Turkey's delaying tactics to stop Sweden's entry into NATO yesterday overwhelmed the patience of its allies, who made it clearer than ever that they were fed up with the situation and increased the pressure to finish the ratification procedures "as soon as possible" in a message also addressed to Hungary, the other country that has yet to complete the process, which was reminded of its promise that it would not be “the last” allied country to take the step.
In view of the lack of results from the strategy of moderation practiced until now to avoid straining the relationship with Ankara, which has achieved important concessions from Stockholm in terms of the fight against terrorism, position on the Kurdish issue and arms sales, the tone of the allied foreign ministers, meeting yesterday in Brussels, was more pressing than ever. Ratification must occur “as quickly as possible,” demanded the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, to his Turkish counterpart, Hakan Fidan, during a bilateral meeting, in which they also addressed the possible purchase of F-16 aircraft.
“The strength and credibility of our Alliance are at stake. We cannot lose another day,” French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna claimed in statements to the press, asking Turkey and Hungary to ratify Swedish accession “without delay.” “It should have happened a long time ago,” said the head of German diplomacy, Annalena Baerbock. “We are very disappointed,” said Finnish Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen bluntly, stressing that Swedish accession is “crucial for the Alliance as a whole.”
In a historic turn of its foreign policy, under the shadow of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Finland requested in May 2022 to join the military organization. It did so hand in hand with Sweden, and the objective of their respective governments, as well as NATO itself, was for them to join at the same time, as was reiterated at the Madrid summit in June of that year. Turkey did not allow it and retained the Swedish candidacy, a situation that finally led the Finnish Government to advance on its own. Its accession, which brought the number of Alliance partner countries to 31, was formalized last April.
At the allied summit held in July in Vilnius, after making new commitments from Sweden in terms of anti-terrorist cooperation, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan committed to unblocking the Nordic country's accession. However, it was not until October when he reactivated the procedures, but the expectation was that the Turkish parliament would finish them in time for yesterday's meeting. The matter, however, has remained stranded in the Foreign Committee of the Turkish Lower House without any explanation, although the statements of a Turkish far-right leader advocating closing all mosques in Sweden gave rise to Ankara to notify its allies that, in effect, was not going to ratify accession in time for the last meeting of allied ministers of the year.
The Hungarian Government, in the hands of the ultra-conservative Viktor Orbán, has joined the bandwagon of the Turkish blockade and its parliament, controlled by Fidesz, continues not to ratify Sweden's accession despite pressure from its partners in NATO and the EU. Budapest and Ankara have joined forces in recent months in their criticism of Sweden's alleged "denigrating" treatment of their respective countries.
Orbán has accused the Swedish government of telling “blatant lies” about the quality of democracy in Hungary and demands “respect” for his country. In his opinion, there is no rush, because “nothing endangers Sweden's security,” Orbán said in September. President Erdogan will make an official visit to Budapest on December 18, the second so far this year, to meet with Orbán and celebrate the centenary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between his countries.
The next unofficial deadline that NATO has set is for ratification to occur before Christmas. “The process is moving forward, but it is no secret that I would like it to go faster,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, laconically, after the Swedish flag was left in a drawer again yesterday and the Swedish Foreign Minister could only participate in the event as a guest.