Sweden and Finland become ‘de facto’ NATO members after signing accession protocol

Stoltenberg calls on allies to speed up ratification process to join “within months.”

Sweden and Finland on Tuesday took a step closer to NATO membership with the signing of their accession protocol, making them ‘de facto’ members of the military alliance in the absence of formal ratification.

“This is a historic day for Finland, Sweden, NATO and Euro-Atlantic security,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told a press conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels with Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto and Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde.

Stoltenberg has indicated that the organization shares “values and challenges in the Baltic Sea” with both candidates and emphasized that with this step the alliance sends a signal of unity and strength in the face of the Russian invasion of Ukraine that has “shattered peace in Europe.” “It is important that we stand together at this dangerous moment in our history,” he has argued.

With the signing of the accession protocols, Sweden and Finland become ‘invitee’ status allowing them to be ‘de facto’ members and participate in meetings at the allied level.

The 30 ambassador-level allies signed the document endorsing Stockholm and Helsinki’s accession to the military organization on Tuesday, a document that will now go to capitals for ratification. This step comes after both candidates completed their membership negotiations in one day in record time given their political and military closeness to NATO.

The accession of Sweden and Finland was unblocked at the Madrid summit on June 29-30, when the leaders invited both candidates, after an agreement was reached in the run-up to the meeting for Turkey to lift its veto in exchange for a greater commitment from the Scandinavian countries in the fight against the terrorist group Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

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The agreement was facilitated by NATO’s secretary general and ended a month-long blockade by Ankara, paving the way for the organization to two new members.

Now remains ratification, which is about the longest stage in the accession process, with the bureaucratic procedure in all NATO members. This will delay the formal entry of Sweden and Finland for months, because each ally has a different validation system and in many cases involves a vote in Parliament.

In any case, Stoltenberg has asked to speed up the process as much as possible in order to have a “quick” ratification and, without wanting to make predictions about when the allies will give the formal approval, he said that it is a matter of “months”. All this after highlighting the fact that the membership application was favorably resolved in 7 weeks, being the fastest entry process in NATO’s history.

“I count on the allies to ensure a speedy ratification, in accordance with their national procedures. The security of Finland and Sweden is important to the Alliance, also during this process,” he stressed, emphasizing the need to have Sweden and Finland as soon as possible as full members.

The fact is that after the two Nordic countries jointly applied for NATO membership on May 18, the Atlantic Alliance was betting that their accession would be even more agile and ready for the Madrid summit.

However, Turkish reticence over the alleged collusion of Swedes and Finns with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the People’s Protection Units (YPG) frustrated more immediate processing.

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Despite the tripartite agreement, Ankara insists that it will not move forward with ratification of the two new members unless it fulfills its commitments and works to extradite individuals allegedly linked to the Kurdish terrorist group.

EXTRADITIONS CLAIMED BY TURKEY

During the press conference, several of the questions have focused on the threat to later veto again the entry of Sweden and Finland if they do not extradite dozens of people claimed by Ankara.

The Swedish foreign minister has stuck to the agreement signed between the three parties to stress that there are no extradition lists and assured that the commitment is to cooperate better in the fight against terrorism. “There are no numbers of people, no specific lists, and during the negotiations in Madrid there was no mention of numbers either,” she has pointed out.

In this regard, Linde has stressed that the extraditions requested by Turkey will go through the normal course through the courts of justice. “There are no other legal avenues than the ones we already have. We will comply with Swedish legislation and international law, but we will look at mechanisms to combat terrorism in all its forms,” he has stressed.

For his part, Haavisto has argued that what has been agreed is what appears in the memorandum signed by Turkey, Sweden and Finland before the Madrid summit started, denying that there are hidden documents to advance the extradition of specific individuals.


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