Switzerland wants to participate in an EU passport-free zone

Independent-minded Swiss voters gave the shaken &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/world/2000/11/15/943.html ' target=_blank>European Union a vote of confidence Sunday, approving participation in an EU passport-free zone even though Switzerland has never joined the 25-nation bloc.

Same-sex couples also were granted more rights in the two-issue referendum, marking the first time the issue has been put to a national vote in Europe.

Signaling Swiss desire for closer integration with the EU, about 55 percent of voters, or 1.47 million people, supported joining Europe's passport-free "Schengen" zone by 2007.

Swiss President Samuel Schmid hailed the result as backing for the coalition government's policy of developing closer links with the rest of Europe, but he said the government would not ignore the large majority that voted against Schengen membership, informs ABC News.

According to Xinhuanet, &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/world/2003/01/10/41854.html ' target=_blank>Switzerland has become the third non-EU member to participate in the Schengen Accords joining 13 other EU states and 2 other non- EU members. EU members expect Britain and Ireland to join later this year.

A declaration issued Sunday by the EU commissioners said the Switzerland's participation will strengthen the European space of free movement without controls at internal borders.

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