The Czech people have gone to the polls and voted decisively to join the European Union (EU).

The Czech Republic has voted overwhelmingly to join the EU, after the preliminary results of a two-day referendum, showed 77 per cent of voters in favour, the seventh of 10 candidate countries to do so. Turnout was low at 55 per cent but the victory is being hailed as a decisive one.

Fifteen years after the Velvet Revolution, the Czech Republic has now formally staked a claim to be part of the wider European family.

The Czech Republic will join the EU in May 2004 during the Irish presidency. The vote will provide the Czech government with a mandate to carry out much need financial reforms in preparation for the eventual adoption of the Euro currency. 

The centre left government of Vladimír Špidla has only a slight majority in the Czech parliament. While the referendum result will be welcomed in Brussels, there are many Czechs who are still sceptical about the European project expecting hardship as the Czech economy converges with the wealthier EU members. 

Today is a moment to savour for Czechs who still remember years of Soviet domination.

An RTÉ News report broadcast on 14 June 2003. The reporter is Tony Connelly.