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UPDATED: The timetable for Sweden joining Nato

Swedish media are reporting that the country's government will apply to join the Nato security alliance on Monday 16th May. Here's a timeline showing what to expect.

A soldier waves a Nato flag
A soldier waves a Nato flag. Photo: Vadim Ghirda/AP Photo/TT

April 13th: Finland publishes Government report on changes to the security climate

April 18th: Finland’s parliament begins a plenary session to discuss the implications of the new security analysis.

April 22nd: Social Democrats’ parliamentary group and main committee hold “marathon meeting” on Nato.  

April: Finland’s PM Sanna Marin said on April 13th that her country’s decision would take only “weeks”. The next stage for Finland will be a second government report, which takes into account the issues raised in the parliamentary debate. A special parliamentary monitoring group, which includes party leaders and chairs of the key committees will play a big role in communicating to government what the political consensus is.

May 9, 10, 12: Sweden’s Social Democrats hold three digital members’ meetings on security policy. The party’s women’s organisation, Sveriges socialdemokratiska kvinnoförbund, has already voted to continue its opposition to membership. Other expected pockets of resistance are the Swedish Social Democratic Youth League, and Religious Social Democrats of Sweden, Socialdemokrater för tro och solidaritet, all of which have traditionally been among the most pacifistic arms of the party. Only 5,000 of the party’s 75,000 members have applied to take part, according to DN.

Thursday, May 11th: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited Sweden and Finland to offer security assurances and sign a “Political Declaration of Solidarity”

Thursday, May 12th: Finnish President Sauli Niinistö and Prime Minister Sanna Marin declared in a joint press release that Finland should apply to join Nato as soon as possible.

Friday, May 13th: The Swedish government’s ‘security policy analysis group’ submitted its own reassessment of Sweden’s security situation, which said that Nato membership would increase Sweden’s security and decrease the risk of conflict within Europe. The Left and Green parties did not accept conclusions of the report.  

Saturday, May 14th: Finland’s Social Democrats held a meeting of their party committee, which made a formal party decision to join Nato. 

Saturday and Sunday, May 14th-15th: Nato held an informal meeting of foreign ministers in Berlin, which both Sweden’s foreign minister Ann Linde, and Finland’s foreign minister Pekka Haavisto attended as special invitees.

Sunday, May 15th: Social Democrats brought forward an extra meeting of the ruling party committee from May 24th to May 15th. The party decided at this meeting to back a Swedish Nato application, meaning that all the parties in the Swedish parliament apart from the Left Party and the Green Party back Nato membership. 

Sunday, May 15th: Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö and the Finnish government’s Ministerial Committee on Foreign and Security Policy confirmed that Finland will apply for Nato membership. 

Monday, May 16th: This is the day Sweden will announce its decision to join Nato. 

  • 9am (CET). The Finnish parliament meets to discuss the decision taken by the government on Sunday. No other parliamentary business is scheduled. At the end of the debate, the parliament voted to join Nato. 
  • 10.30am. Sweden’s parliament held a debate over Nato, which began with a speech by Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, who explained why Sweden needed to change its longstanding security policy.  
  • 12am. Finland’s president, Sauli Niinistö, who is on a state visit to Sweden, will hold a speech in the parliament with the title “a responsible, strong and stable North”. 
  • Afternoon: According to Expressen, Sweden’s prime minister, Magdalena Andersson will call a governmental meeting late on Monday, where the decision on whether to join Nato will be made.
  • Officials at Sweden’s foreign ministry have been drafting the text of the application for several weeks, the paper claims, meaning it is now complete and ready to be submitted. 
  • Afternoon/Evening: Sweden and perhaps Finland send in applications to join Nato (according to Expressen). 

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

May-June: Nato assesses expressions of interest. According to Dagens Nyheter and SVT it could take Nato only a matter of days to assess the two countries’ expressions of interest and then offer Sweden a formal invitation to join the alliance. 

Finland’s foreign minister Pekka Haavisto said on April 13th that the process “could take four months, it could take a year.”

Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in April that he believed that the process could go rapidly.

“I think that the application period could be pretty efficient. The only thing I can say today is that there are no countries which are closer to Nato today than Sweden and Finland.” 

Finland included a handy list of all the stages in its security policy analysis here

June: According to Nato’s procedure for accepting new members, Nato experts will then hold in-depth discussions with Sweden (and Finland) over how the country’s defence forces can contribute to Nato, any special requests from Sweden (such as a ban on nuclear weapons on Swedish soil), and how much Sweden will contribute to Nato’s common budget. 

June: Sweden submits letter of intent to Nato, along with timetables for completion of reforms. The letter will be signed by Swedens’ foreign minister Ann Linde, and addressed to Nato’s Secretary-General. 

June: Nato prepares an Accession Protocol to the Washington Treaty for Sweden. The protocol amends the Washington Treaty, and once signed and ratified by the Allies, it become an integral part of the Treaty itself and permits the invited countries to become parties to the Treaty.

June 29th: Nato summit held in Madrid. According to Sweden’s TT newswire, the Accession Protocols for Sweden and Finland will be published at the meeting.  

July-October: Nato members ratify the Accession Protocols. The length of this stage is the most unpredictable, with different countries having different processes. The US requires a two-thirds majority of the Senate to ratify a new member, while the UK requires no parliamentary vote at all. All 30 Nato members need to ratify Sweden’s Accession Protocols.  

Sweden and Finland are, however, both uncontroversial applicants (unlike say, Ukraine or Georgia), so member states’ parliaments are likely to ultimately vote to let them join. 

But it one or more of Nato’s member states throws up objections (perhaps seeking concessions on other issues), the process could get bogged down.

Autumn: The governments of Sweden and Finland submit proposals to their respective parliaments to accept the accession agreement. Sweden and Finland become Nato members.

Here’s the list of stages needed for a Nato application, taken from the Finnish government’s new security analysis. Photo: Finnish Foreign Ministry

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Sweden’s PM Magdalena Andersson in US to visit President Biden

Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson is in Washington today alongside Finland’s president Sauli Niinistö. The two will visit US President Joe Biden to discuss the war in Ukraine and Turkey’s opposition to their Nato applications, which were handed in yesterday.

Sweden's PM Magdalena Andersson in US to visit President Biden

“The meeting is an important security policy signal,” Andersson wrote on her Instagram account from Washington DC.

The two Nordic leaders boarded their flight to Washington shortly after their Nato ambassadors applied to join the alliance on Wednesday morning.

At the meeting in the White House today, the delicate security situation in both Finland and Sweden will be discussed.

The US has given security assurances to the two countries during the gap between their applications to join Nato and the accession as members, as have Britain, France, Germany, Denmark, Norway and Iceland. 

“Biden Finland and Sweden are longtime, stalwart partners of the United States. By joining Nato, they will further strengthen our defence cooperation and benefit the entire Transatlantic Alliance,” Biden said in his statement. 

The US would maintain its “robust exercise activity and presence” in the Baltic Sea region, he added.

“While their applications for Nato membership are being considered, the United States will work with Finland and Sweden to remain vigilant against any threats to our shared security, and to deter and confront aggression or the threat of aggression.” 

Another issue on the agenda will be how to respond to Turkey’s moves to block the process until Sweden and Finland meet demands to, among other things, extradite people in Sweden the country claims are linked to terror organisations and end  its embargo on weapons sales to Sweden. 

The US, as the most powerful country in the alliance, could be able to put pressure on Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, to back down, or offer other concessions, perhaps over its wish to buy US F-16 fighter jets.  

Andersson spoke to Biden on the phone on Friday and met him in Brussels at the end of March, but this is her first visit to Washington as prime minister. 

Final approval for Sweden and Finland’s bid could take up to a year, and Russia is expected to react to the two countries joining Nato in some way.

Sweden and Finland’s decision to join the Nato alliance was applauded by Ukrainians taking part in a demonstration outside the White House.