Turkey’s parliament has approved a bill to allow Finland to join Nato, clearing the way for Helsinki to join the western defence alliance as war rages in Ukraine.
The Turkish parliament was the last among the 30 members of the alliance to ratify Finland’s membership, after Hungary’s legislature approved a similar bill this week.
The president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said this month that Finland had secured Turkey’s blessing after moves to support its promised crackdown on groups seen by Ankara as terrorists, and to free up defence exports.
Finland and Sweden asked to join the transatlantic military alliance last year in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But the process has been held up by Turkey and Hungary. The parliaments of all Nato members must ratify newcomers.
Sweden’s faces objections from Ankara over claims it is harbouring what it considers members of terrorist groups. Finnish prime minister Sanna Marin said soon after the Turkish vote: “Finland stands with Sweden now and in the future and supports its application.”
The Turkish parliament’s foreign affairs commission had unanimously approved the Finland bill last week. The Turkish legislative process was happening as it prepares for parliamentary and presidential elections on 14 May.
Finland’s membership would represent the first enlargement since North Macedonia joined the alliance in 2020.
The United States and other Nato members are hoping that both Finland and Sweden become members of the alliance at a Nato summit due to be held on 11 July in Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius. Finland’s Nato membership will now be approved by Erdoğan and then published in the country’s official gazette.
Finland has already completed the legal ratification process for its own part, in anticipation of its upcoming parliamentary election on Sunday and a corresponding electoral recess that could have otherwise postponed the process by some months.
Having completed the ratification process, Turkey and Hungary need to send their approving documents to the US government in Washington, which is the depository of Nato under the alliance’s founding treaty.
Stoltenberg will then formally invite Finland to join Nato.
As a final step, Finland will deliver its “instrument of accession”, a document signed by its foreign minister, with the US government, the Finnish government said.
When Finland’s instrument of accession document reaches the US state department, the Nordic country will formally become a Nato member.
What does this mean for Sweden?
Turkey is still holding off approving Sweden’s bid. Ankara says it has not gone far enough in cracking down on people Turkey considers terrorists. The three countries signed a pact on the issue last year.
Turkey has repeatedly said that Sweden needed to take additional steps against supporters of Kurdish militants and members of the network Ankara holds responsible for a 2016 coup attempt. Turkey treats both groups as terrorist organisations.
Talks between Sweden and Turkey have made little progress, especially after several disputes, mainly over street protests by pro-Kurdish groups in Stockholm.
Stoltenberg has said he had urged Turkey and Hungary to ratify both applications. A vote on Sweden’s bid has not yet been scheduled in Hungary.