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The European Elections Monitor
Czech Republic - Referendum on UE membership

The czechs approve their entry into the European Union

The czechs approve their entry into the European Union

14/06/2003 - Results

With the "Yes" winning 77.33% the Czechs, who are thought of as being the most Eurosceptic population in Central Europe, approved their country's entry to the European Union, 22.67% voted against. The participation rate - 55.21% of those registered (it rose to 17% only after the first day of voting) - was higher than the political analysts had hoped for.

Czechia, where there is no minimal participation required to validate the referendum achieved a better score than Hungary (45.6%) and Slovakia (52.1%) but was far behind Poland (58.8%). However, whilst the Poles were able to vote over two full days the 15,000 polling stations in Czechia were open from Friday at 2pm to Saturday at the same hour. The Secretary of State for European Affairs, Jan Kohout, explained the participation rate as follows: "If there was a lack of enthusiasm it was because we had been preparing for fourteen years. There have also been too many promises about a radiant future during the course of our history, hence the Czechs are now much more sceptical." For his part, Bronislaw Geremek, former Polish Foreign Affairs Minister, justified the high abstention level by saying: "The lack of enthusiasm shown by the candidate countries reflects the 15's lack of enthusiasm". Prime Minister Vladimir Spilda (Social Democrat Party, CSSD), can however be pleased in having achieved the objective he set himself for this, the first referendum in Czechia's history, i.e. at least half of those on the electoral role turned out to vote.

"This "yes" is clear, no one can question it nor contest the way it was won. A chance is opening up to us, the consequences of which we are still unable evaluate. I personally believe that the Second World War ended today. We are returning to a time when we were strong and we had enormous potential and everything depended on us," emphasised Prime Minister Vladimir Spilda when the results were announced. The other political leaders joined in his enthusiasm. The leader of the Civic Democrat Party (ODS), Miroslav Topolank, declared, "I would like to thank all the citizens of Czechia and especially those who vote for the Civic Democrat Party, who in spite of the campaign, and in spite of the temptation to take vengeance on the government in power, demonstrated a responsible attitude during the election." Petr Mares, the leader of the Union for Freedom-Democratic Union (US-DEU), also wanted to share his joy, "I would like to thank all of those who came and especially those who said "yes" because it is the choice of freedom, a choice they made not only for themselves but for all of those who will be taking advantage of this in ten, fifty years time." Finally the former President of the Republic Vaclav Havel simply declared, "It is the most important day in our country's history."

According to an exit poll that was undertaken by SC&C amongst 19,000 voters across 370 polling stations, the Civic Democrat Party's electorate, who were not necessarily unanimous in approving Czechia's European integration, were the most Euro-enthusiastic: 90% of them voted in favour of membership versus 87% of Social Democrat voters.

However the referendum represents a failure for the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM); they had called on their supporters to oppose membership; this was heard with half an ear, since according to the first estimates 46% of them had voted "yes". It was in the capital, Prague and the East of the country where there were the most votes in favour of European integration (more than 80%). However in Bohemia and Northern Moravia, regions that were heavily effected by the economic crisis and where mines and steelworks were closed down the participation rate only just reached 50%. Amongst the population the strongest support for European integration came from students (88% "yes" votes) and the electorate who had undertaken higher education (86%). But only 65% of the unemployed voted in favour of membership.

After Malta, Slovenia, Hungary, Lithuania, Slovakia and Poland, Czechia, is the seventh country to approve its entry to European Union by popular referendum. The Estonians and the Latvians will be the last to vote on their country's membership; both will vote on 14th and 20th September respectively.

Enlargement has not yet been totally completed since the Membership Treaty signed on 16th April in Athens still has to be ratified by the fifteen States of the European Union. To date only Denmark has done so; all of the political parties represented in the Folketing (Danish parliament) except for the extreme rightwing populist movement, the Danish People's Party, (DF), accepted the enlargement of the European Union by ten members on 4th June.

Referendum Results on the EU in Czechia 13th and 14th June 2003:

Participation : 55.21%

Publishing Director: Pascale JOANNIN
The authors
Corinne Deloy
Author of the European Elections Monitor (EEM) for the Robert Schuman Foundation and project manager at the Institute for Political Studies (Sciences Po).
Fondation Robert Schuman
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