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Last Updated: Sunday, 21 September, 2003, 10:00 GMT 11:00 UK
Analysis: EU moves east
By William Horsley
BBC European affairs correspondent

The Latvian Yes vote means that all nine of the new member states which held referendums won the consent of their populations for joining the European Union.

Czechs celebrate referendum victory
Czechs are the latest nation to vote for EU membership
The tenth newcomer, Cyprus, decided for the EU through a parliamentary vote.

It is a big relief for each of the governments concerned. And a big relief for the leaders of the EU's own institutions.

All the newcomers to the EU will formally take their place in the Union next May, thanks to the positive votes in referendums in Malta, Slovenia, Hungary, Lithuania, Slovakia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Estonia and Latvia.

The most enthusiastic for the EU were Lithuania and Slovakia, with more than 90% in favour.

The least decided was Malta, with its 54% Yes vote.

The votes were held during a turbulent time for the EU, with bitter feuds among various members and prospective members over Iraq, relations with the United States, the EU's internal economic management and its future constitution.

EU constitution debate

What happens now?

Quite soon the newcomers will be confronted, like the existing EU member states, with the need to gain approval at home for the EU constitution.

Already it has proved very contentious, and the text must be finalised before the official moment of enlargement, which will expand the EU to 25 countries.

Then it will be referendum time again - on the constitution - in many countries of both western and eastern Europe.

The EU is a work in progress. But now for the first time the new members, mostly nations which endured decades of Soviet-style communism, will have a full say in its future.




SEE ALSO:
Latvia votes yes to EU entry
21 Sep 03  |  Europe
Referendum danger for EU
17 Sep 03  |  Europe
Czechs say Yes to EU entry
14 Jun 03  |  Europe
Poland says big Yes to EU
09 Jun 03  |  Europe
Q&A: EU Copenhagen summit
17 Feb 03  |  Europe
Slovaks say 'Yes' to EU
18 May 03  |  Europe
Maltese back EU entry
09 Mar 03  |  Europe


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