PM Orbán: Hungary to acquire 4 new Gripen fighter jets from Sweden

At their bilateral meeting in Budapest, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson have reached agreements regarding Hungary's acquisition of new Gripens, extending their existing contract.

At a press conference following their bilateral meeting, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his Swedish counterpart disclosed modifications to the agreement concerning the rental of Gripen fighter jets in Hungary and their support systems. Additionally, another agreement related to the Gripen jets was signed.

During the press briefing, PM Orbán described their discussion as exciting and fruitful. He emphasized that today's meeting marks a crucial milestone in a long process of rebuilding trust. 

Prime Minister Orbán stressed the importance of clarifying mutual intentions and reiterated Hungary's foreign policy goal of fostering friendships with other nations, striving for consensus and cooperation even where there are differing views on global issues.

The prime minister recalled Sweden's support for Hungary during the 1956 uprising by taking in Hungarian refugees, for which he expressed gratitude.

Regarding EU accession negotiations, Prime Minister Orbán highlighted Sweden's pivotal role as Hungary's decisive partner. He recalled the lengthy process of accession negotiations, during which Sweden advocated for faster integration of new member states. 

PM Orbán also expressed satisfaction with the current state of affairs, citing the successful growth in commercial cooperation between the two countries, including nuclear energy cooperation and collaboration in Brussels politics. He also mentioned Swedish involvement in the expansion of the Paks nuclear power plant.

However, the focal point of the meeting was defense cooperation. PM Orbán said the significant debate in Hungary after 1998 was regarding the necessity of independent air defense. With this goal in mind, his first government chose the Swedish Gripens. 

As the contract related to the Gripens is expiring, the two leaders revealed that they have extended the existing one, with Hungary acquiring four additional Gripens. This move aims to enhance Hungary's defense capability and provide more opportunities for international missions.

A new contract has also been signed for logistical services related to the Gripens, including training programs. PM Orbán emphasized the importance of reaching an agreement on establishing a research and development institute for artificial intelligence, with the participation of SAAB.

“Sweden considers Hungary's contribution to NATO's defense of the Baltic airspace crucial,” Kristersson said, adding that the Gripen aircraft is a source of pride for Sweden, and it will also contribute to NATO's capabilities.

During the press conference, Kristersson acknowledged the strong business ties and collaborative efforts in innovative sectors between Sweden and Hungary. Despite potential disagreements, he expressed a commitment to enhancing cooperation where mutual interests align and expressed gratitude for the invitation to Budapest. The two PMs also discussed Hungary's EU presidency, the EU's strategic agenda, and the cooperation between the two countries, with Kristersson describing the conversation as constructive. 

In response to questions from a Swedish journalist about changes in his opinion of Sweden and Kristersson's previous criticisms of Hungary's democracy, PM Orbán emphasized the importance of mutual trust among NATO allies. He highlighted the need for careful preparations to rebuild trust and described the defense agreement as a longstanding commitment initiated during his first term in office.

For his part, Kristersson reiterated the necessity for all NATO members to approve new applicants' accession, respecting Hungary's parliamentary decisions. While acknowledging differences in EU perspectives, he stressed the importance of compromise and mutual assistance in times of danger. 

PM Orbán concluded by reaffirming Hungary's commitment to maintaining its air force and independent air defense capability and strengthening its alliance with NATO, adding that the Hungarian parliament will convene on Monday to "make the necessary decisions" regarding Sweden’s NATO membership.