Can Turkey block Sweden and Finland’s NATO bid?
NATO's acceptance of new members is possible after technical and legal processes consisting of many stages. In order for a country to become a NATO member, first of all, all 30 allied countries must approve membership. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressed strong views against Sweden and Finland’s entry into NATO. However, will Turkey go all way and block the accession process?
NATO membership, which Sweden and Finland want to join, normally requires a long process. In order for NATO to accept new members, several conditions must be met.
NATO was founded by 12 countries in 1949, after the end of the Second World War. These countries were USA, UK, Canada, France, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Luxembourg, Iceland, Denmark and Belgium. In the 73 years that have passed, the number of members increased from 12 to 30 with 8 expansion waves.
Turkey and Greece became new members of NATO in 1952. In 1955, then known as Federal Germany, in 1982 Spain joined the alliance.
With the accession of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland in 1999, the number of members rose to 19.
In 2004 Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia joined NATO.
Albania and Croatia became NATO member states in 2009, Montenegro in 2017, and finally North Macedonia in 2020.
NATO ACCESSION PROCESS AND CONSENSUS REQUIREMENT
NATO follows an "open door" policy. This policy is based on Article 10 of the alliance's founding agreement.
In this article, it is stated that the countries that are party to the founding Washington Treaty can invite any European country to join the alliance in order to contribute to the security of the North Atlantic region. However, in order for a country to be included in NATO, unanimous approval is required, that is, the approval of all 30 existing allied countries.
NATO membership normally requires a long process. For this, a multi-stage process is required to be completed. Accordingly, when NATO allies decide to join the alliance, NATO sends an official invitation to that country. After that, the 7-step participation process begins.
In the first step, NATO experts and representatives of the invited country come together in Brussels and hold talks. In these meetings, it is discussed whether the invited country meets the political, legal and military requirements of NATO, and whether it can fulfill the economic, military, legal, political and intelligence obligations of NATO membership. According to these negotiations, it is determined whether the invited country will reform to meet NATO terms and standards.
In the second step, the invited country sends an official letter of intent to the NATO Secretary General and declares that it accepts the obligations and commitments of NATO membership. If reforms are to be made, the calendar of reforms is also stated in this letter.
In the third step, NATO is preparing additional accession protocols to the Washington Treaty. Thus, the founding agreement of the alliance is, in a sense, updated. These protocols are signed by NATO countries.
In the fourth stage, protocols must be ratified by NATO member states in accordance with their national laws and procedures. The approval process differs from country to country. For example, a two-thirds vote of the Senate is required for approval in the USA, while a formal vote in the UK parliament is not required.
In the fifth step, all member states, after completing their ratification processes, make a notification that they have accepted the protocols that envisage the accession of the new member to the USA, which has kept the Washington Agreement.
When all these stages are completed in the sixth step, NATO Secretary General invites the new member to join the alliance.
Seventh and lastly, the new member completes its own national legal process and submits its accession document to the United States, which has kept the Washington Treaty, and becomes a NATO member.
NATO MEMBERSHIP OF FINLAND AND SWEDEN
The joining of two new members to NATO is on the agenda. After Russia's attack on Ukraine, Finland and Sweden, affected by the developments in the European security architecture, decided to abandon their long-standing military neutrality and apply for NATO membership.
Finland has a border of 1500 kilometers with Russia. Fighting the then-Soviet Union in World War II, Finland lost about 10 percent of its territory, relocated 11 percent of its population, and paid about 5 billion euros in war reparations at today's rates.
After these losses, Finland's agreement with the Soviet Union caused the country to be militarily non-aligned for many years. Finland, which became a member of the EU after the collapse of the Soviet Union and switched to the euro currency, did not become a member of NATO.
For many years, only about 20 percent of the Finnish people wanted NATO membership. However, after Russia's attack on Ukraine, the percentage of Finns supporting NATO membership rose to over 70 percent.
Sweden, on the other hand, decided to apply for NATO membership after Finland.
Having fought with Russia in 1809 and lost Finland to Russia in that war, Sweden did not fight with Russia for nearly 200 years. Sweden remained a neutral country during the Second World War and during the Cold War. However, in the documents disclosed by the former US intelligence employee Edward Snowden, it was revealed that Sweden made a secret agreement with the USA in the 1950s. Accordingly, it was claimed that the USA would help if Sweden was attacked by Russia.
WHY DOES TURKEY OPPOSE THE MEMBERSHIP?
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that they would not say 'yes' to the memberships of Sweden and Finland, which have officially decided to apply for membership in NATO.
"How can we trust them? Sweden is a breeding ground for terrorist organisations (...) We will not support giving NATO membership," Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday, May 16, after the two Nordic countries had formally decided to apply for membership.
Officially, Ankara is angered by the close ties that these two countries, in particular Sweden, have with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), an armed terrorist group. Formed in 1978, the PKK has been designated as a terrorist organisation by Turkey and much of the international community, including the US and EU.
Finnish President Sauli Niinistö stated that he believed that the problem with Turkey regarding his country's NATO membership would be resolved.
Niinisto made the following words:
“The statements made by Turkey have been appearing in different forms in the last few days. However, I believe that all this confusion and disagreement will definitely be resolved through constructive negotiations.”
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he trusts Turkey to support Finland and Sweden joining NATO. "I am confident that Turkey will support Finland and Sweden's NATO membership," Scholz said in his statement.
Stating that Turkey displayed a "very constructive" attitude in the Ukraine war, Scholz reminded that Turkey closed the Straits to Russian warships.
Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said, 'We are ready to solve any problem by talking to Turkey'.
Turkey, Sweden and Finland's NATO membership application and expressed their concerns about the process to be experienced in this regard.
The Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that the Swedish and Finnish Foreign Ministers will visit Turkey in the coming days.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg made a statement on his social media account and said that he met with Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu; He stated that Finland and Sweden's decision to apply for NATO membership was discussed during the meeting and said, "Turkey is a valuable ally and security concerns should be addressed."
GREECE'S VETO LASTED FOR YEARS
North Macedonia's membership became possible after the years-long name dispute with Greece was resolved.
For many years, Greece blocked the NATO membership of this country, as it opposed the former name of the country with the word "North" added to the beginning of its name.
With the name issue resolved in 2018, Greece lifted its veto and North Macedonia was invited to begin membership talks with NATO. North Macedonia was officially admitted as a member in March 2020.
In these enlargement waves, some countries have announced that they want to become NATO members, but they have not been able to become members until now. These countries are Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ukraine and Georgia.
At the NATO Summit held in Bucharest, the capital of Romania, in 2008, it was agreed that Georgia and Ukraine would become NATO members in the future. However, these countries were not given dates. Bosnia and Herzegovina was invited to be included in the Membership Action Plan in 2010.