Why is Finland’s PM coming to Sweden on Wednesday?

Finland's Prime Minister is coming to Sweden on Wednesday on the day her country publishes the results of its analysis of the new security environment for Finland following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Why is Finland's PM coming to Sweden on Wednesday?
Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson (left) and Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin at a European Council meeting in March. Photo: Roni Rekomaa/Lehtikuva/ AFP

What is the Finnish ‘report on changes in the security environment’? 

The Finnish government launched the report on March 17th, as the precursor to an “extensive discussion on foreign and security policy” in the Finnish parliament. 

The report has been prepared by a coordination group led by Finland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Pekka Haavisto, and will assess the impacts of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine across all aspects of Finland’s government. 

“The report will discuss Finland’s foreign, security and defence policy, but also the economic impacts in the situation that has changed, security of supply, preparedness, border security, cyber security and hybrid influence activities,” the government said in a press release when it was announced. 

Will the report recommend that Finland join the Nato security alliance? 

No. The press release sent out by the Finnish foreign ministry on Tuesday says very clearly: “The report does not contain policy proposals”. 

Anne Sjöholm, Marin’s EU press officer told The Local that it is also premature to expect Marin to announce that she has decided on the back of the analysis to advocate that Finland apply to join Nato. 

“I think she will say her view only much later, after a few weeks, because she wants the parliament and her own party to have time for an open discussion about this,” she said.  

Follow the national Nato debate with The Local’s podcast, Sweden in Focus

So why is Sanna Marin coming to Stockholm on the day the report is published? 

“It is only a coincidence that the two things are happening at the same time,” Sjöholm told The Local. 

But Nina Kefi, the press secretary for Sweden’s cabinet office, told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper that Marin would nonetheless give Magdalena Andersson, Sweden’s prime minister, a briefing on the conclusions of the Finnish report shortly before its publication. 

“She is going to explain it to Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson,” she said.

Marin has said that she would like Sweden and Finland to move towards their decisions on Nato membership at around the same pace, even if each country should still be able to decide independently.  

But even Patrik Oksanen, a Nato advocate at the Swedish security policy think tank Frivärld, sees the meeting as more a step along the way. 

“S [the Social Democrats] are not going to change position on 13/4 just because Finland’s Social Democratic Prime Minister Sanna Marin comes over with the details on the Finnish position and timetable,” he wrote in a Twitter thread on Monday night.

“But even if the defenders of non-alignment in the party are trying to blow the debate back into life, everything more or less points towards Sweden following Finland. 

“From the Finnish side then, it looks like they’d rather Sweden and Finland go together arm and arm, but they aren’t ready to wait too many weeks for their Swedish comrades.”

What will happen on Wednesday? 

Andersson and Marin will hold a joint press conference shortly after 12pm, in which both will express their concern at the deteriorating security situation. Neither, however, is likely to say that they have themselves decided that their countries should join Nato. 

Marin will say she does not want to give her opinion until Finland’s parliament has held its debate over the coming weeks. Andersson is likely to say that she wants to wait for her party to hold its own internal debate, and until she has received Sweden’s own new analysis of the security situation. 

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EXPLAINED: Could Turkey block Sweden from Nato membership?

At the last minute, Turkey has thrown up objections to a future Swedish Nato membership. What's going on?

EXPLAINED: Could Turkey block Sweden from Nato membership?

What’s happened? 

On Friday, Turkey’s president surprised everyone in the Nato process by saying that it “would be a mistake” to admit Finland and Sweden, given the way the two countries have sheltered members of groups which Turkey views as terrorist, such as the Kurdish nationalist PKK and YPG, and members of the Gülenist movement. On Saturday, Sweden’s Foreign Minister Ann Linde met her counterpart Mevlüt Cavusoglu, but failed to make any headway. 

Why is Turkey unhappy? 

Turkey has long accused Sweden, and to a lesser extent Finland, of providing asylum to members of PKK, an armed group fighting for parts of northeastern Turkey to become a Kurdish homeland, which is designated a terrorist organisation by the US, EU and some other countries. 

There are no official statistics on the number of Kurds living in Sweden, but Kurdish groups estimate the number at as much as 100,000, including six MPs of Kurdish origin. 

Sweden has given significant support to the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, which is defended by the YPG militia, which Turkey views as a terrorist group. Sweden has given the administration some $50 million in aid. 

“The problem is that these two countries are openly supporting and engaging with PKK and YPG [People’s Protection Units],” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Saturday as he arrived at a Nato meeting in Berlin. “These are terrorist organisations that have been attacking our troops every day.” 

What does Turkey want? 

According to Reuters, Turkey has demanded that Sweden and Finland extradite a wish-list of 33 people it sees as linked to the PKK, YPG, or else to the Gülenist movement Turkey blames for a coup attempt in 2016. 

Çavuşoğlu has also called for Sweden and Finland to clamp down on “outlets, activities, organisations, individuals and other types of presence” linked to the PKK. 

He has also called for and end to what he called “arms aid” from Sweden to Kurdish organisations. 

What has Sweden done so far? 

Sweden’s foreign minister Ann Linde met with Cavusoglu on Saturday. After the meeting, she was categorical that Sweden viewed PKK as a terrorist group, but said that she did believe that the Kurdish government in northern Syria was part of the same organisation. 

Both Sweden and Finland have refused to extradite the individuals on Turkey’s wish-list. 

Sweden’s defence minister Peter Hultqvist told Swedish state broadcaster SVT on Monday that Sweden would now send a group of officials to Turkey to try to work out how to meet the country’s concerns. 

Might Turkey end up blocking Sweden’s membership? 

For a new member to be admitted to Nato requires the consensus of all existing members, so theoretically, yes, it could. 

But President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, on Saturday expressed a willingness to compromise. 

“We are not closing the door. But we are basically raising this issue as a matter of national security for Turkey,” Kalin told Reuters in an interview. 

Hultqvist told Swedish television on Monday that Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg had told him that Turkey had not raised any objections to Swedish and Finnish membership earlier in the process and that he expected that an agreement could be reached.