Sweden's NATO Membership Delayed by Turkey and Hungary's Objections

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On Tuesday, Finland was officially welcomed into NATO after the 30-member alliance ratified its application in record time. However, Turkey, which initially objected to the application, has still not ratified Sweden’s application to join the alliance. Analysts predict that Turkey may wait until after its May 14th election to reconsider Sweden’s application. Turkey has claimed that Stockholm has not taken Ankara’s security concerns seriously and has not met the conditions outlined in the Madrid agreement, which is necessary for ratification. Hungary has followed Turkey’s lead in delaying ratification. Although there is no definitive timeline for Sweden’s ratification, an opposition win in Turkey’s election could boost Sweden’s chances of quick accession.

Sweden and Finland decided to pursue NATO membership after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Both countries believe that NATO, with its collective defense clause, is the best way to ensure their security. The majority of NATO members have quickly ratified the two countries’ applications, arguing that Sweden and Finland would strengthen the alliance in the Baltic. Turkey initially objected to Sweden’s application, citing concerns about human rights abuses and over democratic standards, and has demanded the extradition of individuals Ankara considers terrorists, which Stockholm has refused. Turkey has also claimed that Stockholm harbors members of what it considers terrorist groups - a charge Sweden denies.

Turkey’s objections to Sweden’s NATO membership have raised questions about Sweden’s security. However, Sweden has received assurances of support from countries such as the United States, Britain, and Germany, and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said that it would be inconceivable for the alliance not to support Sweden if it were threatened. Although Sweden’s security position is better now than prior to its application to NATO, Sweden’s path to membership remains blocked by Turkey and Hungary. Integration measures between Sweden and NATO are still moving forward, and Sweden’s strong air force and submarine fleet tailored to Baltic Sea conditions have provided a significant boost for NATO in the region.

Despite Sweden’s implementation of the Madrid agreement, which includes tougher anti-terrorism laws, Turkey and Hungary have yet to ratify Sweden’s NATO membership. The delays have been attributed to Turkey’s May 14th election and Hungary’s grievances about Swedish criticism of Prime Minister Viktor Orban over the perceived erosion of the rule of law. There is no definite timeline for ratification, but analysts predict that a shift could come after Turkey’s election, or Erdogan may want to see further evidence from Sweden that it has listened to Ankara’s security concerns. Ultimately, the delay in ratifying Sweden’s NATO membership has caused concern, but Sweden has received assurances of support from other NATO countries, and its integration measures with the alliance are still moving forward.

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