On March 30th the Turkish parliament ratified Finland’s entry into NATO, the military alliance that includes the United States and most European countries.
For a new country to join the alliance requires, among other things, that the parliaments of all member countries vote in favor. Turkey’s was the last parliament to have yet to speak.
For months it had hesitated to approve Finland’s entry. Thus accusing the Finnish government of supporting and welcoming members of some Kurdish organizations, particularly the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). With today’s approval, Finland is thus assured that it will join NATO.
Finland’s position in NATO
All that is missing for official membership are a few formal steps. Which will be hurried through in the coming weeks, culminating in the signing of an acceptance document by the Finnish government to be sent to the U.S. State Department. Once the document is delivered, Finland will be a full-fledged NATO member country.
Finland for more than seventy years had chosen not to join NATO. Thus preferring to maintain a neutral position between the Western bloc and that of first the Soviet Union and then Russia. The Finnish government changed its mind last year after Russia invaded Ukraine.
Accession had been strongly advocated by the governing majority, led by the Social Democrats under Prime Minister Sanna Marin, but the oppositions had also supported it.
Finland and Sweden in NATO, the restraints from the Turkish government
In May 2022 Finland had formally applied for NATO membership together with Sweden. The governments of the two Scandinavian countries had made the announcement together for reasons primarily symbolic and of mutual solidarity. But in the following weeks it had become quite clear that Finland would enter first.
Initially, the Turkish government had made it known that it would oppose the two countries’ entry because of their support for the PKK Kurds. This is an organization that Turkey, the United States and the European Union (thus Sweden and Finland as well) consider terrorist. And against which the Turkish government has been at war for years.
But accusations of terrorism against the PKK are highly contested and debated. Partly because the Kurdish population in Turkey has often been subjected to persecution. The accusations were mainly directed at Sweden, which in some cases had treated PKK members as political refugees. Thus providing them with protection and refusing to extradite them to Turkey.
Finland had also denied extradition of PKK members in some cases, but in smaller numbers than Sweden. Which instead has remained intransigent on the issue in recent months. In mid-March, after months of wavering, the Turkish government had then announced that it would approve Finland’s entry into NATO. But not Sweden’s.