Fury of French minority

Click to follow
GENEVA (Reuter) - Switzerland's French-speaking minority yesterday condemned the country's German-speaking community for throwing away the chance to join a giant European market many saw as their best hope for continued prosperity.

Shocked by rejection in a referendum on Sunday of the European Economic Area, which more than 75 per cent of French-speakers supported, some pro-Europeans talked heatedly of secession.

Papers carried maps showing how Switzerland's linguistic divide translated into a political gulf and accused 'Alemanic Switzerland' of keeping the country dangerously isolated. 'We can no longer purr along saying everything in Switzerland is fine,' said Christiane Brunner, a Socialist MP from Geneva.

The vote means that the creation of a 19-nation free-trade bloc from 31 December - cannot now come about until mid-1993. It will also be missing one of Europe's richest economies.

'No' votes beat 'yes' by a mere 50.3 to 49.7 per cent or 23,105 votes. Swiss French, one- fifth of the population, voted 'yes' by a margin of three to one. The agreement needed a majority in 12 of of the 23 cantons but achieved it in only seven, including the six French-speaking ones.

(Map omitted)

Hamish McRae, page 21