1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Turkey holds off on Finland and Sweden in NATO

November 3, 2022

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has made clear that Turkey is fine with letting Sweden and Finland wait to join NATO. Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says the candidate countries have met all the conditions.

Pekka Haavisto, Jens Stoltenberg and Swedish Foreign Minister Anne Linde
Sweden and Finland had hoped for rapid membership when the process began in July Image: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu poured cold water over Sweden and Finland’s aspirations to rapidly join NATO on Thursday, saying that, despite some progress, the countries had not met all the conditions of the three-way deal struck to allow them to enter the military alliance

"Both countries are expressing that they are committed to the memorandum, but what matters is the execution," Cavusoglu said at a press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Istanbul, according to a translation by Turkish broadcaster TRT.  

Finland and Sweden applied to join NATOin May, in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but has faced opposition from Ankara, which accused the countries of supporting "terrorism" by harboring Kurdish militants wanted by the Turkish state

The three countries struck a deal in June in which the Nordic states pledged to "address Turkey's pending deportation or extradition requests of terror suspects expeditiously" and lift an alleged arms embargo on Ankara. The agreement cleared the only major obstacle for the countries to join the military alliance. Unanimous consent from the 30 NATO members is necessary.  

Cavusoglu said the countries had made positive steps, such as with export rules. "But, he added, "right now we cannot say that all those commitments have been lived up [to] by those countries."

Jens Stoltenberg stands at microphones, the NATO flag behind him
Stoltenberg says he believes that Sweden and Finland are ready to joinImage: Cem Ozdel/AA/picture alliance

Stoltenberg: 'It's time' 

Stoltenberg, who met with leaders from Sweden and Finland in recent days, said the countries were doing their bit to implement the joint memorandum. Sweden is in the process of banning membership in terrorist organizations, which will help with the number of people who can be extradited, he noted. 

"Sweden and Finland have delivered," Stoltenberg said. "It is time to welcome Finland and Sweden as full members of NATO," he said. 

 Having the two already close partners join NATO's ranks was crucial "to prevent any misunderstanding or miscalculation in Moscow" and to send a clear sign that the alliances door remains open, Stoltenberg stressed. 

Timeline remains unclear 

The deal was hailed as a breakthrough when it was signed at the Madrid NATO summit. But shortly after, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to freeze the application process due to alleged foot-dragging on extraditions. 

Months on, only Turkey and Hungary have yet to ratify the accessions, though Budapest is expected to do so soon. Finnish President Sauli Niinisto expressed confidence in a tweet on Wednesday that "Finland can count on Hungary" for ratification after talks with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.  

As Cavusoglu implied on Thursday, Turkey’s complaints mainly relate to Sweden, which has a sizable Kurdish diaspora population and a reputation for a generous stance toward political exiles and refugees.  

The Swedish government recently switched hands, lurching to the right. Cavusoglu expressed optimism that the change in government would help.  

Both NATO bids are tied together, so Helsinki must wait for Stockholm. 

Stoltenberg is also set to meet Erdogan on Friday in Istanbul during his visit to Turkey.   

Of particular interest to Ankara are Turkish residents with alleged links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which launched an insurgency against the Turkish state in the 1980s and demands equal rights for the minority group. The conflict has claimed some 40,000 lives. Turkey, the United States and the EU designate the PKK a terrorist organization. 

Turkish doctors under assault