Voting in advance to enter as quickly as possible: Finland begins its final debate in Parliament on Tuesday on NATO membership, without waiting for the last imperative yeses from Turkey and Hungary. With elections in sight on April 2 for the government of outgoing Prime Minister Sanna Marin , Helsinki wants to avoid any political vacuum in order to be able to jump on the NATO bandwagon, once the agreement of Ankara and Budapest has been gleaned. Including if necessary without waiting for neighboring Sweden, also a candidate since last year but currently facing a Turkish veto.
The 200 members of Finland’s parliament, the Eduskunta, are due to begin their debates Tuesday on the NATO membership bill, with a vote expected by Wednesday. Their debate coincides with the visit to Finland by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg for meetings with the main leaders of the Nordic country of 5.5 million inhabitants.
As in a preliminary vote last May, which resulted in a plebiscite of 188 votes in favor, the outcome of the parliamentary election is in no doubt, with almost unanimous support from the parties, including those who were still unfavorable to the ‘NATO a year ago. Only a handful of far-left and far-right MPs are expected to vote against.
With the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Finland and Sweden decided to turn the page on their policy of military non-alignment in force since the 1990s, itself inherited from decades of forced or chosen neutrality, by applying to NATO in mid-May 2022. Twenty-eight of the 30 members of the alliance, including its American figurehead, have already ratified the entry of the two Nordic countries.
That leaves Hungary, known for its more ambiguous positions vis-à-vis Moscow, and Turkey, which wants to mediate the conflict in Ukraine and settle old disputes with Sweden, mainly on the case of Kurdish militants living in the Nordic country. .
Finland has so far shown its willingness to join at the same time as Sweden. But Stockholm’s major difficulties with Ankara, which culminated in January with a series of diplomatic incidents, have changed the situation. Even Jens Stoltenberg recognized at the beginning of February that the most important thing was not that the countries enter NATO together, but that their accession takes place as quickly as possible.
Finland and Sweden separate
Turkey confirmed on Monday that it could separate Finland’s ratification from that of Sweden. “We could separate the accession process for Sweden and Finland ,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Cavusoglu said on Monday. The adoption of the Finnish law does not mean that Helsinki will automatically enter after the Hungarian and Turkish ratifications. But it sets a clear timetable: after adoption, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö has a maximum of three months to sign it in turn.
The latter has already said that he would do so “upon adoption” . “If there are practical reasons, I can wait (…) but not beyond the April 2 elections” . Then, in accordance with NATO practice, the instruments of accession must be sent to Washington “within a few weeks at most” , explained Chancellor of Justice Tuomas Pöysti. A majority of Finns (53%) want to join NATO without waiting for Sweden, according to a poll published in early February. Finland was Swedish until 1809, before becoming a Russian Grand Duchy until its independence in the Russian Revolution of 1917.
The Nordic country, subject to forced neutrality by Moscow after its war with the Soviet Union during the Second World War, shares the longest European border with Russia, behind Ukraine. Large fences will be installed from the spring on portions of the 1,340 kilometer line, as a result of tensions with Russia.