A day after NATO ambassadors signed the Accession Protocols for Finland and Sweden at the alliance's headquarters in Brussels, the Riigikogu ratified them with 79 votes at an extraordinary sitting on Wednesday.
"Today's decision by the Riigikogu will hopefully generate momentum for the ratification process, so that we might be able to greet our Nordic neighbors as full members of NATO by the first half of 2023 at the latest," said Reform MP Marko Mihkelson, chairperson of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu.
According to Mihkelson, a single and indivisible Nordic security area will create a completely new dynamic throughout the free and democratic Europe.
"Through this, transatlantic ties will be strengthened, and Europe's foreign political capacity to resist many serious challenges both to the east and the south will be enriched," he said. "And, most importantly, this NATO enlargement will enable entirely new opportunities for further fostering already close and friendly relations between Estonia, Sweden and Finland."
The ratification of foreign agreements must pass two readings in the Riigikogu. Both readings of Finland and Sweden's accession protocols took place on Wednesday, with no amendments proposed between readings.
Of the 82 MPs in the 101-seat Riigikogu present for the vote on Wednesday, Center MP Mihhail Stalnuhhin and Reform MPs Jürgen Ligi and Ants Laaneots abstained.
Canada first to ratify
Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto and Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde on Tuesday signed the protocol for accession to NATO, which must be ratified by all current 30 member states for it to take effect.
Canada was the first NATO member state to ratify the protocol, doing so on Tuesday already, Reuters reported.
Denmark, Norway and Iceland had also already ratified them, however, as noted by EKRE MP and Foreign Affairs Committee member Henn Põlluaas at the extraordinary Riigikogu sitting on Wednesday, all it took in these four countries was a government decision to do so.
With Wednesday's vote, meanwhile, Estonia became the first NATO member state to ratify Finland and Sweden's accession to NATO via parliament.
Laanet: Defense cooperation will be even closer
The ratification of the accession protocols by the Riigikogu on Wednesday will help pave the way for Estonia's two neighbors to become full members of the alliance, Minister of Defense Kalle Laanet (Reform) said according to a press release.
"It is important to note that Finland and Sweden joining NATO will certainly strengthen the security of the Baltic Sea region," he said. "NATO's military posture on land, at sea and in the air will increase significantly, and NATO's intelligence, cyber and other capabilities will be strengthened in our region."
According to the ministry, this anticipated enlargement of NATO will grant the alliance the opportunity to treat the territory of NATO member states bordering the Baltic Sea as a single operational area in the alliance's defense plans, which among other benefits will include improved logistical support of troops in the region as well as the prepositioning of units and equipment therein.
"Estonia's bilateral defense cooperation with Finland and Sweden is broad, but after they have joined NATO, it will be even closer and increase deterrence toward Russia," Laanet said.
Significant foreign policy decision for Riigikogu
Also commenting on Wednesday's vote, acting Foreign Minister Andres Sutt (Reform) called the decision to ratify Finland and Sweden's accession protocols "one of the most significant foreign policy decisions of this term of the Riigikogu," according to a ministry press release.
"NATO's strength lies in unity," Sutt said. "The alliance comprising 30 members and more than one billion people agrees that Russia is our greatest security threat. This is why the presence and defense posture of allied forces in this region will be boosted. Russia's power politics do not deter us from standing up for freedom and democracy. This remains true now, as Russia's brutal war in Ukraine — at the heart of Europe — is in its 133rd day."
According to Sutt, Finland and Sweden are both already strong countries with good defense capabilities in their own right, and as NATO members they would be providing, not receiving, security in the alliance. He also underlined the importance of Ukraine and Georgia having membership prospects in the alliance as well.
"I hope the ratification process is quick in other countries as well, and that Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg can soon extend to Finland and Sweden a formal invitation to join, making them our equal partners in NATO."
Editor: Aili Vahtla