April 22. 2024. 8:21

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Turkey ratifies Finland’s NATO bid, Sweden kept waiting

Turkey’s parliament approved a bill on Thursday night (30 March) to allow Finland to join NATO, clearing the way for the country to become part of the Western defence alliance, with Sweden kept waiting.

Helsinki applied to join NATO less than a year ago, in a joint bid with neighbouring Sweden, against the backdrop of the Russian aggression in Ukraine.

The Turkish parliament was the last among the 30 members of the alliance to ratify Finland’s membership after Hungary’s legislature approved a similar bill earlier this week with an overwhelming majority of 182 lawmakers in favour and six against.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said on Friday (31 March) Finland would formally become a member within days, as he congratulated its president on clearing the final hurdle.

“I look forward to raising Finland’s flag at NATO HQ in the coming days. Together we are stronger and safer,” Stoltenberg said.

Stoltenberg said in a separate statement that “Finland has highly capable forces, advanced capabilities, and strong democratic institutions.”

“So Finland will bring a lot to our alliance,” he said.

Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan said earlier in March that Finland had secured Ankara’s blessing after taking concrete steps to keep promises to crack down on groups seen as terrorists, and to free up defence exports.

All 276 lawmakers present voted in favour of Finland’s bid. With this, all 30 NATO member states’ parliaments ratified the accession protocol, an essential step for becoming a member of the alliance.

“Finland is now ready to join NATO”, Finish President Sauli Ninistö said after the vote. “Finland will be a strong and capable ally, committed to the security of the alliance”, he promised.

“NATO membership will strengthen Finland’s security and improve stability and security in the Baltic Sea region and Northern Europe,” the Finnish government said in a statement following the Turkish parliament vote.

A few other steps are still required for Finland to go from “invitee” – status where it can join the discussions but not vote – to full member, but these are mainly red tape.

“Finland will become a member of NATO once Finland has been invited to join NATO by the NATO Secretary General and Finland’s instrument of accession has been deposited with the Government of the United States”, the Finnish government explained.

Finland’s membership would represent the alliance’s first enlargement since North Macedonia joined in 2020.

NATO foreign ministers are meeting at the NATO headquarters in Brussels next week when it is expected the membership could be formalised.

Sweden remains behind

Stockholm’s situation, on the other hand, remains unchanged and is set on a different track for NATO accession.

Turkey has repeatedly said that Sweden needed to take additional steps against supporters of Kurdish militants and members of the network Ankara holds responsible for a 2016 coup attempt.

Ankara treats both groups as terrorist organisations.

Talks between Sweden and Turkey have made little progress, especially following several disputes mainly over street protests by pro-Kurdish groups in Stockholm.

NATO’s chief Stoltenberg has stressed that he “will continue to work hard to ensure that Sweden becomes a full member as soon as possible”. “Because the accession of Finland and Sweden will make them safer, our Alliance stronger,” he said earlier this month.

Russia, via the voice of its embassy in Stockholm, threatened both Sweden and Finland with military retaliation over NATO accession earlier this week.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]