The Finnish parliament voted overwhelmingly to join NATO on Wednesday. The vote took place before Hungary and Türkiye had a chance to ratify the Nordic nation’s entry into the US-led military bloc.
The bill was supported by 184 MPs of the 200-seat parliament, with only seven voting against and one abstaining. Seven others were not present for the vote.
Some opponents of the bill, including Left Alliance MPs Markus Mustajarvi and Johannes Yrttiaho, expressed concern that Finland does not impose conditions on its NATO membership regarding a possible deployment of nuclear weapons on its territory.
“I consider [it to be] the main problem with NATO membership… that Finland accepts NATO’s nuclear weapons policy while effectively renouncing its non-nuclear status,” Yrttiaho said this during the debate on Tuesday.
Finland’s foreign and defense ministers subsequently assured MPs that NATO membership would not change Helsinki’s stance on nuclear weapons. “I have said before that we are not trying to get them to Finland, and nobody is trying to force them here,” This has been said by Finnish Defense Minister Antti Kaikkonen.
The result of the vote was applauded by Finnish Parliament Speaker Matti Vanhanen, who called it a “historic decision” similar to Finland’s accession to the EU in the 1990s. The head of parliament also said NATO membership reinstated Finland “on the map of Europe.”
The vote comes because NATO has yet to include Finland itself in its ranks. While 28 members of the bloc have formally ratified the Nordic nation’s bid and neighboring countries Sweden, Hungary and Türkiye have yet to do so.
Parliament justified the move by saying it wanted to complete its part of the process before elections scheduled for early April. The legislation must now be signed by the president before it takes effect.
Last week, Budapest indicated it may need more time for its lawmakers to vote on Sweden and Finland’s bids to join the Western military bloc. On Wednesday, however, MPs began the ratification process for the Nordic countries’ bids after calls from Hungary’s president to speed it up.
Ankara has previously expressed reluctance to admit either of the two nations to NATO, citing their support for Kurdish groups that Ankara considers terrorists. Türkiye, Sweden and Finland signed an agreement last June to address those concerns and pave the way for approval of NATO’s expansion.