HELSINKI (AP) — Finland’s Parliament on Wednesday gave final approval for the Nordic country’s historic bid to join NATO, with lawmakers signing off on membership along with the required legislation.
The 200-seat Eduskunta legislature passed the measure in a 184-7 vote to allow for Finland’s accession to NATO, clearing the last required national hurdle for joining the 30-member Western alliance.
The vote was initiated by Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s center-left government, which wanted to proceed with the vote before Finland’s April 2 general election even though two NATO members — Turkey and Hungary — haven't yet ratified the membership bids by Finland and neighboring Sweden.
Wednesday’s legislative decisions need to be signed into a law by President Sauli Niinisto, who has pledged to do so before April’s parliamentary election.
Finland and Sweden — close Nordic partners culturally, economically and politically — applied together to join NATO in May.
NATO requires unanimous approval from its existing members to admit new ones. Most of the opposition for Finland and Sweden’s membership bids comes from Turkey, which wants stronger action, mostly from Sweden, against groups that Ankara considers to be terrorists.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday in Helsinki that membership for Finland and Sweden is “a top priority” for the alliance, and urged Turkey and Hungary to urgently ratify the Nordic countries’ accession.
Turkey has agreed to resume talks with Finland and Sweden on their membership bids in Brussels this month to iron out obstacles and issues that Ankara has, especially with Sweden.
Meanwhile, Hungary’s parliament was scheduled to start debating the Nordic duo’s NATO membership on Wednesday with expected ratification at the end of March.
A senior Hungarian lawmaker said last week that Hungary was planning to send a delegation to Finland and Sweden to resolve “political disputes” that have raised doubts among some Hungarian lawmakers of whether to support their NATO bids.