As Switzerland gears up to vote on whether to enter fast-track negotiations for European Union membership on March 4, two surveys have shown that French-speaking Swiss are increasingly turning their backs on the "Yes to Europe" initiative.
According to a poll by the newspapers "Le Temps" and the "TagesAnzeiger", many people living in western Switzerland have changed their minds in the past month.
The initiative calls for an immediate start to talks on joining the EU. The Swiss government opposes the measure, saying it does not want to start negotiations before 2004.
According to the poll, most Swiss-French are still in favour of the initiative, but only 46 per cent now say they will vote yes next month, down from 67 per cent a month ago. The newspapers predict that when it comes to the ballot, 39 per cent will vote no.
The initiative has seen a dramatic drop in support across the entire country. According to the poll, 32 per cent say they will vote in favour, down 10 per cent from last month.
The findings are in line with another major survey by Institut Konso which found that 46 per cent of Swiss are set to vote no, compared with 41,7 per cent one month ago.
German-speaking Swiss remain the most opposed to EU membership. According to the newspapers' poll, 46 per cent say that they are against the idea of belonging to the EU, while 54 per cent believe that an immediate start to entry talks accession would be premature.
Italian-speaking Swiss who are in favour of the "Yes to Europe" initiative, are also in the minority. Institut Konso's poll found that no more than a quarter of Ticinese will vote yes in March, compared to 27 per cent in January's poll.
Analysts say the majority of Swiss opposed to the initiative believe that the bilateral accords which Switzerland has signed with the EU are sufficient for relations between Switzerland and the rest of Europe.
swissinfo with agencies