Croat President vows to veto Sweden-Finland NATO accession, if he can

The Croatian parliament, whose ruling conservative HDZ party has a thin majority, is expected to endorse Sweden and Norway’s application. The only hurdle could be the president’s veto at the summit itself. [EPA-EFE/KENZO TRIBOUILLARD]

Croatian President Zoran Milanović on Tuesday said he would block the admission of Sweden and Finland at the NATO summit in Madrid if he is the one representing Croatia, after previously voicing his opposition to the two countries’ possible NATO accession.

“As the head of state who represents Croatia at the NATO summit, I’ll put the veto on the admission if the summit is held at that level,” Milanović told reporters in the eastern town of Vukovar, EURACTIV’s partner Jutarnji List reported.

However, if the decisions are made at the North Atlantic Council by NATO ambassadors, Milanovic said he was not sure he could persuade the Croatian ambassador to embrace his position but added that “I will be chasing the sinful souls of every parliament member who votes in favour like the devil.”

The Croatian parliament, whose ruling conservative HDZ party has a thin majority, is expected to endorse Sweden and Finland’s application. The only hurdle could be the president’s veto at the summit itself.

Under the Croatian constitution, the president is the supreme commander of the Croatian army and has a say in foreign policy. While Prime Minister Andrej Plenković regularly represents Croatia at EU summits, President Milanović can and has represented Croatia at such events before.

The NATO debate has officially launched in Helsinki, with many Finnish politicians hinting that a request to join the Alliance could be made by June.

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin recently stressed that a decision over joining NATO would be made “soon”, while Finnish foreign minister Pekka Haavisto told The Irish Times that Finland might apply to join NATO even without Sweden. 

In an interview with EURACTIV on 2 May, Finnish Green MEP Alviina Alametsä said a majority in parliament and the public in her country are now in favour of NATO membership, for which it hopes to have “some signals and symbols of support during a possible membership application”.

“I think that the risk of being attacked by Russia is far greater if we stay outside of NATO than if we apply for membership”, said Alametsä, who is also a member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the European Parliament.

Speaking to CNBC, Jacob Kirkegaard, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, said Finland’s accession to NATO would end the idea of “forced neutrality between East and West.”

“This highlights how Russia’s atrocious actions in Ukraine have forced previous neutral countries to commit fully to NATO in the ‘you are either fully with us, or we will not protect you,’” he noted.

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