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Erdogan Calls For Turkey’s EU Accession, Ties It To Sweden’s NATO Bid

In an unexpected twist, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has urged the European Union to pave the way for Turkey’s accession to the bloc in exchange for Ankara’s approval of Sweden’s NATO bid. Erdogan’s remarks, made before departing for the NATO summit in Vilnius, caught many by surprise.

Turkey’s path to EU membership has been on hold for years since the launch of membership talks in 2005 during Erdogan’s first term as prime minister. Tensions between Ankara and EU member states escalated, particularly after a failed coup attempt in 2016. However, relations have improved over time, with the EU relying on Turkey’s assistance, especially in migration matters.

Erdogan’s call to link Sweden’s NATO bid with Turkey’s EU membership marks a significant change in strategy. He called upon countries that have kept Turkey waiting at the EU’s doorstep for over 50 years to open the way for Turkish accession before considering Sweden’s bid. Erdogan plans to reiterate this demand during the NATO summit.

The European Commission responded by stating that NATO and EU enlargement are separate processes, emphasizing that each candidate country’s accession process is assessed on its own merits. The Commission made it clear that the two processes cannot be interconnected.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg expressed support for Turkey’s EU membership but highlighted that Sweden had already fulfilled the necessary conditions to join NATO. He expressed optimism that a positive decision on Sweden’s bid could still be reached at the Vilnius summit.

Sweden and Finland, both having abandoned their military non-alignment policies, applied for NATO membership last year due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. While Finland’s membership was approved in April, Turkey and Hungary have yet to endorse Sweden’s bid. Erdogan stated that Sweden’s accession hinges on the implementation of a deal agreed upon during last year’s summit in Madrid. Ankara insists that Sweden needs to take stronger action against groups it considers terrorists, primarily the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Experts believe that Erdogan’s unexpected move may not necessarily strengthen Turkey’s position at the Vilnius summit regarding EU membership. While it reaffirms Turkey’s perspective on EU accession, its impact on the actual progress of Turkey’s bid remains uncertain.

Additionally, Erdogan mentioned that resolving the conflict between Ukraine and Russia would facilitate Kyiv’s NATO membership process, hinting at the complex dynamics influencing NATO expansion in the region.

As discussions unfold at the NATO summit, the interplay between Turkey’s EU accession, Sweden’s NATO bid, and broader geopolitical factors will undoubtedly shape the outcomes and future dynamics within these alliances.

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