Finland became NATO’s newest member on 4 April 2023, upon depositing its instrument of accession to the North Atlantic Treaty with the United States at NATO Headquarters in Brussels. NATO Allies signed Finland’s Accession Protocol on 5 July 2022, after which all 30 national parliaments voted to ratify the country’s membership.
“We welcome Finland to the Alliance!,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, as Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto deposited Finland’s instrument of accession with the government of the United States, represented by Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The Secretary General then welcomed Finnish President Sauli Niinistö to NATO Headquarters for a flag-raising ceremony to mark the country’s accession to the Alliance.
Speaking ahead of the ceremony, the Secretary General thanked President Niinistö for his outstanding leadership and for leading Finland into the most successful Alliance in history. “I am deeply proud to welcome Finland as a full-fledged member of our Alliance and I look forward to also welcoming Sweden as soon as possible,” he said. “Joining NATO is good for Finland, it is good for Nordic security and it is good for NATO as a whole,” he added. The Secretary General also noted that Finland’s accession shows the world that President Putin failed to “slam NATO’s door shut.” “Instead of less NATO, he has achieved the opposite; more NATO and our door remains firmly open,” he said.
The Finnish national anthem and the NATO hymn were played, as Finland’s flag was raised outside NATO Headquarters for the first time, in the presence of President Niinistö, Foreign Minister Haavisto, Defence Minister Kaikkonen, the foreign ministers of all NATO Allies and invitee Sweden. Simultaneous flag-raising ceremonies took place at Allied Command Operations (SHAPE) in Mons (Belgium) and Allied Command Transformation in Norfolk, Virginia (United States). Standing alongside President Niinistö, the Secretary General said: “Finland is safer and NATO is stronger with Finland as an Ally. Your forces are substantial and highly capable, your resilience is second to none and for many years troops from Finland and NATO countries have worked side-by-side as partners. From today, we stand together as Allies.”
Following the ceremony of Accession, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the President of Finland, Sauli Niinistö issued a press statement.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: President Niinistö,
It is a special honour to welcome you here on this historic day.
As Finland becomes the thirty-first member of NATO.
In a few moments, we will raise the Finnish flag at NATO Headquarters for the first time.
From today, 31 flags will fly together.
A symbol of our unity and our solidarity.
Joining NATO is good for Finland.
It is good for Nordic security.
And it is good for NATO as a whole.
Finland brings substantial and highly capable forces.
Expertise in national resilience.
And years of experience working side by side with NATO Allies.
I am deeply proud to welcome Finland as a full-fledged member of our Alliance.
And I look forward to also welcoming Sweden as soon as possible.
At times like these, friends and Allies are more important than ever.
And Finland now has the strongest friends and Allies in the world.
President Putin wanted to slam NATO’s door shut.
Today, we show the world that he failed.
That aggression and intimidation do not work.
Instead of less NATO, he has achieved the opposite.
More NATO. And our door remains firmly open.
President Niinistö, dear Sauli,
Thank you for your outstanding leadership and commitment.
And for leading Finland into the most successful Alliance in history.
So welcome, it is great to have you here. Welcome to the Alliance.
NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu:
We have time for a few questions, please.
from Finland. Mr. President, how historic is this moment? You was born 1948. NATO was established in 1949.
President Sauli Niinstö: Well, I will have my 75 years birthday today and NATO comes next year. But surely, we have seen many, you have described many moments being historic in this process. I guess this is the day most historic to us and to our partners, too.
NATO spokesperson: Ok, we have YLE, the lady just behind with a microphone.
YLE: So, historic day but without Sweden. How can Finland help Sweden to get into NATO? And how will NATO proceed with Sweden to be allied? And then one more question to Mr. Niinistö: Do you feel relieved?
President Niinstö: Yes, surely from the result, but I want to tell you that the whole process, it hasn’t been that tough in a way.
We have had so good cooperation all the time and full trust. At least we have in Finland all the time. It has been very clear that in due time, we will be members. So basically, the process hasn’t been that actually demanding. But surely it’s a relief when we can [inaudible] security and add stability. That is a relief for all of us.
To Sweden: We have all the way been working together with Sweden we continue helping them as much as possible. I have been discussing with President Erdoğan, you have been discussing many times, and I think, at least I am, I have a very positive outlook for that.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: Just to concur with the President Niinistö. We are both in close contact with Ankara, with President Erdoğan.
I went to Ankara a few weeks ago and that was where we agreed on the way forward, both when it comes to this final ratification of Finland, but also that we agreed to re-start the process in what we call the “trilateral permanent mechanism” with Finland, Sweden and Türkiye to follow up on the trilateral Memorandum of Understanding that was signed in Madrid.
President Niinistö was there, I was there. And now it’s important to follow up and to ensure that one important element which is actually to finalise the membership process, not only for Finland, but also for Sweden, is fully implemented. My message is and has been also in my meetings in Ankara, that not only Finland but also Sweden has delivered on the commitments they have made under that trilateral agreement.
So nothing should hinder or be an obstacle for also the final ratification of also Sweden to become a member. This is a top priority for the Alliance. This is important for me personally and all Allies agree that we should try to finalise the accession of also Sweden as soon as possible. So we will continue to work on this and hopefully we can have Sweden in soon.
Let me add one more thing and that is that Finland and Sweden applied together. They did so in May last year, all in June, one month after, all Allies also Türkiye, invited Finland and Sweden to become members. So far this has been the fastest accession process in NATO’s modern history. I also stated that of course, the most important thing is not that Finland and Sweden join exactly at the same time. The most important thing is that they join as soon as possible. Today Finland is joining and then we will ensure that also Sweden can join as soon as possible.
NATO spokesperson: Okay, we’ll go to ARD.
ARD: Russia always says that the enlargement of NATO towards the east or the north, threatens Russia.
And what do, are you afraid that the Finnish accession is also a pretext for Russia? To see Russia surrounded, to be threatened by the West?
President Niinstö: Actually, like you said, Russia has been repeating that. President Putin took it up very clearly in December 21. And that was one of the reasons why the discussion in Finland arose. We don’t want to be, or we do not want that other say what we should do and what we can’t do.
I had full believe, surely, on NATO. NATO won’t close its doors, but nevertheless that was … Russians, in a way, tried to create a sphere around them. And well, we are not a sphere. And all these the result we see today.
NATO spokesperson: Lady over there.
Ilta-Sanomat: Thank you. Iida Hallikainen from Ilta-Sanomat. This day means a big change for Finland security. How does, how big this change is? And what does it mean for us? And for NATO?
President Niinstö: Well, like Secretary General told, we have been on board quite a long time. We are enhanced partners with Sweden, now more than 10 years. And during that time, we have all the time been developing our capabilities of working together with NATO.
So the change is not that radical. It has actually taken place year after year by us getting closer. The same fits with Sweden, too, surely. In our daily life, I do not believe that people see very much changes, but like I started with, is that I’m sure that Finns feel themselves more secured, more feeling that we are living in a stable Europe in stable world, and that is most important for us.
NATO Secretary General: Today, Finland will become a full member of the Alliance and that means that from today on Finland will participate in all NATO structures, military civilian activities, and also be at the table in all NATO meetings and also have a vote and be part of decision making within the Alliance.
But of course, most importantly, what happens from today on, Finland will be covered by NATO’s ironclad security guarantees. Our Article 5, that says that an attack on one Ally will be regarded as an attack on all. One for all, all for one.
Then, the President is absolutely right, when he says that this has been a gradual development. Finland and Sweden have many years been very close partners. Then after we invited Finland and Sweden in June last year, they got another status, invitees status, which is a special status that actually triggered a process where we started to integrate Finland, Sweden into our military and civilian structures. But of course, it is a different thing to be close and an invitee and to be a full member, which is the case for Finland from today on.
NATO spokesperson: Thank you very much, colleagues. This wraps up this press point, but we’ll see you at the flag raising ceremony. So thank you.