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Finland: Lawmakers greenlight NATO membership

March 1, 2023

The Finnish parliament has voted overwhelmingly in favor of joining the NATO military alliance. The Nordic nation will need to wait for ratification from Turkey and Hungary but looks set to move ahead of neighbor Sweden.

Parliament members attend the plenary session where Finnish Parliament voted on Finland's accession to NATO
The outcome of the vote was clear with 184 in favor and just seven againstImage: Heikki Saukkomaa/AP Photo/picture alliance

Parliamentarians in Finland on Wednesday voted strongly in favor of becoming part of the NATO alliance in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The Finnish legislature took the vote ahead of ratifications from Hungary and Turkey, increasing the likelihood it will join the alliance ahead of neighboring Sweden.

Motion wins overwhelming support

The parliament voted to accept the terms of the NATO treaty by 184 votes against seven, with one abstention and seven lawmakers being absent.

Finland and Sweden dropped their decades-long policies of military non-alignment last May and applied to join the alliance amid concern about the military threat posed by Russia.

"Russia is not the neighbor we imagined," Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said at the time.

What obstacles to NATO membership remain still?

However, both countries have faced resistance from alliance member Turkey, which cites security concerns.

Ankara said the Scandinavian countries were supporting "terrorism." Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused them of being a haven for Kurdish militants.

While Turkey has so far held off on ratifying both countries' applications to NATO, it has indicated that it is ready to accept Finland.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Monday that Ankara was now favorable to Finland's bid, adding: "We may separate Sweden and Finland's membership process."

Why might Finland join NATO before Sweden?

Relations with Sweden, meanwhile, have been strained amid anti-Turkey protests in Sweden. These have involved the hanging of an effigy portraying Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the burning of a Quran in front of the Turkish embassy in Stockholm.

Hungary opened the debate on Finland and Sweden's NATO application bids on Wednesday, with the ratification expected between March 6 and 9, although possible delays are expected.

Talks between both countries and Turkey are expected to resume at about the same time.

rc/ar (AFP, dpa, Reuters, AP)