The Finnish government met on Monday morning to reach a final agreement on its Nato membership bill, to be presented to Parliament later in the day.
The centre-left coalition cabinet wants the legislature to begin to consider the decision on joining Nato – even though Finland's membership in the military alliance must still be ratified by Hungary and Turkey. Hungary is expected to do so in early February, but Turkey has still not announced when the matter will be decided on.
At a press conference after the meeting, Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (Green) noted that even without the final approvals and full membership, Finland can participate in all Nato activities except actual decision-making.
He stressed that Finland's Nato membership would not change its basic long-term foreign policy.
Haavisto reiterated that Finland and Sweden intend to join the alliance at the same time, and that it is in both countries' interest to do so.
In response to a question about what would happen to the process if the Finnish government coalition were to collapse, Haavisto said that he did not expect that to happen – and that in any case the process from now on basically lies in the hands of Parliament and the president, who is to ultimately sign off on the decision.
Haavisto said that it is important to begin the process well in advance of the end of the Finnish Parliament's term in late March ahead of the April elections.
Kaikkonen: ”No discussion” of Turkey preventing membership
During a visit to the US on Thursday, Finnish Defence Minister Antti Kaikkonen (Cen) was asked whether the possibility that Turkey might ultimately block Finland's Nato bid had come up in discussions with officials in the US and other Nato countries, the daily Ilta-Sanomat reported.
"It has not," he replied. "The message is very strong: the United States wants Finland to join Nato – the sooner, the better."