First NATO member ratifies bloc’s expansion

Canada is the first of the alliance’s 30 members to formally approve membership for Sweden and Finland

Canadian lawmakers have voted to ratify NATO membership for Stockholm and Helsinki, after the US-led military collective met in Brussels to sign accession protocols for the two Nordic nations. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the move on Tuesday, stating that Canada’s House of Commons took up the issue “as quickly as possible” and voted unanimously for the two to join the alliance.

“Today, Canada became the first country to ratify the Accession Protocols of Finland and Sweden to join NATO. This brings the two countries a step closer to full membership,” the PM said, adding that Ottawa has “full confidence” both nations will “integrate quickly and effectively into NATO and contribute to the alliance’s collective defence.”

Trudeau’s comments come after NATO leaders met in Belgium earlier in the day to sign the protocols, which must be ratified by the parliaments of each member state. Though Canada pushed through ratification within hours, the process could take several months to complete as lawmakers from dozens of countries will now have to reach agreement on the issue.

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Finland and Sweden move closer to NATO membership

In applying to join NATO earlier this year, Finland and Sweden broke with their longtime traditions of neutrality, citing security concerns after Russia sent troops into Ukraine in February. While most members immediately welcomed them into the alliance, their bids were put on hold by Turkey, which accused both of harboring Kurdish militants and promoting “terrorism.”

Despite several warnings from Ankara, however, Turkey ended its objections last week after the two Nordic countries signed a 10-point agreement under which they promised to address the terrorism allegations and remove export controls on Turkish goods, among other things. The deal appears to have resolved the impasse, though Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned that he could block the process again if his country’s demands are not met.

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