Sweden’s ascension into NATO is secured, claims NATO Chief Jens Stoltenberg. The recent news emerging from the NATO conference in Vilnius, Lithuania, is positive for Sweden hoping to finally join the alliance after being blocked by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan since April. Sweden and Finland both had applied to join the North American and European military alliance at the same time, fearing Russia’s military expansion. Finland’s acceptance into the alliance occurred recently on April 4th 2023, while Sweden’s had been delayed.
In order for a new nation to join NATO, all other current members must agree unanimously, meaning Turkey’s sole opposition to the Swedish joining the alliance functions as a veto.
Turkey’s main claims against Sweden were that Sweden was supporting forces against the Turkish government by providing a free operating environment to Turkish dissidents that Turkey labels as terrorist organizations.
The list of organizations includes a religious movement that the Turkish government accused of trying to overthrow President Erdogan in 2016 and supporters of a Kurdish militant organization that continues to fight against the Turkish state. A recent Quran burning demonstration by an Iraqi Christian immigrant outside of a Mosque in Stockholm on June 27th added tension, as Turkey viewed the act as a sign of both Islamophobia and another reason that Sweden and Turkey cannot see eye-to-eye.
Sweden had been recently taking action to appease the Turkish government, recently amending its constitution and hardening its counterterrorism laws. The Swedish government also extradited many of the individuals wanted by the Turkish government to gain favor. But this appears to not be sufficient for the Turkish government as they announced that in exchange for letting Sweden join NATO, the European Union should, “clear the way” for Turkey to Join the European Union (EU).
Turkey’s application for the EU, which began in 2005, has been stalled due to the Union’s criticisms of both human rights violations and deficits in rule of law in Turkey. These concerns have resulted in the Union labeling the Turkish government currently unfit to join due to disproportionate repressive measures. Turkey has received sanctions from the European Union for its activities in the Mediterranean as recently as 2021.
Turkey currently enjoys a very privileged diplomatic position and the latest condition could present huge economic opportunities for Turkey, but it is still undecided how the EU will react to this change as many NATO members are also EU members. It is very possible that we may see a seat in the EU being traded for a seat in NATO.
Written by Administrative Intern, Charles Larkin