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Finland wants to join NATO together with Sweden, PM says

February 19, 2023 at 9:14 am

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin (L) and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson (R) give a joint press conference in Stockholm, Sweden on February 2, 2023. [Atila Altuntaş – Anadolu Agency]

Finland has announced that it still wants to join the NATO alliance alongside its neighbour Sweden, despite chances that Turkiye will approve Helsinki’s bid separately.

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference today, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin stated that “We have sent a very clear signal and a very clear message to Turkiye and also to Hungary…that we want enter NATO together and this is in the interest of everyone”.

She insisted that “We want to join together with Sweden at the same time. It’s not only because we are good neighbors and partners, it’s also to do with very concrete matters — the security planning of NATO”.

Last year, Sweden and Finland together applied to join the NATO military alliance due to threats from Russia and its invasion of Ukraine. Out of the 30 member states needed to ratify the new memberships, however, Turkiye and Hungary refused to approve those bids.

READ: Understanding Turkiye’s position on NATO enlargement

While Budapest has since said it will give its approval, Ankara has stayed firm on its stance, making a series of demands to Stockholm and Helsinki that they must fulfil before accepting their membership bids, including the crackdown on Kurdish militant movements which are designated as terror groups, the lifting of arms embargoes, the extradition of wanted individuals, and the pledge not to help the network of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Turkiye blames for the 2016 coup attempt.

Both EU member states signed an agreement with Turkiye to meet those conditions, and since then they have made some constitutional amendments against terrorism. Those changes have not been sufficient, however, according to the Turkish government, especially with regard to Sweden which has constantly refused to extradite some wanted individuals, and which has allowed supporters of Kurdish militant groups to stage protests.

Stockholm’s approval of the burning of the Quran in front of the Turkish embassy was also a huge stumbling block in the effort to persuade Ankara to accept its membership bid. As a consequence, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan last month said that his government may approve Finland’s bid separately from Sweden’s. The Finnish prime minister’s comments, however, throw that possibility into question.

Over the past week, Turkiye has been under renewed pressure to approve the two EU states’ NATO membership bids, with the alliance’s chief Jens Stoltenberg stating in a visit on Thursday that “I continue to believe that the time is now to ratify both Finland and Sweden”.

READ: Using NATO membership as leverage, Turkiye is giving the EU a taste of its own medicine