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Estonia: Large Majority Apparently Says 'Yes' To EU

Tallinn, 14 September 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Estonians appear to have voted overwhelmingly in favor of joining the European Union. Election officials said that with 25 percent of the vote counted so far, 67.4 percent supported membership and 32.6 percent were against it.

Election Commission Secretariat chief Mihkel Pilving said he expected the same pattern to persist as vote counting continued. A full preliminary count is expected soon.

Total turnout was 63 percent, the election commission said.

Economy Minister Meelis Atonen said a "yes" in today's vote will finalize a process that started 15 years ago -- namely Estonia's aspiration to join Europe in economic, political, and cultural terms.

Estonia is the second to last country to hold an EU referendum among East European countries invited to join the European Union in May. Neighboring Latvia votes next week. Slovenia, Hungary, Lithuania, Slovakia, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Malta have already held referendums to join the EU in which the majority voted "yes." Estonian Prime Minister Juhan Parts today urged his countrymen to take what he called a "historic decision" to join Europe.