Turkey and Hungary continue to stand in the way of Sweden joining NATO, while neighbouring Finland joined the organisation on Tuesday after having its application approved in record speed.
Experts predict that Turkey won’t accept Sweden’s application until at least after the country’s election on May 14th. Even then, it’s uncertain what would persuade President Tayyip Erdogan to change his mind. Hungary can be seen imitating Ankara’s actions.
Sweden and Finland decided to abandon their long-standing military non-alignment policy in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February of last year.
Both nations view NATO’s collective defence provision as the most effective means of ensuring their security.
The majority of NATO countries swiftly approved their applications, reasoning that Sweden and Finland would fortify the alliance in the Baltic, where they share a 1,300 km (810 mi) border with Russia.
The Turkish parliament last week approved Finland’s accession despite early opposition.
Turkey, meanwhile, has delayed its feet over Sweden, claiming that it does not take Ankara’s security concerns seriously and that Stockholm has not upheld its end of a deal that was reached in Madrid last year and set forth a number of issues that Stockholm needed to address.
Hungary has slowed down ratification, which needs to be unanimous, following Turkey’s example.
Swedish criticism of Turkey’s violations of democratic norms and of human rights has enraged Ankara’s lawmakers.
In order to ratify Sweden’s membership, Ankara has demanded their extradition on the grounds that Stockholm harbours individuals it regards as belonging to terrorist organisations. Sweden has refuted this claim.
Several expulsions have been halted by Swedish courts.
Turkey has voiced opposition to rallies in Stockholm in recent weeks that saw the burning of the Koran and the upside-down hanging of an effigy of Erdogan.
Those are hate crimes, according to Ankara. Sweden claims that they are protected by rules governing free expression.
On May 14, Turkey will hold elections, posing Erdogan with his greatest political test in his 20 years in office. Voters’ focus may be deflected from a crisis in the cost of living by the NATO issue.
A victory by the opposition, which is not unlikely, would increase Sweden’s chances of a speedy entrance.
According to Hungary, Sweden has long harboured animosity for Budapest. It is enraged by Swedish criticism of Viktor Orban, the prime minister, for what is thought to be the weakening of the rule of law. Such erosion is denied by Orban. Hungary, unlike Turkey, does not have a list of demands, but claims that problems must be resolved before it can confirm Sweden’s NATO membership.
Sweden’s direction might be clearer after the election is over. Yet, there is no schedule and permission is not assured.
Sweden claims that the Madrid Agreement has been implemented, including harsher anti-terrorism measures, and that some of Ankara’s other demands cannot be fulfilled.
Turkey has clashed with NATO countries in the past and given ground.
Looking back at those earlier episodes, allies’ pressure, bargaining, and certain concessions all helped to find solutions. According to Paul Levin, director of the Centre for Turkish Studies at Stockholm University, the same outcome would be possible here.
A change might occur after the election, or Erdogan might require more proof from Sweden that it has taken Ankara’s security concerns seriously. In that situation, Levin added, “we’re talking about a few more months after summer.” Yet forecasting is difficult.
Sweden claims that since joining NATO, its security situation has improved. From nations like the United States, Britain, and Germany, Sweden has received guarantees of assistance.
According to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, it would be impossible for the alliance to abandon Sweden in the event of a danger.