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Most Swiss back EU entry by 2007

A majority of voters are in favour of Swiss accession to the EU within the next decade

(Keystone)

Most Swiss think Switzerland should launch negotiations on joining the European Union within six years, according to a poll published on Saturday in the Swiss newspaper, "Blick".

In a survey of 1000 voters, fifty-two per cent of Swiss backed the government's position that entry negotiations should start during the period between 2003 and 2007.

The survey also indicated that the traditionally Eurosceptic German-speaking majority as well as the more pro-Europe Francophone population shared the same view.

Twenty-five per cent said talks on joining the EU should be put on hold for at least a decade, while only 19 per cent thought Switzerland should withdraw its EU bid.

The government made a formal request for EU membership 1992, but it was shelved after voters rejected the European Economic Area treaty - seen as a halfway house towards EU membership - in the same year.

The survey comes one week after a referendum to start immediate EU accession talks was rejected by an overwhelming majority of Swiss voters.

The Swiss government can take some comfort in the survey, which suggests that voters are not against EU membership in principle.

The foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, had faced calls to resign earlier in the week over his reaction to Swiss voters' rejection of closer ties with the European.

He said the vote showed only that it was too early to start accession talks.

Sixty-four per cent of those surveyed said they wanted Deiss to remain in office as foreign minister. Only six per cent thought he should tender his resignation from the cabinet.

swissinfo with agencies


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