Sweden Democrats leader wants party to change on NATO membership if Finland applies to join alliance

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – The leader of Sweden’s second-biggest opposition party will, should neighbor Finland apply to join NATO, suggest that his party change its stance towards favoring a Swedish, he told daily Svenska membership Dagbladet.

A change of stance by the Sweden Democrats would mean a swing to a majority in favor of long-neutral Sweden joining the alliance.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has prompted the two countries to consider joining, although Sweden is more hesitant than Finland which has a 1,300 km border with Russia.

The Finnish government has said it would clarify next steps in the coming weeks regarding a possible decision to seek membership.

“Then (if Finland applies) my ambition is to go to the party council with a request that we change our mind,” the paper on Saturday quoted Sweden Democrats party leader Jimmie Akesson as saying in an interview.

“What’s changed now is that Finland is very clearly moving towards a NATO membership and there are many indications this may happen in the near future. That, and the fact Ukraine, which is not a NATO member, is completely alone, has made me turn .”

The nationalist Sweden Democrats said last month, after a poll showed a majority of Swedes for the first time in favor of joining NATO, that it was reviewing its stance.

(Reporting by Anna Ringstrom; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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