Just after half five o’clock, Swedish time, Jens Stoltenberg sat down with Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson (M) and his counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a meeting room in Vilnius. An attempt to straighten out the last obstacles in order for Sweden to become a full member of NATO. The Swedish government hopes for a positive message from Turkey during the NATO summit that takes place on July 11-12 in the Lithuanian capital. Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson says he is happy to be in Vilnius, where both the support for Ukraine and Sweden’s NATO membership will be discussed. “Now I’m on my way to the meeting with President Erdogan, I’m looking forward to constructive talks,” he says briefly on the way to the meeting. But just before Erdogan got on the plane to Vilnius, he threw in a new demand and contributed to increasing uncertainty about when Sweden can become a member. In the televised appearance, Erdogan says that Turkey supports Sweden’s application for NATO membership – if the EU resumes the frozen negotiations about letting Turkey join the Union. “First: Open the way for Turkey’s membership in the European Union and then we will open for Sweden, just as we did for Finland,” says the Turkish President. At a press conference together with the President of Lithuania Gitanas Nauseda in Vilnius, NATO’s Secretary General says, “It is still possible to reach a positive decision on Sweden’s membership here in Vilnius, but we have no guarantees,” says Stoltenberg. Stoltenberg points out that Sweden and Turkey concluded an agreement in Madrid last summer, with a specific list of demands for Turkey to say yes to Swedish NATO membership. And that list is fulfilled, emphasizes Stoltenberg. He adds that it is now time to take into account the security interests of all other NATO countries and all those who want to say yes to Sweden as soon as possible. The President of Lithuania urges not to throw in new demands.” is important that there are no new requirements when the requirements on the list are met. Because otherwise doubts arise as to whether the goal can be reached,” says Nauseda. The German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, told reporters in Berlin on Monday that Sweden’s NATO application has nothing to do with Turkey’s bid for EU membership: “Sweden meets all the requirements for NATO membership. The other issue is one that is not connected to that and that is why I do not think it should be seen as a connected issue.” The EU put the membership negotiations with Turkey on hold as a result of the coup attempt in Turkey in 2016 and its aftermath. Getting the negotiations started again is not something that NATO has control over, and neither is Sweden alone.It is however unclear exactly what Erdogan means by his demand. If he means that the EU negotiations must actually be resumed before Turkey ratifies the Swedish NATO application, it will take time. The EU Commission emphasizes that NATO and EU membership are two completely different things. “The two processes that take place in parallel, on NATO enlargement and accepting new members on the one hand and the separate process of enlargement of the EU on the other, are completely separate processes,” says EU Commission spokesperson Dana Spinant at the Commission’s daily press briefing in Brussels. “The EU has a very structured process regarding enlargement , with very clear steps that must be taken by all candidate countries and you cannot connect the two processes.”
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