Finland will become the 31st member of NATO on 4 April 2023, immediately preceding a two-day meeting of Allied Foreign Ministers. Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed Finland’s imminent accession. At their meeting, Allies will address Russia’s illegal war against Ukraine, and are expected to agree to start work on developing a multi-year programme of support. They will also discuss threats and challenges from the South, the importance of increased defence investment, and China’s growing alignment with Russia. NATO’s Indo-Pacific partners and the European Union will also join for a discussion on the global consequences of Russia’s war against Ukraine.
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). 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.
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.”
Finland had formal relations with NATO since 1994, when it joined the Partnership for Peace program, and has been a member of the European Union (EU), which largely overlaps with NATO in membership, since 1995. Finland historically maintained a position of neutrality in the face of its often complicated relations with Russia. The possibility of membership became a topic of debate in the country after the end of the Cold War, and following the Russian invasion of Ukraine the country officially applied to join NATO on 18 May 2022. On 5 July 2022, NATO signed the accession protocol for Finland to join the alliance.