- Title: LATVIA: LATVIA HAVE VOTED TO JOIN THE EU
- Date: 20th September 2003
- Summary: (W8) RIGA, LATVIA (SEPTEMBER 20, 2003)(REUTERS) 1. SV ELECTION OFFICIALS OPENING BALLOT BOX 0.20 2. SV ELECTION OFFICIALS SIFTING THROUGH BALLOTS 0.25 3. SV ELECTION OFFICIAL PEERING INTO BOX 0.47 4. CU/MCU OF ELECTION OFFICIAL COUNTING BALLOTS (2 SHOTS) 1.02 5. SV OF MEMBERS OF RULING GOVERNMENT COALITION WATCHING RESULTS (2 SHOTS) 1.18 6. SV LATVIAN PRIME MINISTER, EINERS REPSE, WITH THE MEDIA 1.24 7. MCU JOURNALISTS LISTENING 1.29 8. MCU (English) LATVIAN PRIME MINISTER EINERS REPSE, SAYING: "There have been three important decisions in Latvian history. The first was establishing the state, obtaining independence. Second was regaining independence after the second world war. And the third was today deciding on joining the European Union." 1.55 9. SV OF REPSE WITH JOURNALISTS (2 SHOTS) 2.07 10. SV OF LATVIANS DANCING IN STREETS, WAVING EU AND LATVIAN FLAGS (3 SHOTS) 2.30 11. MCU (English) NORMAS, SAYING: "Yes [I'm happy] because my education opportunities will be more and I will be able to travel more." 2.43 12. MCU (English) ANDRES, SAYING: "I can travel freely but most important is we never go back to Russian empire's fire [rule]." 2.58 13. SV PEOPLE IN STREETS WATCHING LARGE SCREEN WITH RESULTS 3.06 14. MCU (Russian) KATYA, RUSSIAN NATIONAL LATVIAN, SAYING: "Our vote doesn't matter. They decide what will be. They may ask us but it doesn't matter." 3.17 15. SV OF LATVIANS DANCING AND WAVING FLAGS (5 SHOTS) 3.46 16. CU EU BALLOONS PULL OUT LV CONCERT 3.57 Initials Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
- Embargoed: 5th October 2003 13:00
- Location: RIGA, LATVIA
- Country: Latvia
- Reuters ID: LVAMDL3OLXD6YHQT20E31KKCGP7
- Story Text: Latvia have voted to join the EU.
Latvia, the last of the prospective new members to
vote on joining the European Union, returned a resounding
"yes" vote on Saturday (September 20).
With close to half the votes counted, supporters led
nay-sayers by 69 to 30 percent, with one percent of the
ballots invalid. Turnout was 72.5 percent, comfortably
above a 35 percent threshold to make the vote binding.
Prime Minister, Einars Repse hailed the "yes" as one of
the most important decisions in the ex-Soviet state's
"There have been three important decisions in Latvian
history. The first was establishing the state, obtaining
independence. Second was regaining independence after the
second world war. And the third was today deciding on
joining the European Union," he told reporters.
The final "yes" will mark a success for the EU
enlargement from 15 to 25 and give Brussels something to
celebrate after Sweden rejected the euro last weekend.
Malta, Slovenia, Hungary, Lithuania, Slovakia, Poland,
the Czech Republic and Estonia have already voted to join
the EU. The 10th nation to join, Cyprus, is not holding a
Guests were toasting and congratulating each other on
the win in the ex-Soviet republic of 2.3 million.
But the atmosphere soon soured when a simmering dispute
within the ruling four-party, right-wing coalition broke
out into the open and threatened to cause a split.
Political analysts said the coalition may well break up
after a cabinet meeting on Monday, a development which
would not affect the country's EU policy but which would
inevitably cast a cloud over the vote celebrations.
Many pro-Brussels voters hail EU membership as the
crowning of ex-Soviet Latvia's "return to Europe" after
more than a decade of painful reforms since regaining
independence in 1991.
A full count is expected in the early hours of Sunday
Some Latvians distrust the European Union just as they
did the Soviet Union, and regard Brussels as too remote to
care for the interests of the small Baltic nation, which
will be one of the minnows of the enlarged union from May
But supporters believe joining the EU will secure
freedom, democracy and growth in the poorest of the
accession countries, where the average salary is about $300
"Yes [I'm happy] because my education opportunities
will be more and I will be able to travel more," said one
supporters. And another commented, "I can travel freely
but most important is we never go back to Russian empire's
But questions remain regarding ethnic Russians, many of
whom don't have citizenship and feel shut out. They will
be the biggest ethnic group in the EU without citizenship
One Russian national Latvian said, "Our vote doesn't
matter. They decide what will be.They may ask us but it
It is a bittersweet victory for Repse. Despite guiding
Latvia towards EU entry, a main foreign policy goal
together with NATO membership since independence, Repse
could be toppled as a result of the domestic political
The coalition led by Repse's liberal New Era has looked
shaky over the summer due to feuding with junior coalition
partners and repeated complaints over Repse's
Soon after the exit poll results, the chairman of one
of them, Eriks Jekabsons of Latvia's First Party criticised
the premier, prompting Repse to say he would not rule out
looking for a new coalition partner.
Foreign diplomats told Reuters a change in government
would likely tarnish Latvia's image inside the EU and cause
worries among foreign investors about the stability of
They said Latvia was already lagging in administrative
reforms to enter both NATO and the EU next year, and a
break-up of the ruling coalition would likely raise
eyebrows in both institutions.
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