Wednesday

28th Jul 2021

Finland and Sweden revive debates on NATO membership

Until recently, discussion of possible NATO membership has not been a lively political topic in neutral Finland and Sweden, but Russia's actions in Georgia have encouraged those who back membership to become more vocal.

"We need to reconsider our security policy," said the Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb in an interview with Austria's Die Presse on Saturday (30 August).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Traditional conflicts are making a comeback in the post-9/11 era - he argued - saying Finland needs to begin to consider NATO membership, that the Georgian conflict has highlighted the UN's problems and the need for a more active security policy.

"The talk about how nothing has changed is inconceivable to me," said the conservative Mr Stubb, who represents the smaller coalition party in the government.

"It makes sense now to take into consideration a NATO bid. The time for a decision in this regard has not come yet, but we need to be flexible and quickly adapt our security policy. This must not take place in slow motion."

In Sweden, the liberal People's Party – a government coalition partner - is also trying to launch a NATO membership debate.

Allan Widman, the party's foreign policy spokesman, championed his country's membership to NATO in an interview with the Dagens Nyheter newspaper.

The People's Party has always been in favour of membership, but respected the coalition agreement not to place the topic on the public agenda. This has changed since the Russian invasion of Georgia.

The leader of the Social-Democrat opposition strongly rejects Sweden's NATO bid, however. The Scandinavian country has had a long tradition of being a neutral country, even though neighbours Denmark and Norway are part of the Western security alliance.

Finnish NATO split

In Finland, Mr Stubb was appointed earlier this year as foreign minister, after being a member of the European Parliament for four years. He is a vocal supporter of his country's membership in NATO but promised to be reserved on the issue in his new job, due to internal division within the governing coalition.

The Centre Party lead by Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen is split on the issue, as are the Social Democrats. The current president, Social Democrat Tarja Halonen, is a strong opponent of the NATO bid. Her mandate ends in 2012.

Finland has a 1,200 km long border with Russia, something that caused much consternation for Finnish foreign policy during the Cold War.

The country inched closer to NATO in March when it announced its intention to join future operations of the alliance's rapid reaction force. It has developed technical capacities alongside NATO for several years and would be ready to join quickly if the decision was made.

EU hits vaccination target, as Delta variant now dominates

The European Union has vaccinated 70 percent of its adult population with one shot. "The EU has kept its word and delivered," said EU Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen. However, only 57 percent of adult Europeans are fully-vaccinated.

Opinion

Brexit: what is the 'Lugano Convention' and does it matter?

After Brexit, the UK ceased to be a member of the Lugano Convention, an international treaty which governs cross-border civil and commercial legal disputes. In May, the European Commission published an opinion calling for the UK's re-application to be rejected.

Column

Does democracy need troublemakers?

Comedians, businessmen and other outsiders – think of Edward Snowden, Slawi Trifonow (the TV star who won the Bulgarian elections recently), or Donald Trump – try to disrupt power, pretending to expose political elites. Why is this happening?

Opinion

Separating migrant families at EU borders must stop

Hundreds of documented cases of pushbacks of migrants and asylum seekers tell the story of a European Union whose member states seem to resort to increasingly degrading and inhuman practices in the management of its external borders.

Feature

'Prison island' birthplace of EU reborn as think-tank venue

Santo Stefano is being revived through a €70m refurbishment project to turn it into a high-level European think-tank, academy and open-air museum aimed at boosting the European integration project by training 'enlightened' EU youth, scholars and politicians.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. EU hits vaccination target, as Delta variant now dominates
  2. European arms 'displaced over a million people', research finds
  3. Brexit: what is the 'Lugano Convention' and does it matter?
  4. US maintains summer travel ban on EU tourists
  5. Does democracy need troublemakers?
  6. Separating migrant families at EU borders must stop
  7. Germany mulls restrictions for unvaccinated as cases soar
  8. 'Prison island' birthplace of EU reborn as think-tank venue

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us