'A new era begins' as Finland becomes NATO's newest member

Finland became on Tuesday the 31st member of the NATO alliance.
Finland became on Tuesday the 31st member of the NATO alliance. Copyright Antti H'm'l'inen/Lehtikuva
By Euronews
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"The era of military non-alignment in our history has come to an end. A new era begins," Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said in a statement.

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Finland on Tuesday officially became the 31st member of the NATO military alliance.

"The era of military non-alignment in our history has come to an end. A new era begins," Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said in a statement.

He however added that as their applications were made together in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, "Finland's membership is not complete without that of Sweden."

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin, meanwhile thanks the "Allies for your trust", vowing that "together we will be even stronger."

Both Finland and Sweden applied to join the transatlantic military alliance in May 2022 but the process was delayed by Turkiye complaining that the two Scandinavian countries were supporting groups it considers "terrorist".

Unanimity is required for a new member to join the alliance. 

Still, Finland's accession is the fastest on record. The country was given the all-clear last week after the Turkish parliament ratified its membership.

Both Hungary and Turkiye have, however, yet to ratify Sweden's accession with Budapest citing "ample grievances" including a "declared and open hostile attitude" towards Hungary, such as criticism over rule of law policies in the eastern European nation.

Allies have cheered the arrival of Finland around the table, and reiterated calls for Sweden to follow suit as soon as possible, with Estonia Prime Minister Kaja Kallas describing it as "monumental for the security of the Baltic Sea region and the whole Alliance".

"Finland is now a member of NATO - this is good news and a win for transatlantic security. With Finland our defensive alliance grows with a strong friend. Sweden's pending accession has our full support!," German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said.

Britain's Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs James Cleverly said in a statement that "today will go into the history books for NATO as a defensive Alliance. 31 countries strong, we welcome Finland to the table."

“Russia thought its aggression would divide us. Instead, we are bound tighter together, resolute in our defence of the principles of freedom and the rule of law.

“Let us be clear that our door remains open. We will welcome further Allies with open arms and we continue to push for Sweden’s swift accession," he added.

US President Joe Biden said in a statement that he is "proud to welcome Finland as NATO’s 31st Ally".

"When Putin launched his brutal war of aggression against the people of Ukraine, he thought he could divide Europe and NATO. He was wrong. Today, we are more united than ever. And together—strengthened by our newest Ally Finland—we will continue to preserve transatlantic security, defend every inch of NATO territory, and meet any and all challenges we face," he added, also encouraging Hungary and Turkiye to conclude teh ratification process for Sweden "without delay". 

Russia's Foreign Ministry has however warned that the country "will be forced to take military-technical and other retaliatory measures to counter the threats to our national security arising from Finland’s accession to NATO."

Finland may not have been a member, but it has been part of the NATO Partnership for Peace programme for practical bilateral cooperation since 1994, and as such, has taken part in multiple joint training exercises with NATO.

Niinistö nonetheless stressed that as a full member, the country will "need readiness for change and adaptability."

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"While membership does not change everything, being an ally requires us to adopt new ways of thinking and some changes in legislation as well. A lot has already been done: for years we have been committed to develop our NATO compatibility. There is still considerable work ahead to integrate Finland's defence as part of NATO's common defence. The Defence Forces are also facing new demands and challenges to which we must respond," he wrote in his statement.

The alliance now hopes Hungary and Turkiye will have ratified Sweden's accession by mid-July, when leaders from NATO countries will gather in Vilnius, Lithuania, for a summit.

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