After months of deadlock, Turkey’s president has approved Sweden’s NATO membership, paving the way for the Nordic country to follow its neighbour Finland into the security alliance.
Here is the current state of Sweden’s bid, which was sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
When will Sweden join NATO?
While President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s green light was crucial, Turkey’s parliament still needs to ratify the accession.
When the agreement between Sweden, Turkey and NATO was announced on Monday, no precise date was given for the vote.
“As soon as possible”, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters.
The Turkish parliament’s programme ends on July 18 according to the official timetable, and it is not expected to resume its session until September.
Hungary, the other remaining member of NATO’s 31 allies still to ratify Sweden’s entry, has made it clear that it will not delay the issue any further.
Ratification is “only a technical question,” Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said Tuesday.
Stockholm remained cautious. Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson hailed the deal as a “good day” for his country, but refrained from any triumphant celebrations.
After the announcement of the agreement in Vilnius, “it wasn’t really the place to celebrate too much. But we got the whole team together in a conference room and had a beer”, he told Swedish radio Tuesday morning.
Once the parliaments in Turkey and Hungary ratify Sweden’s bid, Stockholm can immediately join the alliance.
What does Sweden offer NATO?
By joining NATO, Sweden, with its 10.5 million population, is ending an era of more than two centuries of staying outside military alliances, even though its neutrality formally ended in the 1990s.
While the country heavily cut military spending after the end of the Cold War, Sweden reversed course after Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, and, among other things, reinstated mandatory military service.
Its armed forces have cutting-edge equipment, such as dozens of combat aircraft and five submarines.
Experts believe that Sweden’s entry into the alliance, along with that of Finland which took effect in early April, offers better protection to the Baltic states, the former Soviet republics on NATO’s northeastern flank.
By joining, Sweden has avoided becoming the only country bordering the Baltic Sea not to be a member of NATO — apart from Russia.
The Swedish defence industry, with flagships such as Saab and the Bofors conglomerate, is expected to become an asset for the alliance.
What do the Swedes think of joining NATO
Swedish public support for joining the alliance, which soared after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, remains overwhelming.
Nearly two-thirds of Swedes are still in favour, according to recent polls.
“It feels good that we are joining NATO, that we are welcome there and that we have a united front against Russia,” Stockholm resident Sara Lindblom, 30, told AFP.
“It hasn’t been completely safe since we haven’t been members for real. So it feels good,” business consultant Camilla Hiir-Salakka, 52, said.
But the geopolitical negotiations surrounding the accession, with Turkey’s Erdogan and Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban, have also caused unease about the risk of Sweden’s compromising its status as a “moral superpower.”
“It’s difficult, I don’t think Swedish politicians were ready to face Turkey in this way,” business owner Jan Hveem, 67, said, adding that he still had supported joining the alliance for a long time.