Hungary to sign defence industry deal with Sweden, PM Orban says

  • World
  • Friday, 23 Feb 2024

FILE PHOTO: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban delivers his annual State of the Nation speech, in Budapest, Hungary, February 17, 2024. Szilard Koszticsak/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary will sign a defence industry deal with Sweden, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said ahead of a meeting with Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson in Budapest later on Friday, as Hungary prepares to finally ratify Sweden's NATO bid.

"We will close all pending issues, and we will sign a defence industry deal, a serious one considering Hungary's size, and we will also lay down some decisions or ... goals about military cooperation," Orban told state radio. He gave no details.

The two prime ministers will hold a press conference on Friday, before Hungary's parliament is due to approve Sweden's NATO membership bid in a vote on Monday.

"On Monday the Hungarian parliament will put the final seal on it," Orban told radio.

Sweden applied to join the transatlantic alliance nearly two years ago in a historic policy shift away from non-alignment prompted by Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Hungary is the only NATO member that has yet to ratify the Nordic country's accession, with Orban's ruling Fidesz party repeatedly delaying a vote, citing grievances over Sweden criticising Hungary over its record on rule-of-law standards.

Fidesz commands a huge majority in parliament and it could have approved the Nordic country's membership at any time since the relevant legislation was submitted to lawmakers in mid-2022.

The delay has soured Budapest's relations with the United States and raised concerns among allies.

Hungary leases Gripen fighter aircraft made by Sweden's SAAB SAABb.ST under a contract signed in 2001.

Kristersson said earlier this week that Sweden wants to further develop its Gripen cooperation with Hungary, and that the topic would be on the agenda for Friday.

(Reporting by Krisztina Than, Editing by William Maclean)

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