Sweden is also expected to follow Finland’s application to join NATO’s military alliance.
The Finnish government has officially announced its intention to join NATO as Sweden’s ruling party has held a decisive meeting that could pave the way for a joint application to the military alliance.
Less than three months after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, Finland’s announcement on Sunday marks a stunning reversal in Finland’s policy of military non-alignment that dates back more than 75 years.
Sweden, which has been militarily non-aligned for more than two centuries, is expected to follow suit with a similar announcement, possibly on Monday.
“This is a historic day. A new era is dawning,” Finnish President Sauli Niinisto told reporters during a joint press conference with Prime Minister Sanna Marin.
NATO membership must be approved and ratified by all 30 members of the alliance.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressed last-minute objections, but NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Sunday that Ankara was not opposed to the two countries’ bids.
“Turkey has made it clear that there is no intention to block membership,” Stoltenberg said virtually after a meeting of NATO alliance foreign ministers in Berlin.
“I am confident that we will find common ground, consensus on how to move forward on membership issues,” Stoltenberg said, adding that he was in contact with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
Cavusoglu, meanwhile, praised Finland’s conciliatory approach in their talks, but criticized the Swedish foreign minister for “provocative” statements.
Turkey’s objections, particularly against Stockholm, focus on what it sees as the leniency of both countries towards the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is on the EU’s list of terrorist organizations.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken nevertheless emphasized that he was “very confident that we will reach consensus” on the two countries’ NATO bids.
Niinisto said he was “willing to have a new discussion with President Erdogan about the issues he has raised”.
The Finnish parliament will meet on Monday to discuss the membership proposal.
“We hope that Parliament will confirm the decision to apply for NATO membership in the coming days. It will be based on a strong mandate,” Prime Minister Marin said.
An overwhelming majority of Finnish MPs supported the decision after Marin’s Social Democratic party said Saturday it was in favor of joining.
“Hopefully we can send our applications together with Sweden next week,” Marin had said on Saturday.
The two Scandinavian countries broke their strict neutrality after the end of the Cold War by joining the EU and becoming partners with NATO in the 1990s, cementing their ties with the West.
But the concept of full NATO membership was a non-starter in the countries until the war in Ukraine increased public and political support for alliance accession.