Nato chief: ‘We are making progress’ on Sweden and Finland membership

Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg told reporters that Sweden and Finland joining the alliance is a top priority, with progress being made.

Nato chief: 'We are making progress' on Sweden and Finland membership
Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg met Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson in Stockholm. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

Turkey and Hungary are the only Nato members still to ratify the bids of the Nordic nations, which must be accepted by all 30 existing members of the military organisation.

Ankara had suspended negotiations with Sweden and Finland in outrage after protests in January that included the burning of the Quran outside its embassy in Stockholm.

A new round of talks announced by Turkey last month will take place at Nato headquarters in Brussels on Thursday.

Stoltenberg insisted on a visit to Sweden that getting the memberships finalised was “a top priority”.

“We are making progress,” he said at a press conference with the Swedish prime minister.


Stoltenberg said Stockholm “has delivered” on a deal with Turkey inked last year that was meant to pave the way to Nato membership.

“The time has come to finalise the ratification process,” he said.

Two previous rounds of the tri-party Nato talks were attended by foreign ministry officials and focused on a specific list of Turkish demands, which include the expulsion of dozens of mostly Kurdish suspects.

Stoltenberg refused to speculate on the results of the fresh negotiations this week.

Turkey has raised the prospect of accepting Finland without letting Sweden’s application through. Nato officials are sceptical about splitting up the bids, but increasingly accept Helsinki may join first.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has dug in his heels on Sweden as he heads into a close presidential election in which he is trying to energise his nationalist electoral base.

Stoltenberg said that he also expected Hungary’s parliament to complete the process of ratifying the applications “shortly”.

That came as a visiting Hungarian parliamentary delegation said Swedish politicians need to stop spreading “lies” about Budapest and the rule of law.

Budapest is still expected to vote in favour of both countries joining the alliance “in the coming weeks”, the deputy speaker of the Hungarian parliament Csaba Hende told reporters in Stockholm.

Both Finland and Sweden dropped their decades-long policies of military non-alignment and applied to join the alliance last May in the wake of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

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Swedish foreign minister disappointed by Turkey not acting on Nato bid

Sweden's Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom on Friday said he regretted Turkey's decision to hold off moving forward on his country's Nato bid, while pushing ahead with that of Finland.

Swedish foreign minister disappointed by Turkey not acting on Nato bid

“This is a development that we did not want, but that we were prepared for,” Billstrom told journalists, adding that the country’s priority was now securing ratifications from the two holdouts – Turkey and Hungary.

Following months of delays, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Friday that he was asking parliament to vote on Finland’s bid to join the Nato defence bloc.

However, he said he was still not ready to move forward on Sweden, which submitted its bid together with Finland in May of last year.

In another setback for Sweden, Hungary announced Friday that it would vote on Finland’s ratification on March 27, but Sweden’s bid would be decided on “later”.

READ ALSO: Erdoğan asks parliament to vote on Finland’s Nato bid alone

Billstrom declined to comment on the news from Hungary, saying he had no confirmation from Budapest.

The Nordic neighbours ended decades of military non-alignment and decided to join the US-led defence alliance following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Their applications were accepted at a June Nato summit, but the bids still needed to be ratified by all 30 of the alliance members’ parliaments – a process that ran into trouble when it came to Turkey and Hungary.

Erdogan has accused Sweden in particular of not honouring the terms of a separate deal they reached in June 2022, under which Turkey had agreed to approve the bids.

READ ALSO: ‘Increased chance that Finland joins NATO before Sweden’: PM

Turkey has sought the extradition of dozens of Kurdish and other suspects it accuses of ties to outlawed militants and a failed 2016 coup attempt.

On Friday, the Turkish head of state said Sweden had still not agreed to extradite a list of some 120 people wanted by Ankara.

In Stockholm, Billstrom insisted that Sweden was living up to its commitments under the deal.

“We are doing everything that is written in this memorandum, but we do not do less and we do not do more than what is written in it,” he said.

READ ALSO: KEY DATES: The milestones ahead for Sweden’s Nato membership  

“This means that when extradition cases arise that are related to this memorandum, there will be decisions that can be positive and that can be negative from Turkey’s point of view and that is how it will simply be,” he added.