What now for Sweden as Finland gives early green light to Nato entry?

The likelihood of Finland joining Nato before Sweden increased on Wednesday as the Finnish parliament voted in favour of joining the military alliance, awaiting ratifications from Hungary and Turkey.

What now for Sweden as Finland gives early green light to Nato entry?
Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson and Finnish President Sauli Niinistö at a Nordic summit last week. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/TT

Both Finland and Sweden dropped their decades-long policies of military non-alignment and applied to join the trans-Atlantic defence pact last May, in the wake of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

However, Sweden has had several diplomatic spats with Nato member Turkey, which threaten to delay its membership bid and chances of joining at the same time as Finland.

Finnish lawmakers approved legislation affirming that Finland accepts the terms of the Nato treaty by 184 votes against seven, with one abstention and seven MPs not being present.

“The vote is an important step on our Nato path. The security of the homeland is a common cause,” Defence Minister Antti Kaikkonen wrote on Twitter.

Joining Nato requires ratification from its 30 members, and Hungary and Turkey remain the holdouts.

Finland’s parliament pushed for the legislation to be passed pre-emptively, ahead of April 2nd general elections, to avoid the ratifications coming in before a new government has been formed.

Markus Mustajärvi from the Left Alliance party – which has been vocal in its Nato opposition in the past – had asked lawmakers to strike down the bill, citing a lack of guarantees that nuclear weapons would not be placed in Finland.

Hungary debates entry

Hungary began debating Finland and Sweden’s Nato application bids on Wednesday, with the ratification set for between March 6 and 9, although delays are expected.

Turkey announced Monday that negotiations with Finland and Sweden would resume on March 9th, after talks with Sweden were dropped over a row about protests held in Stockholm, including the burning of the Quran in front of Turkey’s embassy.

Turkey also accuses Sweden of providing a safe haven for what it considers “terrorists”, in particular members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Monday that Ankara now looked favourably on Finland’s bid, adding that “we may separate Sweden and Finland’s membership process”.

Finland alone

Passing the bill does not mean Finland will automatically join Nato after ratification by Turkey and Hungary, but it puts in place a deadline for how long it can wait for its neighbour.

The government’s chancellor of justice, Tuomas Pöysti, said that after the bill is approved by the parliament, the president can wait a maximum of three months to sign it.

Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö told reporters last week that he intended to sign the law “as soon as it is approved by parliament,” but “if there are practical reasons, I can wait”.

“But not beyond the elections” set for April, he added.

A majority of Finns want to go ahead and join Nato even if Sweden’s membership is delayed, a poll suggested in February.

Sweden’s Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson has said Finland joining alone could “complicate” the close military cooperation between the Nordic countries.

On Tuesday, Finland also announced the start of construction of its planned 200-kilometre fence on the Russian border, after tensions with Moscow have risen.

Article by AFP’s Elias Huuhtanen

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Sweden’s parliament votes by huge majority in favour of Nato accession

Sweden's parliament has voted to ratify the country's accession to the Nato defence alliance, with its historic bill to end two centuries of non-alignment passing with a margin of 269 to 37.

Sweden’s parliament votes by huge majority in favour of Nato accession

During the six-hour debate over the bill, Sweden’s foreign minister, Tobias Billström, said he was convinced that the country’s membership would be ratified by Turkey and Hungary, the two hold-outs in the 30-member alliance, before the summit due to be held in Vilnius in the second week of July. 

“It is obvious that we are going to be able to be members at Vilnius,” he said during the debate, pointing to the backing of the other 28 member states and strong support from the US. “The strength that we have behind us is so tangible that it’s possible to come to such a judgement.”

If Sweden were not to be a member before the summer, he continued, it would put Nato’s open-door policy, a key part of its framework, in question. 

Only two of the eight parties in the Swedish parliament voted against the bill, the Left Party and the Green Party, with their MPs providing all of the 37 “no” votes. A further 43 MPs were absent. 

“It is problematic to join a military alliance with countries which are not democratic, and where we see daily that democracy is withering,” said Håkan Svenneling, the Left Party’s foreign policy spokesperson. “They are now trying to use our application to silence our voice on democracy and human rights.” 

The two parties were also critical of the fact that Sweden was now joining an alliance backed by nuclear weapons. 

“The Nato nuclear alliance is built on the idea of using nuclear weapons as a method of deterrence,” said the Green Party’s Jacob Risberg. “The Green Party do not believe in that doctrine, but believe quite the contrary, that this could lead to more conflict.” 

The Social Democrat’s foreign policy spokesperson Morgan Johansson said he was confident that Sweden would not be made to host nuclear weapons on its territory, even though its agreement with Nato contains no formal statement ruling this out. 

The government’s Nato proposition states that “there is no reason to have nuclear weapons or permanent bases on Swedish territory in peacetime”. 

“I feel completely confident in the test which has been drawn up. There is nothing at all pushing for Sweden to be forced to host bases or nuclear weapons,” he said.