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Saturday, May 21, 2022

Finnish President and Government approve NATO candidacy

Latest NewsFinnish President and Government approve NATO candidacy

Finland took a step ahead of Sweden. Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and the Nordic country’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee formally approved the request to join NATO this Sunday, Head of State and Prime Minister Sanna Marin said at a press conference in Helsinki. “Today is a historic day. We are starting a new era,” Niinistö stressed. The decision has yet to be ratified in the Eduskunt (parliament) within the next few days, although all the forces of the parliamentary arch have already announced that they will give the green light to entry.

President Niinistö, 73, a member of the National Coalition (Liberals), made a statement in Finnish, Swedish (one of the official languages) and English. Marin, a Social Democrat, expressed her wish that the ratification process go “as quickly and smoothly as possible”. This Sunday’s statement came three days after Niinistö and Marin issued a joint statement in which they personally called for membership to be applied “as soon as possible” to guarantee the security of the Scandinavian country.

Niinistö manages the foreign policy of the Scandinavian country in cooperation with the executive branch, and is also the commander-in-chief of the armed forces of Finland. The Foreign Affairs and Security Committee of the Finnish Executive consists of the head of government and the ministers of foreign affairs, defence, finance, foreign trade, justice, education and the environment. Marin, 36, leads a five-party coalition government — the Social Democrats, the Green League, the Center Party, the Left Alliance and the Swedish People’s Party of Finland — that does not include an illiberal head of state formation.

On Monday, debates on the ratification of the request will begin in Eduskunte. All Finnish political forces – including environmentalists and ex-communists, whose kindred formations in Stockholm continue to position themselves against the accession of the Scandinavian country – have already announced that they will support integration into the Alliance. The latest to do so was the Prime Minister’s Social Democratic Party, which approved entry this Saturday after a meeting of its leadership. However, the parliamentary ratification process is expected to likely take two days, as Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto, a member of the Green League, said last Thursday, “more than a hundred MPs will want to intervene in the discussion.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday expressed disagreement with the plans to join Finland and Sweden. Niinistö acknowledged his “confusion” about Ankara’s position and assured that the Turkish president had been “pleased” and “in favor” of unification in recent weeks. “On Friday we heard something different, and on Saturday it was open again for inclusion. We need a clear answer to this question and we look forward to talking to Erdogan about the issues he raises,” he added. The Turkish army is the second largest in the entire Alliance, second only to the US army. According to sources from the organization founded in 1949, the ratification process for Finland’s accession, which requires approval in the parliaments of the 30 members of the Alliance, could take six to 12 months.

Finland, which shares more than 1,300 kilometers of border with Russia, has not been an ally militarily for 75 years. But since the start of the Russian offensive into Ukraine in late February, the political consensus and public opinion have solidified in favor of calls for membership. At the end of last year, only 20% of the Finnish population was in favor of joining the Alliance, but a poll by a public body published last Monday shows that only 11% of citizens today prefer the Scandinavian country to join and not join NATO. . Political forces have also undergone dramatic changes: Social Democrat Marin assured the newspaper in late January that joining the Atlantic Alliance was not considered in the short term.

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On Saturday, the Finnish President called his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to inform him that his country would soon apply to join the military bloc. Russia has repeatedly warned that Helsinki’s entry into the Atlantic Alliance will have “political and military” implications, although the Kremlin released a statement after the phone call saying that “an end to the traditional policy of military neutrality would be a mistake, since Finland’s security is not in danger.” Niinistö emphasized this Sunday that “NATO membership does not change geography” between the two neighboring countries, and that during a conversation with Putin he called on the Russian president to “keep going forward” certain aspects of bilateral cooperation that are not relevant to joining the Atlantic Alliance. .

The statement by Niinistö and Marina puts more pressure on Sweden, which, with Finland’s accession, will become the only country of all the Scandinavian and Baltic countries that will remain outside NATO. However, the Swedish Social Democratic Party – the winner of every general election the Scandinavian nation has held since 1914 – will announce this Sunday if it abandons its traditional stance against Alliance integration and gives the green light to join. In this case, only environmentalists and ex-communists (who together make up just over 10% of the seats) will be the only two Swedish parliamentary forces that will maintain their refusal to apply for membership. Support for joining the military bloc has also increased in Sweden in recent months, but to a lesser extent than in Finland, and dissent is still much stronger in Stockholm than in Helsinki.

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