LJUBLJANA, Slovenia — Slovenia strongly endorsed membership in NATO and the European Union, a sound victory for pro-Western leaders who hope joining the bodies will give their tiny nation a say in international politics.
Final unofficial results from Sunday's referendums showed 89.61 percent of Slovenes in support of membership into the EU, while 66.02 percent said yes to entry in the military alliance.
Although the ballot for entry into the EU was never in doubt, the vote for NATO was uncertain. Opinion polls showed almost 80 percent of Slovenes opposed to the U.S.-led war in Iraq, with many expressing unwillingness to join an alliance that they view as strongly dominated by Washington.
The country's newspapers Monday hailed the outcome as historic.
"Future generations will tell us whether the decision we made was the right one," the daily Dnevnik wrote in an editorial. "But we can say for ourselves that our generation is a brave generation, perhaps even a little bit adventurous."
The daily Delo said the outcome "marked a new beginning of an era in Slovenia's history" just as "the war in Iraq symbolically marked the beginning of a new era in world history."
President Janez Drnovsek, who served as a longtime prime minister before being elected to the presidency last year, called the referendum "the crowning achievement of a decade of efforts," particularly in light of strong anti-war sentiment in his country.
"There were quite a few misgivings, especially concerning NATO, but it is a good result," Drnovsek said Sunday after the results were revealed. "The future is always unpredictable, but in the company of democratic countries, we can assure a better future for Slovenia with fewer risks."
Analysts suggested that the result of the NATO vote indicated that fear of remaining excluded from the alliance in the long term prevailed over anxieties about the current war.
EU and NATO officials were quick to welcome the outcome of the referendum.
"I welcome the vote of confidence Slovenians have given NATO and also their willingness to accept the obligations of membership," said NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson.
The EU's head office, the European Commission, said: "In these times of war, such a commitment to the European project, which is devoted to peace, stability and prosperity, has a special significance."
Membership in the EU and NATO has been a major goal for the nation's governments and citizens since the Alpine country of 2 million won independence from the old Yugoslavia in 1991.
For many, entry into both clubs signals a final break away from the turbulent Balkans and a move toward the embrace of the West.
Several hundred revelers poured into a downtown square in the capital, Ljubljana, to celebrate after the results were announced. They waved EU, NATO and Slovenian flags. One banner read: "Finally!"
"This brings Slovenia into the family of Europe, where it has always belonged," said Luka Kersic, a 21-year-old lawyer.
In an apparent effort not to jeopardize the vote, the government avoided taking a decisive stand on the war in Iraq ahead of the referendum and resisted U.S. overtures to open the country's airspace and roads for military traffic.
Of seven alliance candidates, Slovenia is the only one to hold a referendum on NATO membership — and the only one that has so far refused to help the U.S. war effort.
The assassination of the prime minister of nearby Serbia, Zoran Djindjic, and anxieties of renewed instability in the region also appeared to have increased support for belonging to a common defense association.
Voter turnout was at about 60 percent, relatively low for Slovenia, where turnout in the past general elections has often reached over 70 percent.
Slovenia is due to join both NATO and the EU in 2004, and is to sign an accession treaty on the EU on April 16 in Athens.
Malta voted to join the EU in a nonbinding referendum on March 9.