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Czech Republic: Voting Begins In Referendum On Whether To Join European Union

Prague, 13 June 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Czechs begin voting today in a two-day referendum on whether their country should join the European Union or not. On the eve of voting, Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla appealed to voters to cast "yes" ballots, saying the vote carries "an importance that we have never encountered before."

President Vaclav Klaus has urged people to vote, but stopped short of offering an endorsement of membership.

The referendum is binding and there is no turnout requirement for it to be valid. Opinion polls indicate a majority of Czechs support joining the EU.

Of the 10 mainly Central and Eastern European nations set to join the EU next year, Poland, Hungary, Lithuania, Malta, Slovenia, and Slovakia have already backed joining the EU in referendums.