Swedish lawmakers overwhelmingly voted Wednesday in favor of Sweden joining NATO, signing off on the country's membership along with the required legislation, APA reports citing the Associated Press.
The 349-seat parliament authorized Sweden’s accession to NATO in a 269-37 vote, with 43 lawmakers absent. It was the last required domestic hurdle to the country becoming part of the 30-member Western military alliance.
Six of the eight parties represented in parliament were in favor of NATO membership, and the vote that followed a nearly seven-hour debate was seen as a formality.
“Membership in NATO is the best way to safeguard Sweden’s security,” Foreign Minister Tobias Billström said during the deliberations. He called it “a historic event” and “one of the most important security policy decisions ever for our country.”
Speaking of the timetable for Sweden’s possible accession, Billström told lawmakers during the debate that “it goes without saying that we will be able to become members in Vilnius,” the Lithuanian capital, where a NATO summit is to be held in July.
“The backing we have is so tangible that I can make that assessment,” he said.
Both Sweden and neighboring Finland applied to join NATO in May 2022, abandoning decades of non-alignment in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The bids of the Nordic neighbors, which are close partners culturally, economically and politically, are historic as Sweden has not been in a military conflict in the past 200 years and Finland has remained military non-aligned since World War II.
On March 1, Finnish lawmakers also approved Finland — which borders Russia — joining NATO.