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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 June, 2005, 11:51 GMT 12:51 UK
Latvian MPs back EU constitution
Guard at Riga Castle
Latvia has one of the fastest growing economies in Europe
The Latvian parliament has ratified the EU constitution by an overwhelming majority - 71 votes to five.

The vote had been expected after a first reading of the ratification document last month.

The Baltic state won independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 and joined the EU on 1 May 2004 in the enlargement which expanded the bloc to 25 members.

Ten countries have now ratified the EU treaty but two founder members - France and the Netherlands - rejected it.

'Best compromise'

The Latvian Prime Minister, Aigars Kalvitis, told the BBC that other European Union countries should follow the Latvian example in ratifying the EU constitution, because it was "important to know the views of all member states".

And Latvian Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks insisted that the EU constitution was "not dead".

"We think this treaty is the best compromise we could find. We know it's not perfect, but we have to go on," he told the BBC.

Latvia has one of the most dynamic economies in the EU, with gross domestic product rising by 8.1% last year and further growth of 6.7% expected in 2005, according to a World Bank report.

"Our goal is a more competitive EU," Mr Pabriks said.

He blamed the French and Dutch "No" votes on domestic problems in both countries and "the inability of some politicians to offer a new vision to people".

The EU constitution would offer better opportunities for the EU's smaller members, he said.

Nine European parliaments have now ratified the treaty - in Austria, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Slovenia. It was also backed by a majority of voters in Spain's referendum.


SEE ALSO:
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25 Mar 05 |  Europe
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16 Mar 05 |  Europe
Country profile: Latvia
06 Feb 05 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Latvia
06 Feb 05 |  Country profiles
Protests mark Latvia's EU entry
01 May 04 |  Europe


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