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Swiss grow wary of bilateral accords as voting day looms

The number of Swiss voters backing the country's bilateral accords with the European Union has fallen sharply in the past few weeks, according to a new survey. Most voters still support the treaties, but scepticism is growing as voting day approaches.

On May 21, Swiss voters will cast their ballots on a series of seven bilateral accords with the European Union, ranging from issues such as transport to the free movement of people.

The latest opinion poll by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation's German-speaking television station, DRS, found that support for the accords has fallen by nine per cent in the past three weeks.

The survey, of 1,199 Swiss voters, found that 63 per cent intended to vote for the accords, when the issue goes to a nation-wide vote.

A full 24 per cent said they would vote against closer ties with Europe, a nine per cent increase over the last poll three weeks ago.

Thirteen per cent claimed they were still undecided.

Most of the swing away from the accords has been in German-speaking Switzerland. There, the number of people saying they will vote "no" to the accords has risen by 13 per cent in three weeks, while "yes" votes have sunk by exactly the same percentage.

The new figures come after the European Parliament approved the treaties last Thursday. They have still to be ratified by the European Union's 15 member states.

The greatest opposition to the accords in Switzerland comes from rural areas, where support has fallen by 11 per cent in three weeks, although "yes" voters still have a majority of 57 per cent.

Resistance is strongest among supporters of the right-wing Swiss People's Party, even though the national leadership says it supports the accords. A substantial majority - 63 per cent - now say they are against the treaties, with only 22 per cent saying they will support them.

swissinfo with agencies

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