by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg with the Prime Minister of Finland, Sanna Marin

  • 28 Feb. 2023 -
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  • Mis à jour le: 28 Feb. 2023 16:33

(As delivered)

Thank you so much, Sanna. It's great to be back in Helsinki.

It's great to be back in this building and meet with the leaders of the Social Democratic Parties and the Trade Unions of the Nordic countries.
This is actually a forum I used to participate in myself for many, many years.

But now I'm here as Secretary General of NATO and of course we meet at a critical time for our security. President Putin's war against Ukraine grinds on and there are no signs that he's changing his plans. He wants to control Ukraine and he is not planning for peace,  he's planning for more war. And therefore it is extremely important that we provide support to Ukraine.

I commend the strong support that Finland has provided to Ukraine. This makes a difference on the battlefield every day. Then I also meet, later on today, the President, Sauli Niinistö, and Foreign Minister, Pekka Haavisto, and in all my meetings today, I expect that the issue of Finnish and Swedish membership will be an important topic.

And as you all know, all NATO Allies made an historic decision to invite both Finland and Sweden to become members of the Alliance. We are making progress. A couple of weeks ago, I met with President Erdoğan and we agreed to have a meeting with Finland, Sweden, Türkiye in Brussels next week. My message is that both Finland and Sweden have delivered on what they promised in the trilateral agreement they made with Türkiye last June in Madrid.

So the time is now to ratify and to fully welcome both Finland and Sweden as members. Thank you.

Unspecified journalist, Helsingin Sanomat
Secretary General, you said that we are making progress with Finland and Sweden, when do you expect that they can be members and what is NATO and the Allies doing concretely in order to ratify [inaudible]?

NATO Secretary General 
This is a top priority for NATO and for me personally and so we work hard and we have to remember that so far this is the quickest accession process in NATO’s modern history. Finland and Sweden applied in May. Then already in June all NATO Allies agreed to invite Finland and Sweden and then all 30 Allies also Türkiye, agreed on the accession protocols and signed the accession protocols and so far 28 out of 30 Allies have already ratified in the national parliaments. The Hungarian parliament has made it clear that they will start the discussions within a few days so I hope that they will ratify soon. When it comes to Türkiye, they have expressed some concerns mainly about Sweden. My message is that both Finland Sweden, both Finland and Sweden have actually had live up to what they agreed to in the trilateral agreement. Let me add one more thing, and that is that Finland and Sweden are on a much better place now than before they applied because as invitees, Finland and Sweden sit at the NATO table, are integrated into NATO’s civilian and military structures. Several NATO allies also provided bilateral security assurances, so it's inconceivable that there'll be any threat against Finland or Sweden without NATO reacting so I cannot give you an exact date but we are working to make it happen as soon as possible.

Unspecified journalist, YLE
Should NATO as an organization take an even more [inaudible] role in pushing Türkiye and Hungary’s ratifications rather than Finland, Sweden, Turkiye?

NATO Secretary General 
Well, so first of all decisions in NATO are made by consensus. And we have made the decisions we need to make as NATO already. We made them back in June when all 30 allies have made the decision to invite Türkiye –and sorry, and invite Finland and Sweden as full members and we made the decision at 30 when we agreed the accession protocols, what remains now are decisions that have to be taken as individual Allies and that is the ratification in the national parliaments. That's not a decision that we can take together, it has to be taken each and every capital. And so far 28 have ratified, to have not but it is a priority for me and we are working hard and we are using the argument that of course it will be good for Finland and Sweden, but it will also be good for NATO for all of us to have Finland and Sweden as members as soon as possible.

Unspecified journalist, Aamulehti Finland
Question for Secretary General Stoltenberg, you're saying that Mr. Putin wants more war, not peace. So my question is should NATO or specific NATO countries provide security guarantees to Ukraine otherwise Russia will occupy Ukraine sooner or later. And that Prime Minister Marin please, also your comments on this issue. Thank you

NATO Secretary General 
Okay, first also, what NATO Allies and also partners as Finland and Sweden do and also the European Union and many others is that we are providing an unprecedented level of military support to Ukraine. We are not party to the conflict but we need to remember what this is. This is a war of aggression launched by President Putin against Ukraine. They have the right to defend themselves. That is right, which is enshrined in the UN Charter, and we have the right to help support Ukraine in upholding the right of self-defence. Then, of course, NATO also has another task and that is to prevent escalation, prevent this from becoming a full fledged war between Russia and NATO. Therefore, we have also increased our military presence in the eastern part of the Alliance, also in the Baltic region to send a clear message that an attack on a NATO Ally will trigger the response from the whole Alliance. The important thing now is to support Ukraine, then no one can tell exactly when this war ends, but when it ends, we need to ensure that history doesn't repeat itself that President Putin cannot continue to attack neighbours. And therefore we need to strengthen the military capabilities of Ukraine, but also look for frameworks that can ensure that President Putin, Russia doesn't invade Ukraine yet another time.

Unspecified journalist, Aamulehti Finland
So Secretary General, comment please, after the war like [inaudible] approach?

NATO Secretary General 
NATO allies have agreed that Ukraine will become a member of our alliance, but at the same time that that is a long term perspective, what is the issue now is to ensure that Ukraine prevail as a sovereign, independent nation, and therefore we need to support Ukraine.

Unspecified journalist, Helsingin Sanomat
A question for Mr Stoltenberg. If Finland and Sweden aren’t NATO members in the Vilnius Summit, how credible NATO’s Open Door policy actually is? And if you allow me another question for both of you, are you disappointed in something [inaudible].

NATO Secretary General
So first of all, I'm absolutely confident that both Finland and Sweden will become members of NATO. Again, all Allies, also Türkiye, were part of the decision to invite Finland and Sweden to become members and all Allies, also Türkiye, signed the accession protocols. And Finland and Sweden meet the criteria. They have delivered what they are supposed to do. And therefore my message has been, for a long time but also in Ankara, that the time has come to finalise the ratification process, the time is now to ratify both in Budapest and in Ankara. Then of course it is by the end of the day a Turkish decision when to ratify. We will continue to have close dialogue with Türkiyebecause it is important to finalise this as soon as possible. The last question I have forgotten.

Unspecified journalist, Helsingin Sanomat
Are you disappointed in something in this process?

NATO Secretary General: First of all, I'd like to commend Finland for the courage, for the political leadership, for the ability to take decisions at a critical time for our security. And it demonstrates that NATO’s door is open because actually all Allies have invited Finland and Sweden and they will become members. And this will be good for NATO, it will be good for the Nordic, for the Baltic region. I visited Tallinn just a few days ago and of course they understand the geography, the importance of having Finland and Sweden as full members. And then it will also be good for Finland and Sweden.

Unspecified journalist, TV2
[inaudible] from TV2 in Norway. It's a question for both of you. Hungary has signaled yet again a delay in its ratification process. Are you in dialogue with the Hungarians about this issue? And is it clear to you what the Hungarians need in order to ratify?

NATO Secretary General: I have nothing to add. We have heard exactly the same messages from Budapest that they will ratify in the near future. But again, we speak about sovereign national parliaments and of course they finally decide themselves when to make these decisions. But my message is the same as from Sanna, is that the time has come. Finland meets all the criteria as do Sweden. So we are working hard and the aim is to have this in place as soon as possible.