Estonians vote Yes

Of course off the back of a No in Sweden, we have a firm yes in Estonia. I hope the Estonians know what they are letting themselves in for.

With all the votes counted, the Yes side had 66.9 per cent, compared with the No side’s 33.1 per cent.

Some 63 per cent of 850,000 eligible voters cast ballots. There was no minimum requirement for the vote to be valid.

The results are being carefully monitored in Latvia, which will hold its own vote on the issue next Saturday. A strong Yes vote in Estonia was expected to boost the arguments for joining in its Baltic neighbour.

Lithuania, the third Baltic state, voted 91 per cent in favour of joining in May.

The pro-EU campaign had stressed the economic benefits of joining. About 75 per cent of exports are to EU countries and the EU accounts for 80 per cent of direct investment in the country. There is also a hope that the country’s infrastructure will be boosted by grants from the EU’s structural funds.

The decision is also a reflection of concerns over the country’s relationship with its giant eastern neighbour Russia. Estonia was forcibly incorporated in the Soviet Union in 1940 and regained its independence only in 1991.

During the campaign, opponents of EU membership said Estonia had had too brief a period of independence and would be handing over a large amount of its newly won sovereignty to Brussels. Moreover, they argued, its fast-growing economy – GDP growth has averaged almost 5 per cent a year since 1995 – would be stifled by EU regulations.