Finland's President Sauli Niinistö on Thursday warned that the country's new status as a NATO member “doesn't solve every problem,” and said Helsinki should not let down its guard on security issues.
“We still bear the main responsibility for our own security. Wherever we detect any gaps or vulnerabilities, they must be fixed,” Niinistö said, in a speech to lawmakers as they gathered for the first time since the April 2 elections.
He added that Finland, which shares a 1,340 kilometer (832 mile) border with Russia, has been focused on regional security in the past year, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“We must not let this level of alertness drop in the future, either,” the president said as he formally opened the 200-member Eduskunta legislature. “We should better understand how organically the dangers and tensions we are witnessing here are linked with the increasing geopolitical pressures."
Finland’s main conservative party came first in this month's elections, after a tight three-way race that saw right-wing populists take second place. Sanna Marin, the head of the Social Democrats that came in third, stepped down as prime minister as her hopes for reelection were dashed. No new government has been formed.
In May 2022, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine triggered European Union member Finland's historic decision to abandon its non-alignment policy and seek NATO membership. Finns became the 31st members of the world’s biggest military alliance on April 4 after the national parliaments of all of NATO's 30 member states ratified the Nordic country’s membership.
Neighboring Sweden also applied for NATO membership in May 2022. That bid, however, has stalled due to opposition from Turkey, whose president says his country must first resolve its disputes with Stockholm. The Turkish government has accused Sweden of being too soft on groups that it deems to be terror organizations.
Hungary’s parliament also has yet to ratify Sweden’s NATO, and it remains unclear when it will do so.
There are hopes that Sweden will join before U.S. President Joe Biden and other NATO heads of government meet in Vilnius, Lithuania, in July.