Sweden moves closer to NATO membership as Erdogan sends accession protocols to Turkish Parliament

ANKARA — Sweden’s aspiration to join NATO took a significant stride forward on Monday as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sent accession protocols to the Turkish parliament. This development comes after months of deliberation and reflects a pivotal moment in Sweden’s pursuit of NATO membership.

The backdrop for Sweden’s move towards NATO has been shaped by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has prompted both Sweden and Finland to seek NATO membership as a means of enhancing their security. However, Sweden’s progress had been thwarted by Turkish reluctance.

Erdogan’s sign-off on the accession protocols is a breakthrough but raises questions about the duration of the ratification process. The proposal must first navigate through a parliamentary commission and subsequently be subject to a general vote on the main floor of the assembly. Erdogan and his allies hold a majority in the Turkish parliament, increasing the likelihood of Sweden’s bid being ratified.

Finland, which, like Sweden, applied for NATO membership in May 2022, managed to secure its place within the alliance in April 2023, further highlighting the urgency for Sweden to advance its NATO aspirations.

The shift in Erdogan’s stance on Sweden’s NATO membership is noteworthy. He had previously suggested that Sweden’s inclusion in the alliance could only be considered after Turkey’s accession to the European Union, making his approval of the accession protocols a surprising turn of events.

The United States, a staunch supporter of Sweden’s NATO aspirations, welcomed Erdogan’s move. State Department spokesperson Matt Miller conveyed the US government’s enthusiasm for the development, stating, “We look forward to that bill being considered in the Turkish parliament and passed as soon as possible.”

In response to the Turkish government’s decision, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson expressed his appreciation, describing the development as highly favorable. He revealed that the issue had already been discussed within the Swedish Parliament and conveyed Sweden’s eagerness to become a full-fledged member of NATO.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has also extended a warm welcome to the Turkish decision, underlining that this move enhances the alliance’s overall strength and security.

Analysts suggest that Turkey’s endorsement of Sweden’s NATO accession may ruffle diplomatic waters concerning the Scandinavian countries’ stance on NATO membership. Additionally, it is expected to stir concerns within Russia, which has relied on its close alliance with Turkey in recent years.

Nonetheless, it is important to note that Turkey is not the sole nation with a say in Sweden’s NATO membership. Hungary has also yet to vote on Sweden’s accession. In September, Hungary’s Prime Minister expressed that the country was in no hurry to approve Sweden’s bid. This indicates that while Sweden has taken a significant step forward, there are additional diplomatic hurdles to overcome before it can become a full-fledged member of the NATO alliance.