March 5. 2024. 3:09

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MEP: Swedish far-right could give in to Erdogan’s extradition demands


There is a risk that the far-right partner of the Swedish coalition government could give in to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s set of demands to extradite Kurdish opposition members, Swedish opposition Social Democratic MEP Evin Incir (S&D) told EURACTIV in an interview.

She added that Erdoğan is using his veto on Sweden’s NATO membership at the expense of Europe and Turkey itself.

For Incir, giving in to the Turkish president’s demand is inconceivable.

Erdoğan recently declared that he would only support Finnish NATO membership but not Sweden’s. Among the reasons is Stockholm’s refusal to deport some 130 people it considers terrorists, mainly Kurds, that reside in the country and a demand to make burning the Quran illegal.

“Giving up on matters related to the rule of law and international law is, should and must never be a question,” she said, adding that “a foreign country cannot come and tell another country how to change their laws. Especially when it weakens their freedom of speech and their freedom of assembly.”

So far, the centre-right coalition in power in Sweden has consistently refused to deport anyone to Turkey, but according to Ircin, trouble could come from the far-right Sweden Democrats who support the ruling coalition and without whom, the current Moderate Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson would not have his slim majority.

“The government right now is sitting on the lap of the far right, and the Sweden Democrats (ECR) have continuously shown that the rule of law and international law is not their strong suit, but rather they do everything they can to put it aside,” she said.

According to her, the centre-right government already sent “worrying signals” earlier last year as it took its distances with the PYD and YPG, two Kurdish organisations that fought the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, that Stockholm supported in the past.

“I was worried when I heard the statements of Swedish foreign minister saying that PYD and YPG, those who actually have sacrificed their lives in the fight against ISIS, are dubious organisations,” Incir said.

In early November, Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström said the organisations had too close ties to the terrorist-classified PKK and was later backed by Kristersson.

“There is too close a link between these organisations and the PKK, a terrorist organisation listed by the EU, for it to be good for relations between us and Turkey. We should not cooperate politically with organisations close to the PKK,” said Kristersson.

“Who is the Swedish prime minister trying to satisfy?” she wondered.

Electoral context

In June, general elections will be held in Turkey to elect a new president and a new parliament. For Ircin, domestic politics are paramount in Erdoğan’s stalling of the Swedish NATO membership.

“He’s using the NATO membership to try to win an internal election”, she said, adding that the Turkish president sees to his own political interest before the Alliance’s, the EU’s and ultimately Turkey’s own interests.

However, according to Ircin, the situation could change if Erdoğan is voted out.

“I hope, of course, that my sister parties will be successful in the elections and that the future government will ensure to take another path than the one that Erdogan has taken right now.”, she said.

According to the latest polls, Erdoğan’s AKP party (Justice and Development party) leads with 32%, tightly followed by the social democratic Republican People’s party (31%) and the Progressive People’s democratic party (9%).

More pressure on Turkey

With the Russian war in Ukraine, Europe needs more than ever to stand united, Ircin said, adding that the best way to ensure peace and global security is to grant both Sweden and Finland NATO membership. But as Turkey stalls the process, Ircin says that more could be done to bring Ankara to change its mind.

“A joint voice from the European Union and the US that more firmly insists on Turkey granting the membership is essential,” said Ircin, adding that Sweden and Finland already fulfilled their obligations regarding their NATO application.

“Finland and Sweden lived up to their commitments. So the other NATO countries have a big responsibility to make Erdoğan and Turkey understand the importance of Sweden and Finland in NATO,” she said.

Last week, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg reiterated that Finland and Sweden have indeed delivered on Turkey’s demands and that “it is important that they become members as soon as possible.” So far, his appeals to Ankara have not had the expected effects, just as repeated calls from the US.

Asked if Erdoğan’s position could also be due to frustration with the suspension of Ankara’s application to the EU in 2019, Ircin made it clear that the situation was very different as Turkey’s suspension was the result of a blatant violation of human rights and deficits in the rule of law.

“If Erdoğan really wants close cooperation with the European Union, he needs to understand that he cannot keep two of the European Union member states as hostages,” she said.

(Charles Szumski | EURACTIV.com)