Committee endorses Sweden’s and Finland’s bids to join NATO

Ljubljana – The parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee endorsed on Wednesday motions for Slovenia to sign the NATO accession protocols of Sweden and Finland. Both countries decided to apply for NATO membership due to Russia’s attack on Ukraine, and every country has the right to decide autonomously which alliance to join, committee members noted.

The motions were confirmed in an 11:1 vote.

The debate featured many condemnations of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine that led Sweden and Finland to seek NATO membership to ensure greater security, as well as some critical views of the Alliance and mainly the US.

The committee chair, Predrag Baković from the Social Democrats (SD), concluded the debate by saying that, with all the controversy about NATO’s role in the conflict in Ukraine and Russia’s claims that its attack was due to “NATO’s aggression”, it was important to determine why countries wanted to join NATO in the first place, “above all because of past experience”.

Sweden and Finland have the right to decide independently which alliance to join, so their wish should be supported, regardless of Russia’s reactions, he noted.

Foreign Ministry State Secretary Samuel Žbogar agreed with this view, saying: “I think we’re all appalled by what is going on in Ukraine.” He believes that the war there will likely be long.

“When shopping centres become targets, we can be horrified. This shows the irrationality and unpredictability of Russia’s policy at the moment, and this ignites fear that has convinced Sweden and Finland too, which are modernly armed, that they are safer under the protection provided by the collective alliance,” he added.

A tectonic shift in European security is underway and Žbogar believes that a new security architecture in Europe will have to be discussed in the future where not only NATO will be key but also Europe and its safety.

Opposition to NATO enlargement was voiced mainly by Left MP Matej T. Vatovec, who is particularly bothered by what he sees as the Alliance’s two-facedness.

“Russia’s attack on Ukraine is the most despicable and unthinkable thing that could have happened. But when we talk about very strong support for the Ukrainians – which I fully agree with – we often forget about other horrors that are happening in the world, but which are a little more distant,” Vatovec said, pointing to the Palestinian issue.

“One of NATO’s largest external partners, Israel, has been committing crimes against humanity in the area of Palestine for 40 years, but this defence alliance pays no attention to this.”

His standpoint was shared by Freedom Movement MP Lena Grgurevič, who was critical of what she sees as the EU supporting the US’s interests too much. Meanwhile, the impact of the war in Ukraine will be mostly shouldered by Europe, she said, but nevertheless endorsed the motions.

The government approved the motions on Tuesday, just as Prime Minister Robert Golob, Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon and Defence Minister Marjan Šarec were on route to Madrid for a three-day NATO summit, where it is expected that the protocols will be signed.

The two ministers from the Left were against the motions, newspaper Delo reported, as was MP Vatovec today, but Golob said that despite this he does not expect any problems in ratifying the protocols. He believes this will take place before the summer holidays.

“The Left has every right to abstain on this point, but I’m confident that in this case the opposition parties will also be able to adopt a constructive stance. That is why I’m not worried for one second that this decision on Finland and Sweden would be in any way jeopardised,” the prime minister said on Wednesday as he arrived for the second day of the NATO leaders’ meeting.

For the government or the coalition itself, he added, this opposition from the Left is no big deal as well.