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Lithuania: Referendum On EU Membership Gets Slow Start

Vilnius, 10 May 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Lithuania's two-day referendum on European Union membership got off to a slow start today, with just over 14 percent of the 2.6 million voters voting by 2 p.m. (1 p.m. Prague time). Although a "yes" vote is widely expected, the result of the plebiscite will only be valid if more than 50 percent of registered voters cast their votes.

Fearing turnout might be low, Lithuania has taken the unusual step of holding the vote over two days in order to give people more time to cast their ballots.

Lithuania is one of 10 mainly ex-communist countries on course to join the EU next 1 May. Malta, along with Slovenia and Hungary, have already held referendums in which a majority of voters favored EU membership.

Lithiania's Baltic neighbors Estonia and Latvia have scheduled their EU referenda for 14 and 20 September, respectively.