No breakthrough on Sweden NATO membership expected at Vilnius summit

Street in Vilnius' Old Town.
Street in Vilnius' Old Town. Source: ERR

A breakthrough on ratification of Sweden's application to join NATO is unlikely at this week's Vilnius summit, though not inconceivable either, ETV news show 'Aktuaalne kaamera' (AK) reported Sunday.

While much attention will focus on a potential roadmap for Ukrainian NATO membership, the standoff over Sweden joining, resulting primarily from Turkish opposition, has continued to persist, AK reported.

Holger Mölder, associate professor of international relations at the Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech) told AK that: "[Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan must present himself as a winner, come what may. Regardless of how he presents things, the outcome cannot leave the impression that he caved."

Ankara's main beef with Swedish NATO membership has been reported as the harboring of members of terrorist cells, including from Kurdish groups. While Erdogan was engaged in election campaigning up to May, he was returned as president, but the removal of this chip from the table has not yet led to any major, apparent sea change on Turkey's stance on the matter.

Mölder did however put Sweden's chances of ratification to join NATO during this week's summit at 50:50.

This is exacerbated by the fact that Hungary is also holding out against Swedish accession, for reasons somewhat vaguer than Turkey's, but thought to be due to criticism leveled from Stockholm towards the workings of democracy in Hungary.

In any case, both countries' legislatures have yet to ratify the Sweden NATO accession decision, a year after Estonia did so.

The Turkish-Swedish conversation has been going on for a year and is progressing at baby steps – Sweden has toughened up its anti-terrorist legislation and applied it practically in a court case this summer – but, AK reported, this still may not be enough for a green light for Stockholm this week.

Another Quran-burning incident late last month – an act which a Swedish court has overturned a police ban on – and an extant list of alleged terrorists Ankara wishes to extradite, are among the obstacles.

The NATO Vilnius Summit runs Tuesday, July 11-Wednesday, July 12.

Sweden and Finland both applied to join NATO on the same day in May 2022 and, while Finland's membership became a reality in early April this year, Sweden's has not as yet.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Barbara Oja

Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera', reporter Vahur Lauri.

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