Finland, Sweden to submit Nato membership bid together, says Swedish Prime Minister

188 out of of 200 members of Finland's parliament voted in favour of Nato membership. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

STOCKHOLM/HELSINKI (AFP, REUTERS) - Finland and Sweden will submit their bids to join Nato together on Wednesday (May 18) at the military alliance’s headquarters in Brussels, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said.

“I’m happy we have taken the same path and we can do it together,” Ms Andersson said on Tuesday during a joint press conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto.

A quick ratification of Finland’s and Sweden’s applications for Nato membership by the United States would help the whole process go faster, the Finnish president said.

“If you have a quick process there, it helps the whole process and the timetable for the whole process,” he told reporters at the news conference.

“That is very important in this context.”

Mr Niinisto and Ms Andersson are due to meet President Biden in Washington on Thursday.

Lawmakers in Finland voted overwhelmingly in favour on Tuesday (May 17) of joining Nato as a deterrent against Russian aggression, paving the way for a joint application with Sweden to be submitted in the coming days.

After a marathon debate lasting a day-and-a-half, 188 of 200 members of parliament voted in favour of Nato membership, a dramatic turnaround from Finland's military non-alignment policy dating back more than 75 years.

"Tonight, we will sign the application letter for Nato," Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told public broadcaster YLE.

Finland, which shares a 1,300km border with Russia, has been rattled by Russia's invasion of another neighbour, Ukraine.

"Our security environment has fundamentally changed," Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin told parliament on Monday at the start of the debate.

"The only country that threatens European security, and is now openly waging a war of aggression, is Russia", she said.

Finland spent more than a century as part of the Russian empire until it gained independence in 1917. It was then invaded by the Soviet Union in 1939.

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Finns put up a fierce fight during the bloody Winter War, but were ultimately forced to cede a huge stretch of their eastern Karelia province in a peace treaty with Moscow.

According to public opinion polls, more than three-quarters of Finns want to join the alliance, almost three times as many as before the war in Ukraine began on Feb 24.

Sweden announced its official intention to apply for Nato membership on Monday and Foreign Minister Ann Linde signed the application letter on Tuesday.

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