Erdoğan asks parliament to vote on Finland’s Nato bid alone

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan asked Turkey's parliament on Friday to vote on Finland's application to joint the Nato defence alliance, but reiterates that a vote on Sweden's is dependent on extraditions.

Erdoğan asks parliament to vote on Finland's Nato bid alone
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) shakes hands with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto (L) at the Presidential Complex in Ankara, on March 17, 2023. Photo: Adem Altan/AFP

“We have decided to start the protocol of Finland’s accession to NATO in our parliament,” Erdoğan said following talks with his visiting Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinistö.

The aim is to ratify Finland’s membership before the Turkish election on May 14th.

When Erdoğan was asked at a press conference why the parliament was not also being asked to vote on Swedish membership, he said that Sweden harboured terrorists wanted in Turkey. 
“Sweden has opened its arms for terrorists, which is not the case with Finland,” he said, adding that discussions between Sweden and Turkey would continue.  
“We have given the very nice Swedish prime minister a list of 120 terrorists, but they have not extradited them,” he added. “And so long as they have not done that, we will not have a positive attitude towards Sweden.” 

At the press conference, Niinistö said that the decision to ratify Finland’s membership was “very good news”, but he said that Finland would be exposed until Sweden also joined the defence alliance. 
“We also have Sweden and my feeling is that Finnish Nato membership is not complete without Sweden,” he said. “We are neighbours and have a lot in common. I want to see that in Vilnius we can meet as an alliance consisting of 32 members.” 
Turkey and Hungary are the only two Nato countries which have not yet ratified Finland and Sweden’s Nato memberships.
Hungary’s ruling party Fidesz on Friday said that the country’s parliament planned to hold its delayed vote on Finland and Sweden’s Nato membership on March 31st. 

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KEY POINTS: Five things you need to know about Sweden and Nato

After decades of staying out of military alliances, Finland and neighbouring Sweden announced bids to join Nato in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine last year. Here are five things to know about the two countries' membership bids.

KEY POINTS: Five things you need to know about Sweden and Nato

After Turkey became the final member to ratify Finland’s bid on Thursday, the Finns are expected to finalise their membership in the coming days, while Sweden continues to face opposition.

Historic U-turns

For decades, most Swedes and Finns were in favour of maintaining their policies of military non-alignment. But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year sparked sharp U-turns.

The change was especially dramatic in Finland, which shares a 1,300-kilometre (800-mile) border with Russia. Prior to the application, public support for NATO membership had remained steady at 20-30 percent for two decades, but a February poll suggested 82 percent were happy with the decision to join the alliance.

A Swedish poll in January had 63 percent of Swedes in favour of joining the bloc.

During the Cold War, Finland remained neutral in exchange for assurances from Moscow that it would not invade. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, Finland remained militarily non-aligned.

Sweden adopted an official policy of neutrality at the end of the 19th-century Napoleonic wars, which was amended to one of military non-alignment following the end of the Cold War.

 Split entry

The Nordic neighbours were originally adamant they wanted to join the alliance together, agreeing to submit their applications at the same time. Despite assurances they would be welcomed with “open arms”, their applications quickly ran into opposition, primarily from NATO member Turkey. Bids to join NATO must be ratified by all members of the alliance.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in mid-March asked parliament to ratify Finland’s bid, but delayed Sweden’s following a litany of disputes. Similarly, when Hungary ratified Finland’s bid on March 27, Sweden’s was pushed until “later”.

Finland decided to move forward, even if it meant leaving Sweden behind. Since Finland’s parliament has already approved the application, all it needs to do now that all ratifications have been secured is deposit an “instrument of accession” in Washington to finalise the membership.

Sweden vs Turkey

Sweden, Finland and Turkey signed a trilateral memorandum at a NATO summit in June last year to secure the start of the accession process. But Ankara has repeatedly butted heads with Stockholm, saying its demands have remained unfulfilled, particularly for the extradition of Turkish citizens that Turkey wants to prosecute for “terrorism”.

It has accused Sweden of providing a safe haven for “terrorists”, specifically members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Negotiations between the countries were temporarily suspended in early 2023, after protests — involving both the burning of the Koran and a mock hanging of an effigy of Erdogan — were staged in Stockholm.


Swedish policy long dictated that the country needed a strong military to protect its neutrality. But after the Cold War, it drastically slashed defence spending, turning its military focus toward peacekeeping operations.

Combining its different branches, the Swedish military can field some 50,000 soldiers, about half of whom are reservists. While Finland has similarly made defence cuts, it has maintained a much larger army than Sweden.

The country of 5.5 million people has a wartime strength of 280,000 troops plus 600,000 reservists. After Russia invaded Ukraine, both countries announced increased spending.

Sweden said it was targeting two percent of GDP “as soon as possible”, and Finland added more than two billion euros ($2.1 billion) to its 5.1 billion-euro defence budget over the next four years.

 Memories of war

While Sweden has sent forces to international peacekeeping missions, it has not gone to war for over 200 years. Finland’s memories of warfare are much fresher. In 1939, it was invaded by the Soviet Union.

Finns put up a fierce fight during the bloody Winter War, but the country was ultimately forced to cede a huge stretch of its eastern Karelia province in a peace treaty with Moscow.

A 1948 “friendship agreement” saw the Soviets agree not to invade again, as long as Finland stayed out of any Western defence cooperation. The country’s forced neutrality to appease its stronger neighbour coined the term “Finlandization”.