STOCKHOLM — Sweden will continue its efforts to convince Turkey to cancel the accession of the largest Scandinavian country to NATO after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan opened the door to Finland’s accession.
Erdogan’s decision on Friday to instruct parliament to ratify Finland’s application dashed the Nordic countries’ hopes of a parallel accession process. Hungary’s announcement that it also intends to treat the bids separately casts further doubt on Sweden’s accession timetable.
Speaking to reporters in Stockholm, Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said his government has done its part to fulfill an agreement with Turkey that the two Nordic countries signed in June last year, adding that they deal will continue to fulfil.
“Sweden has done what it promised to do when signing the trilateral memorandum,” said Billstrom. “We do not intend to do more or less than we have committed to.”
The June agreement, which paved the way for Sweden and Finland’s invitation to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, included commitments by the Nordic countries to avoid arms embargoes against Turkey and to do more to fight terrorism. Since then, however, relations between Ankara and Stockholm have deteriorated, with Turkey accusing Sweden of not doing enough to crack down on groups it labels as terrorists.
Talks came to a halt earlier this year after an effigy of Erdogan was hoisted upside down from a lamppost in Stockholm and a Danish-Swedish far-right activist burned a Koran outside the Turkish embassy.
While Sweden has since moved to introduce tougher anti-terror legislation – after years of preparation – and has prevented attempts at Quran burning on at least two occasions, Erdogan continued to link Sweden’s ratification to “concrete steps” by the country.
At a press conference in Ankara earlier Friday, the Turkish president also reiterated his demand for Sweden to extradite people Turkey calls terrorists.
“Sweden has opened its arms to terrorists,” Erdogan said. “We gave them a list of about 120 terrorists and asked them to send them to Turkiye.”
Sweden’s Supreme Court, which decides on extradition requests, has rejected several appeals from Turkey on various grounds, including the risk of prosecution.
In December, the court blocked the extradition of Bulent Kenes, a former editor-in-chief of the opposition newspaper Today’s Zaman, who Turkey says has ties to the Gülenist movement and is believed to have orchestrated a 2016 coup attempt. Nevertheless, Sweden has at least once extradited a person wanted by Turkey.
Billstrom said Turkey can expect decisions on extradition requests “to be both positive and negative, given that Sweden has an independent judiciary that deals with these issues without any government intervention.”
Being denied entry after brushing aside 200 years of a policy of staying out of military alliances is disappointing for Sweden, even though Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson had tried to prepare his country for the eventuality.
“Not ratifying at the same time as Finland is not good for Sweden,” Magdalena Andersson, head of the Social Democratic opposition and prime minister at the time of the NATO application, told reporters. “It is also not good for NATO, both because it is detrimental to NATO’s open-door policy, but also because it makes it more difficult for NATO to defend Finland.”
Finnish President Sauli Niinisto vowed to continue his efforts to aid Sweden’s accession, telling reporters Friday that “Finland’s NATO membership is not complete without Sweden.”
In an interview on YLE TV1 on Saturday, Niinisto said his country’s interests require Sweden’s NATO membership, adding that it would enhance Finnish security.