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Switzerland Voters Approve Referendum

A narrow majority of Swiss voters approved joining a European Union (search) passport-free zone, abolishing checks on the country's border by 2007, according to final results from a two-issue national referendum Sunday.

In a second vote, a larger majority favored granting more rights to same-sex couples in the first national referendum on such an issue in Europe.

About 55 percent of voters favored joining the EU's passport-free "Schengen" zone (search), indicating that the Swiss favor closer integration with the EU — of which Switzerland is not a member. That mean Swiss customs controls would remain in place.

The result goes against the prevailing mood in the EU, which is reeling from the past week's rejections by French and Dutch voters of a proposed constitution for the 25-nation bloc.

Before the referendum, experts predicted that those rejections would encourage opponents of the passport-free zone. Opinion polls showed that the majority support for joining the zone narrowed rapidly before voting day.

The coalition government favored joining the EU and the "Schengen" zone, but most of Switzerland's German speakers — who make up about two-thirds of the population — opposed greater integration with the continent.

The 15 members of Europe's passport-free zone are Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Greece, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden.

About 58 percent of voters favored increased rights for same-sex couples, meaning that registered same-sex couples are treated the same as married couples for tax and pension purposes.

They would not, however, be allowed to adopt or undergo fertility treatment.

Other countries, including Germany, have passed laws allowing registration of same-sex couples.