Finland to discuss NATO ratification that may leave Sweden behind

HELSINKI (Reuters): Finnish parliamentary groups are expected to discuss on Friday when to ratify NATO’s founding treaties, in a move that could lead the country to proceed with membership ahead of neighboring Sweden, amid growing support among the Finnish public to go it alone.

The two Nordic countries sought NATO membership shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, and while most member-states have ratified the applications, Turkiye has yet to give its approval.

“Our position on Finland is positive, but it is not positive on Sweden,” President Tayyip Erdogan said last week.

Turkiye’s differing view on Finnish and Swedish memberships is putting pressure on Finnish leaders to push ahead. A 53 percent majority of Finns polled on Feb. 2 for daily Ilta-Sanomat said they did not want Finland to wait for Sweden. Some 28 percent said it should.

On Friday, parliamentary groups in Finland will decide whether parliament should ratify NATO’s founding treaties before it goes into recess on March 3, before a parliamentary election on April 2.

If parliament on a later date votes in favor of approving the treaties, as it is widely expected to do, the president must proceed with the application within three months and as soon as all existing NATO members have also ratified Finland’s bid, which could effectively lead to proceeding with NATO membership without Sweden.

For that to happen, Turkiye and Hungary need to ratify the Finnish membership first and NATO to officially invite Finland as a member.

Finland’s Chancellor of Justice Tuomas Poysti told Ilta-Sanomat the process would leave Finland some room to wait for Sweden if need be, but not endlessly.

Officially, Finland has reaffirmed time and time again that it wants to join NATO with Sweden.

Sweden is Finland’s closest defense ally. In case of a conflict with Russia, with which Finland shares a 1,300-km (800-mile) border, NATO would need Swedish territory to help Finland defend itself, for instance in terms of logistics.

Ankara wants Helsinki and Stockholm in particular to take a tougher line against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is considered a terror group by Turkiye and the European Union, and another group it blames for a 2016 coup attempt.