Expert: Finland, Sweden NATO accession not likely till next summer

NATO. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Finnish and Swedish accession to NATO is likely not to happen this year, due primarily to Turkey, which holds elections next June, not being ready to ratify their application.

The accession may not take place until next summer, at least a year after both countries formally applied for membership, ERR's Europe correspondent Joosep Varik reports.

Turkey's President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, reiterated this week comments he made in early summer, to the effect that Sweden in particular is a safe-haven for terrorists, including from Kurdish groups.

Domestic elections are also a factor, ERR reports.

Amanda Paul, an analyst think tank at the European Policy Center (EPC) who specializes in Turkey, said the Turkish parliament was not expected to make a decision before next summer, by which time, both presidential and parliamentary elections should have taken place there.

Paul said: "This is significant for Turkey, because the Kurdish Workers' Party is internationally recognized as a terrorist organization, both by the EU and the US. This will be of key importance in Erdogan's election program in next year's Turkish elections. As a result, he does not intend to retreat from his current positions in the near future."

While the entire alliance is otherwise strongly behind both countries joining NATO, there are not too many options for pressuring Ankara, Paul went on.

She said: "How could they tell Ankara to quit this nonsense, sign the agreement and ratify the applications. If the US were in the same situation - and we know their attitude towards terrorism - they would take the same attitude. They would expect the extradition of terrorists who had planted the bombs on their soil."

Ratification processes for new NATO members vary from member state to member state, for instance whether conducted at legislature or executive level, but there must be unanimity.

While Hungary is another member state which has been hesitant on the Finnish and Swedish applications, by next summer these issues should have been resolved, Hungary's high-profile justice minister, Judit Varga, says.

The minister said: "This is on the agenda at the Hungarian parliament. Naturally, we will confirm their accession to NATO. This is just a matter of timing. Believe me, Hungary completely agrees with, and supports, the accession."

Viktor Orban's Hungary has been seen as less ready on the issue, in the context of Russian aggression in Ukraine, possibly also due to perceptions of the treatment of Hungarian minorities in the far west of Ukraine.

The only other hold-out, Slovakia, is likely to ratify Finland and Sweden's accession next week.

Both Finland and Sweden formally applied to join NATO in May, following weeks of speculation on their position in the aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, starting February 24.

The NATO Madrid Summit held at the end of June saw Turkey ostensibly back down on the issue, while Estonia ratified Finland and Sweden's applications less than a week later.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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