Estonian President Alar Karis called Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinistö on Friday to congratulate Finland after Turkey's parliament approved a bill Thursday ratifying the former's bid to join NATO. Turkey was the last of 30 member states to greenlight Finland's accession to the alliance.
Speaking to the Finnish president, Karis welcomed the fact that Estonia will soon be able to greet its northern neighbor as a fellow ally, according to a press release.
"We look forward to Finland joining NATO soon," he said. "Your joining will complete our region's security."
The Estonian head of state described Finland as a capable ally that will be bringing additional military power to NATO.
"It's very important that there will soon be a NATO ally on the opposite shore of the Baltic Sea, which will also mean new opportunities for closer defense cooperation between the two countries," he said. "The more protected Finland is, the more protected Estonia is too, and vice versa. And the more NATO, the more security."
#Finland's accession to #NATO will significantly strengthen the security of Baltic Sea region and all of NATO. It will be great to have such a good friend and partner sitting at the table as an Ally. Had a phone call to congratulate President Sauli @Niinisto. pic.twitter.com/IVk4FuaYDt— Alar Karis (@AlarKaris) March 31, 2023
He likewise stressed the need for Sweden's own accession process to be completed swiftly as well.
"Our goal still remains for 32 NATO member states to be seated at the table at the alliance's Vilnius summit [this July]," Karis said, adding that now only Sweden is missing from a complete security map of the Baltic Sea.
Hungary approved Finland's NATO accession bid earlier this week.
NATO ambassadors signed the accession protocols for Finland and Sweden together at NATO headquarters on July 5, 2022.
Together with Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia, Estonia itself officially joined NATO on March 29, 2004.
Sakkov: Still a few more steps to take
According to Estonian Ambassador to Finland and security expert Sven Sakkov, it will take another ten days or so following the approval by Turkey's parliament for Finland to officially become a member of NATO.
"There are still a few more steps to take," Sakkov told ERR on Friday. "Namely, the Turkish parliament's decision to ratify Finland's accession still needs to be signed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as well, following which it has to be published in Turkey's respective official publication."
After this, Turkey must, in accordance with the North Atlantic Treaty, deposit its instruments of ratification in the archives of the U.S. Department of State.
Once Turkey has completed these steps, NATO's secretary general will then formally issue Finland an invitation to join the alliance; only then can Finland deposit its own instruments of accession in Washington.
Sakkov explained that while the typical procedure involves the acceding state being the last to ratify its own accession, Finland has already done so ahead of time in light of its approaching parliamentary elections, which take place this Sunday, April 2.
"Under the Finnish Constitution, the acting government's decision-making powers are severely limited following elections," he noted.
Asked how many more days all of these additional steps could take, Sakkov said that as of right now, another week to ten days, noting that it's difficult to say when Turkey's ratification will hit Erdogan's desk.
"Then there will be a festive flag-raising ceremony in front of NATO Headquarters that will be sure to be lovely and moving," the ambassador said.
"And in that respect, the next biggest issue to address, of course, will be specifically how to help Sweden catch up to Finland in this process," he continued. "Because until Sweden hasn't completed this journey, a Sweden-shaped hole will remain in Northern Europe's security puzzle. And I believe there's hope that Sweden will indeed still be seated at the table by the Vilnius summit in mid-July."
Should Sweden's accession be approved in time as well, that would make for a total of 32 allies in NATO. "And Estonia can sit — as they're seated in alphabetical order — between Denmark and Finland," Sakkov added.
Editor: Aili Vahtla