Finland: executive in favor of "immediate" NATO membership, decision on Sunday

The President and Prime Minister of Finland said they were in favor of the Nordic country's NATO membership "without delay" on Thursday, announcing a press conference on the Nordic country's decision for Sunday.

Finland: executive in favor of "immediate" NATO membership, decision on Sunday

The President and Prime Minister of Finland said they were in favor of the Nordic country's NATO membership "without delay" on Thursday, announcing a press conference on the Nordic country's decision for Sunday.

“Being a member of NATO would make Finland more secure. As a member of NATO, Finland would strengthen the alliance as a whole. Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay,” said President Sauli Niinistö and Prime Minister Sanna Marin in a joint statement.

A press conference of the executive tandem on "decisions concerning Finland's security policy" is scheduled for Sunday, the presidency said.

“We hope that the national steps still necessary for this decision will be taken quickly in the very next few days”, indicate Mr. Niinistö, regular interlocutor of Vladimir Putin in recent years, and Sanna Marin, youngest Prime Minister of Europe.

The official position of the executive marks the rocking of the Finnish line, which shares a border of 1300 kilometers with Russia and a painful past with its powerful neighbor.

The invasion of Ukraine by Russia on January 24 quickly swung opinion and political leaders in Finland, just like in Sweden, which could also quickly announce a candidacy.

In Finland, 5.5 million inhabitants, 76% of the population is now in favor of membership, according to a poll published on Monday, ie triple its pre-war level.

A very large majority of the 200 deputies in Parliament has been won, with opponents falling to around ten, and most parties are now in favor - the social democratic party of Sanna Marin must take a position last this Saturday.

"Against no one"

“Joining NATO would not be against anyone,” said the Finnish president on Wednesday evening, in response to Russian warnings against Helsinki joining the alliance.

For the Finnish head of state, a long-time advocate of East-West dialogue, Russia can only blame itself for seeing its neighbor join the alliance.

"If we joined (to NATO), my response (to Russia) would be: 'it was you who did that, look at yourself in the mirror,'" Niinistö said on Wednesday evening.

On Wednesday, the Finnish Parliament's Defense Committee concluded that NATO was "the best option" for Finland's security after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Subject to a form of forced neutrality by Moscow during the Cold War, Finland joined the European Union and NATO's Partnership for Peace after the fall of the Soviet Union, but remained a non-member of the 'alliance.

Former Russian province (1809-1917) and invaded by the Soviet Union in 1939, the country shares a border of approximately 1300 kilometers with Russia.

While conducting important domestic and international consultations, President Niinistö and Prime Minister Marin had so far refrained from publicly expressing their preference in this dossier.

"If President Niinistö, who is perhaps the opinion leader with the most influence in the country, had made his choice known earlier, it could have stifled the debate," Iro Särkkä told AFP. professor of political science at the University of Helsinki.

The formal decision on membership is to be taken by a Council on Security and Foreign Policy, bringing together the head of state, the prime minister and several ministers.

Worried about Russia's reaction to their likely applications for NATO membership, Sweden and Finland have already sought to obtain assurances of protection during the months necessary for their formal entry into the Atlantic Alliance.

During a visit by Boris Johnson to the two countries on Wednesday, the United Kingdom signed declarations of mutual protection with Sweden as well as with Finland.

The vagueness remains on Moscow's response.

"Anything related to actions that may alter, in one way or another, the configuration of the Alliance near our borders, we are following it in the most attentive way," the press told reporters on Wednesday. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.


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