European Union Geopolitical Watch – From 18 February to 24 February

European Union Geopolitical Watch Team: Antoine Bézier, Emma Chlebowski, Marie Corcelle, Tristan Jarraud, Etienne Mathieu

This week: U.S. pushes Turkey to ratify Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership; French military deploys Orion 2023 exercise; Joe Biden reaffirms support for Warsaw; EU asylum applications peak since 2016; Germany wants to step up fight against circumvention of EU sanctions on Russia; Hungary defends its policy toward Russia and the EU at UN.

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20/02/2023: Antony Blinken in Turkey: US steps up pressure on Ankara to speed up ratification of Sweden and Finland’s NATO membership. – Antoine Bézier –

On 20 February, at a joint press conference in Ankara with his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Turkish Foreign Minister, the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, whose main purpose in visiting Turkey was the devastating earthquake on the Turkish-Syrian border on 6th February, reiterated US support for Swedish and Finnish membership of NATO, which Ankara is currently blocking: “The United States strongly supports Nordic accession as soon as possible […] Sweden and Finland’s NATO expansion is not a bilateral issue.” (Euractiv)

Ankara continues to criticise the two Nordic countries for being too close to the armed Kurdish political organisation PKK, and in particular expects Stockholm to take measures regarding the extradition of Kurdish militants living in Sweden to Turkey: “Relatively our problems with Finland are less (than with Sweden). So, the calendar that you have shared with respect to the NATO summit in Vilnius, these are tied in relation to the steps that are to be taken by Sweden.” (Euronews) As Euractiv reports, the Turkish government has shown signs of softening its stance, with Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu announcing that “more meetings will be held with Sweden and Finland on NATO membership.” 

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, to whom his Finnish counterpart Sanna Marin reportedly reiterated the desire for Finland and Sweden to join NATO together at the 59th Munich Security Conference on 17-19 February, said he hoped to “get back to these talks as soon as possible,” while adding that “this does not change the fact that it is Turkey that makes Turkish decisions, and we have great respect for that.” (Euractiv)

While “the Biden administration strongly supports the package to modernise the existing F-16s and provide new ones to Turkey,” according to Antony Blinken (Euronews), the Turkish Foreign Minister denied that this issue of the sale of fighter jets to Turkey, currently blocked by the US Congress, had any influence on the Turkish position on the entry of the two Nordic countries into NATO: “It would not be right or fair to make two independent issues conditional on each other.” (Euractiv)

21/02/2023: The French Army begins the Orion 2023 exercise. Etienne Mathieu

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