Finland one step closer to joining NATO after Turkey ratifies accession

31 March 2023, 00:48

Finland announced it planned to join NATO following Russia's invasion of Ukraine
Finland announced it planned to join NATO following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Picture: Getty
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

Finland is one step closer to joining NATO after Turkey lifted the last hurdle in its way by ratifying the Nordic country's application.

All 276 legislators present in Turkey's Parliament voted in favour of Finland's bid to join the Western defensive alliance, days after Hungary's parliament did the same.

"This will make the whole Nato family stronger & safer," Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg wrote on Twitter in welcoming Turkey's action.

Both Finland and Sweden announced they would apply to join NATO following Russia's invasion of Ukraine last February, abandoning their decades-long policy of non-alignment and applied to join the alliance.

Full unanimity is required to admit new members into the 30-member alliance, and Turkey and Hungary were the last two Nato members standing in their way.

While Finland has pressed ahead, Sweden's bid to join the alliance, meanwhile, has been left hanging, with both Turkey and Hungary holding out on giving it the green light despite expressing support for Nato's expansion.

Turkey has ratified Finland's accession into NATO
Turkey has ratified Finland's accession into NATO. Picture: Getty

Turkey's government accuses Sweden of being too lenient towards groups it deems to be terrorist organisations and security threats, including militant Kurdish groups and people associated with a 2016 coup attempt.

More recently, Turkey was angered by a series of demonstrations in Sweden, including a protest by an anti-Islam activist who burned the Koran outside the Turkish embassy.

Hungary's government contends some Swedish politicians have made derisive statements about the condition of Hungary's democracy.

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"As a Nato member, we naturally had some expectations and requests regarding the security concerns of our country," Akif Cagatay Kilic, a legislator from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's governing party, told parliament before the vote.

"I would like to underline the concrete steps and their implementation by Finland, which supported and shaped the decision we are taking here."

Mr Kilic added: "I'm aware that there is a large number of people watching us from Finland. ... We can say to them: 'Welcome to Nato.'"

Asked earlier this week about Sweden's Nato membership, Mr Erdogan told reporters: "There are certain things we expect of them. They must be fulfilled first."

Sweden, which made constitutional changes to pass tougher anti-terrorism laws, has expressed hope that it will be able to join before Nato's July summit in Vilnius, Lithuania.