Sweden’s Social Democrats kick off ‘marathon meeting’ on Nato membership

Sweden's Social Democrats are holding a "marathon meeting" this Friday on whether to join the Nato security alliance. The party's parliamentary group is joining its main leadership committee to thrash out the contentious issue.

Sweden's Social Democrats kick off 'marathon meeting' on Nato membership
Social Democrat party secretary Tobias Baudin arrives at the "marathon meeting" on Nato on Friday. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

“The is the first big discussion in the party,” a source told the Aftonbladet newspaper, which was the first to report on the meeting on Thursday.  

The meeting, which will run from 9am to 3pm, marks the official start of a process many commentators see as designed to build support within the party ahead of a shift in policy in favour of a Nato application.

READ ALSO: The likely timetable for how Sweden could join Nato

Ahead of the meeting, climate minister Annika Strandhäll, who chairs the party’s women’s organisation, Social Democratic Women in Sweden, said that the party needed to reexamine its long-held policy of non-alignment in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

“Social Democratic Women in Sweden has a long history of working for peace and disarmament,” she told TT. “We have a decision of the Social Democrat’s annual conference which states clearly that we in Sweden should be non-aligned and not apply to join Nato.

But when the security situation changes, as has happened with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, she said, it was the Social Democratic Women in Sweden’s responsibility to once again debate the membership issue. 

Social Democratic Women in Sweden, known in Sweden as S-Kvinnor, is seen by party watchers as one of the likely pockets of resistance to Nato membership. 

READ ALSO: Why isn’t Sweden part of the Nato security alliance?

At the same time, the party has appointed some of its most heavyweight figures, including the former foreign minister, Margot Wallström, the current foreign minister, Ann Linde, and Sweden’s defence minister, Peter Hultqvist, to take leading roles in the discussion within the party over joining Nato. 

The Social Democrats’ Secretary-General, Tobias Baudin, told TT that leading ministers and former ministers would lead a series of digital meetings with party members on May 9th, May 10th, and May 12th. 

“We have now decided on a number of speakers, people who will hold discussions with each of our party districts,” he told TT. 

Among those meeting party districts will be Foreign Minister Ann Linde, Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist, Justice Minister Morgan Johansson, Aid Minister Mathilda Ernkrans, and EU Minister Hans Dahlgren.

Margot Wallström, Sweden’s former foreign minister, will also lead discussions. 

“They have been selected because they are central representatives of the party who have a strong legitimacy, respect and confidence within our party, but also because they have good knowledge on this issue,” Baudin told the newswire.

He said that the discussions would lead off with a broad analysis of security and foreign policy issues, and would also cover both the advantages and disadvantages of Nato membership. 

“Most of all, they need to make sure that we have a good dialogue with the local boards of each of our party districts because these are the discussions that need to be there as a strong foundation if we need to take a decision later,” he said. 

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Turkey drops objections to Sweden joining Nato

Turkey has dropped its objections to Sweden and Finland joining Nato, paving the way for the two Nordic nations to join the North Atlantic defence alliance.

Turkey drops objections to Sweden joining Nato

“We have reached an agreement between Sweden, Turkey and Finland which means that Turkey now accepts that we will be granted invitee status in Nato. That’s important, as it will improve Sweden’s security,” Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said after a meeting in Madrid with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“It was a very long meeting and Sauli Niinistö and I could describe all the measures we in Sweden have taken regarding terrorism legislation in recent years, and now on July 1st we are tightening that legislation significantly,” Andersson added.

The process of joining Nato requires the approval of all 30 existing members. Turkey had set out a string of demands, including the extradition of what it claims are Kurdish terrorists living in Sweden and a relaxation of Sweden’s ban on selling arms to Turkey. 

In a press release, Nato said that the foreign ministers of Turkey, Sweden and Finland had all signed a trilateral memorandum (find copy here) which addressed “Türkiye’s legitimate security concerns”. 

Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that Nato leaders would as a result now be able to issue a formal invitation to Sweden and Finland to join the alliance. 

“I’m pleased to announce that we now have an agreement that paves the way for Finland and Sweden to join Nato. Turkey, Finland and Sweden have signed a memorandum that addresses Turkey’s concerns, including around arms exports,
and the fight against terrorism,” he said. 

As aspiring Nato members, he added, Finland and Sweden would not give support to the PYD, the Democratic Union Party of Syria, which runs the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, and would not support the Gülen movement. 

The agreement commits Sweden and Finland to not supporting the PYD, but only classes the PKK as a terrorist organisation. Turkey has previously insisted on describing the PKK/PYD as a single entity. 

The deal also covers the export of Swedish weapons to Turkey. Sweden has not exported weapons to Turkey in recent years, a decision Turkey interprets as an arms embargo. 

“Turkey, Finland and Sweden confirm that there are no national arms embargoes between them. Sweden is changing its national regulatory framework for arms exports in relation to Nato allies,” the document reads. “In future, defence exports from Finland and Sweden will be conducted in accordance with Alliance solidarity and the letter and spirit of Article 3 of the Washington Treaty.”

“If we become Nato members, of course this will have repercussions on how we interpret Swedish weapons exports legislation,” Andersson conceded at the press conference.  

According to Sweden’s Dagens Nyheter newspaper, Säpo, Sweden’s security police, has drawn up a list of “at least ten” people living in Sweden with links to the Kurdish PKK terror organisation, who can be extradited to Turkey. 

According to the newspaper’s government source, two people with PKK links have already been extradited to Turkey this year, and more could follow.

However, Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö stressed to reporters at the press conference that the trilateral deal does not name any individuals who Turkey wants extradited. Instead the agreement commits Sweden and Finland to handling extradition requests “expeditiously and thoroughly”. 

Sweden’s foreign minister, Ann Linde, sent out a celebratory tweet shortly after the announcement. 

She said that the two countries would then start formal accession talks in Brussels next week after which Sweden would officially become a Nato invitee. 

READ ALSO: The next five steps to a Swedish Nato membership