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The Hungarian president formally signs the approval of Sweden’s NATO bid, removing the last obstacle

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Hungary’s president formally signed a bill Tuesday approving Sweden’s NATO bid, clearing the latest hurdle after 18 months of delays that frustrated the alliance as it sought to expand in response to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

President Tamás Sulyok’s signature was needed to enact a bill passed in the Hungarian parliament last month, culminating months of wrangling by Hungary’s allies to convince the nationalist government to block Sweden’s membership to lift.

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s government submitted the protocols for approving Sweden’s accession to NATO in July 2022, but the matter stalled in parliament due to opposition from ruling party lawmakers.

Hungary’s decision paved the way for the second expansion of NATO’s ranks in a year after both Sweden and Finland signed up to join the alliance in May 2022 following Ukraine’s massive invasion of Ukraine – an attack that was reportedly intended to prevent further expansion of NATO.

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Admitting new countries requires unanimous support among NATO members, and Hungary was the last of the alliance’s 31 members to express its support since Turkey ratified the request in January.

Orbán, a right-wing populist who has forged close ties with Russia, has said criticism of Hungary’s democracy by Swedish politicians soured relations between the two countries and led to reluctance among lawmakers in his Fidesz party.

Sulyok came to power on Tuesday following the resignation of President Katalin Novák, who resigned last month following a scandal over her decision to pardon a man convicted of covering up a series of child sexual abuse cases.

Sulyok is a former president of the Hungarian Constitutional Court. Approving Sweden’s NATO bid was his first act as president.

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