Ambassadors representing the 30 current member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato) signed the official accession protocol for Finland and Sweden to join Nato at a council meeting in the alliance's headquarters in Brussels on Tuesday.
Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg presided over the event saying that it was an "historic" moment for the alliance.
"This is a good day for Finland and Sweden and a good day for Nato. With 32 nations around the table we will be even stronger and our people will be even safer as we face the biggest security crisis in decades," Stoltenberg said in his address.
Stoltenberg recalled Finland's and Sweden's process leading up to last week's Nato summit in Madrid, during which Turkey raised its security concerns and culminated in a trilateral agreement signed by Finland, Sweden, and Turkey. This gave members the unanimity to invite Finland and Sweden into the alliance.
"This marks the start of the ratification process. Nato's door remains open to European democracies who are ready to and willing to contribute to our shared security," Stoltenberg explained.
Now that Finland and Sweden are officially invitees, the next step will be the ratification process, in which each member state's legislature will decide whether to approve the Nordic countries' accession.
Finland's Minister for Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto (Green) also addressed the Nato council.
"We highly appreciate the support of the alliance to the membership of Finland and look forward to a swift ratification process," Haavisto told the assembly.
He added that joining the alliance will not only be beneficial for Finland, but also a boon to the alliance.
"Finland's strong defence capability, civil preparedness and resilience will contribute to the alliance," Haavisto said.
He ended his remarks by pointing to Nato's main objectives and global outlook.
"We look forward to safeguarding a secure and prosperous Euro-Atlantic region together with our Nato allies. Together we are stronger in defending the rules based international order and the principles of democracy, freedom and rule of law," Haavisto concluded.
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In a press briefing after the event, foreign minister Haavisto and Minister of Defence Antti Kaikkonen (Centre) explained the next steps of the Nato accession process.
According to Haavisto, Sweden jumping on the Nato bandwagon was thanks to Finland.
"Finland was the first to wake up to the fact that the security situation had weakened in its own vicinity of the Baltic Sea area due to the war in Ukraine," Haavisto told the press.
Haavisto added that Finland will continue its long tradition of working in close cooperation with Nato member states as the country has as a Nato partner.
Kaikkonen laid out that Finland meets the military and security requirements required by the alliance as well.
"It is good to remember that Finland already has strong Defence Forces, a resilient society and close cooperation relations. We can also rely on these in the coming months with confidence," Kaikkonen said.
While Kaikkonen noted that it is difficult to say how long the ratification process will take, he added that he predicted all member states would approve Finland's membership in the alliance by the end of the year.
"Each country has its own process, which we respect," Kaikkonen clarified.
Already, Germany, Norway and Estonia have announced that they plan to ratify Finland and Sweden joining the alliance on an accelerated schedule. Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said in a tweet that she has convened the country's government for a meeting on Wednesday to discuss the Nordic countries' membership.
Haavisto commented on Turkey's initial opposition to Finland and Sweden, pointing out that in a consensus organisation like Nato, countries are also committed to finding compromises. He added that the situation was not unusual in the history of Nato, citing Greece's opposition to North Macedonia.
"I have learned that when negotiating with Turkey, solutions are usually found in the end, and solutions that are agreeable to all parties," Haavisto said.
The press conference portion of the article was included and updated at 14:34 on 5 July 2022.
Edit: Article updated at 11:55 on 7 July 2022 to reflect that the current member states signed the protocol.