Hungary's ruling party says it's ready to approve Sweden's NATO membership on Monday

Flags of NATO alliance members flap in the wind outside NATO headquarters in Brussels, on Feb. 28, 2020.
Flags of NATO alliance members flap in the wind outside NATO headquarters in Brussels, on Feb. 28, 2020. Copyright AP Photo/Olivier Matthys, File
Copyright AP Photo/Olivier Matthys, File
By Euronews with AP
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Hungary is the only one of NATO's 31 existing members not to have ratified Sweden's application.

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A vote in Hungary's parliament to ratify the country's bid to join NATO could come as early as next Monday, according to a senior member of the country's ruling Fidesz party. That would end more than 18 months of delays by the nationalist government that have frustrated Hungary's allies.

In a letter to the speaker of parliament on Tuesday, Fidesz parliamentary group leader Máté Kocsis called for the vote to be scheduled for the opening day of the spring session, which begins at the start of next week.

Kocsis wrote that Fidesz, which has repeatedly blocked a vote on the issue, would opt to support Sweden's bid to join the transatlantic military alliance.

With Turkey having dropped its long-held opposition, Hungary is the only one of NATO's 31 existing members not to have ratified Sweden's application.

The Hungarian government is under growing pressure to act after delaying the move for more than a year, as the admission of a new country to the military alliance requires unanimous approval.

On Sunday, a bipartisan group of US senators visited Hungary and said they would introduce a joint resolution in Congress condemning alleged democratic backsliding in the country and urging Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to approve 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 Fidesz had refused to meet with the delegation – something he called "strange and concerning" – but said the onus was on the long-serving leader to push for a vote.

"We are smart enough about politics here to know that if Prime Minister Orbán wants this to happen, then parliament can move forward," he said.

Orbán has faced isolation for blocking key decisions by his international allies, including putting up roadblocks to EU funding for cash-strapped Ukraine. But in a state of the nation address in Budapest on Saturday, Orbán hinted that Hungary's legislature may soon relent.

"It is good news that our dispute with Sweden is coming to an end," he said. "We are moving towards ratification of Sweden's accession to NATO at the beginning of the spring parliamentary session."

Swedish Defence Minister Pål Jonson said in Stockholm that the news of the vote "is of course very welcome".

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