Turkey lifts hold on Sweden, Finland joining NATO, following wide-ranging concessions


Representatives from Turkey, Sweden and Finland announce the signing of an agreement ahead of NATO’s Madrid summit. (NATO)

WASHINGTON: Turkey has removed its hold on Finland and Sweden beginning their accession to NATO, paving the way for the two Nordic nations to be formally invited to join the alliance during this week’s summit in Madrid.

However, Turkey’s move does not mean Sweden and Finland are guaranteed NATO membership, or even Turkey’s support when it comes to a final vote. Instead, today’s announcement means that Turkey will not stand in the way of the two Nordic nations beginning the formal process to join the alliance.

The two officially submitted their membership applications on May 18. Turkey, in turn, quickly announced it would not support the process getting underway, due to what it perceived as Sweden and Finland’s support for the YPG, a Kurdish group designated as a terrorist organization due to attacks on Turkey.

RELATED: Norway’s chief of defense: Finland, Sweden in NATO ‘opens up a lot of possibilities’

“Over the past weeks, Türkiye has raised its concerns over the threat of terrorism. Finland has constantly taken these concerns seriously,” Sauli Niinistö, Finland’s president, said in a statement. “Finland condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. As a NATO member, Finland will commit fully to the counterterrorism documents and policies of NATO.

“As a result of that meeting, our foreign ministers signed a trilateral memorandum which confirms that Türkiye will at the Madrid Summit this week support the invitation of Finland and Sweden to become members of NATO. The concrete steps of our accession to NATO will be agreed by the NATO Allies during the next two days, but that decision is now imminent.”

“I strongly welcome the signing of this trilateral memorandum, and I strongly welcome the constructive approach all three countries have shown during the negotiations,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement. “Finnish and Swedish membership of NATO is good for Finland and Sweden, it is good for NATO, and it is good for European security.”

Among the concessions from the Nordic nations, outlined in that agreement:

  • Sweden is lifting its arms blockade of Turkey, and both Nordic countries will conduct future arms export laws “in line with alliance solidarity”
  • The two state that they “will not provides support to YPG/PYD,” and state that they “unambiguously condemn all terrorist organizations perpetuating attacks” against Turkey
  • The two also “confirm that the PKK is a proscribed terrorist organization,” with the three countries agreeing to “step up” cooperation against these “terrorist groups.”
  • The three countries are setting up a cooperation mechanism “at all levels of government” on counter-terrorism and organized crime
  • Sweden and Finland “will address Turkeys pending deportation or extradition requests of terror suspects expeditiously and thoroughly”  – a phrasing that notably does not pledge that deportations will begin as soon as Turkey requests.

A last point is likely to fly under the radar but is particularly notable for defense industry watchers: that Finland and Sweden will commit “To support the fullest possible involvement of Turkey and other non-EU allies in the existing and prospective initiatives of the European Union ‘s Common Security and Defense Policy, including Turkeys participation in the PESCO Project on Military Mobility.”

The ability of non-EU nations to take part in defense industrial projects — particularly those under the PESCO umbrella, where countries pool resources to develop new military capabilities — has been a point of contention from nations outside the EU umbrella, including both the US and Turkey. Getting two EU members to agree to back non-EU nations taking part could pay dividends down the road for the defense firms of outside nations.

“Today’s agreement from Turkey on advancing the NATO membership process for Finland and Sweden is a valuable victory for Finnish and Swedish diplomacy, in addition to the important contributions of Secretary General Stoltenberg and the Biden administration,” said Jorge Benitez of the Atlantic Council.

However, he offered a note of caution for anyone celebrating today’s announcement.

“Just as Turkey surprised Finland, Sweden, and NATO allies by impeding the official invitation to join the Alliance, we should not be surprised if Turkey continues asking for concessions during the remainder of the NATO membership process,” he said.


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