09/01/2023

NATO-membership: Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson says Turkey is over-asking

SWEDEN – In February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine. In May 2022, Sweden and Finland applied for NATO membership after decades of military non-alignment. The decision by the Nordic countries was welcomed by all NATO members except Hungary and Turkey, whose parliaments still have to ratify the Nordic memberships. Especially Turkey keeps blocking membership while using its veto-card as a stick for political gains.

Turkey benefited politically from the Russian invasion, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan saw opportunities for political gains from Sweden’s NATO membership bid. Turkish rhetoric was fierce, and Sweden was accused of harboring militants and terrorists. It demanded to Sweden extraditing critical refugee journalists, alleged members of the Gulen movement, which it holds responsible for the 2016 coup, and alleged members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is banned in Turkey. It also demanded Sweden to lift the ban on certain arms exports which were introduced after the October 2019 invasion of North and East Syria – which Sweden did in September 2022 – and to stop its support for the People’s Protection Units in North and East Syria.

In June, the two Nordic countries signed a deal with Turkey to clear the way for NATO membership. Turkey is especially targeting Sweden because it believes it is most accommodating to the Kurdish diaspora.

But Swedish Prime Minister has now lashed out to Turkey, saying it cannot possibly meet Turkey’s demands. “Turkey has confirmed that we have done what we said we would do, but it also says that it wants things that we can’t, that we don’t want to, give it,” Ulf Kristersson said during a security conference in Sälen, Sweden. On the question whether the PM thinks that Turkey will ratify the Swedish application before the Turkish elections in June, he replied that is impossible to know but that he is convinced Turkey will ratify.