Slovakia votes "yes" for EU

Slovakia's referendum on EU accession, photo: CTK

Slovakia's citizens voted last Friday and Saturday for entry into the European Union in a dramatic referendum. On Saturday there were fears that the fifty per cent turnout required for the referendum to be valid would not be met. But in the end, fifty two per cent of Slovaks did vote - and ninety two per cent of them were in favour of EU membership.

Slovakia's referendum on EU accession,  photo: CTK
Czech political leaders have widely welcomed the result in Slovakia, and they have spoken of it in historical terms as the end of a period that began with the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, and the beginning of a new period together in the European Union. Here's what Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla had to say:

"I congratulate the people of the Slovak Republic on the result of the referendum. I also very happily congratulate the Slovak government and the whole political system. For Slovakia it seems that the last - albeit theoretical - obstacle to entry into the European Union has been overcome."

Meanwhile, Czech president Vaclav Klaus has refused to comment on the results of the Slovak referendum, stating that he will not be commenting on any of the referenda in any of the candidate countries. But officials from Mr Klaus' party, the Civic Democrats, have responded positively to the Slovak vote, among them Vlastimil Tlusty, the parliamentary leader of the Civic Democrats in the lower house:

Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda and Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan,  photo: CTK
"I think it's good that Slovakia voted for entry into the European Union. It was quite tense, but it's good that it turned out the way it did."

As Mr Tlusty says, it was a tense referendum, and the Slovak media and politicians made a last minute appeal on Saturday urging citizens to vote in the referendum so that the fifty per cent threshold would be met. Although that threshold was narrowly passed, support for EU membership in the referendum was the highest so far in a candidate country, with ninety two per cent of Slovaks voting "yes".

No doubt that the government in Prague also hopes that Czech citizens will vote similarly in their referendum in mid-June. The Czech referendum does not require a turnout of at least fifty per cent, but the Czech government would still like to see a high participation rate, as Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda said on Sunday:

"We are interested in having a high turnout - the higher, the better. But, on the other hand, our law allows people not to take part in the referendum and let others decide. But we want as many people as possible to turn up. That's our goal. Not just to persuade them for a positive result - that is our general interest, but what is important is that people turn up for the vote."