Sweden moves closer to joining NATO after Turkish committee approves bid

The Turkish parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday approved Sweden’s bid to join NATO, moving the Nordic country a step closer to joining the 31-member military alliance. 

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Sweden’s bid will now need to go to the Turkish parliament’s general assembly for a final vote to win Turkey’s assent. No date has yet been set for the vote.

Sweden and neighboring Finland, both traditionally non-aligned, first sought admission to NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. 

The alliance requires all members to approve new applications, and while the other members were agreeable to the Nordic countries joining, Turkey and Hungary both resisted.

Earlier this year, they both agreed to Finland’s bid, and in April it became NATO’s newest member.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson speaks to the press after his meeting with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, on the eve of a NATO summit, in Vilnius, Lithuania July 10, 2023. (credit: YVES HERMAN/REUTERS)

However, both continued to delay Sweden’s bid, with hardline Hungary claiming that Swedish politicians have been telling “blatant lies” about the state of Hungary’s democracy. Hungary has not said when and if it might ratify Sweden’s bid.

Why was Sweden’s bid delayed?

Earlier this year, Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling party said that some issues still needed clarification and that negotiations with Sweden had not “matured” enough.

The White House has reportedly agreed to Turkey’s demand, and Sweden communicated that it would no longer give refuge to members of the PKK, the separatist Kurdish Workers Party. In October, Erdoğan agree to Sweden’s bid turned the issue over to the parliament. 

Following Tuesday’s vote, Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom welcomed the decision, posting on X (formerly Twitter): “We welcome the approval of Sweden’s NATO membership application in the Foreign Affairs Committee in Turkey. The next step will be for Parliament to vote on this matter. We eagerly look forward to becoming a NATO member.” 

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