With a large majority, the Finnish parliament has agreed to join the Western military alliance NATO. This brings Finland one step closer to NATO membership. All 30 NATO countries must agree to new members. Only Turkey and Hungary are still undecided.
After months of delay, the Hungarian parliament has started the debate.
The Finnish parliament has voted on a bill that would make it possible to join NATO. A large majority approved the law. 184 MPs voted in favour. Only 7 MPs, from the extreme left and the extreme right, voted against it. So the only hurdle on the road to NATO membership is now the countries of Hungary and Turkey.
On May 18, 2022, Finland and neighbouring Sweden officially applied to join NATO. Both countries have a long history of military neutrality. But the Russian invasion of Ukraine has changed that. All 30 NATO countries must agree to the candidacy to join the Western military alliance. 28 countries have already done so, and only Turkey and Hungary are abstaining.
Turkey opposes the countries’ accession because in Finland, but especially in Sweden, individuals and groups are present that are considered “terrorists” by the Turkish regime. It is about the Kurdish organization PKK and the Gülen movement.
During the membership negotiations between Sweden and Turkey, anti-Turkish demonstrations took place in Sweden. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was not pleased. On Turkish television, he said that Sweden should not count on Turkey’s support. However, the country did raise the possibility of treating both countries’ accession separately.
With the rising tensions between Sweden and Turkey in the background, Finland has decided to no longer link its fate to Sweden’s. The Finnish elections are approaching. On April 2, the Finns will cast their vote. The government of Prime Minister Sanna Marin wants to avoid a political vacuum and jump on the NATO bandwagon as soon as possible.
There is also opposition from Hungary about the accession. “Hungarian president Viktor Orbán wants to send a signal to Brussels,” says correspondent in Hungary Stefan Bos in “De Morgen” on Radio 1. Hungary still waits for billions of euros from the European Union (EU). The EU blocks this money because Hungary does not comply with European principles such as the rule of law and freedom of the press. By thwarting the accession of Finland and Sweden, Orbán is putting pressure on the EU.
In addition, Orbán is heavily dependent on gas from Russia, which is not keen on expanding NATO. With inflation skyrocketing in Hungary, Orbán cannot afford to block Russian gas. Hungary, therefore, wants to keep Russia on friendly terms.
Parliament will vote on Monday, 6 March, on the accession of Finland and Sweden. Stefan Bos is confident: “Hungary is not at the forefront of the queue to ratify this, but eventually they will”.