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Hungary Approves Finland Joining NATO

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The Hungarian parliament approved Finland’s application to join NATO after months of delays on Monday.

A large majority of lawmakers – 182 in favor, six against – approved the Scandinavian country’s joining the military alliance.

The vote means that 29 of the 30 parliamentarians of NATO member states have ratified Finland’s accession, and Turkey’s last parliament is also expected to give Helsinki next month.

“Thanks for the resolution with clear numbers!” Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said on Twitter after the vote.

NATO’s expansion into Finland – the country with a 1,340-kilometer (830-mile) border with Russia – would nearly double the length of the bloc’s current border with its Cold War-era adversary.

Finland initially aimed to join fellow NATO aspirant Sweden – a northern European power facing a series of disputes with Turkey that finally sunk its chance to join the bloc ahead of the alliance’s summit in Vilnius in July.

Marin said: “The membership of Finland and Sweden in NATO will enhance the security of the entire alliance.”

“It is in everyone’s interest that Sweden also become a member of NATO before the Vilnius summit,” she said.

Helsinki and Stockholm ended decades of military non-alignment and decided to join the world’s strongest defense alliance in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Their applications were accepted at the NATO summit in June 2022, but the bids still need to be ratified by all of the alliance’s member parliaments — a process that stalled once they reached Turkey and Hungary.

The nationalist Orban, who nurtured close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin until the invasion, said in December that the ratification process would begin in February.

Budapest insisted it supported the Nordic countries’ accession to NATO but complained that they had been unfairly critical of Hungarian government policy.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he had urged Turkey and Hungary to ratify both requests.

No date has been set for the vote on Sweden’s bid in Budapest.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s top political aide said on Twitter Sunday that Sweden’s NATO membership is backed by the government “and now it’s up to Parliament to decide.”

Balazs Orban, who is not related to the prime minister, wrote on Twitter, “Some MPs are concerned because Swedish government officials have been accustomed to constantly questioning the state of Hungary’s democracy, thus insulting our constituents, MPs and the country as a whole.”

Fidesz deputies usually act in line with the policies of Orbán’s government, as he has tightened his grip on the party.

Hungary is currently in talks with the European Commission, which has stopped disbursing vital EU funds to the country due to corruption and concerns about the government’s erosion of democratic rights. Orban denies the accusations.

An opposition party leader, Ferenc Gerenser, said ahead of Monday’s vote that delaying the vote in Finland “serves Putin’s interests”.

Fides said that it would decide to support Sweden’s accession to the military alliance at a later time.

Last week, Orban’s chief of staff, Gergely Julias, told reporters that the Swedish offer was likely to be ratified during the current parliamentary session, which runs until June 15.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on Stockholm to take tougher measures against terrorist groups, including the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its offshoots, the People’s Protection Units, in Syria.

Erdoğan recently approved Finland’s NATO accession bill and sent it to Parliament for ratification. Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday approved the bill that will pave the way for Finland’s membership.

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