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Sweden approves NATO entry as Turkey, Hungary ratifications drag on

In this file photo, Sweden's parliament votes on Sweden's NATO membership, in Stockholm on March 22, 2023. - Sweden's parliament voted on March 22, 2023 in favour of joining NATO despite delays by Hungary and Turkey to ratify its membership bid, which will likely lead to Sweden joining after neighbouring Finland. (Photo by Anders WIKLUND / TT News Agency / AFP) / Sweden OUT

Sweden’s parliament voted Wednesday in favor of joining NATO despite delays by Hungary and Turkey to ratify its membership bid, which will likely lead to Sweden joining after neighboring Finland, Agence France-Presse reported.

The vote, which paved the way for the country’s NATO accession and provided the necessary legal framework, passed with 269 votes in favor and 37 against, with 43 MPs not attending Sweden’s 349-seat parliament.

“NATO membership is the best way to safeguard Sweden’s security and to contribute in solidarity to the security of the entire Euro-Atlantic area,” Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom told parliament during the debate that preceded the vote.

Sweden and Finland dropped their decades-long policies of military non-alignment and applied to join the trans-Atlantic defense pact last May in the wake of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

But Sweden has had several diplomatic spats with NATO member Turkey, which have delayed its membership bid and chances of joining at the same time as Finland.

Turkey and Hungary are the only NATO countries yet to ratify the Nordic countries’ bids — which require unanimous ratification by all 30 members.

Following months of delays, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced last week that he was asking parliament to vote on Finland’s bid to join the NATO defense bloc.

He said he was still not ready to move forward on Sweden.

No effect

In another setback for Sweden, Hungary announced that it would vote on Finland’s ratification on March 27, but Sweden’s bid would be decided on “later.”

Erdoğan has accused Sweden of not honoring the terms of a separate deal they reached in June 2022, under which Turkey had agreed to approve the bids.

Turkey has sought the extradition of dozens of Kurdish and other suspects it accuses of ties to outlawed militants and a failed 2016 coup attempt.

Following Turkey’s announcement, Billstrom said Sweden regretted the decision, but he and Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson have said they are confident Sweden would still become a member before the next NATO summit in Vilnius in July.

As the NATO entry was debated on Wednesday, some MPs pointed out that the vote, given the present situation, would have no effect.

“Although the bill states that ‘the amendment is proposed to enter into force at a date determined by the government,’ this means the date determined by Erdogan and (Viktor) Orban,” Hakan Svenneling, MP for the Left Party, told parliament.

Sweden’s membership bid has enjoyed wide support in the country’s parliament, with only the Left Party and the Green Party opposing the membership.

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