TALLINN - The Estonian government has approved the draft protocols on Finland's and Sweden's accession to NATO and authorized the Estonian representative to NATO to sign them.
The accession protocols are planned to be signed in NATO in the near future, after which they must be approved by all parliaments in the alliance.
Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said that the decision of Finland and Sweden to join NATO is of historic importance.
"It is astonishing to think that just four months ago, Russia was still demanding with an ultimatum that NATO close its doors. Today, the Estonian government unequivocally says that NATO's door is open and Finland and Sweden are welcome to walk through it. With Finland and Sweden joining NATO, the security of our entire region and Europe will become stronger," she said.
Kallas also underscored that Estonia's security interests overlap with those of Finland and Sweden.
"We're tackling our shared threats and challenges in cooperation and solidarity with Finland and Sweden, both during their NATO accession process and soon also as NATO allies," she noted.
Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs Eva-Maria Liimets underscored that Finland and Sweden have been good and close cooperation partners to NATO for years.
"With them joining the alliance, we gain two capable allies with whom we share the same values and who face the same challenges as we do," she said. "Finland and Sweden both have a strong independent defense capability and they are already as closely integrated with NATO in military terms as it is possible without being a member of the alliance. With them joining the alliance, the security of our region and Europe will strengthen and the security of supply on NATO's eastern flank will improve."
Estonian Minister of Defense Kalle Laanet likewise highlighted Finland and Sweden already being important defense cooperation partners for Estonia and with their accession to NATO, the cooperation will be brought to a new level.
"I am pleased to acknowledge that these two countries' accession process has moved forward from discussions to the next, more concrete stage. With the accession of these two countries, the Baltic Sea will become an internal sea of NATO, which will improve the security of the countries in the alliance. In addition, we can start sharing information about the situation in the air and at sea in our region more promptly," Laanet said.
Finland and Sweden submitted their applications for joining NATO on Wednesday. Both states' partnership with NATO began in 1994 when they joined the NATO Partnership for Peace program. In 1997, Finland and Sweden also joined the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. NATO's cooperation with each of the two states has thus far been conducted based on individual programs for partnership cooperation, which have been agreed upon in every two years.