Finland and Sweden took a decisive step on Tuesday to become members of NATO with the signing by the 30 ambassadors of the Alliance countries of their respective accession protocols, which will allow them to participate in the organization’s meetings while the capitals ratify their access.
“This is a historic day. For Finland, for Sweden, for NATO. And for Euro-Atlantic security.” said the secretary general of the Alliance, Jens Stoltenberg, at a press conference after the signing of the protocols, with which both Nordic countries officially become “invited” to enter the organization.
The signing took place in the presence of the Foreign Ministers of Finland, Pekka Haavisto, and Sweden, Ann Linde.
Stoltenberg said that today it has once again been shown that “NATO’s door is open”, an enlargement policy that “has been a great success” for several decades, he said, having made it possible to “reinforce peace, stability and democracy throughout Europe.
Today’s signing of the protocols follows NATO leaders’ invitation last week at their summit in Madrid to Sweden and Finland to join the organization.
Stoltenberg now urged the allies to “quickly” ratify the entry of Sweden and Finland.
“Now I count on all the allies to ensure a rapid ratification of the accession, in accordance with their national procedures”, declared the Norwegian politician.
Ratification procedures vary from country to country. In Spain, the plenary session of the Congress of Deputies votes to support the accession protocols of the future members of NATO.
Given the different procedures in each country, Stoltenberg today did not want to predict “exactly” the speed of ratification, and recalled that in the case of North Macedonia, the last country to join NATO, ratification lasted “around twelve months”.
“I am not going to say exactly (the duration), but we are talking about months, and I welcome that many allies have already started and announced that they will do this faster than normal because they all see the importance of a fast accession process”, Stoltenberg expounded.
Asked if he trusts that Turkey will also ratify the protocol, Linde replied at the same press conference that he “really” hopes for a quick process.
Guarantees for Turkey
Sweden and Finland are one step closer to joining the Alliance thanks to the fact that last Tuesday, just a few hours before the NATO summit began in Madrid, the leaders of these two countries and Turkey, mediated by Stoltenberg, agreed on a memorandum of understanding in which Helsinki and Stockholm guarantee more anti-terrorist collaboration with Ankara.
In that agreement, they undertake to allow the shipment of weapons to Ankara, to sign an extradition agreement with the Ottoman country and to modify its anti-terrorist legislation, taking measures against the Kurdish group PKK.
Regarding the possible extraditions of up to 73 Kurdish militants from Sweden to Turkey, Linde said that a list of people to be handed over to Turkey is not included in the trilateral agreement.
“There is no mention of a list or figures or anything in the memorandum and during our negotiations in Madrid no specific figures or lists were mentioned either and, as far as I know, we have not received specific lists in the Government,” Linde said.
The Swedish minister assured that “we will honor the memorandum” but confirmed that all extradition requests will be processed in the normal way, complying with the law of the country and international law.
For his part, Haavisto insisted that his country “is not a safe place for terrorists.”
NATO’s collective defense principle will only apply to Finland and Sweden when they have become full members of the Alliance, once the entire accession process has been completed.
Meanwhile, several allies have launched bilateral security agreements with these countries and NATO has increased its presence in the region, multiplying the exercises, Stoltenberg said.
The war in Ukraine has led Finland and Sweden to apply to join NATO, a process that has turned out to be more complex than expected after Turkey initially blocked the access of the two states, considering them lax in dealing with organizations that Ankara qualifies as terrorists.
The two countries presented their formal request to join the Alliance a month ago and yesterday they completed accession negotiations at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels.