Finland must formalize its candidacy for NATO this Sunday, before a decisive meeting of the ruling party in Sweden with a view to a probable request for joint membership of the two countries.
• Read also: NATO: Finland informs Putin of its membership project, a “mistake” for Moscow
“We hope to be able to send our applications this week, together with Sweden. They have their own process, but I hope we will make the decisions at the same time,” Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said on Saturday.
Less than three months after the start of the war in Ukraine, the two countries are preparing to turn the page on military misalignments dating back more than 75 years in Finland and dating back to the 19th century in Sweden.
After breaking with their neutrality in the 1990s with the end of the Cold War, by becoming NATO partners and members of the European Union, the two Nordic countries would thus tie themselves a little more to the Western blocs.
A shift that has taken place gradually since the Russian attack on Ukraine on February 24, accelerated by a pro-NATO outbreak in public opinion in both countries.
With Finland first to take the initiative, and Sweden anxious not to end up as the only country around the Baltic Sea not to be a member of the alliance.
Three days after having publicly announced that they want their country to join NATO “without delay”, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and Prime Minister Sanna Marin must formalize the Helsinki decision, during a press conference at 1:00 p.m. (10:00 GMT).
At the end of a meeting of a government council, they must seize Parliament of a membership project, submitted to deputies on Monday.
On Saturday, the Finnish head of state telephoned his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to inform him of his country's candidacy "in the very next few days", in a conversation described as "direct and direct".
“Avoiding tensions was considered important,” said Mr. Niinistö, one of the European leaders who has spoken the most with Vladimir Putin in recent years.
According to the Kremlin, the Russian president told him that joining NATO "would be a mistake, since there is no threat to the security of Finland".
“No other choice”
According to the latest polls, the share of Finns wanting to join the alliance has exceeded three-quarters, triple the level before the war in Ukraine.
In Sweden, support also jumped, but around 50% – for around 20% negative opinions.
Senior officials of the Social Democratic Party led by Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson meet on Sunday afternoon to decide whether the party should abandon its historic anti-membership line, again reaffirmed at a congress last November.
Voices were raised in the party to denounce a hasty decision and a evaded debate.
But analysts say the party is unlikely to decide not to jump on the bandwagon as Russia is mired in its war in Ukraine.
“There may not be the same sense of urgency” as in Finland, admits Robert Dalsjö, a researcher at the Swedish Defense Research Agency.
“But the Swedish leaders realized they really had no other choice. Once Finland goes there, you have to do the same,” he told AFP.
An unforeseen obstacle was added on Friday, recalling that the road between an application and a membership was long of several months, with the need for unanimous ratification by each of the 30 members.
While Finland and Sweden claimed to have favorable signals from Ankara, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed his hostility to their entry.
Turkey accuses them, and Stockholm in particular, of showing too much leniency towards the Kurdistan Workers' Party, the PKK, although it is on the EU list of terrorist organisations.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, however, said he was ready to discuss it with the two countries, as well as with other NATO nations.
His Finnish counterpart, Pekka Haavisto, said he was "confident" in the possibility of getting along with Turkey.