The country can imagine joining the alliance without fellow candidate Sweden, said Pekka Haavisto
Sweden’s recent difficulties in obtaining Turkey’s consent to join NATO may cause Finland to seek only accession to the US-led military alliance, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto has indicated.
Helsinki and Stockholm submitted their applications for NATO membership together and would rather complete the process together as well, the top diplomat told Yle on Tuesday. However, Finland may decide to proceed on its own, given Sweden’s deteriorating relationship with Turkey.
The Finnish government would “reassess the situation” if Sweden’s bid took too long to be accepted by Ankara, the official said at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels. He said his government did not expect any breakthroughs until after the upcoming general election in Türkiye, which is scheduled for May.
In an interview with Reuters on Tuesday, Haavisto said three-way talks involving Sweden and Turkey may require a “timeout” for a “couple of weeks”. Last week, he mentioned the idea of decoupling the two NATO membership applications in an interview with Turkish media.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared on Monday that his government will not support Sweden’s bid to join NATO, after Stockholm allowed a protest involving the burning of a Koran. The demonstration was organized last weekend by activist Rasmus Paludan, a Danish-Swedish lawyer who leads the Stram Kurs (Hard Line) party in Denmark.
Haavisto criticized the protesters, saying they were “playing with the security of Finland and Sweden”. The two Nordic nations, which remained neutral throughout the Cold War, argued that they needed to join NATO because of a perceived threat from Russia.
Even before they formally applied last May, Ankara flagged its objection to their membership. The Turkish government accused Finland and Sweden of undermining its security with an arms embargo and failure to fight groups that Ankara considers terrorist organizations. The candidate countries pledged to address Turkey’s concerns.