Finland, Sweden to submit NATO membership bid Wednesday

Finnish president says a quick ratification of applications by the US will help the process go faster, amid objections by Turkey.

Finland's President Sauli Niinisto (L) and Sweden's Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson attend a joint news conference in Stockholm, Sweden, 17 May 2022.
Finland's President Sauli Niinisto, left, and Sweden's Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson are due to meet US President Joe Biden in Washington on Thursday to discuss their NATO applications [Anders Wiklund/EPA-EFE]

Finland and Sweden will submit their bids to join NATO together on Wednesday at the military alliance’s headquarters in Brussels, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson has said.

“I’m happy we have taken the same path and we can do it together,” Andersson said on Tuesday during a joint news conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto.

Niinisto said that a quick ratification of their applications for NATO membership by the United States would help the whole process go faster.

“If you have a quick process there, it helps the whole process and the timetable for the whole process,” Niinsto told reporters.

“That is very important in this context.”

Niinisto and Andersson are due to meet President Biden in Washington on Thursday to discuss the applications.

Their accession process hit a snag when Turkey surprised many NATO allies on Monday by saying it would not support membership for Sweden and Finland after the two countries took the widely anticipated step of agreeing to apply to join the US-led military alliance this week.

“Statements from Turkey have very quickly changed and become harder during the last few days,” Niinisto said during an address to Sweden’s parliament.

“But I am sure that, with the help of constructive discussions, we will solve the situation.”

Niinisto said he talked by telephone with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a month ago and that the message then had been supportive of Finnish and Swedish membership in NATO.

“But in the last week he has said ‘not favourable’,” Niinisto said. “That means we have to continue our discussions. I am optimistic.”

Sweden and Finland, which sought membership in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, need each of NATO’s 30 members to approve their applications. The ratification process had been expected to take up to a year, though Turkey’s objections have thrown that into doubt.

US ‘confident’ of finding consensus

At a news conference, Erdogan said Sweden and Finland “shouldn’t bother” sending delegations to Ankara to persuade Turkey to support their bids, citing their attitudes toward “terrorist organisations.

“How can we trust them?” he said.

Turkey says Sweden and Finland harbour individuals linked to groups it deems “terrorists”, namely the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) group and followers of Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim scholar whom Ankara accuses of orchestrating a 2016 coup attempt.

Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde said on Saturday, in advance of talks with her Turkish counterpart at a NATO meeting in Berlin, that Sweden, just like the rest of the EU, considered PKK a terrorist organisation.

Speaking at a news conference on Monday, Erdogan also said Turkey would oppose the NATO bids from those who imposed sanctions on it. Sweden and Finland laid arms export embargoes on Turkey after its Syria incursion in 2019.

From Stockholm, Andersson said Sweden stood ready to iron out any obstacles in talks with Ankara.

“We are looking forward to having a bilateral dialogue with Turkey,” Andersson said.

“I see, in addition to that, when both Sweden and Turkey are members of NATO, there are also opportunities to develop our bilateral relations – between our countries.”

Meanwhile, the White House said the administration was confident NATO can reach consensus about the bids.

“We’re confident … there will be a consensus as it relates to Turkey and Sweden and Finland’s application,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

“We know there’s a lot of support for Sweden and Finland to join NATO,” she said, adding that there were “conversations happening”.

On Sunday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also said he had spoken to his Turkish counterpart on Ankara’s concerns and that after Sunday’s meeting of foreign ministers he was confident a consensus could be reached.

Source: News Agencies