President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has announced the ratification of Finland's application to join NATO will begin, Finnish public broadcaster Yle reports.
The announcement was anticipated following the bringing forward to Thursday and Friday of an official visit by Finland's president, Sauli Niinistö, to Turkey, originally scheduled for May
President Erdgogan said Friday that: "Turkey, as you know, is a strong defender of NATO's open door policy," adding that Finland's membership "will make NATO stronger," Yle reports on its English-language page.
Speaking at the same press conference, President Niinistö said: "It is very good to hear this news. We understood earlier on that you had made the decision, and signing it today confirms that the Turkish parliament will start the work of ratifying Finnish membership," Niinistö said.
The success has a bittersweet aspect to it, however, since Finland's neighbor, Sweden, with which it has very strong historical ties and which applied for NATO membership at the same time as Finland, on May 18 last year, may have to wait longer for Turkish approval.
Ankara suspects Sweden of harboring terrorists hostile to the Turkish state, while a public Qu'ran-burning incident in Stockholm organized by a far-right Danish national in January has not served to hurry things along, even as Turkey is, constitutionally speaking, a secular state.
Back in Finland, that country's popular prime minister, Sanna Marin, also welcomed the news, tweeting that: "An important step towards Finland's NATO membership has been taken today," and adding that "Finland will do everything possible so that Sweden also becomes a member of NATO as quickly as possible. Together we are stronger."
Tänään on otettu tärkeä askel kohti Suomen Nato-jäsenyyttä, kun Turkki ilmoitti aloittavansa ratifiointiprosessin parlamentissa. Suomi tulee tekemään kaikkensa, jotta myös Ruotsista tulee Naton jäsen mahdollisimman nopeasti. Yhdessä olemme vahvempia.— Sanna Marin (@MarinSanna) March 17, 2023
Erdogan says Sweden must take more "positive steps" towards the extradition of individuals identified by Ankara as terrorists.
Turkey, also long a popular destination for Finnish tourists, goes to the polls in mid-May, while its parliament breaks up a month before that; tipsters had expected the Turkish ratification process of Finnish NATO membership to have started by that point, while NATO itself hoped that the process for both Finland and Sweden would be underway by July's summit in Vilnius, Lithuania.
NATO member Estonia ratified both country's applications in July last year.
Friday's news means that only Hungary remains an obstacle to Finland's accession, as it does to Sweden's also.
In this case it is through that the Orban regime is trying to use its intransigence on the issue as some sort of perceived bargaining chip with the EU, a wholly different organization, in relation to funds.
Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, now in its second year, was followed by the decision by both Finland and Sweden to join the NATO alliance, though it practice they had been involved in cooperative military exercises with the alliance for several years already.
The move was symbolic in ending a period of ostensible neutrality dating back to the Napoleonic Wars in Sweden's case (around the time what is now independent Finland was ceded by Sweden, to the Russian Empire), and to the start of the Cold War in Finland's case.
Editor: Andrew Whyte