Turkish parliamentarians voted in favor of Sweden joining NATO after 20 months of negotiations and pressure from Ankara. Now only Hungary’s approval is waiting for the European country to enter the North Atlantic military alliance.
Sweden is getting closer to NATO. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, its nationalist allies, the MHP, and the main opposition party, the CHP, voted in favor of the increase, gathering 287 ‘yes’ votes, while the Islamist nationalist party and formations on the left gathered 55 ‘noes. ‘.
The parliamentary discussion took place after the president sent the Swedish accession protocol to the national Congress last October for approval.
Having been approved by the Legislative Branch, President Erdogan must promulgate the bill allowing Stockholm to be a member of the military body. The signing is expected to take place in the coming days.
“Today we are one step closer to becoming a full member of NATO,” celebrated the Prime Minister of Sweden, Ulf Kristersson, through a publication on his X profile, where he described the decision of the Congress as “positive.” Turkish.
Today we are one step closer to becoming a full member of NATO. Positive that the Grand General Assembly of Türkiye has voted in favour of Sweden’s NATO accession.
— SwedishPM (@SwedishPM) January 23, 2024
Obstacles placed by Turkey and Hungary on Sweden’s participation in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) delayed accession negotiations for more than 20 months and allowed Ankara to obtain political concessions.
Tense months of negotiations between the allies
Among the 31 member states of the largest military alliance on the planet, Turkey is one of the most reluctant to the idea of expanding its influence in the Baltic countries, mainly because of its asylum policies for political refugees and Kurdish population. living within these European countries.
After the outbreak of war in Ukraine, Finland and Sweden promoted their candidacies to become active members of NATO, thereby breaking their tradition of geopolitical neutrality.
In 2023, Finland was accepted after negotiations in Ankara, but the process in Sweden seems to have stopped after expressing its disapproval of Turkey’s demands to accept its membership.
After difficult public exchanges and long legislative processes, Stockholm finally agreed to change its legal framework, implementing regulations that make it illegal to belong to a terrorist organization. The European Union has classified members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) as terrorists.
Sweden also pledged to strengthen its cooperative relationship with Turkey in the field of intelligence and counter-terrorism operations, in addition to supporting the review of its stalled application to join the European Union.
However, external pressures and negotiations are also important in the process.
Finland, Canada, and the Netherlands have imposed arms export restrictions on Turkey in order to move negotiations with Sweden. In approving Swedish accession, the three countries are working to relax arms policies with Ankara.
The United States is also an important, convincing player for Turkey. The administration of Joe Biden negotiated the sale of F-16 military aircraft to the government of Turkey, although the final purchase was linked to the Congress in Ankara giving the green light for Sweden to join NATO.
Some US congressmen have stated that they will not support the sale if Turkey does not agree, so President Erdogan stated in October that his government will only promote sitting in Sweden if the negotiations for the F-16s progress. Although experts say the White House supports the sale, there is no set date for the US Congress to decide on the issue.
Hungary, the last obstacle to Swedish membership
Today, Hungary became the only NATO country that did not ratify Sweden’s entry into the military club. Although the ultra-conservative government, Viktor Orbán, has declared that it will not be the final decision on membership in Stockholm, the speed of the Turkish Congress seems to have led to such a fact.
Although Orbán has officially invited the Swedish Prime Minister to Budapest to reach an agreement, tensions between the two countries remain heated after some Swedish politicians criticized the state of democracy in Hungary, which members of Orbán’s party described as “an obvious way to lie.”
However, the ultra-conservative Hungarian, who has a friendly relationship with Vladimir Putin, has shown himself open to accepting Sweden as a member of NATO. It is necessary for the 31 members of the alliance to approve the arrival of a new member of the organization.