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Finland is getting much closer to joining NATO

Finland wanted to bring its Scandinavian neighbor along, but Turkey is holding up Swedish approval. So Finland is joining on its own

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Parliament member Ilmari Nurminen, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin, and Minister of Transport and Communications Timo Harakka attend the plenary session where Finnish Parliament voted on Finland’s accession to NATO in Helsinki, Finland

Parliament member Ilmari Nurminen, left, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin, center, and Minister of Transport and Communications Timo Harakka, right, attend the plenary session where Finnish Parliament voted on Finland’s accession to NATO in Helsinki, Finland, Wednesday March 1, 2023. Finnish parliament said yes to NATO, with 184 parliament members voting yes and seven members voting no. One voted empty and seven members were not at the session.

Heikki Saukkomaa, Lehtikuva via Associated Press

Finland is getting really close to joining NATO, ensuring its own security with its proximity to Russia.

Initially, Finland was applying for membership in the alliance alongside its Scandinavian neighbor Sweden, but the Turkish government refuses to ratify the Swedish bid, claiming Sweden is harboring Kurdish terrorists.

What’s the next step for Finland to join NATO?

On Wednesday, Finland’s Parliament “passed all the legislation necessary for joining NATO,” The New York Times reported. The next step is Hungary and Turkey ratifying Finland’s bid. The other 28 countries have approved the bid, but adding a new member requires unanimous agreement.

Finland and Sweden started the NATO process last year shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine.

Turkey will resume negotiations with Finland on March 9, per The Guardian.

Why hasn’t Hungary approved Finland, Sweden to join NATO?

According to the Times, “Hungary has a long record of leveraging its veto power within the European Union over sanctions against Russia to try to secure concessions on other issues.”

A vote to allow Finland in could happen as soon as March 20, after Hungary delayed the vote, saying that Swedish and Finnish governments have “spread blatant lies” about Hungary, The Washington Post reported.

The concerns stem from comments from Finnish and Swedish lawmakers who were “the most critical voices” about questions around how democratic Hungary’s government elections are. Because of those issues, Sweden and Finland have pushed back on the distribution of funds to the country from the European Union in the past, according to Politico.

Concerns about Finland’s border with Russia remain

Some members of the Hungarian government have also expressed concerns about adding a country that borders with Russia — a border that is 800 miles long.

Finland began construction on a border fence on Tuesday. Currently, it has mostly wooden fences to “prevent livestock crossing the border,” BBC reported.

Swaths of Russians have fled the country to avoid having to fight in the military since Russia’s invasion, with the numbers of those fleeing rising in droves after President Vladimir Putin announced an order calling for the more troops, drawing into its reservists, per BBC.