Hungary’s parliament ratifies Sweden’s NATO accession, clearing the final obstacle to membership

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, bottom right, addresses a parliament session, on the day lawmakers are expected to approve Sweden's accession into NATO, in Budapest, Hungary, Monday, Feb 26, 2024. (AP)
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, bottom right, addresses a parliament session, on the day lawmakers are expected to approve Sweden's accession into NATO, in Budapest, Hungary, Monday, Feb 26, 2024. (AP)
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Updated 26 February 2024
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Hungary’s parliament ratifies Sweden’s NATO accession, clearing the final obstacle to membership

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, bottom right, addresses a parliament session.
  • Hungary is the last of the alliance’s 31 members to give its backing since Turkiye ratified the request last month
  • Vote on Monday removed final membership hurdle for Sweden which first applied to join alliance in May 2022

BUDAPEST: Hungary’s parliament voted Monday to ratify Sweden’s bid to join NATO, bringing an end to more than 18 months of delays that have frustrated the alliance as it seeks to expand in response to Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The vote, which passed with 188 votes for and six against, came as a culmination of months of wrangling by Hungary’s allies to convince its nationalist government to lift its block on Sweden’s membership. The government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán submitted the protocols for approving Sweden’s entry into NATO in July 2022, but the matter had stalled in parliament over opposition by governing party lawmakers.
Unanimous support among all NATO members is required to admit new countries, and Hungary is the last of the alliance’s 31 members to give its backing since Turkiye ratified the request last month.
Orbán, a right-wing populist who has forged close ties with Russia, has said that criticism of Hungary’s democracy by Swedish politicians had soured relations between the two countries and led to reluctance among lawmakers in his Fidesz party.
But the vote on Monday removed the final membership hurdle for Sweden which, along with neighboring Finland, first applied to join the alliance in May 2022.
Addressing lawmakers before the vote, Orbán said: “Sweden and Hungary’s military cooperation and Sweden’s NATO accession strengthen Hungary’s security.”
Orbán criticized Hungary’s European Union and NATO allies for placing increased pressure on his government in recent months to move forward on bringing Sweden into the alliance.
“Several people tried to intervene from the outside in the settling of our disputes (with Sweden), but this did not help but rather hampered the issue,” Orbán said. “Hungary is a sovereign country, it does not tolerate being dictated by others, whether it be the content of its decisions or their timing.”
Last weekend, a bipartisan group of US senators visited Hungary and announced it would submit a joint resolution to Congress condemning Hungary’s alleged democratic backsliding and urging Orbán’s government to immediately lift its block on Sweden’s trans-Atlantic integration.
But on Friday, Ulf Kristersson, Sweden’s prime minister, met with Orbán in Hungary’s capital where they appeared to reach a decisive reconciliation after months of diplomatic tensions.
Following their meeting, the leaders announced the conclusion of a defense industry agreement that will include Hungary’s purchase of four Swedish-made JAS 39 Gripen jets and the extension of a service contract for its existing Gripen fleet.
Orbán said the additional fighter jets “will significantly increase our military capabilities and further strengthen our role abroad” and will improve Hungary’s ability to participate in joint NATO operations.
“To be a member of NATO together with another country means we are ready to die for each other,” Orbán said. “A deal on defense and military capacities helps to reconstruct the trust between the two countries.”
Monday’s vote on Sweden’s NATO accession was just one matter on a busy agenda for lawmakers in the Hungarian parliament. A vote was also held on accepting the resignation of President Katalin Novák, who stepped down earlier this month in a scandal over her decision to pardon to a man convicted of covering up a string of child sexual abuses.
After accepting Novák’s resignation, lawmakers are expected to confirm Tamás Sulyok, the president of Hungary’s Constitutional Court, as the country’s new president. He is set to formally take office on March 5.
Some opposition parties have said they will not participate in a vote to confirm a new president and have called for direct presidential elections. But Sulyok was nominated by Orbán’s Fidesz party, which has a two-thirds majority in parliament and is expected to easily approve his presidency.
A presidential signature is needed to formally endorse the approval of Sweden’s NATO bid, which is expected within the next few days.


Deputy leader of UK’s Labour Party promises to fight to end Gaza’s suffering, in leaked video

Deputy leader of UK’s Labour Party promises to fight to end Gaza’s suffering, in leaked video
Updated 23 sec ago
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Deputy leader of UK’s Labour Party promises to fight to end Gaza’s suffering, in leaked video

Deputy leader of UK’s Labour Party promises to fight to end Gaza’s suffering, in leaked video
  • Labour, if elected, would recognize Palestinian statehood, says Angela Rayner

LONDON: Angela Rayner, the deputy leader of the UK’s Labour Party, has promised that her party will do everything in its power to ease the suffering in Gaza as it bids to regain Muslim voters’ support, a leaked video surfacing on social media has revealed.

The footage was first reported by the political blog Guido Fawkes, which claimed to have obtained the leaked tape from a meeting in Ashton-under-Lyne, Rayner’s constituency.

The MP is seen appealing to voters upset with the party’s stance on Israel’s assault on Gaza, The Telegraph reported.

Rayner — claiming she worked “day and night” to get three British doctors out of Rafah and is now attempting to secure aid for the enclave — said: “I promise you, the Labour Party, including myself, is doing everything we can, because nobody wants to see what’s happening.”

She acknowledged the party’s current inability to halt the fighting, admitting that Labour’s influence would be “limited,” even if it came to power after July’s general election.

Rayner added: “Only last week the Labour Party were supporting the ICC (International Criminal Court). The Conservatives didn’t support the ICC, so with this general election on that issue, we can’t affect anything when we’re not in government.

“And I’ll be honest with you, if Labour gets into government, we are limited. I will be honest. I’m not going to promise you … because (Joe) Biden, who’s the US (president), who has way more influence, has only got limited influence in that.

“And Qatar, Saudi Arabia, all of these people, we are all working to stop what’s happening at the moment; we want to see that. So I promise you, that’s what we want to see.”

Rayner also promised that, if Labour was elected, the party would recognize Palestinian statehood.

She added: “If Labour gets into power, we will recognize Palestine. I will push not only to recognize … there is nothing to recognize at the moment, sadly. It’s decimated.

“We have to rebuild Palestine; we have to rebuild Gaza. That takes more than just recognizing it.”

Gaza has been a divisive issue for Labour since Oct. 7, with reports revealing that Muslim voters have abandoned the party as a result of what they perceive as its politicians enabling the war.

The Telegraph found that Labour’s support had dropped in local elections in areas with large Muslim populations, including Oldham in Greater Manchester, where the party lost control of the council in a surprise defeat.

Labour leader Keir Starmer has expressed his determination to re-establish trust among those who have abandoned his party due to his handling of the Gaza war.

However, when probed on particular commitments, he remained vague.

Rayner said in the video: “I know that people are angry about what’s happening in the Middle East.

“If my resignation as an MP now would bring a ceasefire, I would do it. I would do it if I could effect change.”

However, she said such an eventuality was not “in my gift” due to the “failure of the international community.”

In response to the footage, Nigel Farage, Reform UK’s honorary president, accused Rayner of “begging” for the Muslim vote, The Telegraph reported.


12 Indians killed in quarry collapse after cyclone rains

12 Indians killed in quarry collapse after cyclone rains
Updated 18 min 16 sec ago
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12 Indians killed in quarry collapse after cyclone rains

12 Indians killed in quarry collapse after cyclone rains
  • Several highways and key roads were disrupted by landslides, and all schools were shut
  • India’s weather office warned of extremely heavy rains in northeastern states on Tuesday

Guwahati: Torrential rains in the wake of a powerful cyclone caused the collapse of a quarry in India’s Mizoram state killing 12 people, government officials said Tuesday.

“So far 12 bodies have been found, we are looking for more,” deputy commissioner of Aizawl district Nazuk Kumar told AFP.

Rescue efforts in the quarry were being hampered by “heavy rains,” police director general Anil Shukla said, NDTV news network reported.

Mizoram Chief Minister Lalduhoma offered compensation to families of the victims of the “landslide due to Cyclone Remal.”

“I pray for the success of rescue and relief operations and wish a speedy recovery of the injured,” India’s President Droupadi Murmu said on social media.

In Mizoram, several highways and key roads were disrupted by landslides. All schools were shut and government employees asked to work from home.

India’s weather office has issued warnings of extremely heavy rainfall across Mizoram and other northeastern states on Tuesday.

In India’s neighboring Assam state, one person was killed and heavy rains had cut the power supply, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said in a statement.

The cyclone made landfall in low-lying Bangladesh and neighboring India on Sunday evening with fierce gales and crashing waves.

Overall, at least 38 people died in the cyclone or storms in its wake.

In India, eight people died in West Bengal state, officials said Tuesday, updating an earlier toll of six, taking the total killed in the country to at least 21.

In neighboring Bangladesh, which bore the brunt of the cyclone that made landfall on Sunday, at least 17 people died, according to the disaster management office and police.


Poland’s foreign minister says it should not exclude the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine

Poland’s foreign minister says it should not exclude the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine
Updated 28 May 2024
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Poland’s foreign minister says it should not exclude the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine

Poland’s foreign minister says it should not exclude the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine
  • Radek Sikorski made the comments in an interview published Tuesday in the Gazeta Wyborcza daily
  • “We should not exclude any option. Let Putin be guessing as to what we will do”

WARSAW: Poland’s foreign minister says the NATO nation should not exclude the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine and should keep Russian President Vladimir Putin in suspense over whether such a decision would ever be made.
Radek Sikorski made the comments in an interview published Tuesday in the Gazeta Wyborcza daily.
“We should not exclude any option. Let Putin be guessing as to what we will do,” Sikorski said when asked whether he would send Polish troops to Ukraine.
Sikorski said he has gone to Ukraine with his family to deliver humanitarian aid.
But a spokesperson for Poland’s Defense Ministry, Janusz Sejmej, told Polish media on Tuesday he had “no knowledge of that” when asked about a report in Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine suggesting Poland might send troops to Ukraine.
The idea of sending foreign soldiers to Ukraine, which is battling Russian military aggression, was floated earlier this year in France, but no country, including Poland, has publicly embraced it.
Poland supports neighboring Ukraine politically and by providing military equipment and humanitarian aid.


Baby found dead in stricken migrant boat heading for Italy

Baby found dead in stricken migrant boat heading for Italy
Updated 28 May 2024
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Baby found dead in stricken migrant boat heading for Italy

Baby found dead in stricken migrant boat heading for Italy
  • The infant girl, her mother and 4-year-old sister were in an unseaworthy boat laden with migrants that had set off from Sfax in Tunisia
  • SOS Humanity workers aboard its “Humanity 1” vessel found many of the migrants exhausted

LAMPEDUSA, Italy: The body of a five-month-old baby was found on Tuesday when some 85 migrants heading for Italy from Tunisia were rescued from distress at sea, according to a Reuters witness.
The infant girl, her mother and 4-year-old sister were in an unseaworthy boat laden with migrants that had set off from Sfax in Tunisia two days earlier bound for Italy, according to charity group SOS Humanity.
SOS Humanity workers aboard its “Humanity 1” vessel found many of the migrants exhausted and suffering from seasickness and fuel burns as they were rescued before dawn on Tuesday, the group said in a statement.
Some 185 migrants rescued in separate operations this week, including the stricken boat overnight, were being taken aboard “Humanity 1” to the port of Livorno in northwest Italy. Another 120 migrants were transferred by coast guard boat to the Italian island of Lampedusa in the southern Mediterranean.
Tunisia is grappling with a migrant crisis and has replaced Libya as the main departure point for people fleeing poverty and conflict further south in Africa as well as the Middle East in hopes of a better life in Europe.
Italy has sought to curb migrant arrivals from Africa, making it harder charity ships to operate in the Mediterranean, limiting the number of rescues they can carry out and often forcing them to make huge detours to bring migrants ashore.


Putin says Ukraine should hold presidential election

Putin says Ukraine should hold presidential election
Updated 28 May 2024
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Putin says Ukraine should hold presidential election

Putin says Ukraine should hold presidential election
  • Zelensky has not faced an election despite the expiry of his term

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday Ukraine should hold a presidential election following the expiry of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s five-year term.
Zelensky has not faced an election despite the expiry of his term, something he and Kyiv’s allies deem the right decision in wartime. Putin said the only legitimate authority in Ukraine now was parliament, and that its head should be given power.