NATO membership is the best option for Finland’s security. That is the conclusion from the Riksdag’s defense committee. In the coming days, it is expected that Finland – and probably Sweden – will take the steps towards a formal application for NATO membership.
Both in Stockholm and Helsinki the political processes are at high pressurewith Finland a few days ahead.
Both countries say they want to coordinate closely, because it is easier to stand together than separately if Russia were to react strongly towards getting NATO even closer to its borders.
For several weeks, Finland has put in place a process that will be as quick as possible, from a political decision, via a formal application and towards a speedy membership.
First step: Committee decision
The Riksdag’s Defense Committee has now issued its statement: The best alternative for Finland’s security is a membership in NATO, the committee said on Tuesday. Finland’s own defense capability is good, but not sufficient, according to committee leader Petteri Orpo from the bourgeois opposition party Samlingspartiet, reports the radio and TV channel YLE.
And they have the people with them: In a recent survey 76 percent of voters say they want Finnish NATO membership. 12 percent say no, while 11 percent answer “do not know”.
Thursday: The President
Finnish President Sauli Niinistö is expected to announce his position on the NATO issue on Thursday, 12 May. Then the party groups in the Riksdag will also give their recommendation. Only one party, the Left Alliance, is expected to make reservations.
Shortly after the president has clarified his position, Finland’s Social Democrat prime minister, Sanna Marin, is also expected to make her point. She has convened her party board for a meeting on Saturday.
Then it is the government and the president together who make the formal decision to apply.
Friday: Swedish Parliament
In Stockholm, all eight parliamentary parties are now working on a joint document on NATO under the leadership of Sweden’s Foreign Minister Ann Linde. This analysis should be ready by Friday, May 13th.
The bourgeois opposition has long recommended Swedish membership, so in practice it is now the Social Democrats, the party of Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, who decide the case.
The Social Democrats’ party board is expected to decide no later than Sunday 15 May.
Saturday night, the two countries’ foreign ministers, Pekka Haavisto and Ann Linde, invited to an informal dinner in Berlin, to a meeting with NATO foreign ministers. Much can be clarified before or during this meeting.
May 17: Swedish-Finnish summit
In Finland, it is the government and the president who make the formal decision on an application to NATO. According to Finnish media, this will happen no later than Monday 16 May. For the next day, President Sauli Niinistö travels to Sweden on a long-planned official visit.
The state visit to Stockholm on 17 and 18 May may be an occasion where Sweden and Finland together can declare that they will apply for membership in NATO.
Then: NATO accepts the applications
The next step will be for the governments of the two countries to hand over their respective applications to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. He will lead a short but very formal process to approve that the formalities of a membership are in order.
Diplomatic sources believe that this may have been done innnen two weeks, as VG was the first to report last week. A formal negotiating meeting between NATO and the two candidate countries will probably suffice.
The 30 countries will then confirm the membership agreement, which is the door opener for Sweden and Finland to be admitted to the meetings at all levels in the defense alliance.
Then Niinistö and Andersson will receive formal invitations to the NATO summit in Madrid at the end of June – but without the right to vote. Full membership will take effect on the day when all 30 parliaments in the NATO countries have approved membership.
SV’s sister party opposes
In the Finnish Parliament’s Defense Committee, only the Left Alliance, SV’s Finnish sister party, made a reservation.
The party’s member of the Defense Committee, Markus Mustajärvi, states that the government’s statement does not investigate negative effects, and he puts forward a proposal that Finland should not apply for membership in NATO.
However, the Left Alliance has made it clear that they can continue government cooperation under the Social Democratic Prime Minister Sanna Marin, even if Finland may join NATO. The party has thus removed a reservation they have previously taken.