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Swiss show greater support for EU and UN membership

Swiss membership of the European Union gets the thumbs-up in the latest survey


Swiss people are apparently warming to the idea of ending the country's political isolation, according to an opinion poll published by the "Blick" newspaper on Saturday.

Nearly half of the people polled believe that neutral Switzerland should enter immediate negotiations on membership of the European Union.

The survey of 1,005 voters also found that 78 per cent of Swiss favoured arming soldiers serving on peace-keeping missions abroad, while 63 per cent supported Swiss accession to the United Nations.

All three issues will be put to a popular vote over the next two years.

The poll found that 49 per cent supported the "Yes to Europe" initiative which calls on the government to launch immediate talks on Swiss accession to the EU.

A referendum on the move is to be held in March. Most analysts have until now expected it to be heavily defeated.

The government supports the goal of EU membership, but opposes the initiative saying immediate negotiations on EU membership would be premature. The government has committed itself to wait until at least 2004 before starting membership negotiations.

Last May, Swiss voters approved a series of bilateral agreements with the EU, covering a range of mainly economic issues, from transport to labour movement.

The "Blick" survey also found that 63 per cent favoured joining the United Nations, which is another top foreign policy goal. A vote on the issue is expected in 2002.

An overwhelming majority of people polled favoured changing Swiss law to allow soldiers, serving on peace-keeping missions abroad, to be armed.

Soldiers have until now not carried arms abroad, primarily offering logistical support for international peacekeeping operations. Opponents of arming the soldiers have said it would compromise Swiss neutrality.

swisinfo with agencies

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