Turkish President Recep Erdogan has set a new condition for Sweden’s NATO membership: he demanded “opening the way to the EU for Turkey”.
Erdogan voiced his condition just hours before the NATO summit in Vilnius. He promised to voice the same position at a meeting with Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
“I appeal to those countries that have made Turkey wait in front of the door to the EU for more than 50 years. First open the way for Turkey to the EU and then we will open the way for Sweden to NATO, as we have already done for Finland”, the Turkish president said before departing for Vilnius (quoted by Reuters).
Erdogan did not specify what exactly he meant by “open the way” to the EU.
European Commission spokeswoman Dana Spinant said two different processes should not be linked: the accession of Sweden to NATO and Turkey to the EU. “The EU has a very structured enlargement process and there is a very clear set of steps,” she told reporters in Brussels, Bloomberg reported.
Erdogan has previously demanded that Swedish authorities hand over to Ankara members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, a group that Turkey, the EU and the U.S. consider terrorist. As part of a deal struck last year, Stockholm agreed to lift a ban on arms sales to Turkey and amend anti-terrorism laws. Last week, a court in Stockholm found a Turkish national guilty of attempted extortion on behalf of the PKK, sentenced him to four and a half years in prison and ordered his expulsion after serving his sentence.
Turkey has sought to join the EU since the 1980s. Official talks, started back in 2005, but have long been deadlocked. The reasons for the disagreement are human rights in Turkey, the independence of the judiciary and Ankara’s exploration of energy resources in the disputed waters around Cyprus.
Sweden applied to join NATO last year along with Finland after Russia invaded Ukraine. Due to difficulties in reaching an agreement between Ankara and Stockholm, Finland joined the bloc independently and became a full member in April this year.