The head of Nato has declared Finland and Sweden will increase Europe’s security after the two Nordic countries handed over their applications to join the western defence alliance.
Finland’s and Sweden’s Nato ambassadors handed their countries’ accession requests to secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels on Wednesday.
“This is a good day at a critical moment for our security,” said Stoltenberg, who added that he warmly welcomed the applications.
He added: “You are our closest partners and your membership in Nato would increase our shared security.”
Nato will now take one to two weeks to review the application before making both countries formal invitees, according to officials. Then, all 30 existing members would have to ratify the applications, which is estimated to take four to 12 months.
Turkey has threatened to block both countries, and Stoltenberg said that the security interest of all allies had to be “taken into account”. He pledged that the alliance was “determined to work through all issues and reach rapid conclusions”.
Finnish president Sauli Niinistö and Swedish prime minister Magdalena Andersson will visit US president Joe Biden on Thursday in an attempt to get his backing for a rapid ratification and attempt to unblock the Turkish opposition.
Both countries have been eager to gain security assurances from allies, with the UK, Norway, Denmark and Iceland all agreeing to come to their aid if they are attacked before coming under the alliance’s collective defence pledge as full members.
Stoltenberg stressed on Wednesday: “Nato is already vigilant in the Baltic Sea region and Nato and allied forces will continue to adapt as necessary. All allies agree on the importance of Nato enlargement. We all agree that we must stand together, and we all agree that this is a historic moment that we all must seize.”