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The drama around Sweden's gun crime and the negotiations with Turkey for entering NATO

The entry of Sweden into the US-led military alliance NATO is still far from being a reality. As each member state, Turkey has a veto over the countries that can be accepted into this selected group and is demanding Stockholm to lift its military export sanctions, stop supporting what Ankara considers terrorist Kurdish separatist movements, and to extradite/prosecute 16 of their members that live in Sweden. Turkey is also requiring that Swedish Defense Minister, Peter Hultqvist, must be removed from his position. This because it has been revealed that in 2011 he participated and held a speech in an event celebrating the 33rd anniversary of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party), a Marxist, nationalist and secular Kurdish militia that is branded as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, United Kingdom and Turkey, among others. The current Swedish Social Democratic government, led by Magdalena Andersson, is also providing development support worth more than 350 million euros until 2023 in the regions controlled by another left-wing militia called YPG (People’s Defense Units), which Turkey considers as the Syrian branch of the PKK. The EU and US have been supporting the YPG because it was an ally in the fight against ISIS, and it has not been as aggressive against Turkey as the PKK, which has killed more than 40,000 people in terrorist attacks since 1984. This has angered Turkey, and its authoritarian president, Recep Erdoğan, wants to use this opportunity to get concessions from western countries during the political campaign towards the national elections of next year.

However, the possibilities of reaching such an agreement between Sweden and Turkey diminished substantially this week. This because the right-wing opposition parties in the Swedish parliament launched a non-confidence motion against the Social Democrat Minister of Justice, Morgan Johansson, about the soaring violent crime that has been affecting cities all over the country in recent years. The Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson threatened then to resign with all her government if her Minister of Justice was deposed, complicating with this even more the NATO incorporation process. Currently, Sweden records one shooting every day on average, one of the highest rate per capita in Europe and is the only country in the EU that has seen a rise of violent gun crime in the last 10 years. Almost 100% of these shootings are committed by immigrants, many of them who have come as refugees, and are directed against immigrants as well, who now represent 30% of the population in Sweden. Many of the current criminal laws were enacted 40 years ago when the country had less than 10 shootings per year, compared to more than 300 nowadays. The Minister of Justice has been sitting in a position of power since 2014, when the Social Democratic Party won the elections and the Refugee Crisis of 2015 changed the national political landscape, and because elections will be held in Sweden in just three months, the opposition parties want to win an important battle just before the campaign starts. The Swedish Parliament has 349 seats, with the pro-government bloc having 174 members whereas the right-wing has also 174. The motion of no confidence was then decided this week by a Kurdish and Iran-born independent deputy, named Amine Kakabaveh, who was part of the Left Party but was forced to leave her political group in 2019 because, according to the leaders of the party, she was fighting too hard for women's rights related to 'honor crimes' that in Sweden affect mostly Muslim families. Thus, her agenda had the risk of alienating many immigrant voters, which represent a big electoral base for the Left Party, and so she was accused of islamophobia. Since then, this independent deputy has been asking the Social Democrat government of Magdalena Andersson that Sweden should support the Kurdish cause in exchange for her votes. As it happened previously, Kakabaveh finally announced that she would help the government and allow the Minister of Justice to remain in his position, but not before securing the political and financial aid to the Kurdish movements in the Middle East from the Social Democratic Party. Kakabaveh is also one of the 16 people that Turkey is demanding to be prosecuted for helping the PKK and YPG. Turkey’s legal system contains very vague and broad definitions of terrorism. Between 2016 and 2020, for example, 1.6 million citizens in Turkey were investigated after being accused of this crime. The US and EU does not accept Turkey’s definition of terror and until this is not resolved, there will be no agreement regarding the NATO incorporation process.

It is unclear if Turkey will allow Sweden to get into NATO anytime soon. There is also a possiblity that Finland might be accepted in the first place, and while the Swedish case is being negotiated, the big western powers will provide military guarantees in case Russia should launch an attack against Sweden.


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