The wait was long and the road to Stockholm chaotic.

The Hungarian Parliament is preparing to approve Sweden's accession to NATO on Monday February 26, the final step for the Nordic country wishing to join the Atlantic Alliance since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

To the negotiations with Turkey, concluded by a positive vote in January, were added the procrastination of the Hungarian nationalist leader Viktor Orban.

He had certainly given his agreement in principle a long time ago but before completing the process, he demanded "respect" from Stockholm, considered too critical of his policy.

The situation has finally resolved in recent weeks, with the visit on Friday of Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson marking the epilogue of a "long process to rebuild trust", in the words of Viktor Orban.

Also readSweden's membership of NATO: why is Hungary procrastinating?

To seal this cooperation, the two countries announced the purchase by Budapest of four combat aircraft from Sweden to strengthen its current fleet of 14 Gripen aircraft.

Parliament's vote, scheduled for shortly after 4:20 p.m. (3:20 p.m. GMT), is expected to come as no surprise given the two-thirds majority held by the ruling coalition.

The opposition will also vote for it, with the exception of the far-right Our Fatherland.

A Hungarian strategy?

Sweden's NATO accession protocol, which requires the unanimity of the 31 members of the Atlantic Alliance, has been on hold since May 2022.

Stockholm had announced its candidacy in the wake of the Kremlin offensive in Ukraine, at the same time as Finland, which entered in April 2023. The two neighboring countries thus broke with decades of neutrality following the Second World War, then military non-alignment since the end of the Cold War.

Over the months, Hungary has continued to delay the deadline, each time invoking different pretexts.

Some experts saw it as a blackmail strategy to obtain concessions from the EU and the release of billions of euros of currently frozen funds, others a sign of Viktor Orban's closeness to Russian President Vladimir Putin and the leader of Turkish State Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

But for analyst Mate Szalai, the Hungarian Prime Minister prioritizes national interests above all.

“He went as far as possible,” stopping just in time “so as not to cause serious problems for the transatlantic community,” he told AFP.

Just as he blocked crucial aid to Ukraine for months before giving in in early February under pressure from his EU partners.

By adopting such a strategy, he wants to prove that his small country of less than 10 million inhabitants counts and "should not be underestimated", believes the researcher from Ca' Foscari University in Venice.

He does not reap "any tangible results in terms of foreign policy", but this attitude of "confrontation" on the international scene serves him to "maintain his popularity at home".

At the risk of being caught in its own trap: if Hungary had ratified Finnish accession three days before Turkey, this time it was the last, despite its promises.

With AFP

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