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Last Updated: Sunday, 25 September 2005, 15:32 GMT 16:32 UK
Switzerland backs EU labour rules
People look at a poster backing a 'Yes' vote in the Swiss referendum on EU labour rules
First results show rural regions saying 'No', but urban areas saying 'Yes'
Switzerland has voted in a nationwide referendum to open its job market to workers from the 10 newest European Union countries.

Fifty-six percent voted for the proposal, with 44% voting against, a clearer majority than expected.

The initiative is part of a series of deals between Switzerland and the EU.

The government and business leaders had urged a "yes" vote, but many Swiss said they feared losing their jobs to cheaper labour from eastern Europe.

Controversial move

The labour accord is part of a series of agreements approved by voters in 2000 between Switzerland and the then-15 nation EU.

It was meant to be extended automatically to new EU members, but opponents to the deal collected enough signatures to force a referendum on the issue.

Under the plans, citizens of eight Eastern European countries as well as Cyprus and Malta, will be able to travel and work freely in Switzerland.

Following the example of many full EU members, however, the Swiss will apply quotas on the numbers coming until 2011.

Swiss citizens will also be allowed to work and settle in the new EU countries.

Switzerland is not part of the EU, but the bloc is its main trading partner and the government has been seeking closer integration with Brussels.

In June, Swiss voters backed a plan to join a European passport-free zone.

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27 Sep 04 |  Europe
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