Finland and Sweden closer to joining Nato after Turkey deal

Ankara satisfied with pledges from Nordic countries to address its security concerns

Finland and Sweden’s bids to join Nato overcame a key hurdle after Turkey agreed to move forward with membership talks. Turkey will support inviting the two Nordic countries into the military alliance, with details to be hashed out at a summit that started in Madrid on Tuesday, Finland said in a statement.

“I am delighted to conclude this stage on Finland’s road to Nato membership, Finnish president Sauli Niinistö said. “I now look forward to fruitful conversations on Finland’s role in Nato with our future allies here in Madrid.

Ankara is satisfied with pledges from Finland and Sweden addressing its security concerns, including restrictions on Kurdish groups that Turkey considers terrorists, according to an official who declined to be named on a confidential issue.

Membership of Nato for the two previously neutral countries would mark a significant shift in the European security landscape after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier met Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, Swedish prime minister Magdalena Andersson and Mr Niinisto.

The membership process will still take many months, including ratification from Nato allies’ parliaments, before Finland and Sweden become members and can benefit from the alliance’s article 5 collective defence commitments. All 30 alliance members need to sign off.

The US has stressed that bringing the two Nordic countries into the fold could make the alliance more secure. Turkey’s block complicated the allies’ efforts to present a united front in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Sweden has tightened laws on terrorism in recent years, and more steps in that direction are under way. Mr Niinisto has said Finland’s anti-terror legislation is on par with current Nato members following a revamp last year.

The Nordic nations have also highlighted constitutional protections for freedom of speech, meaning they could not prevent peaceful Kurdish demonstrations, and said any extraditions requested by Turkey must be ruled on by courts. When it comes to lifting bans on arms exports, Ms Andersson in June signalled that the Swedish authorities that grant arms-export approvals may take a different view on shipments to Turkey in light of the Nato membership bid.

Throughout the negotiations Finland and Sweden insisted they meet all Nato’s entry criteria.

Finland, which has 1,300km border with Russia and a history of wars against its eastern neighbour, was driven into the Nato fold by Russia’s February 24th invasion of Ukraine. Neighbouring Sweden followed suit ending a long history of neutrality.

In Finland, public support for joining Nato jumped from 53 per cent in February to 62 per cent in March and 76 per cent in May. In Sweden, support for Nato membership jumped from 40 per cent in January to 61 per cent in May. – Bloomberg