Turkish lawmakers on Thursday voted in favor of Finland’s bid to join NATO days after Hungary’s parliament also endorsed Helsinki’s accession.
The Turkish parliament was the last among the 30 members of the alliance to ratify Finland’s membership.
“This will make the whole NATO family stronger & safer,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg wrote on Twitter in welcoming Turkey’s action.
Last year, Finland and Sweden abandoned their decades-long policy of nonalignment and applied to join the Military alliance following Russians invasion of Ukraine.
Full unanimity is required to admit new members into the 30-member alliance, and Turkey and Hungary were the last two NATO members to ratify Finland’s accession.
“NATO membership will strengthen Finland’s security and improve stability and security in the Baltic Sea region and Northern Europe,” the Finnish government said in a statement following the Turkish parliament vote.
Sweden’s bid to join the alliance, meanwhile, has been left hanging, with both Turkey and Hungary holding out on giving it the green light.
Turkey’s government accuses Sweden of being too lenient toward groups it deems to be terrorist organizations and security threats, including militant Kurdish groups and people associated with a 2016 coup attempt.
Turkish officials have said that unlike Sweden, Finland fulfilled its obligations under a memorandum signed last year under which the two countries pledged to address Turkey’s security concerns.
“As a NATO member, we naturally had some expectations and requests regarding the security concerns of our country,” Akif Cagatay Kilic, a legislator from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s governing party, told parliament before the vote. “I would like to underline the concrete steps and their implementation by Finland, which supported and shaped the decision we are taking here.”
Kilic added: “I’m aware that there is a large number of people watching us from Finland. … We can say to them: ‘Welcome to NATO.’”
Some opposition parties were critical of the Turkish government’s position toward the two Nordic countries.
“Unfortunately, (Erdogan’s ruling party) turned the right to veto Finland and Sweden’s membership bids into a tool for blackmail and threat. We do not approve of it,” said Hisyar Ozsoy, a legislator from the pro-Kurdish party. “We find the bargaining process (to press for) the extradition of Kurdish dissident writers, politicians and journalists … to be ugly, wrong and unlawful.”
Asked earlier this week about Sweden’s NATO membership, Erdogan told reporters: “There are certain things we expect of them. They must be fulfilled first.”
Sweden, which made constitutional changes to pass tougher anti-terrorism laws, has expressed hope that it will be able to join before NATO’s July summit in Vilnius, Lithuania.
Ifunanya Ikueze is an Engineer, Safety Professional, Writer, Investor, Entrepreneur and Educator.