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Voters remain divided over EU memberships talks

Voters appear evenly split over whether Switzerland should start immediate membership talks with the European Union. The latest findings, contained in a survey, come two months ahead of a nationwide vote on the issue.

An opinion poll, carried by the GfS research institute, said that 50 per cent of those questioned are in favour of immediate membership talks. Forty-seven per cent are against, while three per cent are still undecided.

As expected, a clear majority of voters in the French-speaking part of the country came out in favour of talks with the EU. But opponents appear to have the upper hand in the German- and the Italian-speaking parts of the country.

The survey is based on interviews with nearly 1,200 people across Switzerland.

An opinion poll, published in December, indicated there would be a similar result.

In March, voters will decide on a people’s initiative calling for immediate negotiations with Brussels on EU membership.

The government and parliament have come out against it, saying such a move would be premature. While sharing the goal of EU membership, the cabinet has committed itself to wait until at least 2004 before starting membership talks.

Last year, the Swiss electorate approved a series of bilateral treaties with the EU. The accords are expected to come into effect later this year, pending approval by the EU parliament and all its 15 member countries.

So far, only one country has formally ratified the treaties, while parliaments in four other countries are about to do so.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR