Sweden fulfills all the requirements for NATO membership, and that is inapplicable to Turkey’s stalled European Union (EU) accession process, said German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Monday in response to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s linking of the two matters. He stated that the two aspects are unrelated and should not be seen as such.
The European Commission also quickly rejected unexpected condition, which had not been raised publicly before, asserting that Sweden’s NATO membership and Turkey’s EU accession are separate processes that do not influence each other.
The Commission emphasised that the EU has a structured enlargement process with distinct steps for candidate countries and that linking the two processes is not acceptable.
Brussels is cautious about depicting NATO and the EU as overlapping or complementary organisations, especially considering that some EU countries advocate for neutrality.
Turkey became an EU candidate country in 1999. Formal negotiations with the EU began in 2005 but stalled due to concerns over democratic backsliding, the rule of law, and the independence of the judiciary following the 2016 coup attempt.
Erdoğan has called on Brussels to clear the path for the country’s accession to the EU in exchange for ratification of Sweden’s NATO bid during a press conference on Monday, before departing for the NATO summit on 10-12 July in Lithuania.
While Erdoğan raised his fresh demand, indicating a shift in Turkey’s NATO stance, the Turkish president barely mentioned the dispute with Sweden on Monday. He expressed the desire for promises made to Turkey to be kept, without providing further details.
Erdoğan had been blocking Sweden’s accession due to perceived inaction against Kurdish groups that he considers a national threat. However, Sweden has already strengthened its anti-terrorism laws and lifted the arms embargo imposed on Turkey after its incursion into northern Syria in 2019.
Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg clarified that Turkey’s EU membership was not among the conditions established by officials from Turkey, Sweden, and Finland at the previous NATO summit in Madrid, as Erdoğan presented a new agenda and fresh demands to NATO countries shortly before the summit.