Meanwhile, two members of the bloc have not yet ratified Helsinki’s bid
Finland’s Riksdag voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to join NATO. The vote was held before Hungary and Turkey had the chance to ratify the Nordic nation’s accession to the US-led military bloc.
The bill was supported by 184 MPs in the 200-seat parliament, while only seven voted against and one abstained. Seven others were not present during the vote.
Some of the bill’s opponents, including Left Alliance MPs Markus Mustajarvi and Johannes Yrttiaho, expressed concern that Finland is not placing any conditions on its NATO membership regarding a potential deployment of nuclear weapons to its territory.
“I think [it to be] the biggest problem with NATO membership … that Finland accepts NATO’s nuclear policy and at the same time effectively renounces its non-nuclear status,” Yrttiaho said during the debate on Tuesday.
Finland’s foreign and defense ministers then assured members of parliament that NATO membership would not change Helsinki’s attitude to nuclear weapons. “I have already said before that we are not trying to bring them to Finland, and no one is trying to force them here either,” Finnish Defense Minister Antti Kaikkonen said.
The result of the vote was hailed by Finnish Parliament Speaker Matti Vanhanen, who called it a “historic decision” comparable to Finland joining the EU in the 1990s. The leader of the Riksdag also said that NATO membership once again placed Finland “on the European map”.
The vote comes because NATO itself has not yet accepted Finland into its ranks. While 28 members of the bloc formally ratified the bid from the Nordic nation and neighboring Sweden, Hungary and Turkey have yet to do so.
Parliament justified the move by saying it wanted to complete its part of the process before elections scheduled for early April. The legislation must now be signed by the president before it takes effect.
Last week, Budapest indicated it may need more time for its lawmakers to vote on Sweden and Finland’s bid to join the western military bloc. But on Wednesday, MPs began the ratification process for the Nordic nations’ bid following calls from Hungary’s president for it to be speeded up.
Ankara has previously expressed reluctance to allow either nation to join NATO, citing their support for Kurdish groups Ankara considers terrorists. Turkey, Sweden and Finland signed an agreement last June to address these concerns and pave the way for NATO expansion.