Poland votes for Europe after papal plea
Poland appears to have voted overwhelmingly to join the European Union, following a blessing from Pope John Paul II.
A snap television survey found turnout easily cleared the 50 per cent hurdle - needed to make the vote valid - and indicated Poland would finally lay to rest its communist past and join the EU in May 2004.
Yesterday, voting picked up, as many churchgoers in the mainly Roman Catholic country went from Mass to the voting booths.
The polish-born Pope blessed EU entry as "an act of historic justice".
Polandís pro-EU leaders will breathe a huge sigh of relief after poor turnout on the first day of the referendum raised questions over why many rural voters stayed at home.
Poland is the largest of ten mostly eastern European countries invited to join the bloc.
"I can wholeheartedly say that we are returning to the great European family," a triumphant President Aleksander Kwasniewski said.
Despite a ban on campaigning during the vote, pro-EU daily Gazeta Wyborcza ran an extra Sunday edition with the headline "Twice as Many Must Go" to the polls for the vote to be valid.
Polandís ten million mobile phone users received messages reminding them how long they had left to vote, while museums and art galleries opened for free to keep city voters from missing voting by heading to the country to enjoy a hot summer day.
But even the papal plea failed to overcome fear and apathy among those who lost out in Polandís transition from communism to the free market. Peasants, state industry workers and Polandís three million unemployed - 18 per cent of the workforce - are EU sceptics.
Turnout was far higher in prosperous cities like the capital Warsaw, eventually carrying the day.
Malta, Slovenia, Hungary, Lithuania and Slovakia have already voted to join the EU. The Czech Republic, Estonia and Latvia have yet to vote, while Cyprus does not plan to hold a ballot.