Sunday. 19.05.2024

The Centre Party (Keskusta), a coalition partner in the Finnish government that has traditionally been against NATO membership signalled openness to membership on Saturday, perhaps clearing the way for Helsinki to become a member of the defence bloc in the near future.

The ceremony gives the leadership of the Centre Party permission to pursue NATO membership, according to broadcaster Yle.

Finland has long resisted the option of NATO membership, but Russia's recent invasion of Ukraine has shifted opinions in a country that shares a long border with Russia. Recent surveys show that a majority of Finns now back membership.

Prime Minister Sanna Marin has not expressed an opinion, but made clear that a decision needs to come soon. She said on Yle on Saturday that, since the security situation could worsen, a decision has to be made this spring, which would mean by mid-June. NATO will hold its next summit on June 29 and 30 in Madrid.

A security report is expected in the next week.

Together with Sweden

Marin said her goal is that Finland and Sweden - which is also not a member - reach similar decisions at approximately the same time.

The Ukrainian invasion has also sharpened the debate in Sweden about joining, but the mood in Finland seems to be evolving faster than in its neighbouring country.

However, Jimmie Åkesson, the head of the right-wing populist Sweden Democrats told Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet that his party would change its stance on NATO should Finland apply for membership.

If his party were to back NATO membership, that would create a majority for that policy in the Swedish legislature.

Finland moves towards NATO membership as key party softens opposition