NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday that the military alliance would welcome “with open arms” Finland and Sweden if they decide to apply for membership.
Stoltenberg spoke at a joint news conference with President of the European Parliament (EP) Roberta Mestola ahead of a meeting with the leaders of the EP’s political groups.
“If they decide to apply, Finland and Sweden will be welcomed with open arms to NATO,” Stoltenberg stated, adding that he expects the membership process “to go quickly.”
“Finland and Sweden are our closest partners,” he added.
Stoltenberg further said both countries are “strong and mature democracies” that have worked together with NATO for a long time.
He reassured that Swedish and Finnish armed forces "meet NATO standards and are interoperable with NATO forces."
"We are trained together, we exercise together," he asserted, adding that the armies of Sweden and Finland participated together with NATO forces in many different missions and operations.
Stoltenberg also said that he was “certain” that NATO will be able to find an “arrangement” for security guarantees for the interim period between the submission of application by the two countries and the formal ratification of the membership process is finalized.
He also asserted that “the brutal invasion of Ukraine demonstrates the need for NATO” to provide practical and political support for “countries in Europe that are not members of NATO or members of the European Union, such as Moldova and Georgia.”
According to media reports, Finland and Sweden have agreed to file their application for NATO membership together in mid-May.
The two countries had been strictly militarily neutral during the Cold War and struck a partnership agreement with NATO in 1995.
The support for NATO membership has significantly increased in both countries after Russia launched a war against neighboring Ukraine.