A newspaper survey suggests that nearly half of all Swiss voters want pro-Europe campaigners to drop an initiative to force the government to immediately commence membership negotiations with the European Union.
The survey in the "SonntagsZeitung" comes just days before the Senate is due to debate the "Yes to Europe" initiative, which was roundly defeated in the House of Representatives. Deputies opted instead for a counter-proposal, allowing the government to decide on the timing of eventual negotiations with Brussels.
With the Senate widely expected to follow the House in rejecting the initiative, 47 per cent of those polled thought it should be scrapped. Only 39 per cent thought the initiative should go to a nationwide vote. Some 14 per cent were undecided.
The survey highlights a split between voters in German and French-speaking parts of the country. Fifty-three per cent of Swiss-Germans thought the initiative should be shelved, against only 30 per cent of voters in French-speaking areas.
As things currently stand, both the "Yes to Europe" initiative and the counter-proposal will go before voters, probably next year.
The survey also found that 45 per cent of voters felt "deceived" because of apparent moves to accelerate the start of membership negotiations. Those questioned complained that prior to last month's referendum to ratify a series of bilateral accords with the EU, they were told that there was no relation between the vote and eventual EU membership.
The bilateral accords were backed by just under two thirds of voters. A week later, reports the SonntagsZeitung, many were stunned when the foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, pointed to the result in a speech calling for a speedy integration with Europe.
The survey found that senior citizens and people living in rural areas felt particularly "deceived". However, 48 per cent of the more than 800 people interviewed did not feel that they had had been tricked in any way, while seven per cent were undecided.
swissinfo with agencies