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Latvians: Voters Say 'Yes' To Europe

Riga, 21 September 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Latvians have voted overwhelmingly in favor of the Baltic country joining the European Union, with Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga (pictured) saying the result puts an end to the consequences of World War II. Preliminary official results from Saturday's referendum show about 69 percent of voters approving of Latvia joining the EU.

The voter turnout was more than 72 percent.

The vote was the last of a series of national plebicites among the 10 states on track to join the EU in May 2004 in an historic expansion of the bloc from 15 members to 25.

Voters in Malta, Slovenia, Hungary, Lithuania, Slovakia, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Estonia, earlier backed joining the EU, while parliamentarians in Cyprus have backed that country joining.

Latvian politicans hailed their country's "yes" vote, saying it marked a historic moment in Latvian history.

President Vike-Freiberga said Latvia's entry into the EU would put a final stop to the consequences of World War II:

"For Latvia [the vote] is putting the final, full stop to the [consequences] of the second World War and wiping out forever the divisions on the map of Europe that the odious Molotov-Ribbentrop pact of 1939 had placed there. It will be for us a [revenge] in terms of our rightful place in the European scene."

As the EU vote was being counted, Latvia's First Party was reported planning to quit the ruling four-party, center-right coalition due to the party's problems with Prime Minister Einars Repse's leadership.