On Tuesday, Finland began a final debate in Parliament on its accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), without waiting for the necessary approval of Turkey and Hungary.
Ahead of elections scheduled for the second of April, the government of outgoing Prime Minister Sanna Marin wants to avoid any political vacuum in order to be able to enter NATO quickly, once Helsinki obtains the approval of Ankara and Budapest.
This may happen without the neighboring country Sweden, which has also been a candidate since last year for membership in NATO, but it is facing Turkey’s veto so far.
The Finnish Parliament’s 200 deputies began their debates on Tuesday on a bill on NATO accession, with a vote expected Wednesday around 12:00 GMT.
The parliamentary sessions coincide with a visit to Finland by the Secretary-General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, during which he will meet with senior officials of the country of 5.5 million people.
For Stoltenberg, “the time has come” for Ankara and Budapest to ratify Finland and Sweden’s accession to NATO, stressing that “Finland and Sweden have fulfilled their obligations under their tripartite agreement with Turkey last June in Madrid.”
Similar to what happened in a preliminary vote that took place last May, during which the vast majority of deputies supported joining the alliance (188 votes in favor), the result of the vote this time is also guaranteed with almost unanimity from the country’s parties, even those that did not support NATO a year ago. .
Only a handful of far-left and far-right MPs are expected to vote against the bill, citing in particular the lack of assurances that nuclear weapons will not be placed on Finnish soil.
For his part, Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said, “This decision and this law do not change Finland’s position on nuclear weapons.”
With the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, Finland and Sweden decided to turn the page on the military non-alignment adopted in them since the nineties of the last century and inherited from decades of neutrality, with a request to join NATO.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg with Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto Tuesday in Helsinki
Twenty-eight of the 30 NATO members have ratified the two countries’ entry into NATO.
Hungary, which is known for its vague agreement with Moscow, and Turkey, which seeks to play a mediating role in the Ukrainian conflict and settle old scores with Sweden, is particularly related to Kurdish activists residing in this country located in the north of the European continent.
Finland has so far confirmed its intention to join the alliance in conjunction with Sweden. However, the great difficulties Stockholm faced with Ankara, which culminated in diplomatic incidents in January, changed the facts. Stoltenberg acknowledged in early February that the important thing is not that the two countries enter the alliance simultaneously, but rather that this happen as soon as possible.
Finland and Sweden are separate
For its part, Turkey confirmed on Monday that it may separate the ratification of the accession of Finland and Sweden.
On Monday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said, “We can separate the path of Sweden’s accession from that of Finland.”
The adoption of Finnish law does not mean that Helsinki will automatically enter after Hungarian and Turkish ratification. However, the move sets a clear timetable. After the law is passed, Finnish President Sauli Niinisto has a maximum of three months to sign it.
The president has previously said that he will sign “as soon as the law is passed.” He explained, “Unless there are practical reasons, I can wait… but not until after the April 2 elections.”
After that, and in line with what is in force in NATO, the documents of accession must be sent to Washington “within a few weeks at the latest,” as explained by the Minister of Justice, Thomas Boesti.
A majority of Finns (53%) want to join NATO without waiting for Sweden, according to an opinion poll published in early February.
Side of the Russian-Finnish border
Finland was part of Sweden until 1809 before becoming a Russian Grand Duchy until its independence during the Russian Revolution in 1917.
Finland, which was forced by Moscow to remain neutral after its war with the Soviet Union during World War II, shares the longest European border with Russia at a length of 1,340 km, after Ukraine.
High walls will be erected on parts of this border as a result of tensions with Russia. Construction, which is supposed to take more than three years and cost 380 million euros, began on Tuesday and will continue until 2026, according to the border guards.