Finland Will Require Referendum to Decide NATO Membership

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomija, Jan. 23, 2012From Gerard O’Dwyer, Defense News:  Finland’s electorate will ultimately decide whether Finland will join NATO. According to President Sauli Niinistö, the commander in chief of Finland’s armed forces, a popular referendum would be needed before the Eduskunta is asked to ratify legal changes in the country’s constitutionally neutral status.

“It is imperative that a comprehensive review of Finland’s security take place before a decision is reached regarding Finland’s position on joining NATO. The issue must have a national consensus, and a referendum required before a final decision could be made,” Niinistö told Finnish public broadcaster YLE.

Niinistö confirmed that his office is organizing a roundtable discussion, centered on the implications of NATO membership, at the president’s southwest coast summer residence in Kultaranta. To take place by mid-June, the meeting will bring together some of the country’s top political, legal and security leaders and strategists.

The gathering at Kultaranta will not only debate the advantages and disadvantages of joining NATO, but also analyze the potential for a more militarized Russia destabilizing the political and security environment in the Nordic and Baltic-rim region.

From Yle:  Membership has the backing of the National Coalition and the Swedish People’s Party. Recently, Heidi Hautala of the Greens also said that her party may reconsider its position against membership in light of the Ukraine crisis.

According to the head of the SDP, Finance Minister Jutta Urpilainen, the crisis in Ukraine and events in Crimea have not changed Finland’s position on Nato membership. . . .

“I see no need for Finland’s membership in Nato. If, at some time the matter becomes current, then in my opinion this question should also be settled through a referendum,” Urpilainen told Yle.

Image: NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomija, Jan. 23, 2012 (photo: NATO)