Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced on Monday, 10 July in Istanbul that his country would approve Sweden’s NATO membership if the European Union resumes accession negotiations with Turkey.
Erdoğan spoke about the issue of Sweden’s NATO membership during a press conference held at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport before travelling to the alliance’s summit in Vilnius, Lithuania. The President stated, ‘First, come and pave the way for Turkey’s accession to the European Union, and then we, just as we opened the way for Finland, shall open the way for Sweden as well.’ Erdoğan reminded all
that Turkey has been waiting at the gates of the European Union for over 50 years, while almost all European NATO member countries are members of the EU.
The Turkish Parliament ratified Finland’s NATO accession, which was also previously obstructed, at the end of March. Turkey entered into a customs union with the European Union in 1995, and became an official candidate for membership in 1999. Negotiations for full accession began in 2005, but the process has come to a standstill in recent years.
In December 2016, the European Council decided not to open further accession chapters with Ankara due to the scale of purges following the attempted coup in Turkey on 15 July 2016. Out of the 35 chapters to be discussed, only one has been closed so far. In addition to the issue of Turkey’s EU accession, Erdoğan also emphasised that the progress of Sweden’s NATO membership depends on whether the commitments outlined in last year’s Turkish-Swedish-Finnish agreement are fulfilled.
Regarding Sweden’s NATO membership, Ankara has previously stated that it will not support the country’s inclusion until Stockholm takes a stronger stance against terrorism, particularly against members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) living there. Turkey also demands the extradition of numerous PKK members. According to the Turkish standpoint, Sweden tolerates PKK members who are part of registered terrorist organisations in both Turkey and the European Union.
Last week, a supporter of the PKK was sentenced to prison for the first time in the Nordic country, although the court claimed that the verdict had no connection to Sweden’s NATO accession. Since 1984, the PKK has been waging an armed insurgency in south-astern Turkey for the independence of the local Kurdish minority, resulting in the loss of tens of thousands of lives in the decades-long conflict.
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is also travelling to Vilnius for the NATO summit
on Tuesday morning, according to Bertalan Havasi, The Hungarian delegation participating in the NATO summit in the Lithuanian capital includes Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó, as well as Minister of Defence Kristóf Szalay-Bobrovniczky.
The Press Chief added that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is expected to hold bilateral talks in Vilnius as well.