Erdogan’s intentions to again block Finland and Sweden from joining NATO weighed

“The Turkish leader has the potential to scare the Swedes and Finns by suspending this process”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan once again said that his country will not ratify the admission of Finland and Sweden to the North Atlantic Alliance if they do not fulfill the obligations previously agreed upon at the NATO summit. In the meantime, Helsinki emphasized that they would not agree to change the legislation, and that they could extradite the persons requested by Ankara only if there were good reasons. The expert said whether the Turkish leader will again block the possibility of Finns and Swedes joining the bloc.

Photo: AP

Erdogan reported that the Swedish authorities promised to extradite to Turkey 73 members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), recognized by the Turkish authorities as a terrorist organization.

“Sweden has given its word on the extradition of terrorists, there are about 73 of them,” the head of state said during a press conference following the NATO summit in Madrid. “We were given guarantees.” However, earlier it was about 33 Kurds who are accused in Turkey of terrorist activities.

The Turkish leader also added that Ankara will monitor whether Stockholm will fulfill its promise. According to him, if the Swedes and Finns refuse to comply with the agreements, the Turkish Parliament will not consider approving their application to join the North Atlantic Alliance.

Moreover, Erdogan said that Finland and Sweden need to amend their legislation on terrorism. The politician referred to the Memorandum of Understanding between the three countries adopted at the beginning of the week.

This agreement provides for the cooperation of states against the PKK, showing solidarity with Ankara in the fight against all forms of terrorism, cooperation in the field of information exchange in the fight against organized crime and terrorism, as well as the refusal to support the movements accused of attempting a coup in 2016.

In turn, the Finnish Minister of Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto notified that Suomi would not agree to change the law. “If the condition for Turkey's ratification of Finland's membership in NATO is a change in our legislation, Finland is unlikely to make such concessions,” the head of the Finnish foreign policy broadcaster Yle assured. The politician pointed out that the Memorandum does not talk about changes in the law or anything like that.

“We did not take on such obligations,” Haavisto insists. Everything that was agreed upon was written down on paper. Different points of view can be expressed, but there can be no agreement on anything other than what is stated in the text of the document.”

In addition, the Finnish Foreign Minister noted that the country could give in to Turkey’s demands for the extradition of persons , whom she considers terrorists only “if there are very good reasons.”

How, then, can Turkey build obstacles for the Swedes and Finns, if they show obstinacy and do not comply with Ankara's demands? Actually, Erdogan himself stated this following the results of the Madrid summit. According to Erdogan, the implementation of the 10-point agreement by the two countries will depend on whether he sends their application for NATO membership to the Turkish parliament for ratification. Under the procedure, countries seeking to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization must obtain approval of their membership applications from all member states of the bloc and go through the process of ratification by their respective national parliaments. So, theoretically, the Turkish president can arrange lengthy delays in this direction if he is dissatisfied with the actions of NATO “recruits”. But how far is he willing to go? We turned to an expert with this question.

“Apparently, Erdogan is unlikely to again block the possibility of Finland and Sweden joining NATO,” Nikolai Topornin, associate professor at MGIMO and director of the Center for European Information, comments to MK. – Based on what is now being heard from Brussels, Ankara, Helsinki and Stockholm, the parties have come to compromise solutions. The Turkish authorities stated that if the Finns and Swedes fulfill their obligations, they will not prevent them from joining the North Atlantic Alliance. It seems that this decision suited everyone, including the leadership of the bloc and the United States.

Another thing is that Erdogan can slow down this process if Helsinki and Stockholm refuse to fulfill their obligations. These are not just empty words about respect for the laws of Turkey and the lack of support for some Kurdish separatists. The tripartite agreement states that both Finland and Sweden must deprive the status of political refugees of more than 70 Turkish citizens, who are just Kurds and Erdogan enrolled in the list of “terrorists”. They obviously face a serious trial in their home country if they are deported.”

This is where certain difficulties arise, the expert believes. The very human rights mechanisms of Sweden and Finland are such that no one will send political migrants or refugees anywhere.

“It is clear for what purpose the Kurds came to these countries – to ask for protection from Erdogan,” continues Nikolai Topornin. – They gave it to them. And now it is proposed to remove this protection and return them back. What will the Finnish and Swedish authorities look like if they take such a step? There is a serious problem here, over which the lawyers and politicians of the two European states will have to rack their brains.

Perhaps Finland and Sweden will decide to give their citizenship to the Kurds. Earlier, the Finnish Minister of the Interior even made a lengthy statement that Helsinki would never extradite its citizens to anyone under any circumstances. Alternatively, Kurds who have been hiding in the country for a long time can be granted citizenship. Then Erdogan will be told that they are no longer Turks, but Finns, so no one is going to expel them.

Moreover, the Finns can send the Kurds to neighboring Norway to remove this issue. I doubt that Helsinki and Stockholm will send them to Turkey. Personally, I don’t see such a course of events yet.”

According to the expert, Erdogan continues to send such signals and threats to countries, since this is a matter of principle for him. There are political opponents inside his country, there is a serious Kurdish national minority that is fighting for the so-called state of Northern Kurdistan, seeking to secede from Turkey.

“The Turkish leader has elections next year,” said Nikolai Topornin. “There is internal opposition there. There are also external oppositionists, such as the famous Fethullah Gulen, who is in the United States. They have connections, contacts and money to support Erdogan's opponents inside the country, to guide them. Therefore, the head of state does not want to leave these obligations on paper. He needs concrete action. It is difficult to say how Erdogan will behave further, since he is an unpredictable person. Maybe he will put up with it, or maybe he will show his character. After all, even if the applications of Finland and Sweden are accepted, various legal procedures and voting will begin, Turkey will still have the opportunity to stall the process of their admission to NATO.”

Meanwhile, the expert stressed that the Americans, Germans and French could put pressure on Erdogan in this matter. They will push the Turkish leader to give the green light. In fact, he has already done this, although he retained the right of veto.

“Erdogan has the potential to frighten the Swedes and Finns by suspending this process,” sums up Nikolai Topornin. – At the same time, despite the fact that Stockholm and Helsinki are currently going to join the North Atlantic Alliance, they still say that with strong obstacles they can abandon this idea. Their current status is quite satisfactory. As I understand it, some euphoria has passed among the countries. If the situation in Ukraine had normalized, I think they would definitely postpone joining NATO.”