The time is now to finalise Sweden's accession to NATO, says Blinken
The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that the "time is now" to finalise Sweden's accession to NATO.
While both Finland and Sweden applied to join NATO together on 18 May 2022, some two and a half months after the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, Sweden's bid has been held up by objections from Hungary and Turkey. Finland on the other hand became the 31st member of the military alliance on 4 April 2023.
Speaking at a press conference in the northern Swedish city of Luleå alongside Sweden's Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson on Tuesday (30 May), Blinken added that Sweden has "taken very significant steps to address very legitimate concerns, and I think in terms of its own qualifications for membership, from day one it was qualified precisely because it’s been such a long-time partner for NATO; of course, the European Union; and with values that are fundamentally the same."
Turkey has accused Sweden of being soft on groups that they perceive as terror organisations or consider existential threats, including Kurdish groups such as the PKK, and the Syrian Kurdish militia group, the YPG and its political branch, the PYD. In an attempt to address Turkey's concerns and to persuade Ankara to approve Sweden's bid to join NATO, at the start of May Sweden tightened anti-terrorism laws to include a prison term of up to four years for individuals convicted of participating in an extremist organisation in a way that is intended to promote, strengthen or support the group.
Wed, 05/31/2023 - 09:56
Anakonda-23 NATO exercises underway in Poland
Mon, 05/08/2023 - 08:54
The Anakonda-23 NATO military exercises in Poland began on Saturday (6 May).
Polskie Radio reports that around 13,000 Polish servicemen are taking part in the exercises in southeastern Poland. These exercises take place every three years, with this year's focus on defence and deterrence in the Baltic Sea region.
NATO Secretary-General in Kyiv as Netherlands and Denmark pledge 14 tanks to Ukraine
Thu, 04/20/2023 - 11:43
The NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has arrived in Kyiv on an unannounced visit on Thursday (20 April).
"Ukraine’s rightful place is in the Euro-Atlantic family. Ukraine’s rightful place is in NATO. And over time, our support will help to make this possible," said the Secretary-General in Kyiv.
Aurora 23 military exercise kicks off in Sweden, 26,000 soldiers from 14 countries take part
Sweden has commenced its largest military exercise in 25 years, involving some 26,000 soldiers from 14 different countries. The Aurora 23 exercises kicked off yesterday, on Monday (17 April) and will run until 11 May. Other than Sweden, participating nations are the US, UK, Poland, Norway, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Denmark, Austria, Germany, France, Finland, who joined NATO on 4 April this year, and Ukraine. In a statement released two weeks ago, the Swedish Armed Forces said that the purpose of Aurora 23 is "to enhance the collected capability to counter an armed attack on Sweden", with drills taking place "in the air, on the ground and at sea". The exercise will focus mostly on southern Sweden and the strategically important island of Gotland in the south-east, which lies in the middle of the Baltic Sea and approximately 350km north of the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad. Drills will also be taking place in northern Sweden, the country's Armed Forces added. The biggest military exercises held in Sweden in 25 years come amid the country's stalled NATO membership application. Stockholm, along with Helsinki, applied for NATO membership in May after being rattled by Russia's full scale invasion of Ukraine in February.
Tue, 04/18/2023 - 09:10
Opinion: The claim that a multipolar world is necessarily a better one is a fallacy
The European and Global international system is broken. Whilst others have contributed to its decline and subversion in the past, it was Russia’s actions in Ukraine, and other parts of the former Soviet space before that, that have dealt it the decisive fatal blow."What is desperately needed in the international system are rules, and the mechanism to ensure that these rules are abided with", writes Dennis Sammut in today's Monday Commentary. "Multi-polarity may sound like an attractive solution, especially to small countries who have been under pressure from bigger players or international actors, but with closer inspection, on its own, it is not."
Mon, 04/10/2023 - 10:02
Opinion: Sweden must re-evaluate its internal and external relations before NATO accession can become reality
Given the increasingly uncertain political climate in which Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson finds himself, Sweden requires an internal and external positional re-evaluation in order to finalise its accession to NATO, writes Alfred Stranne in this op-ed for commonspace.eu. Meanwhile, Sweden needs to understand the increasing anger coming from Ankara, which is severely hindering its progression towards becoming a member of the alliance.
Meanwhile, Sweden must also look within NATO itself to seek support in reassuring Ankara that Sweden will be a significant security provider for the alliance, providing added benefits for Ankara as well. This would repair Sweden’s relations with Turkey and reassure Ankara that despite the ideological and religious differences between Kristersson and Erdogan, Sweden and Turkey have common interests in seeking regional peace and stability.
Fri, 02/03/2023 - 09:33
Turkey rules out support for Sweden NATO bid after Stockholm protests
The President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has said that Sweden should not expect support from Ankara over its bid to join NATO following protests in Stockholm at the weekend.
Surrounded by police for his protection, on Saturday (21 January) Danish-Swedish, far-right, anti-Islam activist Rasmus Paludan burned the Quran outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm while making disparaging remarks about immigrants and Islam. This incensed President Erdogan who criticised the Swedish authorities for letting the stunt happen.
“It is clear that those who allowed such vileness to take place in front of our embassy can no longer expect any charity from us regarding their NATO membership application,” Erdogan said on Monday (23 January).
Another bone of contention between Sweden and Turkey regarding the former's accession to NATO concerns the Kurdish question. Later on Saturday following Paludan's stunt, there was a pro-Kurdish demonstration in Stockholm where flags of various Kurdish groups were waved, including that of the Kurdish Workers' Party, or the PKK. The PKK has waged a decades-long insurgency in Turkey, and although it is considered a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, its symbols are not banned in Sweden.
Mon, 01/23/2023 - 18:53
Monday Commentary: Why Central Asia matters
Very often, Central Asia is referred to as Russia’s back yard, even though today the region feels more like China’s front garden. But whilst the two “inseparable” friends, compete for influence and resources, the five Central Asian countries have set on a course to integrate themselves in global processes, break out of their geographic - and more importantly their geo-political constraints - and deliver better for their people. In this week's Monday Commentary on commonspace.eu, Dennis Sammut says that the Central Asian states have been reaching out to the EU and the US, whilst domestically some of them have embarked on deep reforms considered all but unimaginable until recently. The visit of European Council president Charles Michel to the region on 27-28 October marked a high point in a new phase in the relationship between the EU and Central Asia. In Kazakhstan, Michel not only met the Kazakh leadership, but also held a summit with the five Central Asian leaders in Astana, before travelling to Uzbekistan. For both the Central Asians and for the EU this is a watershed moment, and the beginning of a long journey. Europe’s approach to Central Asia needs to be respectful, both to the five countries themselves, and to their existing partners. Arrogance, even of the intellectual kind will simply backfire. But respect does not mean meekness. As a heavyweight in international relations, even if for the moment its economic weight dwarfs its political weight, the EU needs to approach Central Asia neither as a supplicant, nor as a benefactor, but simply as a reliable partner. Furthermore, this partnership needs to be diverse, multi-tiered and nuanced. It must take in relations with citizens, where Europe has much to offer both in terms of being a model, but also in terms of what it can share in areas such as education, innovation, youth welfare, women’s rights and diversity.
Mon, 10/31/2022 - 07:35
Michel in Tashkent to cement EU-Uzbekistan ties
Sat, 10/29/2022 - 09:36
European Council president, Charles Michel was in Tashkent on Friday (28 October) for talks with Uzbek president Mirziyoyev.
Once considered a parriah in the international system because of gross human rights abuses, Uzbekistan has in recent years adopted a trajectory for reform, and of opening up to the world. Good relations with the EU are now an important pillar of Uzbek foreign policy.
For the EU too relations with Uzbekistan are increasingly important given the Union's strategy towards Central Asia.