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 PM to seek explanation from Hungary on Nato delay

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said on Thursday he would seek an explanation from Hungary about why it is delaying its parliament's ratification of Sweden's Nato bid but not Finland's.

Swedish PM to seek explanation from Hungary on Nato delay

“I’m going to ask why they are now separating Sweden from Finland. These are signals we have not received before, so I’m absolutely going to raise this with (Hungarian prime minister Viktor) Orbán today,” Kristersson told public broadcaster Sveriges Radio.

Orbán and Kristersson are both attending an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday.

Helsinki and Stockholm ended decades of military non-alignment last May when they decided to join the Atlantic alliance in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Their applications were accepted at a June Nato summit that signalled the Western world’s desire to stand up to Russia in the face of Europe’s gravest conflict since World War II.

But the bids need to be ratified by all 30 of the alliance members’ parliaments, which only Turkey and Hungary have yet to do.

Orbán’s ruling Fidesz party has said parliament will ratify Finland’s bid on March 27th, but “will decide on the case of Sweden later”.

On Thursday, Orbán’s chief-of-staff Gergely Gulyás told reporters there was “a serious chance” the Swedish bid would be ratified during the ongoing parliamentary session which runs until June 15.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has meanwhile also asked parliament to quickly ratify Finland’s bid, but has held up Sweden’s following a litany of disputes.