Sweden's accession to NATO advances following an agreement with the Turkish president

Sweden's NATO membership has taken a significant step forward on Monday, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreeing to remove one of the last major roadblocks in return for help in reviving Turkiye's chances of joining the European Union. At talks in Vilnius, Sweden's NATO accession has been held up by objections from Turkiye since last year. The Turkish parliament's ratification of the accession protocol is one of the last steps in the process. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced the announcement after talks with Erdogan and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson on the eve of a NATO summit in Lithuania. 

The agreement appears to have taken the issue off the agenda of the summit, which was meant to focus uniquely on the war in Ukraine and Kyiv's own membership aspirations. In exchange for Turkiye's help with NATO, Sweden has agreed to help unblock Turkiye's progress towards joining the European Union, which has been on hold since 2018. Stoltenberg said that Turkiye's relationship with the EU was “not an issue for NATO, it's an issue for the European Union.” He told reporters that “what Sweden agreed today as an EU member was to support actively the efforts to reinvigorate Turkiye's EU accession process.” Turkiye first applied to join the EU in 1987, but its membership talks have been at a standstill since 2018 due to democratic backsliding during Erdogan's presidency, concerns about the rule of law and rights abuses, and disputes with EU-member Cyprus. Of the 31 NATO member countries, 22 are also members of the EU, like Sweden. 

 Stoltenberg and Kristersson said that Sweden would also help Turkiye to improve its customs arrangements with the EU and to try to obtain visa-free travel in Europe for its citizens. Turkiy etried to achieve these goals in recent years but failed to meet the trading bloc's standards. Turkiye's delaying tactics have irritated other NATO allies, including the United States. Biden's national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, confirmed that Biden and Erdogan had discussed Sweden's NATO membership, among other issues, and had agreed to meet in Vilnius for further talks.


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