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SWEDEN AND TURKEY

Swedish PM: Turkey’s election could delay Nato decision

Sweden's prime minister, Ulf Kristersson, has warned that Turkey's election could delay a decision on Sweden's Nato membership as diplomats from the two countries meet for talks on the issue.

Swedish PM: Turkey's election could delay Nato decision
Sweden's Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom, right, smiles with Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg during the first day of the meeting of NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs in Bucharest, Romania. Photo: AP/Vadim Ghirda

“They have an election in the early summer and domestic politics plays a role in every country,” Kristersson said on Tuesday, shortly before the foreign ministers of Sweden, Finland and Turkey were due to meet in Bucharest. 

“We have had a very good dialogue recently,” Kristersson said, pointing to talks between the two sides in Stockholm on Friday. “This was the first time Turkey clearly expressed a view that Sweden is really delivering and carrying out what was agreed between Sweden, Finland and Turkey. That was a good sign.” 

Sweden’s prime minister Tobias Billström was due to meet his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Cavusoglu alongside Finland’s foreign minister Pekka Haavisto on Tuesday at a Nato meeting in Bucharest, Romania. 

Ahead of the meeting Billström sought to downplay expectations. 

“We are going to have an exchange of opinions, but when it comes down to it, this is about living up to the tripartite agreement which was signed at the Nato summit in Madrid between Sweden, Finland and Turkey,” he said as he arrived at the meeting. “We believe that we have come a long way towards fulfilling the points in the agreement.”

The summit was the first Nato event attended by a Swedish foreign minister leading the delegation of a so-called ‘invitee’ nation. 

“I’m extremely happy to be here and that I believe it will be a productive meeting,” Billström said. 

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TERRORISM

Sweden to make it illegal to be active in a terrorist organisation

Sweden's government has submitted a new terror bill which could help convince Turkey that the country is acting to crack down on Swedish residents active in the Kurdish PKK terror group.

Sweden to make it illegal to be active in a terrorist organisation

The new proposal, titled “a special penalty provision for participation in a terrorist organisation”, will make participation in the activities of a terrorist organisation in any way that “promotes, strengthens or supports” the organisation punishable with up to four years in prison. 

“This is a wider criminalisation that takes aim at a slew of activities within a terrorist organisation that don’t need to be concretely connected to a specific terrorist crime,” Justice Minister Gunnar Strömmer told a press conference.

“Sweden has an increased terrorist threat which must be taken very seriously,” he continued. “Now the government is putting forward a legislative proposal which means that both participation in and financing of participation in terrorist organisations will be punishable.” 

Actions such as handling equipment, organising camps or locations for meetings, cooking or being in charge of transport for designated terrorist organisations would be criminalised under the new law, which Strömmer stressed was a “considerable widening of the scope compared to current legislation”.

In November, the country amended its constitution to allow the proposed bill to move forward, as it was deemed to infringe on Sweden’s freedom of association laws.

The proposal will now go to Sweden’s Council on Legislation, which judged a previous proposal to ban membership of a terror organisation, brought in in the wake the 2017 Stockholm terror attack, as in conflict with Sweden’s constitution right to free association. 

Under the proposal, serious cases of the new crime will be punishable by up to eight years in prison, while those found guilty of holding a leadership position in a terror organisation could be jailed for 18 years or even for life. 

The proposal criminalises all forms of support for terror organisations, regardless of whether it is financial or other ways of taking part in it, promoting it and strengthening it. 

Strömmer noted that “partaking in a demonstration or at a meeting will not in itself be punishable”, adding that said flag-waving in itself would not be criminalised but such activities could potentially be used as evidence in court.

The government hopes to be able to submit the proposal to parliament on March 7th, and for it to come into force by June 1st. 

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