Blinken to Press Turkey & Hungary to Ratify Sweden’s NATO Membership

May 26, 2023

The State Department said Friday that Secretary of State Antony Blinken would press Turkey and Hungary to ratify Sweden’s bid to join NATO in Oslo, Norway next week.

The move is expected to occur during an informal meeting of foreign ministers in Oslo on Wednesday ahead of a formal summit in Vilnius, Lithuania in July. 

Last year, Finland and Sweden had applied to join NATO simultaneously, respectively ending 100 and 200 years of military neutrality, in response to Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine. However, in April Finland became the 31st member of the world’s largest military alliance while Sweden has been left in limbo.

Membership in NATO must be approved by all of its member nations. Sweden’s approval has been held up by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over Stockholm’s unwillingness to prosecute anti-Islam activists and pro-Kurdish groups inside Sweden. 

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has also been holding back his country’s approval of Sweden’s membership. This week citing Swedish criticism of Orban’s record on democracy and the rule of law, Orban insisted that improved relations between Hungary and Sweden were necessary before giving his thumbs up.

“The political relations between Hungary and Sweden are awfully wrong,” Orban said. “We don’t want to import conflicts into NATO.”

However, U.S. acting assistant secretary for European and Eurasian affairs Dereck Hogan said the State Department has been undertaking “extensive conversations” with the Turkish government about Sweden’s readiness to join NATO.

“So we do very much look forward to seeing both Turkey, as well as Hungary, ratify Sweden’s accession protocols very soon, prior to the summit in Vilnius,” he said.

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