By Murat Temizer and Atila Altuntas
WARSAW (AA) – Finland and Sweden on Thursday said the security of the two Baltic states is interconnected, as they expressed willingness to finalize the application process for their NATO membership together.
"We work together. We have been in close contact every day on this issue. Of course, we want both Türkiye and Hungary to approve our application as soon as possible," Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said at a joint news conference with his Swedish counterpart Ulf Kristersson in Stockholm.
The two premiers also discussed the continuation of support to Ukraine during their meeting, she said.
Marin encouraged Ukrainians to trust themselves, adding that they will help Kiev on its way to become an EU member.
As the security order in Europe has changed permanently due to the Russia-Ukraine war, Finland and Sweden's security is interconnected, she said.
"It is in the interests of the entire alliance that we join NATO together. We have addressed the concerns expressed by Türkiye, as agreed in Madrid. We hope that all NATO member states will soon approve our application, and we believe Finland and Sweden will be allies at the summit in Vilnius," she said.
- Respect for faith
Marin said respect for religious matters is included in Finnish laws.
"We do not allow the burning of the Quran or the Bible. We want to protect people's freedom to believe what they want. There are also some laws in Finland about lighting fires in public places. You cannot burn not only the Quran but even your chair in public places. Don't do this in Finland," she explained.
Asked what would happen if Sweden's membership took a long time, Marin said: "It's strange that the situation is presented like the naughty kid in the classroom. Sweden also fulfills the requirements to become a NATO member. I don't like this atmosphere in which Sweden is presented as a 'troublemaker'."
Echoing the remarks by Marin, Kristersson said Sweden has close relations with Finland, adding they embarked on the journey for NATO membership hand in hand and continuing together.
Sweden and Finland formally applied to join NATO last May, a decision spurred by Russia’s war on Ukraine.
Under a memorandum signed last June between Türkiye, Sweden and Finland, the two Nordic countries pledged to take steps against terrorists to gain membership in the NATO alliance.
In the agreement, Sweden and Finland agreed not to provide support to terror groups such as the PKK and its offshoots, and the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), and to extradite terror suspects to Türkiye, among other steps.
"At this morning's Cabinet Meeting, we formalized the government's anti-terrorism bill. The bill will be sent to the parliament in March and that will come into effect from 1 June. This is a cornerstone in Sweden's long-term commitment to fighting terrorism," Kristersson said.
Referring to the recent tensions with Türkiye and the provocations in Sweden, he said he understands and share the disappointment caused by these actions.
"My message to all Swedes is very simple: Let's calm the situation down and let's focus on what really matters, which is enhancing the national security as full members of NATO."
He pledged that Sweden will do its part for its commitments under the triple memorandum.
Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Wednesday that Sweden has not taken any concrete steps to implement what it agreed to in a tripartite memorandum for its NATO bid.
Rasmus Paludan, an extremist Swedish-Danish politician, burned a copy of the Quran outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm on Jan. 21, with both police protection and permission from Swedish authorities.
The following week, he burned a copy of Islam's holy book in front of a mosque in Denmark and said he would repeat the act every Friday until Sweden is included in NATO.