Hungary and Sweden strike defence deal ahead of NATO vote

Hungary and Sweden have struck a defense deal, expanding Budapest’s fighter jet fleet, paving the way for Hungary’s likely ratification of Sweden’s NATO bid.

In a significant development, Hungary and Sweden have reached a defense industry agreement, bolstering Budapest’s arsenal with Swedish-built fighter jets. This agreement comes as Sweden awaits the final vote on its NATO accession bid, which now hinges on Hungary’s support.

Prime Ministers Viktor Orbán of Hungary and Ulf Kristersson of Sweden sealed the deal in Budapest after months of diplomatic tension between the two nations. Sweden’s repeated invitations were finally accepted by Orbán, who hinted at a precondition for endorsing Sweden’s NATO bid.

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The defense agreement marks a crucial turning point in their relationship, with Orbán indicating his party’s readiness to endorse Sweden’s NATO bid on Monday. As part of the deal, Sweden will sell four JAS 39 Gripen jets to Hungary, expanding Budapest’s current fleet of 14 jets, along with extending support systems and services for the aircraft.

Kristersson hailed the deepened cooperation on advanced fighting capabilities, emphasizing the Gripen jets’ significance as a source of pride for Sweden. Orbán, on the other hand, highlighted the strategic advantage these additional fighters would bring to Hungary, enhancing its military capabilities and enabling greater participation in joint NATO operations.

The agreement sets the stage for Hungary’s anticipated ratification of Sweden’s NATO bid, scheduled for Monday’s parliamentary vote. Hungary’s endorsement is crucial, as unanimous support from all NATO members is required for new countries to join the alliance. Hungary had previously delayed the vote over concerns regarding Sweden’s democratic credentials, fueled by alleged misinformation from Swedish politicians.

Pressure from NATO allies and the European Union compelled Hungary to reconsider its stance, particularly amidst bipartisan condemnation from U.S. senators and ongoing EU scrutiny over rule-of-law issues and corruption allegations.

Orbán stressed the importance of rebuilding trust between Hungary and Sweden, acknowledging differences while underscoring the shared commitment implied by NATO membership. He framed the defense deal as a step towards strengthening bilateral ties and fostering mutual cooperation.

As Hungary prepares to cast its vote on Sweden’s NATO accession, the outcome of Monday’s parliamentary session will not only shape Sweden’s security landscape but also signal a potential thaw in relations between Budapest and Brussels.