Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Dear Commons Community,
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said yesterday that his government would move forward with ratifying Finland’s NATO application, paving the way for the country to join the military bloc ahead of Sweden.
The breakthrough came as Finnish President Sauli Niinisto was in Ankara to meet with Erdogan. Both Finland and Sweden applied to become NATO members 10 months ago in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, abandoning decades of nonalignment.
NATO requires the unanimous approval of its 30 existing members to expand, and Turkey and Hungary are the only countries that have not yet ratified the Nordic nations’ bids. Hungary has indicated that it will approve entry for Finland and Sweden later this year. The Turkish government accused both Sweden and Finland of being too soft on groups that it deems to be terror organizations, but expressed more reservations about Sweden.
“When it comes to fulfilling its pledges in the trilateral memorandum of understanding, we have seen that Finland has taken authentic and concrete steps,” Erdogan told a news conference in Ankara following his meeting with Niinisto.
“This sensitivity for our country’s security and, based on the progress that has been made in the protocol for Finland’s accession to NATO, we have decided to initiate the ratification process in our parliament,“ the president added.
With Erdogan’s agreement, Finland’s application can now go to the Turkish parliament, where the president’s party and its allies hold a majority. Ratification is expected before Turkey holds its presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for May 14.
Commenting on Turkey’s willingness to consider ratifying Sweden’s accession to NATO, Erdogan said it would “depend on the solid steps Sweden will take.”
Explaining the difference between the Nordic countries from Ankara’s viewpoint, Erdogan claimed that Sweden had “embraced terrorism,” and cited demonstrations by supporters of Kurdish militants on the streets of Stockholm. “Such demonstrations do not take place in Finland,” he said. “For that reason we had to consider (Finland) separately from Sweden.”
Niinisto welcomed Turkey’s willingness to move on his country’s bid but also expressed solidarity with its neighbor. “I have a feeling that Finnish NATO membership is not complete without Sweden,” he said.
Referring to a NATO summit scheduled for July in Lithuania’s capital, Niinisto added: “I would like to see in Vilnius that we will meet the alliance of 32 members.”
Turkey, Finland and Sweden signed a memorandum of understanding in June of last year to resolve differences over the Nordic states’ membership.
The document included clauses addressing Ankara’s claims that Stockholm and Helsinki did not take seriously enough its concerns with those it considers terrorists, particularly supporters of Kurdish militants who have waged a 39-year insurgency in Turkey and people Ankara associates with a 2016 coup attempt.
Good news for Finland and bad news for Russia!