Belgium (Brussels Morning Newspaper) Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said on Monday that Finland will stand by its plans to join NATO together with its neighbour Sweden, and expressed hope that this will take place by July at the latest.
The Finnish statement comes as a row between Sweden and Turkey threatens to halt the planned NATO enlargement, and is an indirect response to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who hinted on Sunday that he might be willing to let Finland in the alliance over Sweden.
Speaking at a new conference in Helsinki, the Finnish Foreign Minister said he still hoped both Finland and Sweden could become NATO members in the next few months. “Our strong wish is still to join NATO together with Sweden,” said Haavisto. “We have underlined to all our future NATO partners, including Hungary and Turkey, that Finnish and Swedish security go together.”
The two countries applied to join the alliance after decades of military neutrality following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February last year. While 28 of the 30 NATO members ratified their accession treaties by now, Hungary and Turkey still have not. To join the alliance, a country needs unanimous support from all current members.
Hungary has recently opposed further EU sanctions against Moscow, with the country’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán repeatedly claiming that the sanctions are hurting the EU more than Russia, prompting accusations of Orbán being aligned with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s interests. Before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Orbán and Putin were seen as political allies. Even after the war broke out, Hungary signed a deal with the Russian nuclear agency Rosatom for construction of two new nuclear reactors in the Hungarian Paks power plant.
Orbán has nevertheless promised to ratify Swedish and Finnish NATO accession in February this year, which would leave Ankara as the sole holdout, blocking the further expansion of the alliance.
As Helsinki and Oslo made their applications to join, Erdoğan accused the two Nordic countries of supporting what he holds to be terrorist organisations – Kurdish separatists living in Sweden and Finland, as well as members of the Gülenist movement, which Erdoğan blames for the failed coup attempt in 2016.
In return for its support for the accession of the two countries, Turkey demanded they stop providing political and financial aid to these groups, as well as “arms support”. Turkey also expected Sweden and Finland to resume exporting weapons to Turkey, which they stopped over humanitarian concerns, and to extradite individuals with alleged terror links.
Despite the three countries signing a joint security pact at the NATO summit in Madrid in June last year, ostensibly clearing the path for Turkish ratification of their accession treaties, Ankara now claims that Sweden is not keeping its side of the bargain. “We gave Sweden a list of 120 persons and told them to extradite those terrorists in their country. If you don’t extradite them, then sorry about that,” Erdoğan said on Sunday.