Turkey, Hungary Ratify Finland’s NATO Bid

April 2023

The Turkish and Hungarian parliaments ratified Finland’s application for NATO membership, clearing the last obstacle to the Nordic country’s bid and expanding the alliance border with Russia.

Turkey, the last holdout, approved Finland’s membership by a unanimous vote of 276 on March 30, three days after the Hungarian Parliament ratified the application by a 182–6 vote. Turkey and Hungary frustrated NATO for months by repeatedly postponing action.

Finland’s ascension to NATO would add one of Western Europe’s most potent wartime militaries to the alliance as well as intelligence and border-surveillance abilities, The New York Times reported.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had said that his government would ratify Finland’s application before the Turkish election on May 14, making way for Finland to join the alliance without Sweden.

“With Finland’s membership, NATO will become stronger,” Erdoğan told a joint press conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö in Ankara on March 17.

Niinistö, addressing Sweden’s NATO bid, said, “I have a feeling that Finnish membership is not complete without Sweden…. I would like to see [at the NATO summit in July] in Vilnius that we will need the alliance of 32 members.”

Last June, U.S. President Joe Biden welcomed Turkey’s decision to agree to a trilateral memorandum with Finland and Sweden, under NATO auspices, that was supposed to pave the way for the Nordic nations to join the alliance. Finland and Sweden affirmed their support for Turkey against threats to its national security and insisted that they should join NATO together. (See ACT, November 2022.)

But on Oct. 6, Erdoğan suggested that Finland and Sweden should join the alliance separately and renewed his threat about blocking Swedish accession. Previously, Turkey had accused Sweden and, to a lesser degree, Finland of aiding groups that Turkey identifies as terrorists, namely the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a Turkish separatist group, and an armed group in Syria that Turkey perceives as an extension of the PKK.

Sweden’s NATO bid remained up in the air as members of Hungary’s governing party insisted they will wait for Stockholm to clear up lingering disagreements before they go to a vote. Meanwhile, Erdoğan said talks with Sweden would continue but support for its application would depend on the Nordic country taking “solid steps.”—GABRIELA IVELIZ ROSA HERNÁNDEZ