The hope of a rapid accession to NATO is dwindling for Sweden and Finland.
Published on 20.6.2022
As Sweden and Finland continue their talks on Monday with Turkey on joining NATO, hopes of a quick entry into the alliance seem to be increasingly dim.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is due to meet Turkish, Swedish and Finnish representatives in Brussels on Monday, in the hope of unblocking the file before an alliance summit in Madrid next week.
“I think it’s possible but it would be very difficult, it would require both sides to show a real willingness to make some compromise,” said Paul Levin, director of the Institute of Turkish Studies at Stockholm University, in an interview with AFP.
Before the surprise Turkish blockade last month, Stockholm and Helsinki – as well as NATO leadership in Brussels – were hoping for a quick process to join the alliance, with the expectation that the necessary unanimity of the current 30 members would be achieved. posted at the Madrid meeting.
But Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin last week acknowledged the risk of things being “frozen” if the dispute is not resolved by then.
“If we don’t settle these issues before Madrid, there is a risk that the situation will be frozen. We don’t know for how long but it could take some time,” she told a meeting of Nordic prime ministers.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called last Wednesday for “concrete measures” from the two Nordic capitals, with Ankara asking for written commitments.
Turkey accuses the two countries and mainly Sweden of supporting Kurdish groups like the PKK and the YPG which it considers terrorists.
It also demands the lifting of arms export blockades decided by the two Nordic countries after its military intervention in northern Syria in October 2019, the tightening of Swedish anti-terrorism legislation and the extradition of several individuals it regard as terrorists.
Sweden was one of the first countries to classify the PKK as a terrorist organization in the 1980s. But like many Western countries, it has expressed its support for the YPG, allies of the PKK in Syria who fought the jihadists of the Islamic State alongside the United States in particular.
Stockholm has already made a few gestures, stressing in particular that joining NATO could change the position of its arms export authority with regard to Turkey.
Sweden has also tightened its anti-terrorism legislation in recent years and a new tightening is due to come into force on July 1, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said last week.
A key MP
But with its large Kurdish community estimated at 100,000 people, “Sweden stands out (…) by being generally more favorable to the Kurdish cause”, notes Mr. Levin. “From this point of view, Turkey may be right to focus on Sweden,” points out the academic.
“There is a real conflict between Sweden’s vision on the Kurdish question and Turkish demands on Sweden,” agrees Li Bennich-Björkman, professor of political science at Uppsala University.
This dilemma manifests itself in a very visible way in the role played in recent weeks by the Swedish MP of Iranian-Kurdish origin Amineh Kakabaveh, opposed to any concession to President Erdogan.
Because of the very precarious balances in the Swedish Parliament, his voice is essential to ensure the support of the minority social-democratic government of Ms Andersson.
At present, “there is hardly anyone more powerful in Swedish politics than Kakabaveh,” said Elisabeth Braw, a specialist in Swedish defense issues at the American Enterprise Institute, to AFP.
The MP, who had already secured an agreement last November to allow the election of Ms Andersson, threatened not to support the government’s budget on Wednesday, asking for a clear promise of an arms export embargo to Turkey .
But the role of this deputy, who does not sit in any parliamentary group, should diminish with the holidays of Parliament between now and the elections of September 11, and her very probable non-re-election.
“But we lose more than three months,” says Ms. Braw.