Slovak parliament approves NATO membership for Finland, Sweden

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Sept 27 (Reuters) – Slovakia’s parliament on Tuesday ratified Finland and Sweden’s entry into NATO, becoming one of the last countries to back the military alliance’s expansion.

Finland and Sweden sought to join NATO this year in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

NATO’s 30 members have ratified their accession since the accession protocols were signed in July. With Slovakia’s vote, only Hungary and Turkey remain to approve the enlargement.

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Turkey had become adversary, accusing the Nordic countries of imposing arms embargoes on Ankara and supporting groups it considers terrorists. But the three signed a deal to lift Ankara’s veto in exchange for pledges to fight terrorism.

Turkey has said it will block membership bids if promises are not kept.

In the 150-seat parliament, 126 lawmakers supported Finland’s accession and 124 voted in favor of Sweden’s membership proposal.

Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger’s government has been a strong supporter of Ukraine since the war started in February. The country, which borders Ukraine, has also agreed to host a NATO battle group as the alliance strengthens its eastern flank.

Public support in Slovakia is more shaky, with a poll in September showing a small majority backing Russia over Ukraine in the war.

A positive attitude towards Moscow is also held by some opposition parties, including former Prime Minister Robert Ficos’ Smer, and some local media known for spreading disinformation.

Hungary’s parliament has the proposal on Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership on its agenda, but no date has been set as lawmakers return from a summer break.

Russia, which calls its actions in Ukraine “a special military operation”, sees the entry of Finland and Sweden as a destabilizing move.

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Reporting by Robert Muller Editing by Alistair Bell

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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