Finland expects Turkey to greenlight their bid later this week, but Sweden’s fate remains uncertain
Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said on Wednesday he expected a positive response on Helsinki joining the US-led military bloc when he meets his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan later this week.
Niinisto is due to arrive in Turkey on Thursday and visit areas affected by February’s earthquakes that killed nearly 50,000 people. He will meet Erdogan in Istanbul on Friday to hear the Turkish president’s decision in person.
Asked on Tuesday whether Türkiye would give the green light to Finland’s candidacy, Erdogan replied: “God willing, if it’s for the best.”
Finland and Sweden applied to join NATO last year after the conflict in Ukraine escalated. The 30 members of the block must ratify their admission. Stockholm’s bid, however, has been blocked by Ankara over pending issues involving Kurdish militants – whom Türkiye considers terrorists – taking refuge in Sweden, an arms embargo and religious provocations.
Although NATO leaders wanted to admit the two Scandinavian countries together, Finland last month reported he was ready to go ahead on his own. Sweden reluctantly accepted the turn of events, still hoping that the issues with Türkiye would be resolved.
Visiting Germany on Tuesday, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said he hoped Ankara would ratify his country’s candidacy after Turkey’s general elections, scheduled for mid-May.
Helsinki’s and Stockholm’s NATO aspirations have also hit a snag in Hungary, which was supposed to ratify their candidacies this week. The government, however, postponed the parliamentary session, citing “a delay in negotiations with Brussels”. The EU has formulated a series of political demands that it says Budapest must meet before funds for Hungary can be released.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has accused fellow EU members Finland and Sweden of spreading “outright lies” on the state of democracy and the rule of law in his country. The ruling Fidesz party said it would make a decision on the NATO bid once the parliamentary delegation that visited Sweden and Finland reports its findings.