Finnish parliament gives early greenlight to NATO entry
Finnish lawmakers approve legislation affirming that Finland accepts the terms of the NATO treaty by 184 votes against seven.
Finland's parliament on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly in favor of joining NATO, ahead of ratifications from Hungary and Turkey, increasing the likelihood it will enter the US-led military alliance before Nordic neighbor Sweden.
After the start of the Ukraine war, both Finland and Sweden dropped their decades-long policies of military non-alignment and applied to join the trans-Atlantic defense pact last May.
However, Sweden has had several diplomatic spats with NATO member Turkey, which threatens to delay its membership bid and chances of joining at the same time as Finland.
Finnish lawmakers approved legislation affirming that Finland accepts the terms of the NATO treaty by 184 votes against seven, with one abstention and seven MPs not being present.
"The vote is an important step on our NATO path. The security of the homeland is a common cause," Finnish Defense Minister Antti Kaikkonen wrote on Twitter.
Joining NATO requires ratification from its 30 members, and Hungary and Turkey remain the holdouts.
Finland's parliament pushed for the legislation to be passed pre-emptively, ahead of April 2 general elections, to avoid the ratifications coming in before a new government has been formed.
Markus Mustajarvi from the Left Alliance party -- which has been vocal in its NATO opposition in the past -- had asked lawmakers to strike down the bill, citing a lack of guarantees that nuclear weapons would not be placed in Finland.
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Finland could join NATO alone
Passing the bill does not mean Finland will automatically join NATO after ratification by Turkey and Hungary, but it puts in place a deadline for how long it can wait for Sweden.
The government's chancellor of justice, Tuomas Poysti, said after the bill is approved by the parliament, the President can wait a maximum of three months to sign it.
Finland's President Sauli Niinisto told reporters last week that he intended to sign the law "as soon as it is approved by parliament," but "if there are practical reasons, I can wait."
"But not beyond the elections" set for April, Niinisto added.
Sweden's Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson has said Finland joining alone could "complicate" the close military cooperation between the Nordic countries.
However, a February poll suggested that a majority of Finns want to join NATO even if Sweden's membership is delayed.
Turkey announced on Monday that negotiations with Finland and Sweden would resume on March 9, after talks with Sweden were dropped over a row about protests in Stockholm attacking the Turkish leadership, as well as the burning of the holy Quran in front of Turkey's embassy.
Turkish President Recept Tayyip Erdogan's main complaint has been with Sweden's refusal to extradite dozens of suspects that Ankara links to Kurdish groups and a 2016 coup attempt.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Monday that Ankara now looked favorably on Finland's bid, adding that "we may separate Sweden and Finland's membership process."
Hungary on Wednesday began debating Finland and Sweden's NATO application bids, with the ratification set for between March 6 and 9, although delays are expected.
One request vs. a long list of conditions— Al Mayadeen English (@MayadeenEnglish) June 28, 2022
While #Turkey had a long list of conditions from #Finland and #Sweden, all the two Nordic states wanted was to join #NATO.
Here's your guide to understanding on what basis the agreement was made. pic.twitter.com/Aw7Jtu7frp