Maltese European Union membership referendum, 2003
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A referendum on joining the European Union was held in Malta on 8 March 2003. A narrow majority voted in favour of joining but the opposition Labour Party rejected the results. The victory of the Nationalist Party in the 2003 general election confirmed the result of the referendum and Malta joined the EU on 1 May 2004.
After the Nationalist Party won the 1998 election, they reactivated Malta's membership application, which had been suspended by the previous Labour government. Negotiations to join were finished at the Copenhagen summit in December 2002 and Malta was invited to join the EU in 2004.
In the run up to the referendum polls showed voters were evenly divided over EU membership. The Nationalist government argued that Malta would receive EU funds for the roads and tourist industry. They said that Malta needed the EU in order to cope with globalisation and accused the opposition of scaremongering.
The Labour opposition feared that EU membership would cost jobs due to the lowering of trade barriers and jeopardise Malta's independence. They preferred that Malta formed a partnership with the EU rather than seeking membership and called on Maltese votes to either spoil their ballot papers, abstain or vote no. One billboard for the no campaign showed the Prime Minister Eddie Fenech Adami wearing a Diaper made of the flag of Europe.
The question voted in on in the referendum was confirmed on 3 January 2003.
Do you agree that Malta should become a member of the European Union in the enlargement that is to take place on 1 May 2004?
|Source: Nohlen & Stöver|
Supporters of the Nationalist party celebrated the result of the referendum but the Labour leader Alfred Sant did not concede defeat and said the issue would be settled at the upcoming general election. He argued that only 48% of registered voters had voted yes and that therefore a majority had opposed membership by voting no, abstaining or spoiling their ballot. The day after the referendum the Prime Minister called the election for 12 April as expected, though it was not required until January 2004.
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