Finnish parliament debate: ‘Important to decide on Nato alongside Sweden’

Finland's foreign minister opened a debate in the Finnish parliament on Wednesday by stressing the importance of Sweden and Finland taking the decision over whether to join the Nato security alliance together.

Finnish parliament debate: 'Important to decide on Nato alongside Sweden'
Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said in Finland's parliament that Finland and Sweden should join Nato together. Photo: Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva / AFP

Pekka Haavisto, whose Green League party has yet to take a position on joining, launched the debate by presenting the results of the Finnish government’s report on changes to the security climate, published last Wednesday. 

“I see it as important that Finland and Sweden take their decisions at around the same time and in the same direction,” he said.  

“Simultaneous processes would also make it easier to act in the case of reactions from Russia. But in all actions, the countries take their decision independently.”   

Charly Salonius-Pasternak, a senior research fellow at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, said in a Twitter thread on the debate that this should be read as saying, “Finland is joining, Sweden has time to catch up”. 

The report, as summarised by Haavisto, boils down to three main points, that Russia has shown itself increasingly willing to take high-risk military actions, that it has shown itself willing to deploy hundreds of thousands of troops against a neighbour, and that it is increasingly talking of using nuclear weapons, against which Finland has no deterrence. 

“In a situation where Russia is trying to build a sphere of interest and is ready to use military force, that could lead to Finland’s freedom of manoeuvre being curtailed if we do not react,” he said. 

The debate saw some 120 of the Finnish parliament’s MPs make statements, with all the parties laying out their positions. 

Even representatives of those parties which have historically been most strongly opposed to Nato membership, such as the Left Alliance, expressed an openness to joining if that was the decision of the parliament as a whole. 

Jussi Saramo, from the Left Alliance, criticised the government report for not describing the downsides and dangers of Nato membership sufficiently, and said it was therefore up to MPs to fill in the gaps. 

 “When, for example, the disadvantages of joining the alliance have not been given any prominence, and it is therefore impossible to draw any conclusions, this important work for security and democracy has been left to the parliament,” he said. 

But even he admitted that neither staying out of Nato nor joining the alliance were “problem-free or risk-free”. Saramo agreed with Haavisto that it would be risky for Finland to join Nato if Sweden remained outside the alliance. 

READ ALSO: The likely timetable for how Sweden could join Nato

Antti Häkkänen, group leader for the Social Democrats, however, stressed that Finland should still feel able to join if Sweden decided not to, summing up Finland’s message to Sweden as:  “You’re welcome to join us, but we’re will also go in without you if it’s necessary,” 

While the Social Democrats have yet to formally take a position in favour of joining, Häkkänen said Russia’s actions had “brought Finland several steps closer to the necessity of a military alliance”. 

Several MPs rejected the Nato alternative reportedly promoted by Sweden’s defence minister Peter Hultqvist since Russia’s invasion, which would see Sweden and Finland forming a military alliance with the United States. 

“The sort of alliance between Sweden and Finland which has emerged in the debate is not a comparable alternative,” said Ville Tavio, from the populist Finns party. 

He called for the application to be made before the Nato summit held in Madrid at the end of June. 

After the debate, the parliament’s foreign policy committee will write a report, after which Finland’s government, in combination with the president, could submit a statement proposing that Finland applies to join Nato.

Salonius-Pasternak concluded his thread by remarking on how far Finland’s Nato debate has moved in such a short time. 

“When those parties/individuals who’ve most opposed Finnish NATO membership are on the fence, but open to supporting it after extensive debate, then I think the direction of the wind and journey is clear,” he said. “It truly is improving Finland’s security that *everyone* is focused on.” 

“One thing is clear: the wall of political unity and consensus being constructed – speech by speech – in the Finnish parliament is stronger than anything Russia could throw at it. The atmosphere is respectful (of differing views) and solemn, the purpose palpable.” 

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Sweden and Finland to discuss Nato bid with Erdogan at Madrid summit

Finnish and Swedish leaders will discuss their stalled NATO bids with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday at the start of an alliance summit in Madrid, officials said.

Sweden and Finland to discuss Nato bid with Erdogan at Madrid summit

But Turkey said the four-way meeting, which will also involve NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, did not mean that Ankara was close to lifting its objection to the two Nordic countries joining the military bloc.

The four leaders will meet in Madrid, in a last ditch bid to break to deadlock before the start of the alliance’s summit, which will focus on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Officials from Ankara, Helsinki and Stockholm held a fresh round of talks on Monday at NATO’s headquarters in Brussels to try to hammer out the differences.

“My strong hope is that this dialogue can be successfully concluded in the near future, ideally before the summit,” said Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson after meeting Stoltenberg in Brussels.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year saw the two Nordic countries abandon decades of military non-alignment by applying for NATO membership in May.

But the joint membership bid, initially believed to be a speedy process, has been delayed by objections from NATO member Turkey.

‘Safe haven’

Ankara has accused Finland and Sweden particularly of providing a safe haven for outlawed Kurdish militants whose decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

The Turkish leader has also called on Sweden and Finland to lift arms embargoes imposed against Turkey in 2019 over Ankara’s military offensive in Syria.

Erdogan signalled on Saturday that no progress had been made in Sweden’s bid to join NATO, urging Stockholm to take “concrete actions” to meet Ankara’s concerns.

Andersson insisted at NATO on Monday that “Sweden is not and will not be a safe haven for terrorists” and said Stockholm had sought to address Turkish concerns over extradition requests lodged by Ankara.

“The relevant authorities work intensively in order to expel persons who could be a security threat,” Andersson said. “And there are a substantial number of cases which are currently being processed.”

Turkish officials said Ankara does not view the summit as a final deadline for resolving its objections. Erdogan’s chief foreign policy adviser said Tuesday’s four-way meeting did not mean that an agreement was imminent.

‘Serious changes’

“Participating in this summit does not mean that we will step back from our position,” Ibrahim Kalin told HaberTurk channel. “We are conducting a negotiation. It has many stages.”

Kalin said Finland and Sweden needed to make “serious changes” to their laws “and constitution” — targeting outlawed Kurdish militants.

“We want you to show the same change against the PKK and its affiliated YPG, PYD and similar structures,” he said, referring to Kurdish groups operating in Syria and Iraq.

Stoltenberg insisted that Sweden had “taken concrete steps in recent days to directly address Turkey’s concerns”.

“You have already amended Swedish law. You have launched new police investigations against the PKK and you are currently looking at Turkish extradition requests,” he told Andersson.

“These concrete steps represents a paradigm shift in Sweden’s approach to terrorism.M