NATO: hopes of rapid membership for Sweden and Finland are fading

As Sweden and Finland continue talks with Turkey over their NATO membership on Monday, hopes of quick accession to the alliance seem ever more distant due to the deadlock on the Kurdish file.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is due to meet representatives of Turkey, Sweden and Finland in Brussels on Monday in hopes of resolving the situation ahead of the alliance’s summit in Madrid next week.

Before the surprise Turkish blockade last month, Stockholm and Helsinki – like the NATO leadership in Brussels – had hoped for a speedy process of joining the alliance, with the expectation that the necessary unanimity would be achieved by the current 30 members at the meeting in Madrid.

“We are prepared that this will take some time,” Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde told the Swedish press on Monday from Luxembourg.

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin last week admitted there was a risk that things would “freeze” if the dispute was not settled quickly.

However, Germany minimized the consequences of a delay “of a few weeks” on Monday, believing there would be no “insurmountable difficulties” in lifting the blockade.

“Given the historical dimension” of Sweden’s and Finland’s candidatures, “it would not be a disaster if we took a few more weeks” to reach a compromise, a federal government source said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for “concrete measures” from the two Nordic capitals last Wednesday, and Ankara asked for written commitments.

Turkey accuses the two countries – most notably Sweden – of supporting Kurdish groups like the PKK and the YPG, which it considers “terrorists”.

She is also calling for the lifting of the arms export blockades decided by the two Nordic countries after Turkey’s military intervention in northern Syria in October 2019, the tightening of Sweden’s anti-terrorist legislation and the extradition of several people she calls “terrorists”.

For Paul Levin, director of the Institute of Turkology at Stockholm University, a release in the coming days is “possible but very difficult”. “It would require both sides to show a real willingness to make some compromises,” he told AFP.

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 support for the YPG, allies of the PKK in Syria, which fought the state group’s jihadists alongside Islam the United States in particular.

Stockholm has already made some gestures, notably stressing that joining NATO could change the position of its arms exports agency towards Turkey.

An important MP

Sweden has also tightened its anti-terrorist legislation in recent years and a new tightening is scheduled to come into effect on January 1stah July, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said last week.

“There is a real conflict between Sweden’s vision on the Kurdish question and Turkey’s demands on Sweden,” said Li Bennich-Björkman, professor of political science at Uppsala University.

This dilemma is manifested in a very visible way in the role played by Swedish MP Amineh Kakabaveh, of Iranian-Kurdish origin, in recent weeks against any concession to President Erdogan.

Due to the very precarious record in the Swedish parliament, his vote is essential to ensure support for Magdalena Andersson’s minority social democratic government.

The MP, who had already reached an agreement last November to elect Mme Andersson on Wednesday threatened not to support the government budget and called for a clear promise of an arms export embargo on Turkey.

But that MP’s role was to dwindle with the parliamentary recess leading up to the 9/11 elections. Since leaving the Left Party, she has been outside a parliamentary group and has little chance of re-election.

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