Sweden’s NATO membership bid goes up in smoke
After the burning of the Quran in Stockholm, Turkey has no intention of allowing Sweden to join NATO. Sweden's Prime Minister, on the other hand, pointed to the importance of freedom of expression. The NATO Secretary General also spoke up on the matter.
Published: January 25, 2023, 7:06 am
After Danish-Swedish politician Rasmus Paludan carried out a permitted and constitutionally protected demonstration outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm, there was a swift Turkish reaction. On Monday, Turkish President Erdogan announced that Turkey would not approve a Swedish NATO application.
The Turkish leader withdrew support for the Scandinavian country’s entry into NATO after the incident. “Sweden should not expect any support from us. If they don’t respect the religion of the Turkish Republic or the Muslims, they will not receive any support from our side,” he said, according to the dpa news agency.
Rasmus Paludan was previously denied entry into Sweden by police and had been handed a two years travel ban to the country due to inciting unrest. His supporters gave a vivid example of the police’s fears when they managed to burn a copy of the Quran anyway, and massive riots ensued on August 28, 2020, in the immigrant ghetto of Rosengård in Malmö, Sweden’s third largest city.
Irrespective of this, Turkey has been blocking the admission of the Scandinavian country and Finland to the western military alliance for months. Erdogan accuses Sweden in particular of supporting terrorist organizations such as the Kurdish PKK. In addition, Ankara is demanding the extradition of several people who are said to be terrorists.
Sweden touts freedom of expression
Sweden’s foreign ministry initially declined to comment on Erdogan’s most recent statements. Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson called the incident “a deeply disrespectful act”. However, he made it clear that Paludan’s Quran burnings were no longer a crime and that “freedom of expression is a fundamental part of democracy”.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stressed that he was against the burning of the Quran. At the same time, however, he admitted on the TV station Welt that nothing illegal had happened and “freedom of expression has now firmly been established”.
Like Finland, Sweden can only become a NATO member if all 30 member states vote yes. Except for Turkey and Hungary, all other countries have already done so. The two states in northern Europe gave up the neutrality they had maintained for decades last year.
No Muslim riots against Paludan
Last weekend, Sweden was shaken by civil war-like clashes. However, this time there were no Turkish or Arab clans on the one hand and state authority, let alone Swedish-Danish individuals like Paludan, on the other. Rather, competing immigrant clans attacked each other. They did so with firearms and explosive devices.
Numerous clan fighters were injured, while two died. According to Swedish outlet SVT, it is suspected within the police force that criminals have a kind of list of potential targets and a corresponding monetary reward for carrying out orders against such targets. The list has been circulating on the internet. It is attributed to a 36-year-old man who fled to Turkey. His nickname is “The Kurdish Fox”.
In this volatile situation, Rasmus Paludan, who comes from Denmark, stood in front of the Turkish embassy in Stockholm and publicly burned the Quran. Incidentally, his name is not on this hit list which led to extreme violence over the weekend.
In response to the Quran burning, protesters in Istanbul set fire to Swedish flags. They shouted “Allahu akbar” and showered Swedes with religious and secular curses, which expressly blamed the Swedish government for not preventing the burning of the Quran.
The failed immigration policy of liberal and social democratic governments has plunged the country into a nightmare from which there will be no waking up in the short term, despite Paludan’s antics.
Sweden reports one of the ‘worst weekends’ in a long time
A renewed wave of violence among criminal gangs in Sweden continues to worry Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson. “This weekend has been one of the worst we’ve seen in a very long time,” the conservative head of government said on Monday on Swedish radio station SVT.
Sweden has been struggling with conflicts between rival gangs for years. Clashes between them have repeatedly involved gunfire and explosions. The situation in the capital Stockholm has recently deteriorated again: since Christmas there have been more than 20 acts of violence of this kind, including several last weekend.
Two people were killed during the renewed wave of violence, most recently a man on Friday evening. The Stockholm police are now receiving reinforcements from across the country to tackle their imported problem.
Will Finland join NATO?
The fact that NATO opponents and Erdogan critics gathered for demonstrations this weekend constituted a threat to Sweden’s and Finland’s security, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto meanwhile told YLE.
“These demonstrators are playing with Finland’s and Sweden’s security,” he told YLE.
After Turkey once again said no to Sweden’s application for membership in the NATO defense alliance, Finland may ignore earlier promises to join together with Sweden. “Finland has opened up to consider its options,” Haavisto said.
On Tuesday morning, Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström however announced in a written comment to Swedish daily Aftonbladet that they were in contact with Finland to find out what Haavisto’s statement about joining NATO without Sweden was supposed to mean.
Haavisto then clarified to Swedish outlet Dagens Nyheter that he was only considering it if Sweden were to be permanently excluded from the defense alliance. “It is Finland’s priority to join together with Sweden,” said Haavisto at a press conference on Tuesday.
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