The government has given a cautious welcome to a survey suggesting that a growing number of Swiss will back UN membership in a referendum in March.
"On the positive side, the yes vote is in a majority. But the figures show there remains a lot of work to be done in order to increase the awareness of the population of UN matters," the foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, told swissinfo.
Deiss was reacting to an opinion poll, conducted by Swiss French-language television, in which 46 per cent of respondents said they would vote in favour of UN membership, if the referendum were held today. In its last survey, carried out last April, only 41 per cent of people had indicated they would vote yes.
In the current survey, 31 per cent saying they would say no. Significantly, 49 per cent of those questioned said they did not think UN membership would harm Swiss neutrality.
Deiss, speaking at an Open Day at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva, said committees all over the country had been preparing for the campaign proper.
"I hope this information will now leave political circles and be taken to the population at large," he said. "This will improve the pro-UN argument."
While politicians are emphasising that this is merely an opinion poll, it is clearly an important boost for the campaign for a yes vote in the phoney war preceding the campaign.
The latest opinion poll shows the continuing divide on this issue between Switzerland's different language regions. Fifty-five per cent of French-speakers said they would vote yes, 46 per cent of Italian-speakers, and only 43 per cent of German-speakers.
Switzerland, although a member of a number of United Nations agencies, is, along with the Vatican, the only country in the world that is not a full member of the UN.
by Roy Probert
In compliance with the JTI standards