EU hopes Lithuania vote encourages neighbours

The European Union hopes Lithuania’s overwhelming “yes” vote to EU entry would prompt apathetic East European neighbours to hold elections and join the bloc.

    Lithuanian President Roland
    Paksas casts his vote during the
    two-day EU referendum

    The Baltic Republic election's committee said 91% of Lithuanians who voted favoured joining the EU next year.

    The European Commission hailed the referendum, saying the scale of its “yes” votes would boost the country’s role in an enlarged EU bloc.

    “Welcome Lithuania!…It is encouraging for all of us to see such enthusiasm for EU accession,” said Guenter Verheugen, EU Commissioner for Enlargement, who oversaw the marathon accession talks with the 10 candidates that ended last December.

    The Commission is the EU’s executive arm and hopes the strong Lithuanian result would boost the referendum campaigns in neighbouring Poland and even in states hesistant to join such as Latvia and Estonia.

    The pro-EU political elite led a frantic campaign urging people to vote after a low turnout on the first day of voting.

    Fears that apathy could kill the vote lasted into the final day of voting but numbers climbed in the middle of the day on Sunday.

    Lithuania is one of 10 mostly ex-Communist states hoping to join the EU. It is the fourth to vote in favour of joining the wealthy club after Malta, Slovenia and Hungary did so earlier this year.


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