Turkey’s Nordic demands spark Western Balkan déjà vu

by Cristian Florescu

Turkey’s move to pressure Sweden and Finland into extraditing alleged “terrorists” they harbour is a method Ankara used for several years against countries in the Western Balkans, including EU candidate countries, under the idle gaze of Brussels, writes EURACTIV

While Turkey wields investment and aid as a sword of Damocles over the heads of poorer, less powerful countries, when it comes to the Nordic duo, it is their NATO application filed in May that hangs in the balance.

After Sweden and Finland applied to join NATO, Turkey refused to agree, citing the former’s alleged support of members of the Kurdish Worker’s Party (PKK). Erdogan said that Sweden joining NATO would make it “a place where representatives of terrorist organisations are concentrated.”

Turkey has demanded resolutions to its complaints, including possible extraditions before it unblocks the veto. But this is not the first time it has used this rhetoric.

Another group that Turkey considers “terrorists” is followers of self-exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen. Often referred to as Gulenists, or “FETÖ” by Erdogan, they have been subjected to a harsh crackdown in Turkey and beyond.

Following a failed coup d’etat in 2016, Erdogan imprisoned and declared wanted thousands of Gulenists. Thousands more fled the country for the West, and many more worked in networks of Gulen-affiliated schools and universities worldwide.

Turkey is exerting pressure on stronger and richer Sweden and Finland, using their application to NATO as a bargaining chip while war simmers at their borders.

Turkish sources told EURACTIV that the issue may also have to do with Gulenists.

Sweden, in particular, has welcomed many such individuals and it’s also home to the Nordic Monitor portal that reports on the long arm of Turkish intelligence. One investigation in particularly exposed documents showed that Turkish embassies in other countries were being used to spy on critics of Erdogan.

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