The Estonian government on Thursday approved the draft protocols for Finland and Sweden's accession to NATO and authorized Estonia's Permanent Representative to NATO Jüri Luik to sign them.
Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) said that Finland and Sweden's decision to join NATO is of historical importance, according to a government press release.
"It is astonishing to think that just four months ago, Russia was issuing ultimatums demanding that NATO close its doors to new members," Kallas said. "The Estonian government is unanimous in saying that NATO's doors are very much open, and that Finland and Sweden are welcome to step through them. The security of our region — and indeed of Europe as a whole — will be strengthened by their accession to the alliance."
According to the prime minister, Estonia's security interests align with those of both Finland and Sweden.
"We will work very closely together in addressing the threats and challenges we all face both during the process of Finland and Sweden's accession to NATO and as NATO allies soon as well," Kallas added.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Eva-Maria Liimets (Center) underlined that Finland and Sweden have both already been close partners to NATO for years.
"With their accession, we will gain two very capable allies whose values we share and who face the same challenges as us," Liimets said. "Both the Finns and the Swedes boast strog, independent defensive capabilities, and they are already as militarily integrated with NATO as it is possible for non-members to be. Their accession will be a boost to security in our region and throughout Europe, and will improve the security of supply on NATO's eastern flank. Hopefully they will be able to attend the [NATO] summit in Madrid having secured formal invitations to join the alliance."
While Finland and Sweden are already key defense partners to Estonia, their accession to NATO will take that cooperation to the next level, said Minister of Defense Kalle Laanet (Reform).
"I am delighted that their accession process has moved beyond the discussion phase to the much more concrete next stage," Laanet said. "Their accession will result in the Baltic becoming an internal sea for NATO, boosting the security of every country in the alliance. We will also be able to share information more operationally on what is happening in the air and at sea in our region."
Finland and Sweden submitted their membership applications to NATO on Wednesday. Their relationships with the alliance date back to 1994, when they joined the Partnership for Peace program. The two countries then joined the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council in 1997.
NATO's current cooperation with both countries is based on an individual program of partnership cooperation that is renegotiated biennially.
Denmark and Norway were among the 12 founding members of NATO in 1949. West Germany joined in 1995, with the reunification of Germany bringing the rest of the country into the alliance in 1990. Poland joined NATO in 1999, and Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania acceeded in 2004.
"We, the prime ministers of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, fully endorse and warmly welcome the historic decisions by Finland and Sweden to apply for NATO membership," the prime ministers said in a joint statement issued Wednesday.
Editor: Aili Vahtla