HELSINKI, Finland (Caasimada Online) – Finland’s parliament has taken a significant step toward joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) with a resounding approval of its accession on Wednesday.
Hungary’s ruling party has also announced its support for the move to be ratified.
The legislation was passed by a vote of 184 to seven, affirming Finland’s acceptance of the terms of the NATO treaty.
Though Finland will need ratification from all 30 of NATO’s member states, the approval puts it on track to join the alliance before neighboring Sweden.
Finnish lawmakers have been pushing for the legislation to be passed before the country’s general elections on April 2 to avoid political uncertainty.
However, passing the bill does not guarantee Finland’s automatic entry into NATO.
The government’s chancellor of justice, Tuomas Poysti, has explained that the president can wait for a maximum of three months to sign the bill once it is approved by parliament.
President Sauli Niinisto has indicated his intention to sign the law “as soon as Parliament approves it” but added that he is open to practical considerations that could delay the process.
Turkey has also announced that it will resume negotiations with Finland and Sweden on March 9.
Sweden had dropped out of the talks after a row over protests in Stockholm, including burning the Koran in front of Turkey’s embassy.
Both Finland and Sweden abandoned their longstanding policies of military non-alignment. They applied to join NATO last May in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
What’s next for Finland’s NATO accession?
Even if Finland secures the required ratifications, its NATO membership could be challenged by neighboring Russia, which has already expressed its opposition to the move.
Finland has a 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) border with Russia and a history of neutrality during the Cold War.
However, the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine has changed the security landscape in Northern Europe, prompting Finland to reconsider its defense posture.
In recent years, Finland has increased military cooperation with NATO, participated in joint exercises, and hosted military drills.
Sweden, also preparing for possible NATO membership, has supported Finland’s accession.
The Finnish government sees NATO membership to secure its defense and strengthen its position in Europe.
Joining NATO would also give Finland access to the alliance’s collective defense system, intelligence sharing, and defense-planning capabilities.
Finland: A history of neutrality
Finland’s long history of neutrality and non-alignment dates back to the Cold War. During that period, Finland pursued an “active neutrality” policy.
It did not align with any military alliances, such as NATO or the Warsaw Pact.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Finland’s security policy shifted towards a more cooperative approach with the West.
In 1994, Finland joined the Partnership for Peace program, which allowed it to participate in NATO-led peacekeeping operations and military exercises.
In recent years, Finland has become increasingly concerned about Russia’s military activities in the Baltic Sea region, particularly after the invasion of Ukraine in 2022.
The country has increased defense spending, modernized its armed forces, and deepened military cooperation with NATO and other Western countries.
In May 2022, Finland and Sweden applied to join NATO, marking a significant shift in their security policy.
However, joining the alliance is a complex and politically sensitive process that requires ratification from all 30 NATO member states.
The question of whether or not Finland will join NATO remains a subject of debate and speculation.
Some experts believe it would be in Finland’s best interests to remain outside the alliance. In contrast, others argue that NATO membership is necessary to guarantee the country’s security and stability in the long run.
The parliamentary approval of Finland’s accession to NATO is a significant step towards resolving this debate and shaping the country’s future security policy.