Which European countries are not part of NATO? Updated list of members and non-members
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has agreed to support Sweden’s bid to join NATO, paving the way for the country to be the organization’s 32nd ally.
NATO membership is a top priority for several European countries. The 2022 attack by Russia on Ukraine, despite neither country being a member, has caused a significant shift in support for the alliance. As a result, Sweden and Finland submitted formal applications to join. On April 4, 2023, Finland became the 31st official member of NATO.
Sweden soon to join NATO’s ranks
Sweden’s entry is taking longer. Turkey had spent months blocking the country’s application, accusing it of hosting Kurdish militants. However, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan finally agreed to support their bid to join the alliance. The exact date for Sweden’s entry into NATO to become the 32nd ally will depend on the Turkish parliament.
NATO used to be much smaller, and it was only after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the break up of the Warsaw Pact, the communist equivalent to NATO, that the organization swelled to its current 31 member states.
Why did Turkey oppose Sweden’s entrance to NATO?
An agreement had previously been struck between the two nations and Turkey, which had been vetoing Sweden’s membership due to their links to Turkey’s Kurdish minority community. Sweden is host to around 100,000 Kurdish refugees and Turkey wanted those linked to its proscribed terror groups to be sent to Turkey.
Many of these groups were leading figures in the fight against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq such as the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union party (PYD) and People’s Protection Units (YPG).
However, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said that Turkey and Sweden had addressed “Turkey’s legitimate security concerns”, and as a result Sweden had amended its constitution and laws, expanded its counter-terrorism operation against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, and resumed the sales of arms to Turkey.
Which European nations are not in NATO?
NATO and other European nations
The largest group of European nations not in NATO are those that profess their neutrality. Including nations such as Austria, Ireland, and Switzerland, some have military neutrality enshrined in their constitutions, or because of previous dealings with the great powers.
Some European nations have close cultural and economic ties to Russia, which usually keeps them out of NATO. Examples include countries like Armenia and Belarus, parts of the former Soviet Union. Ukraine could have been counted among this group until last year’s war. Although not a member, it is considered a strategic partner by NATO due to its proximity to Russia —one of the prime reasons for Moscow’s insistence that the country be denied full membership.
Kosovo was previously Europe’s newest nation, formed from a war in Serbia in 2008. NATO was and is instrumental in keeping the peace, meaning the alliance and Kosovo share a unique relationship. It is not a member but has made overtures to NATO in recent years about becoming one, including a request in February 2022 for a US military base in the country.
Cyprus is in a difficult position. It has professed its desire to join NATO, but the northern half of the country is occupied by Turkish-backed separatist rebels. Turkey, being a NATO member, is unlikely to allow Cyprus’ accession without a resolution to the stalemate.