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Stoltenberg expects Sweden to join by March

After Turkey's approval, NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg expects Sweden to join by March. Hungarian ratification is still pending. While Hungary still wants to negotiate the application, Sweden sees no reason for this.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has expressed optimism about Sweden's rapid entry into the military alliance. The country could potentially be ready to join by March, Stoltenberg said in Brussels.

Turkey ratified Sweden's entry into the military alliance this week – and Hungary also sent positive signals. “Sweden's entry into NATO will strengthen the entire alliance,” Stoltenberg said, reporting on his conversation with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban this week.

He was told in Budapest that Parliament would meet again at the end of February. Now we have to wait and see. “But I'm absolutely confident and I'm counting on Hungary,” said Stoltenberg. The next session of the Hungarian Parliament will take place on February 26th.

Meeting of the two Heads of Government possible in Brussels

Since Sweden's application, Hungary has not given a clear reason for the delay in confirming Sweden's NATO membership. Orban said his government would not be the last to support Sweden. But the tone toward Stockholm became tougher after the European Commission denied Hungary access to EU funds because of democratic backsliding. Budapest accused Swedish politicians of spreading lies about the state of Hungarian democracy.

At the beginning of the week, Orban invited Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson to visit Hungary to “negotiate” accession to NATO. In his reply to Orban, Kristersson appeared open to a trip to Budapest. But he first promised Orban a meeting at the EU summit in Brussels next Thursday.

“Don’t negotiate NATO membership”

The Swedish Prime Minister told TV4 that he would like to travel to Budapest to talk about various issues. But first we see each other in Brussels, where we can also start to “discuss” things. However, there is nothing left to “negotiate” about when it comes to NATO membership.

“We cannot negotiate NATO membership. Instead, we can discuss how we can best work together as NATO members.” As an example, he cited, among other things, the Swedish “Jas 39 Gripen” fighter aircraft. Hungary has been using this for years.

Turkish approval of “labor victory” for Sweden

Kristersson described Turkey's approval after a year and a half of blockade as a “labor victory.” The ratification became official when the so-called accession protocols were published in the Turkish official gazette. However, we have not yet reached our goal, said Kristersson, with a view to the last remaining ratification by Hungary. He therefore did not want to predict a date for accession. But Sweden will be a full NATO member “very soon,” he said.

In response to the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, traditionally non-aligned Sweden applied for NATO membership together with its neighboring country Finland in May 2022. Finland was able to join the military alliance in April, while Sweden is still waiting because of the blockades by Turkey and Hungary. Sweden will become NATO's 32nd member once Hungary completes its procedures and all allies' instruments of ratification are received by the US State Department.

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