Visegrad countries agree to organise EU accession referenda in spring 2003

The Prime Ministers of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, who met in Krynica (south Poland) on 5 September, have decided to hold referenda on EU membership between April and June 2003.

The Presidents of the four Visegrad countries had agreed earlier at their last summit Castolovice castle in the Czech Republic on 22 August that the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia are to co-ordinate their EU membership referenda next year, so that they are held in close succession.

They believe that if a referendum were first held in Hungary, where pro-EU accession support is estimated at 80 percent, it might encourage voters in Poland and the Czech Republic, where voters are more skeptical, also to vote for EU membership.

The same method was used in the referenda in Austria, Finland, Sweden and Norway in 1994. The method, however, was not successful: Norwegian voters rejected EU membership for the second time in November 1994 after the “Yes” vote in the other three countries.

The European Alliance of EU-Critical Movements (TEAM) says referenda on EU membership should be held on the same day in all candidate countries. TEAM believes that “manipulating the dates” will “probably make it even harder for the Yes-side in each country to win the coming referendum.”

The EU plans to conclude accession talks in December this year with the four Visegrad countries, the three Baltic countries (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania), and Cyprus, Malta and Slovenia. The 10 countries are eligible to become EU members in 2004.

 

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