Finland’s MPs approve legislation paving way for country to join NATO

Finland’s MPs approve legislation paving way for country to join NATO

The Guardian reports:

Finland’s parliament has overwhelmingly approved legislation allowing the country to join Nato, increasing the chances of it becoming a member of the transatlantic defensive alliance before its Nordic neighbour Sweden.

Both countries last year abandoned decades of military non-alignment in a historic policy shift triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, submitting simultaneous Nato membership applications and pledging to complete the process “hand-in-hand”.

However, new entrants must be approved by all 30 existing members and while both applications still await approval from Hungary and Turkey, Sweden’s faces objections from Ankara for harbouring what it considers members of terrorist groups.

Finnish MPs voted 184 in favour of accepting the Nato treaties, with seven against and one abstaining, after earlier pushing for the legislation to be passed before general elections planned for early next month in order to avoid a political vacuum.

The vote came as work started on a fence along parts of Finland’s 1,340km (830-mile) border with Russia aimed at boosting security and tackling any attempt by Moscow to weaponise mass migration after its invasion of Ukraine.

Parliamentary approval does not mean Finland will automatically join Nato once Turkey and Hungary ratify its application, but the bill must be signed into law by the president within three months, setting a deadline on how long it can wait for Sweden.

Finland’s president, Sauli Niinistö, told reporters last week he intended to sign the law “as soon as it is approved by parliament” but added that if there were “practical reasons”, he was prepared to wait.

Hungary’s nationalist prime minister, Viktor Orbán, said last week more talks were needed before MPs vote on the membership bids and accused both countries of spreading “outright lies” about the state of democracy and the rule of law in Hungary.

A delegation from Hungary’s parliament will visit Finland on 9 March to discuss its Nato membership application, the Finnish foreign minister, Pekka Haavisto, said on Tuesday.

At the start of a long-delayed ratification debate in parliament on Wednesday, however, the foreign affairs secretary, Péter Sztáray, echoed Hungary’s president, Katalin Novák, in calling on MPs to back Finland’s and Sweden’s entry “as soon as possible”. [Continue reading…]

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