Nato accession: Sweden in Ankara's bad books again

After the right-wing extremist Rasmus Paludan burned a copy of the Koran outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm on the weekend, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has once again put a question mark over Turkey backing Sweden's bid for Nato membership. Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto has hinted that Helsinki may join the alliance before Sweden if necessary. Europe's press discusses the risks here.

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Lapin Kansa (FI) /

Move forward alone if necessary

Finland must prioritise military protection over solidarity with Sweden if necessary, advises Lapin Kansa:

“Although Finland and Sweden have moved side by side towards Nato, at least according to the official mantra, Finnish politicians have no doubt already prepared for the option of leaving their travelling companion behind. That possibility is now more likely than ever. Should Turkey say yes to Finland and no to Sweden, the choice is clear. Finland needs the military protection offered by Article 5 of the Defence Alliance more than Sweden does.”

Expressen (SE) /

You can go first, dear Finns!

Expressen says it can understand why Finland might lose its patience with its Swedish neighbour:

“To Finnish politicians with their historical experiences and long border with Russia, the frivolous bickering in Sweden must seem surreal. The best thing, of course, would be if both Finland and Sweden could be quickly admitted to Nato. But if that's not possible, we have no right to demand that the Finns wait in the anteroom out of solidarity while we argue. Sorry, Finland, you can enter Nato first if necessary.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Nato must not let itself be bullied anymore

Nato must show resolve and up the pressure on Ankara, warns De Volkskrant:

“The West's restraint towards Turkey was understandable for a long time. But now overcautiousness risks worsening the wound. In terms of democracy and foreign policy, Turkey is drifting further and further away from its Nato allies. Russia is waging war in Europe. It's high time that the allies take a clearer public stance: for quick Swedish and Finnish accession and for the preservation of Turkish democracy.”

Svenska Dagbladet (SE) /

Not the time for impatience

In view of the domestic situation in Turkey, Sweden should be patient and not allow the dispute to escalate, Svenska Dagbladet advises:

“Before the elections in Turkey in May, the government can and probably should do nothing but keep a cool head and keep its eye on the target. Erdoğan needs the conflict to mobilise his voters and cannot back down before he knows whether and with what mandate he will be allowed to retain the presidency. Sweden will remain firmly ensconced on its Nato chair as long as we don't start rocking it ourselves.”

T24 (TR) /

Don't fall for incendiary gestures

This is the wrong reaction to this provocation, writes journalist Barçın Yinanç on T24:

“After Sweden and Finland announced that they would cooperate with Turkey to gain its approval for their Nato membership, you didn't need to be a prophet to predict that certain groups in Sweden would resort to provocation. ... Naturally, Ankara reacts to these actions. However one must be careful not to add grist to the provocateurs' mill. ... But of course, since the start of the election campaign every step taken in foreign policy has been about domestic policy too.”

Sabah (TR) /

Sweden only has itself to blame

Countries which allow such Islamophobic protests, thus putting their Nato membership at risk, shouldn't be surprised by this reaction, the pro-government Sabah stresses:

“First of all, the Swedish state allowed this hate crime. ... This attitude, which has nothing to do with freedom and democracy, promotes the anti-Islamism that has changed mainstream politics in Europe in recent years. ... Ankara is not against the Nato membership of Sweden and Finland, it merely expects them to abide by the agreements. The claims that Erdoğan's Turkey is obstructing Nato enlargement do not reflect the truth. If the delay in Nato enlargement leads to a weakening of the alliance, it is Sweden that is creating problems.”

Aftonbladet (SE) /

An embarrassing circus

How long will the West stand by and watch this back-and-forth, Aftonbladet wonders:

“Apart from Turkey and Hungary, all Nato countries are liberal democracies. They must realise that the Turkish demands for greater restrictions on Swedish freedom of expression are unacceptable. None of them would accept similar demands themselves. Do the US, Germany, France and the UK really believe this embarrassing circus can go on much longer?”

Jyllands-Posten (DK) /

An indispensable liability

Unfortunately, Nato is dependent on Turkey, Jyllands-Posten laments:

“Only Turkey's strategically important position on the edge of the Middle East powder keg prevents Nato from having a serious talk with itself about whether Turkey belongs in the community of values that Nato also represents. The counter-test is quite simple: if Turkey were to apply to join Nato today, it would not get in. This exposes the enormous problem Turkey poses for the free world, which is embroiled on many fronts in a fateful struggle against authoritarian forces, especially Russia and China. The West should throw Turkey out of its circle and shun the Erdoğan regime. The problem is that it can't get by without Turkey right now.”