Switzerland's Christian Democratic Party has recommended the approval of the "Yes to Europe" referendum, to be submitted to a popular vote on March 4 this year.
The party's decision, which congress delegates took in a 189 to 148 vote on Saturday, came as a surprise to foreign minister and Christian Democrat, Joseph Deiss.
But Deiss said the vote showed there was no real divide over Europe between the French and German linguistic communities, but rather between Switzerland's social classes.
Prior to the vote, the minister showed embarrassment when stating the official position of the government, which supports Switzerland's ultimate entry into the European Union, but has called on voters to reject the initiative. It calls for immediate membership negotiations with the EU, whereas the government's approach is more cautious.
Opponents to the initiative amongst the Christian Democrats ranks say immediate negotiations with the EU are premature. They believe Switzerland should first assimilate the bilateral accords it has reached with the EU, which were approved by voters last May.
swissinfo with agencies