Hungary's parliament on Monday approved Sweden's bid to join NATO, removing the final hurdle for the Scandinavian country to become the trans-Atlantic military alliance's 32nd member.

Sweden's accession means the North Atlantic Treaty Organization members will enclose nearly all of the strategically important Baltic Sea, which borders Russia and is expected to enhance the alliance's deterrence against Moscow, military experts say.

"Today is a historic day...Sweden stands ready to shoulder its responsibility for Euro-Atlantic security," Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said in a post on X.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (R), and Zsolt Semjen, the Hungarian Deputy Prime Minister, vote along with lawmakers on approving Sweden's accession into NATO, in Budapest, on Feb 26, 2024. (AP/Kyodo)

Sweden applied to join the alliance in May 2022, ending more than 200 years of military neutrality in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February of that year. The announcement came on the heels of a similarly historic declaration by Finland.

While Finland joined NATO in April last year, Sweden needed to wait for approval by Hungary, the only alliance member that had not given the greenlight amid tensions stemming from Stockholm's criticism over Budapest's democracy.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed Hungary's vote to ratify the accession, saying in a post on X that Sweden would make the alliance "stronger and safer."

The United States also hailed Sweden's membership, with White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre saying the joining of the country "with a highly capable military" will make the world's largest economy "even safer."