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What To Know About Sweden’s Road To NATO

Parliament of Türkiye Backs Sweden's NATO Membership, Leaving Hungary the Only Country Left to Ratify the Nordic Country’s Application.

By: Emily Reid

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Sweden applied to join NATO, discontinuing its traditional neutrality. However, Türkiye had withheld its approval, along with Hungary. After 20 months of delays, Türkiye’s parliament approved Sweden's NATO membership bid on Tuesday 23rd January 2024, following more than four hours of debate. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party, Nationalist Movement Party allies, and the main opposition Republican People’s Party voted 287-55 in favour of the bid in the general assembly.

NATO’s Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, welcomed the Turkish parliament's decision and called Hungary to do the same. Earlier on Tuesday, the Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, hinted at progress by inviting Swedish Prime Minister, Ulf Kristersson, to visit for negotiations regarding Hungarian support for Sweden.

Kristersson reacted promptly to the news: “Today we are one step closer to becoming a full member of NATO. Positive that the Grand General Assembly of Türkiye has voted in favour of Sweden’s NATO accession.”

Türkiye and Hungary originally raised objections to Sweden’s application, consequently delaying Sweden’s acceptance into NATO. This is due to NATO’s requirement for unanimous votes from their members. The postponement in Sweden’s accession to NATO has lasted nearly two years, a result of Türkiye accusing Sweden of being too lenient towards groups that they regard as security threats and having been seeking concessions from Stockholm.

Image by: Clker-Free-Vector-Images, Pixabay

Türkiye had also been angered by a series of demonstrations by supporters of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, as well as Quran-burning protests in Sweden that angered Muslim communities. Ankara, the capital of Türkiye, pressed Stockholm to toughen its stance on members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party based in Sweden, whom the US, the EU and Türkiye deem a terrorist group. From an international standpoint, Western allies had been frustrated by these delays in Sweden’s application, thus the news of their acceptance was gladly received.

Following the decision, the National Security Adviser for the United States, Jake Sullivan, posted on X, formally Twitter: "This has been an important priority for POTUS (President Joe Biden). Sweden is a strong, capable defence partner whose membership in NATO will make the US and the Alliance safer and stronger."  Sweden has already started the NATO integration process and signed a deal with the US, giving full access to 17 of Sweden’s military bases.

Sweden’s NATO membership will be significant for the Nordic country. For NATO, this will provide enhancement of the military alliance's defences in the Baltic Sea region facing Russia. These events represent a big step forward in Sweden’s path to NATO membership.


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