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Sweden’s road to Nato: Key dates in crucial week

It's an important week for Sweden's Nato application, with talks with Turkey set to resume on Thursday. Here are the key events this week.

Sweden's road to Nato: Key dates in crucial week
Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson and Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg at a press conference last year. Photo: Wiktor Nummelin/TT

Tuesday, March 7th: Hungarian delegation in Stockholm

A delegation of Hungarian parliamentarians are in Sweden to meet parliamentary speaker Andreas Norlén and a group of Swedish MPs to discuss Hungary’s process of ratifying Sweden’s application to join the military alliance.

Sweden and Finland have both criticised Hungary’s flawed rule of law, and one of the Hungarian politicians taking part in the meeting told TT they wanted Sweden to show more “respect”.

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has previously said that some of this colleagues are reluctant to accept Sweden due to their alleged “lies” about Hungary, but he has also urged his party, Fidesz, to vote yes in their planned vote on March 20th.

Tuesday, March 7th: Nato chief to meet Swedish party leaders

Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg is set to meet Sweden’s Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson.

Kristersson has also invited the leaders of Sweden’s pro-Nato parties – which excludes the Greens and Left Party – to join his meeting with the Nato chief.

Social Democrat leader Magdalena Andersson has criticised Kristersson for not inviting all parties. He on the other hand has argued that they receive information about Sweden’s Nato application in other ways, for example through parliament’s foreign policy committee.

Wednesday, March 8th: Defence minister summit

Swedish Defence Minister Pål Jonson will host an informal meeting of his EU counterparts at Arlanda Airport. They are mainly expected to discuss military support of Ukraine, but Sweden and Finland’s Nato applications may also get a mention.

Nato chief Stoltenberg is also set to attend.

Thursday, March 9th: Nato talks resume with Turkey

Turkey is set to resume Nato talks with Sweden and Finland, after putting them on hold following a series of protests in Stockholm earlier this year, including a pro-Kurdish group burning an Erdogan effigy and a far-right extremist burning a copy of the Quran.

Sweden’s chief Nato negotiator Oscar Stenström is set to meet his counterparts in Brussels to go through whether or not the countries are fulfilling the terms of the agreement they signed at a Nato summit last summer to get Turkey to drop its veto.

No major decisions are expected on Thursday, but merely the fact that the process is restarting increases the chances of Sweden joining Nato this summer.

Thursday, March 9th: New terror bill

The Swedish government has on several occasions said that it’s preparing new terror legislation, in response to Turkey’s criticism that Sweden is not doing enough to crack down on PKK members in the country. The PKK, or Kurdistan Workers’ Party, is listed as a terror group by Turkey and its Western allies.

A vote on a bill that would ban taking part in terror organisations could become an important step of Sweden’s Nato accession. Despite criticism from Sweden’s Council on Legislation, the government is expected to submit the bill to parliament on Thursday.

If parliament approves the bill, it would come into force on June 1st.

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Sweden’s parliament votes by huge majority in favour of Nato accession

Sweden's parliament has voted to ratify the country's accession to the Nato defence alliance, with its historic bill to end two centuries of non-alignment passing with a margin of 269 to 37.

Sweden’s parliament votes by huge majority in favour of Nato accession

During the six-hour debate over the bill, Sweden’s foreign minister, Tobias Billström, said he was convinced that the country’s membership would be ratified by Turkey and Hungary, the two hold-outs in the 30-member alliance, before the summit due to be held in Vilnius in the second week of July. 

“It is obvious that we are going to be able to be members at Vilnius,” he said during the debate, pointing to the backing of the other 28 member states and strong support from the US. “The strength that we have behind us is so tangible that it’s possible to come to such a judgement.”

If Sweden were not to be a member before the summer, he continued, it would put Nato’s open-door policy, a key part of its framework, in question. 

Only two of the eight parties in the Swedish parliament voted against the bill, the Left Party and the Green Party, with their MPs providing all of the 37 “no” votes. A further 43 MPs were absent. 

“It is problematic to join a military alliance with countries which are not democratic, and where we see daily that democracy is withering,” said Håkan Svenneling, the Left Party’s foreign policy spokesperson. “They are now trying to use our application to silence our voice on democracy and human rights.” 

The two parties were also critical of the fact that Sweden was now joining an alliance backed by nuclear weapons. 

“The Nato nuclear alliance is built on the idea of using nuclear weapons as a method of deterrence,” said the Green Party’s Jacob Risberg. “The Green Party do not believe in that doctrine, but believe quite the contrary, that this could lead to more conflict.” 

The Social Democrat’s foreign policy spokesperson Morgan Johansson said he was confident that Sweden would not be made to host nuclear weapons on its territory, even though its agreement with Nato contains no formal statement ruling this out. 

The government’s Nato proposition states that “there is no reason to have nuclear weapons or permanent bases on Swedish territory in peacetime”. 

“I feel completely confident in the test which has been drawn up. There is nothing at all pushing for Sweden to be forced to host bases or nuclear weapons,” he said.