Poland's EU-referendum

Mon 9 Jun 2003

Poland, perhaps the most important EU referendum of all, has gone the way most decision-makers in Brussels, Washington, London, Berlin, and Warsaw hoped it would. Initial results of the nationwide referendum on European Union membership on 7-8 June showed that 77 percent voted in favor. The turnout was around 59 percent.

The experiment in two-day voting appeared to work. When fewer than one-fifth of voters cast ballots on Saturday, the media were allowed to report the news, according to a law passed by parliament in May. On Sunday--when Poles customarily go to vote following Mass--the turnout was far higher. Even so, unofficial surveys reported that as late as 5 p.m. Sunday, three hours before the polls closed, turnout was still only 42 percent, but in the end, the referendum was easily validated. A turnout of less than 50 percent would have thrown the decision on EU membership to the parliament, where embattled Prime Minister Leszek Miller could have faced a tough struggle to obtain the necessary two-thirds majority.

When preliminary results of the referendum were announced on Sunday evening, Poland's political elite reprised the scenes of joy and relief. “From today we are citizens of Europe," Miller said.

With the approval of voters from the largest and strategically most important of the 10 post-communist and Mediterranean countries in line to become full EU members next May, Brussels can heave a sigh of relief ahead of the next scheduled referendum on 13-14 June in the Czech Republic. All of the Czech Republic's former Soviet bloc neighbors have now voiced their approval for EU membership.

Source: www.tol.cz