Turkey gives the green light for Finland to join NATO. This was announced by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a press conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö in Ankara on Friday. The ratification process will begin. Niinistö previously met the Turkish President in Ankara to discuss his country's NATO membership.
"I believe that Finland's membership in NATO will make the country even stronger. Finland's security will also be strengthened through NATO membership," Erdogan said. The Turkish parliament could ratify Finland's accession protocol by mid-April. After that there will be a break because of the elections on May 14th.
However, Turkey's yes for Finland also means that Sweden will most likely not join NATO together with its neighboring country, as originally planned - they actually wanted to take this step "hand in hand". Erdogan said talks with Sweden would continue. President Niinistö again campaigned for Sweden's accession at the press conference. "Finland's membership is not complete without Sweden."
President Erdogan cited differences in the fight against terrorism as an obstacle to Sweden joining NATO. He accuses Sweden of not extraditing terrorist suspects to Turkey.
In order for Finland to become a member of NATO, all member countries of the defense alliance must agree. Aside from Turkey, Hungary has not yet agreed to the accession of either Sweden or Finland. According to a media report, the parliament there will vote on March 31 on the ratification of the accession protocols of both countries - and not next week as originally planned. The news portal "atv.hu" learned this on Friday from faction circles of the governing party Fidesz.
Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban has repeatedly spoken out in favor of accepting the accession protocols, but has repeatedly had the debate and vote on the documents postponed under various pretexts. For example, he complained that politicians and media from Sweden and Finland unjustly criticized Hungary for lack of rule of law and corruption.
As soon as the vote takes place, the ratification of the protocol is considered secured.
Sweden and Finland decided to join NATO after the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. Both states had previously remained neutral for decades.
This article has been updated several times.
Note: Previously it was said in one sentence that Niinistö and Erdogan had met in Istanbul. Ankara is correct. This has been corrected.