BERLIN — During a Monday press conference in Berlin, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz stated that the issue of Sweden’s NATO membership and Turkey’s accession to the European Union are not linked.
Scholz’s remarks come in response to comments made by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan linking Turkey’s approval of Sweden joining NATO with Turkey’s path to European Union membership.
Before departing Istanbul Airport for the NATO summit in Vilnius on Monday, Erdogan stated, “First, pave the way for Turkey in the European Union, and then let us pave the way for Sweden, just as we paved the way for Finland.”
While Scholz considered Erdogan’s statements a generally positive message, granting the green light to Sweden’s NATO membership, he refuted that the issues were at all linked.
“That’s a question that is not related to the other issue, and therefore I think this should not be seen as a related matter,” he said.
The European Commission also stated that Sweden’s NATO membership and Turkey’s EU membership are “separate processes” that are unrelated to one another.
“The European Union has a very structured process of enlargement and with a very, very clear set of steps that need to be taken by all candidate countries,” said the Commission’s deputy spokesperson Dana Spinant on Monday.
Turkey initially submitted its candidacy file to the European Economic Community, the predecessor of the European Union, in 1970.
Turkey obtained the status of a candidate country for joining the European Union in 1999, and membership negotiations with the bloc were officially launched in 2005.
Negotiations stalled in 2016 due to European concerns about human rights violations in Turkey.
Turkey and Hungary are the only two countries in NATO that have not yet ratified Sweden’s membership in defense alliance despite the measures taken by the Scandinavian country, including amending its constitution and adopting a new anti-terrorism law.