Sweden in NATO: Legal Status and Future Challenges

On 7 March 2024, after decades of close partnership, Sweden finally joined NATO. Its accession followed a strict process involving the approval of all Parties of the Alliance. Before this pivotal moment, Sweden’s application to NATO was engaged in an unstable diplomatic negotiation between former Allies. This paper aims to analyse the legal framework and the future setup of NATO after this substantial transformation.

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Sweden Strengthens Military Ties with France

On 31 January 2024, Sweden and France signed an agreement to deepen their partnership, engage in strategic dialogue on security and defence issues, expand cooperation in the field of research and development and advance their overall defence capabilities (Government of Sweden , 2024b). The cooperation extends to their armament industries and includes the production of essential supplies such as ammunitions, propellants, and explosives, thus rendering the European defence technological and industrial base more innovative, competitive, and resilient (Government of Sweden , 2024b). It is worth mentioning that France-Sweden defence cooperation is well- established, dating back to September 2021, when the two issued a joint declaration of intent concerning intensified defence cooperation in international operations and material provision (Government of Sweden , 2024a). Furthermore, in April 2023, they signed a framework arrangement to develop a common, improved version of a medium-range missile, paving the way for further collaboration in anti-tank missiles (Shepard News Team, 2024).

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Sweden, Türkiye, and NATO: Rational choices leading to a breakdown in negotiations?

Sweden’s NATO application looks as if it is on the cusp of derailing once more after 21 August comments from Türkiye’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. In the context of Sweden’s NATO application, Erdoğan asserted that “Sweden must first of all take care of the streets of Stockholm. If they don’t take care of their streets, if these attacks on the things we hold sacred continue, then they shouldn’t blame us”. This statement follows a summer of Qur’an burnings that have soured Sweden’s relations with most of the Muslim world, Türkiye included, severely increased the risk of terror attacks on Sweden and motivated direct threats by militant Islamist groups. 

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Playing the Long Game: Hungarian Parliament Continues to delay Sweden’s NATO Accession Bid

On 28 June 2023, the Hungarian Parliament’s House Committee rejected a proposal to schedule a weekly plenary vote ratifying Sweden’s NATO membership bid (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 2023). Incidentally, this is the final week of the chamber’s spring session, meaning that Parliamentarians will not return until the ordinary autumn sessions start in late August or early September. Therefore, the only chance to vote on Stockholm’s accession to the alliance is through an extraordinary session, which may only convene upon a motion by the President, the Government or one-fifth of the Parliament’s members (Hungarian National Assembly, n.d.).

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What Benefits and Disadvantages does Sweden and Finland get from NATO?

This Info Flash will first examine the international relations between Sweden, Hungary, and Türkiye, which are tense since Sweden started its accession process to join NATO in the aftermath of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. With this context, the second part of the paper will conduct an analysis of the benefits and disadvantages for Sweden, Finland, and NATO itself in accepting these new member states.

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