Sweden’s parliament to end 200 years of non-alignment with Nato vote

Sweden's parliament is set to vote on Wednesday to end 200 years of neutrality by accepting Sweden's accession to the Nato defence alliance — although the country will not be able to join until parliaments in Turkey and Hungary ratify the agreement.

Sweden's parliament to end 200 years of non-alignment with Nato vote
The Sweden Democrat chair of the parliament's foreign policy committee opens up the debate on the Nato bill on Wednesday. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

The parliament began debating the bill at 9am on Wednesday and the vote is scheduled to take place in the afternoon, with a deadline of 4pm. 

“This is a historic but also a necessary decision to take,” Aron Emilsson, the Sweden Democrat chair of the parliament’s Committee on Defence, said at the start of the debate. “We are leaving 200 years of non-alignment behind us.” 

Six of the country’s eight parliamentary parties back joining the defence alliance, constituting an overwhelming majority of MPs. Only the Left Party and the Green Party are opposed. 

“Nothing will increase Sweden’s ability to defend itself faster than joining the defence alliance,” Emilsson said. 

MPs will vote on accepting Sweden’s accession to the alliance, and also that Sweden should sign up to the latest version of the North Atlantic Treaty which forms the legal basis of the alliance. 

Joining Nato will also require changes to two Swedish laws, the Military Operational Support Act, which governs military cooperation between Sweden and Finland, and the Immunities and Privileges Act, which governs diplomatic immunity. 

“The amendments to the law aim partly to make it easier for Sweden to request support from Nato in the form of military forces, and partly to give Nato, the national representatives and the international staff the immunity and privileges required under the agreement,” the parliament’s foreign affairs committee wrote when submitting the law to parliament.  

Sweden will not actually become a member until all 30 Nato member states have ratified its accession agreement, which so far only 28 have done, with Hungary and Turkey still holding out.

Hungary’s parliament is set to ratify Finland’s membership of Nato next Monday, Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at a press conference in Brussels on Tuesday, but not that of Sweden. 

The news came after Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan last week instructed his parliament to approve Finland’s membership, while saying that a vote on Sweden’s would not take place until the country had extradited some of the people on Turkey’s list of wanted people living in Sweden. 

“There is no reason not to push ahead with both countries at the same time and that’s a message I have passed to the Hungarian foreign minister,” Sweden’s foreign minister Tobias Billström told TT after the news from Hungary. “Hungary has on repeated occasions over the past year said that they intend to ratify both Finland and Sweden.”

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Swedish prosecutor charges Turkish man for fundraising for PKK terror group

A prosecutor in Sweden has charged a Turkish citizen for attempting to raise money for the Kurdish PKK terror group in a landmark case which could help Sweden win Turkish approval for its Nato membership.

Swedish prosecutor charges Turkish man for fundraising for PKK terror group

Hans Ihrman, Deputy Chief Prosecutor for the Swedish Prosecution Agency’s National Security Unit, told The Local that the case marked the first time that anyone had been charged in Sweden for raising funds for the PKK.

He stressed, however, that it was “a coincidence” that he had made his charges at a time when the Swedish government is under pressure from Turkey to pursue people connected to the group. 

“We are totally independent of the government in that way and there’s been no pressure at all,” he said. “It’s a coincidence that this investigation and prosecution has come when it did.” 

He said that the main reason there had been so far been no prosecutions for PKK terror financing was the way the organisation operated.  

“One obvious reason is that most terrorist organisations we know are very eager to market their activities, but the PKK has the opposite approach, and deniability is the key word here.” 

“It’s more difficult to get a grip on how this organisation is acting and it’s more hidden in it’s activities, but if you look at investigations in Germany and France, there have been several investigations, prosecutions and convictions connected to the PKK.” 

Ihrman said that the decision to prosecute now also had no connection to the terror participation law that came into force in Sweden on June 1st. 

“This is only extortion and attempts for terrorist financing, so there’s no connect to any crime of participation, so this new law has no impact on this.” 

The case has largely been built on investigations by the German Federal Police and the French security services, together with posts the suspect has made on social media, and messages found on his telephone. 

The man had been in contact with another Turkish citizen who was jailed in Germany in 2016 for PKK membership. The man has also been charged for attempted extortion and aggravated gun crimes. 

Sweden’s terror financing laws have so far only been used to charge members of Islamic terror groups such as IS. 

The case will start on June 20th. 

Turkey this week called on Sweden to take “concrete actions” in pursuing suspected PKK terrorists living in the country if it wants Turkish backing for its Nato membership.