HELSINKI, June 10 (Xinhua) -- Finnish National Coalition Party on Sunday repeated its endorsement for a possible Finnish membership in NATO. The party first aired the idea of joining NATO in 2006.
In the party's convention in Turku, western Finland, its chairman Petteri Orpo said the application to join the alliance should be made "within the years to come shortly". Talking to Finnish media, he was unwilling to explain, however, what the time frame actually would be.
The demand from the conservative party's youth league that joining NATO should be in the program of the government after the May 2019 election was rejected at the convention. Orpo said the party has an explicit goal, but its realization requires a wider consensus in Finland.
Public backing of joining NATO has declined in Finland in recent years. In March, a poll said NATO membership was supported by 17 percent, while half of the nation appreciates military co-operation with the alliance without joining it.
During the meeting, former prime minister and former conservative party chairman Alexander Stubb told media that he believes the Finnish public opinion would swing in favor of NATO membership "if the membership would be supported by Finnish President Sauli Niinisto". President Niinisto is a former conservative party chairman, but during his presidency he has not applied his former party's policy line towards NATO.
Ilkka Kanerva, member of parliament and the party's leading defense expert, told media that the party is "not in a hurry" with the membership. "But it would be stupid to say that we never apply", he said.
Kanerva underlined the importance of the trilateral defense co-operation accord signed by Finland, Sweden and the United States late last year.
Talking to Xinhua, Kanerva said the trilateral accord was "a positive signal on the transatlantic scene." He said "it is important that the military cooperation with the U.S. was documented as an agreement."
Kanerva praised the current military co-operation between Finland and Sweden that now covers also crisis plans. "A formal treaty of alliance is unlikely ever, and this practical level is sufficient," Kanerva said.
In Sweden, the Swedish ruling social democrats have underlined the non-alligned status of the country. The Swedish conservatives have endorsed going NATO, but said the decision would require a wide national consensus.
Swedish conservative leader Ulf Kristersson said in January Sweden is likely to be a member of NATO in ten years. He said at the time he keeps contact with the Finnish conservative chairman Orpo on the issue. "But each country decides on its own", he added.