Turkey still threatening to scotch Finland, Sweden NATO membership

NATO flag
NATO flag Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Despite last week's signed agreement, Turkey is still apparently threatening the accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO, ERR reports

A trilateral memorandum was signed on the sidelines of last week's Madrid Summit and, while not officially on the agenda, was welcomed by Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg as well as the leadership in Finland and Sweden.

However, the issues of Turkey's allegations of Finland and Sweden harboring individuals involved in terrorist cells, particularly from Kurdish groups, Ankara's extradition demands on same, and Finland and Sweden's arms sale embargo on Turkey continue to linger.

Finland in particular has been adopting a cautions, wait-and-see approach, stressing that it is a state governed by the rule of law and will not amend domestic legislation or violate international law as a result from pressure from Ankara.

On the issue of terror groups, Turkey has submitted requests for the extradition of 16 people over the past decade, but only two of these have been satisfied.

Sweden has a larger proportion of residents of Kurdish origin, and has allowed a total of 73 people be extradited to Turkey, the latter's claims – a claim which Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson has not contradicted, saying when probed on the matter that she cannot comment on agreements made behind closed doors.

Another of Turkey's demands, the end of an arms embargo Finland and Sweden placed on it in 2019 after Turkey's armed forces attacked Kurdish areas in Syria, has received less media attention so far, but nonetheless, the country was top of the list of export destinations so far as Finland was concerned just a year earlier and to a value of €40 million. In second place was the United Arabs Emirates, where arms exports from Finland totaled €22 million in value in 2018.

The greatly changed security situation in Europe since then, however, means that change is in the air in any case.

Not only at the Madrid Summit was Russia clearly stated as a threat to all 30 NATO member states, but also Finnish military personnel have seen a change on the ground during their training.

Whereas in various scenarios, a "mystery enemy", or a "yellow state" which threatened Finnish security and whose modus operandi was uncannily similar to that of the Russian Federation's military, from Monday, Russia will be referred to by name, training manager of the Finnish General Staff, Col. Kari Pietiläinen said.

While a memorandum of understanding was signed last week in Madrid – the summit ran Tuesday to Thursday – accompanied by expressions of relief, the ink was barely dry when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that unless both countries amend legislation to address the terrorism and arms embargo issues, Turkey will not ratify their NATO membership applications after all.

FInland's Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told public broadcaster Yle that the agreement signed made no reference to changing any legislation, howver.

Finland and Sweden are due to sign the NATO accession protocol on Tuesday; all 30 member states must ratify it – Estonia has pledged to do so in one day, this Wednesday, July 6, convening the on-vacation Riigikogu for two special sittings to achieve this.

The country's Minister of Justice Anna-Maja Henriksson said that lists of persons to be extradited have not been drawn up, reassuring Kurds resident in Finland that they will not be extradited and that the country will stick to a Council of Europe ruling on extradition, which excludes the action on those who have committed crimes considered to be political.

Moreover, Finland pointed to a clash of cultures in that extraditing people is nbot up to the executive, but to the judiciary – a difference not grasped in Turkey, Finnish commentators say.

The Council of Europe rules also state that countries can refuse the extradition of their own citizens; many of those on Ankara's extradition list have subsequently taken Finnish citizenship.

Regarding the arms embargo, joining NATO would resolve this issue anyway, Helsinki says – since NATO member state cannot embargo arms trades between other member states.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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