Spurred on by Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, Sweden and Finland have both formally applied to join NATO and, if accepted, would leave the number of European Union member states at just four. not part of the transatlantic military alliance.
These are Austria, Cyprus, Ireland and Malta.
All four are either militarily neutral, meaning they cannot join a military alliance or take sides in military conflicts, or non-aligned, meaning they do not officially favor a major power bloc.
In the case of Cyprus and Ireland, neutrality was historically based on the fact that the two islands are divided into two separate territories.
In the case of the island of Ireland, it is divided between the Republic of Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland with an open border between the two policies resulting from the 1998 Good Friday Peace Agreement which ended decades of sectarian violence.
Cyprus, however, is divided between the Republic of Cyprus in the south and the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus which is not recognized by the international community.
Yet all of them have ties to NATO. Austria, Ireland and Malta participate in the alliance’s Partnership for Peace programme, which provides a framework for enhanced political and military cooperation for joint multilateral activities, such as humanitarian assistance, peacekeeping peace and crisis management.
Cyprus, on the other hand, has two British military bases on its soil, the United Kingdom being a member of NATO.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 sparked debates in most neutral countries in Europe about whether such a status is still justified.
Sweden and Finland, for example, were both traditionally neutral, but public opinion quickly shifted in favor of NATO membership when Moscow sent its tanks to Ukraine.
Several other European countries have not joined the alliance either. These include Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Moldova and Serbia as well as Switzerland.
The latter is perhaps the most famous neutral country in the world with the first mention of the status dating back to 1515 although it was officially established in 1815 following the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte at Waterloo.
He then signed the Hague Conventions of 1907 which codified neutrality into international law, stipulating that neutral countries should refrain from engaging in war, ensure equal treatment for belligerent states in concerns the export of war material, not supplying mercenary troops to belligerent states. , and not allow belligerent states to use its territory.