Turkish Parliamentarians vote to approve Finland's NATO application Turkish Parliamentarians vote to approve Finland's NATO application  (AFP or licensors)

Finland Becomes 31st NATO Member After Turkey’s Approval

Finland will join the NATO military alliance after Turkey's parliament voted to approve its application but delayed Sweden’s bid to join the military alliance.

By Stefan J. Bos 

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Turkey’s unanimous vote allowed Finland to become the alliance’s 31st member. “I welcome the vote by the Turkish Grand National Assembly to ratify Finland’s membership in NATO. All 30 NATO allies have now ratified the accession protocol,” he said on Friday. 

“I have just spoken with [Finnish] President Sauli Niinistö to congratulate him on this historic occasion. Finland will formally join our alliance in the coming days,” he added. “Their membership will make Finland safer and NATO stronger.". 

Listen to Stefan Bos' report

With Finland joining, Russia failed to prevent a further extension of NATO. Finland shares a border of 1309 kilometers, or 813 miles, with Russia. 

Finland ended its neutrality and sought to join NATO, citing security concerns, after Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year. 

Yet Turkey and Hungary have declined to approve Sweden’s application. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan claims Sweden protects “terrorists,” but rights activists say they are peaceful political opponents of the Turkish leader.

Ankara seeks the extradition of dozens of Kurdish and other suspects it accuses of ties to outlawed militants and a failed 2016 coup attempt. 

Hungary’s parliament 

Earlier this week, Hungary’s parliament also approved Finland’s bid, but it refused to approve Sweden’s membership immediately. 

Budapest and the ruling Fidesz party have accused Sweden of spreading “lies” about Hungary’s perceived lack of rule-of-law and democratic credentials. 

That was also the reason why Hungary took time to approve Finland’s membership, suggested Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó.

“When Finish and Swedish politicians question the democratic nature of our political system, that is really unacceptable,” he said. 

“And, you know, it is about these parliamentarians who are competing for their mandates, who are competing for the votes of the people,” Szijjártó explained.

“But then they hear that this is not legitimate, that this is a dictatorship. You know they are really sensitive to such kinds of issues. So we expect respect.” 

Rapid conclusion? 

However, Stoltenberg remains hopeful that Sweden will join NATO too. “All allies agree that the rapid conclusion of the ratification process for Sweden will be in everyone’s interest,” he stressed.“I look forward to also welcoming Sweden as a full member of the NATO family we soon as possible."

Sweden still hopes to join NATO, but its foreign minister Tobias Billstrom fears his country may not be able to join by July when the alliance gathers for a summit in Vilnius.  Billstrom had earlier said that it “goes without saying” that Sweden would become a member by the time of the NATO gathering. 

“I have noted the things that have been said in recent days, especially from Hungary's side, and that means you always have reason to alter your words,” he told Swedish media. “I think 'hopeful' in this context is better."

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31 March 2023, 16:25