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New Atlanticist

August 8, 2022

When will Sweden and Finland join NATO? Tracking the ratification process across the Alliance.

By Atlantic Council experts

This post was last updated on September 16.

The process for Finland and Sweden joining NATO is speeding up, but there are plenty more twists and turns ahead before we reach the finish line. With this tracker, the Atlantic Council team is keeping tabs on the countries that have ratified the amended NATO treaty to welcome two new members—and handicapping the political prospects for ratification in the countries that have yet to approve the Finnish and Swedish bids.

Following a September 16 vote in Portugal, legislatures in twenty-seven NATO countries have approved the enlargement (often by large margins), with three left to go. Here’s what to expect from them in the coming months.

Current count: Number of NATO members that have ratified Finland and Sweden’s accession

Timeline: NATO members that have approved Finland and Sweden’s accession, by date of ratification

Click the left and right arrows to move through the timeline

Map: Who has ratified Finnish and Swedish accession–and who hasn’t yet

Source: NATO Parliamentary Assembly

Cheat sheet: Expert intel on the next ratification debates to watch

TURKEY: Expect more jockeying into 2023

Three considerations unique to Turkey will influence the pace of ratification for Swedish and Finnish accession to NATO. 

The first consideration will be action by the applicants to fulfill commitments they made on Turkish security and counterterrorism concerns in a June 28 trilateral memorandum. The speed of ratification will be tied to tangible action on defense industrial cooperation (ending arms embargoes), prosecution of financing and recruitment activities linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and other terror organizations, and establishment of a Permanent Joint Mechanism to oversee security cooperation more broadly. 

A second consideration is the 2023 presidential and legislative elections; President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will avoid appearing too soft or hasty on accession. 

A third consideration is a potential Turkish military operation against the PKK in Syria. Having the accession process ongoing but not yet complete will mute some Western criticism of a new operation, but there will be a point at which perceived delay could conversely lead to increasing Western frustration and pressure. 

These considerations together support the idea that Ankara will be one of, if not the, last NATO member to approve the twin accessions. It may be instructive to review North Macedonia’s accession for comparison. After North Macedonia struck a deal with Greece over a dispute about the country’s name in June 2018, it took another twenty-one months for ratification by the individual NATO member governments (ironically Greece only took eight months, with Spain taking twenty-one due to a political crisis). By that yardstick, we can expect something like a yearlong process (somewhere between eight and twenty months) after Ankara is satisfied that Sweden and Finland have taken substantive steps to fulfill the June 28 memorandum. This could end up being shortly after Turkish national elections in June 2023.

Rich Outzen is a nonresident senior fellow at Atlantic Council IN TURKEY and a former US State Department official

HUNGARY: Orbán will take the plunge—but only at the end

The Hungarian position on support for Finnish and Swedish NATO membership is less than enthusiastic. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán will probably be the last to ratify. Yes, it’s his decision and his alone. However, in the end he will ratify. 

When asked about the ratification, he argues that he has to “take Turkey’s sensitivities” into account. He is of the view that NATO’s open-door policy is a provocation to Russia and the West’s broken promise—which is bizarre given the fact that he was the one signing the Washington Treaty to bring Hungary into NATO in 1999. The timeline for ratification remains unclear.

András Simonyi is a nonresident senior fellow at the Global Energy Center and a former Hungarian ambassador to the United States

SLOVAKIA: A September target

Procedural reasons explain why Slovakia has not yet ratified Finland and Sweden’s NATO accession. The government in Bratislava approved the amended treaty at the end of July, and the parliament (there’s only one chamber) was expected to discuss it in early September at its first regular meeting after the summer break. Some opposition figures may try to score a few political points by criticizing NATO, but it is generally assumed that the proposal will pass. President Zuzana Čaputová will certainly endorse it very soon after.

Petr Tůma is a visiting fellow at the Europe Center and a Czech career diplomat

Further reading

Related Experts: Rich Outzen, András Simonyi, and Petr Tůma

Image: Sweden's Foreign Minister Ann Linde and Finland's Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto attend a signing ceremony with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, signing their countries' accession protocols at the alliance's headquarters in Brussels, Belgium July 5, 2022.