Finland may join Nato before Sweden, Niinistö says

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö told Swedish public broadcaster SVT (siirryt toiseen palveluun) on Sunday that he did not believe that Sweden’s chances of joining Nato had weakened after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday said Turkey’s parliament would start ratifying Finland’s accession.

Since applying for membership, Finnish leaders have emphasised the importance of neighbours Finland and Sweden joining Nato together. That, however, seems increasingly unlikely, as it appears Finland’s Nordic neighbour will have to wait a little longer for Turkish approval.

“Should we have rejected Turkey’s willingness to ratify [Finland]? That sounds pretty far-fetched. Saying ‘no’ to Ankara would have put us in a very difficult position,” Niinistö told SVT.

Speaking to the Swedish broadcaster, he also said that the possibility of Finland joining first wouldn’t leave Sweden worse off.

“Finland, Sweden and Denmark are discussing bilateral agreements with the United States, similar to what Norway has. I believe that this is a big change, almost more significant than Nato membership.”

Finland and Sweden submitted their applications to join the alliance on the same date—18 May 2022—but Turkey voiced the strongest opposition to the bids by the two Nordic nations among all current Nato member states.

Turkey’s primary objections have been related to Finland and Sweden’s line on the PKK (Kurdish Workers’ Party), which Turkish authorities consider to be a terrorist organisation. This led to months of negotiations and as recently as February Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said his country would be sticking to its demands.

Hungary has meanwhile indicated that it will approve Finland’s Nato bid on 27 March, saying Sweden’s application will be discussed at a later date.

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