The Secretary General hopes that now that the elections in Turkey are over, Sweden will obtain the remaining ratifications

Jens Stoltenberg continues to push for Swedish NATO membership

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photo_camera AFP/JOHANNA GERON - NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced on Thursday that he would soon travel to Turkey to discuss Sweden's NATO membership, in a bid to close a process that has been delayed by objections from member states Hungary and Turkey. 

Why did Sweden decide to apply for membership? 

The government believes that NATO membership is the best way for Sweden to protect its security. The decision was made in light of the fundamental change in the security situation following Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine. 

What does Hungary and Turkey's refusal to ratify imply? 

Until all NATO countries have ratified the membership application, Sweden has the status of a guest country. It cannot vote or participate in talks on nuclear threats. 

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PHOTO/FILE - President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey

As Reuters reports, an informal meeting of Foreign Ministers was held in Oslo from 31 May to 1 June 2023.  In his speech, Stoltenberg announced that he had spoken earlier this week with Tayyip Erdogan, re-elected president of Turkey on Sunday.

"I will also travel to Ankara in the near future to further discuss how we can ensure the fastest possible accession of Sweden," Stoltenberg told reporters.

Some NATO Foreign Ministers were optimistic that Ankara will finally lift its objections to Stockholm's bid to join the military alliance.

"Now that the Turkish elections are over, it is important for Turkey to go ahead with the ratification process," said Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto. 

Why doesn't Turkey ratify Sweden? 

Sweden has criticised Turkey for its human rights violations and democratic standards, which has angered politicians in Ankara. 

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PHOTO/FILE 鈥 NATO

Turkey claims that Stockholm harbours members of what it considers terrorist groups and has demanded their extradition as a prelude to Sweden's ratification of membership. 

Why does Hungary not ratify Sweden? 

Hungary considers that Sweden has had a hostile attitude towards Budapest for years. The country is upset because of Swedish criticism of Prime Minister Viktor Orban for allegedly eroding the rule of law, which Orban denies. Unlike Turkey, Hungary does not have a list of demands, but says grievances need to be addressed before it can ratify Sweden's NATO membership. 

As for the prospects for the future, Stoltenberg said at the end of the meeting that, now that the Turkish elections have been held, "it is important to resume the dialogue and the process", and noted that Sweden had implemented new terrorism legislation on Thursday, addressing a key Turkish concern.

"Sweden has delivered," Stoltenberg said. "The time has come to ratify Sweden and I am working hard to make it happen as soon as possible."

Several Foreign Ministers expressed confidence that Sweden could become a member before or during the NATO summit to be held in July in Vilnius, Lithuania. 

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AP/OLIVIER MATTHYS - NATO Headquarters in Brussels

"We continue to work to complete Sweden's accession process (...) and fully anticipate doing so by the time leaders meet in Vilnius," said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Lithuania, which will host the summit, was equally optimistic. "There are high expectations that the Swedish flag will be raised," said its Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis.

Sweden again insisted that it has fulfilled all the conditions set for membership of the military alliance.

"We have fulfilled all our commitments," Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom told reporters. "It is time for Turkey and Hungary to start ratifying Sweden's NATO membership". 

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