense Minister Pall Jonsson said in Stockholm that Sweden “naturally welcomes this.”

“It is of course very welcome,” Johnson said.

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Associated Press writer Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, contributed to this report.

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