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Last Updated: Monday, 12 May, 2003, 11:45 GMT 12:45 UK
Press hails Lithuanian vote
Lithuanian President Rolandas Paksas
President Paksas is pleased with the result

The resounding "yes" given by Lithuanian voters in the weekend's referendum on EU membership has been welcomed in the country's press as a landmark in the country's history.

"Lithuania has woken up in the European Union this morning", says Lietuvos Rytas, the daily with the largest circulation.

A commentary in the same paper is captioned "Two long days: the making of a miracle".

The paper speaks of "tension reaching a climax" on Saturday when the initially low turn-out prompted both President Rolandas Paksas and Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas to go on national TV to urge citizens to use their vote.

They went to the ballot boxes as if to a war - for the future of our children and grandchildren
Lietuvos Rytas

It suggested that the apparent reluctance - particularly of the country's large rural electorate - to go to the polling stations was a feeling that "the gentlemen in Vilnius can wait until we have planted our potatoes".

But "people started voting en masse yesterday", the paper reports, "going to the ballot boxes as if to a war - for the future of our children and grandchildren".

Historic decision

The daily Kauno Diena says: "The nation has opened the door to Lithuania's membership of the EU."

Another leading daily, Lietuvos Aidas, spoke of "a historic decision for our country".

With around 90% of those who turned out voting in favour of membership, an editorial in Kauno Diena notes that while the vote was convincing, the country had "not yet reached the finishing line".

It warns pro-Europe campaigners against excessive optimism, saying that the effort expended in convincing voters to go to the polls now needs to be matched by comparable efforts and funds invested in "helping Lithuania to prepare for life under European Union standards".

A historic decision for our country
Lietuvos Aidas

Another commentator in Lietuvos Rytas also heaves a sigh of relief.

If the vote had gone against EU membership, Ramune Sotvariene writes, "we would have been better off not waking up this morning - just sleep through an absurd Monday and start all over again tomorrow".

In neighbouring Latvia and Estonia, which are due to hold referendums in September, there was an equally upbeat reaction.

An editorial in Estonia's Postimees predicts that Lithuania's "yes" means "a boundary marker has been crossed for Estonia that will take it, too, closer to the EU".

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

EU welcomes Lithuania vote
12 May 03  |  Europe

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