DTurkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson sat together for three and a half hours on Tuesday in an unadorned room at the Madrid exhibition center. Their foreign ministers were there. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced the mediator. He had invited the leaders to cut the Gordian knot that had weighed on the alliance since mid-May: Turkey’s veto on admitting Sweden and Finland to the alliance. Almost nothing leaked out during the session. NATO officials did their best to keep expectations low. But then, shortly after eight, the waiting journalists were ordered to press room number 14.
What followed could have come from a play by Samuel Beckett, the great man of the theater of the absurd. In the hall was a table with three chairs, behind which were the flags of the three countries. It was clear that there was an agreement. But when the negotiators entered the room fifteen minutes later, none of them said a word. The foreign ministers took their places at the table, followed by the heads of state and government. Document folders were handed to the ministers, they signed something. “I think we can shake hands now,” Stoltenberg hissed from the background when that was over. A few people in the room clapped, mostly Turkish journalists. Then the negotiators left the room as silently as they had come.
It was then left to Stoltenberg to announce and explain the agreement in press room number one, about a kilometer away. “I am pleased to announce that we now have an agreement that paves the way for Finland and Sweden to join NATO,” said the Norwegian. Turkey, Sweden and Finland have signed a memorandum of understanding addressing Turkey’s concerns. As early as Wednesday morning, the heads of state and government of the alliance would issue an invitation to accession negotiations. It’s a formality, a NATO official recently likened it to marriage vows. The new members must pledge that they will stand in collective defense for better or for worse and that they will contribute their part to the Alliance’s common budget. Stoltenberg promised that the accession protocols could be signed “immediately after the summit”. After that, ratification will begin in all member states.
Turkey demands extradition of Kurdish extremists
The memorandum that the three states had agreed on goes into all the conditions that Ankara had set for Sweden and Finland. They clearly identify the PKK as a terrorist organization and pledge to crack down on all of its activities, including groups and networks allied to them. From a Turkish perspective, this includes the Syrian-Kurdish people’s militia YPG. It is mentioned in a separate paragraph of the statement. In it, the two accession candidates agree not to give the group any support. That was very important to Erdogan. For years he has criticized the fact that the United States regards the YPG in Syria as an ally in the fight against “Islamic State” and probably also equips it. Of course, nothing will change with this memorandum – it only binds the three states.
Sweden and Finland point to legislative changes to show they are serious about fighting terrorism. In Sweden, a new law will come into force on July 1st that will broaden the scope of acts of terrorism and provide for heavier penalties. Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said on Monday that anti-terrorism legislation is undergoing the “biggest overhaul” in thirty years. The laws against the financing of terrorism had already been tightened beforehand, and the next step would be to amend the constitution so that participation in terrorist organizations could be punished. “There should be no doubt that Sweden will continue to stand resolutely alongside like-minded nations in the fight against terrorism.”