Switzerland

Switzerland

Overview
Switzerland in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic
Federal republic
A federal republic is a federation of states with a republican form of government. A federation is the central government. The states in a federation also maintain the federation...

 consisting of 26 cantons
Cantons of Switzerland
The 26 cantons of Switzerland are the member states of the federal state of Switzerland. Each canton was a fully sovereign state with its own borders, army and currency from the Treaty of Westphalia until the establishment of the Swiss federal state in 1848...

, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe
Western Europe
Western Europe is a loose term for the collection of countries in the western most region of the European continents, though this definition is context-dependent and carries cultural and political connotations. One definition describes Western Europe as a geographic entity—the region lying in the...

,Or Central Europe
Central Europe
Central Europe or alternatively Middle Europe is a region of the European continent lying between the variously defined areas of Eastern and Western Europe...

 depending on the definition. See Geography of Switzerland
Geography of Switzerland
Switzerland is a mountainous and landlocked country located in Western or Central Europe . It is surrounded by 5 countries: Austria and Liechtenstein to the east, France to the west, Italy to the south and Germany to the north...

.
where it is bordered by Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 to the north, France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 to the west, Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 to the south, and Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

 and Liechtenstein
Liechtenstein
The Principality of Liechtenstein is a doubly landlocked alpine country in Central Europe, bordered by Switzerland to the west and south and by Austria to the east. Its area is just over , and it has an estimated population of 35,000. Its capital is Vaduz. The biggest town is Schaan...

 to the east.

Switzerland is a landlocked country geographically divided between the Alps
Swiss Alps
The Swiss Alps are the portion of the Alps mountain range that lies within Switzerland. Because of their central position within the entire Alpine range, they are also known as the Central Alps....

, the Central Plateau
Swiss plateau
The Swiss Plateau or Central Plateau constitutes one of the three major landscapes in Switzerland alongside the Jura mountains and the Swiss Alps. It covers about 30% of the Swiss surface...

 and the Jura
Jura mountains
The Jura Mountains are a small mountain range located north of the Alps, separating the Rhine and Rhone rivers and forming part of the watershed of each...

, spanning an area of 41285 km² (15,940.2 sq mi).
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Timeline

1291   The Swiss Confederation is formed with the signature of the Federal Charter.

1349   The Jewish population of Basel, Switzerland, believed by the residents to be the cause of the ongoing Black Death, is rounded up and incinerated.

1422   Battle of Arbedo between the duke of Milan and the Swiss cantons.

1499   Treaty of Basel: Switzerland becomes an independent state.

1500   Ludovico Sforza is captured by the Swiss troops at Novara and is handed over to the French.

1513   Italian Wars: Battle of Novara. Swiss troops defeat the French under Louis de la Tremoille, forcing the French to abandon Milan. Duke Massimiliano Sforza is restored.

1525   The Swiss Anabaptist Movement is founded when Conrad Grebel, Felix Manz, George Blaurock, and about a dozen others baptize each other in the home of Manz's mother in Zürich, breaking a thousand-year tradition of church-state union.

1531   The Second war of Kappel results in the dissolution of the Protestant alliance in Switzerland.

1799   War of the Second Coalition: Austrian forces defeats the French at Winterthur, Switzerland, securing control of the northeastern Swiss Plateau because of the town's loaction at the junction of seven cross-roads.

1809   The Swiss canton of Aargau denies citizenship to Jews.

 
Encyclopedia
Switzerland in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic
Federal republic
A federal republic is a federation of states with a republican form of government. A federation is the central government. The states in a federation also maintain the federation...

 consisting of 26 cantons
Cantons of Switzerland
The 26 cantons of Switzerland are the member states of the federal state of Switzerland. Each canton was a fully sovereign state with its own borders, army and currency from the Treaty of Westphalia until the establishment of the Swiss federal state in 1848...

, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe
Western Europe
Western Europe is a loose term for the collection of countries in the western most region of the European continents, though this definition is context-dependent and carries cultural and political connotations. One definition describes Western Europe as a geographic entity—the region lying in the...

,Or Central Europe
Central Europe
Central Europe or alternatively Middle Europe is a region of the European continent lying between the variously defined areas of Eastern and Western Europe...

 depending on the definition. See Geography of Switzerland
Geography of Switzerland
Switzerland is a mountainous and landlocked country located in Western or Central Europe . It is surrounded by 5 countries: Austria and Liechtenstein to the east, France to the west, Italy to the south and Germany to the north...

.
where it is bordered by Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 to the north, France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 to the west, Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 to the south, and Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

 and Liechtenstein
Liechtenstein
The Principality of Liechtenstein is a doubly landlocked alpine country in Central Europe, bordered by Switzerland to the west and south and by Austria to the east. Its area is just over , and it has an estimated population of 35,000. Its capital is Vaduz. The biggest town is Schaan...

 to the east.

Switzerland is a landlocked country geographically divided between the Alps
Swiss Alps
The Swiss Alps are the portion of the Alps mountain range that lies within Switzerland. Because of their central position within the entire Alpine range, they are also known as the Central Alps....

, the Central Plateau
Swiss plateau
The Swiss Plateau or Central Plateau constitutes one of the three major landscapes in Switzerland alongside the Jura mountains and the Swiss Alps. It covers about 30% of the Swiss surface...

 and the Jura
Jura mountains
The Jura Mountains are a small mountain range located north of the Alps, separating the Rhine and Rhone rivers and forming part of the watershed of each...

, spanning an area of 41285 km² (15,940.2 sq mi). While the Alps occupy the greater part of the territory, the Swiss population of approximately 7.9 million people is concentrated mostly on the Plateau, where the largest cities are to be found. Among them are the two global cities
Global city
A global city is a city that is deemed to be an important node in the global economic system...

 and economic centres of Zurich
Zürich
Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland and the capital of the canton of Zurich. It is located in central Switzerland at the northwestern tip of Lake Zurich...

 and Geneva
Geneva
Geneva In the national languages of Switzerland the city is known as Genf , Ginevra and Genevra is the second-most-populous city in Switzerland and is the most populous city of Romandie, the French-speaking part of Switzerland...

.

The Swiss Confederation has a long history of neutrality
Neutrality (international relations)
A neutral power in a particular war is a sovereign state which declares itself to be neutral towards the belligerents. A non-belligerent state does not need to be neutral. The rights and duties of a neutral power are defined in Sections 5 and 13 of the Hague Convention of 1907...

—it has not been in a state of war internationally since 1815—and did not join the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 until 2002. It pursues, however, an active foreign policy and is frequently involved in peace-building processes around the world. Switzerland is also the birthplace of the Red Cross
International Committee of the Red Cross
The International Committee of the Red Cross is a private humanitarian institution based in Geneva, Switzerland. States parties to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols of 1977 and 2005, have given the ICRC a mandate to protect the victims of international and...

 and home to a large number of international organizations, including the second largest UN office
United Nations Office at Geneva
The United Nations Office at Geneva is the second-largest of the four major office sites of the United Nations...

. On the European level, it is a founding member of the European Free Trade Association
European Free Trade Association
The European Free Trade Association or EFTA is a free trade organisation between four European countries that operates parallel to, and is linked to, the European Union . EFTA was established on 3 May 1960 as a trade bloc-alternative for European states who were either unable to, or chose not to,...

 and is part of the Schengen Area
Schengen Area
The Schengen Area comprises the territories of twenty-five European countries that have implemented the Schengen Agreement signed in the town of Schengen, Luxembourg, in 1985...

 – although it is notably not a member of the European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

, nor the European Economic Area
European Economic Area
The European Economic Area was established on 1 January 1994 following an agreement between the member states of the European Free Trade Association and the European Community, later the European Union . Specifically, it allows Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway to participate in the EU's Internal...

.

In nominal terms, Switzerland is one of the richest countries in the world by per capita
Per capita
Per capita is a Latin prepositional phrase: per and capita . The phrase thus means "by heads" or "for each head", i.e. per individual or per person...

 gross domestic product
Gross domestic product
Gross domestic product refers to the market value of all final goods and services produced within a country in a given period. GDP per capita is often considered an indicator of a country's standard of living....

, with a nominal per capita GDP of $75,835. In 2010, Switzerland had the highest wealth
Wealth
Wealth is the abundance of valuable resources or material possessions. The word wealth is derived from the old English wela, which is from an Indo-European word stem...

 per adult of any country in the world (with $372,692 for each person). Switzerland also has one of the world's largest account balances as a percentage of GDP. Zurich and Geneva have respectively been ranked as the cities with the second and third highest quality of life in the world. In 2010 the World Economic Forum
World Economic Forum
The World Economic Forum is a Swiss non-profit foundation, based in Cologny, Geneva, best known for its annual meeting in Davos, a mountain resort in Graubünden, in the eastern Alps region of Switzerland....

 ranked Switzerland as the most competitive country in the world, while ranked by the European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

 as Europe's
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 most innovative
Innovation
Innovation is the creation of better or more effective products, processes, technologies, or ideas that are accepted by markets, governments, and society...

 country by far.

Switzerland comprises three main linguistic and cultural regions: German, French, and Italian, to which the Romansh-speaking valleys are added. The Swiss therefore do not form a nation
Nation
A nation may refer to a community of people who share a common language, culture, ethnicity, descent, and/or history. In this definition, a nation has no physical borders. However, it can also refer to people who share a common territory and government irrespective of their ethnic make-up...

 in the sense of a common ethnic or linguistic identity. The strong sense of belonging to the country is founded on the common historical background, shared values (federalism
Federalism
Federalism is a political concept in which a group of members are bound together by covenant with a governing representative head. The term "federalism" is also used to describe a system of the government in which sovereignty is constitutionally divided between a central governing authority and...

, direct democracy
Direct democracy
Direct democracy is a form of government in which people vote on policy initiatives directly, as opposed to a representative democracy in which people vote for representatives who then vote on policy initiatives. Direct democracy is classically termed "pure democracy"...

, neutrality) and Alpine
Alps
The Alps is one of the great mountain range systems of Europe, stretching from Austria and Slovenia in the east through Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Germany to France in the west....

 symbolism. The establishment of the Swiss Confederation is traditionally dated to 1 August 1291; Swiss National Day
Swiss National Day
The Swiss National Day is the national holiday of Switzerland, set on 1 August. It is an official national holiday since 1994, although the day had been suggested for the celebration of the foundation of the Swiss Confederacy as early as 1889.-History:...

 is celebrated on the anniversary.

Etymology


The English name Switzerland is a compound containing Switzer, an obsolete term for the Swiss, which was in use during the 16th to 19th centuries. The English adjective Swiss is a loan from French , also in use since the 16th century. The name Switzer is from the Alemannic
Alemannic German
Alemannic is a group of dialects of the Upper German branch of the Germanic language family. It is spoken by approximately ten million people in six countries: Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, France and Italy...

 , in origin an inhabitant of Schwyz
Schwyz
The town of is the capital of the canton of Schwyz in Switzerland.The Federal Charter of 1291 or Bundesbrief, the charter that eventually led to the foundation of Switzerland, can be seen at the Bundesbriefmuseum.-History of the toponym:...

and its associated territory
Canton of Schwyz
Schwyz is a canton in central Switzerland between the Alps in the south, Lake Lucerne in the east and Lake Zurich in the north, centered around and named after the town of Schwyz....

, one of the Waldstätten cantons which formed the nucleus of the Old Swiss Confederacy. The toponym itself is first attested in 972
972
Year 972 was a leap year starting on Monday of the Julian calendar.- Europe :* The city of Satu Mare, Romania is founded.* Otto II marries Theophanu, Byzantine princess....

, as Old High German
Old High German
The term Old High German refers to the earliest stage of the German language and it conventionally covers the period from around 500 to 1050. Coherent written texts do not appear until the second half of the 8th century, and some treat the period before 750 as 'prehistoric' and date the start of...

 , ultimately perhaps related to "to burn", referring to the area of forest that was burned and cleared to build. The name was extended to the area dominated by the canton, and after the Swabian War
Swabian War
The Swabian War of 1499 was the last major armed conflict between the Old Swiss Confederacy and the House of Habsburg...

 of 1499 gradually came to be used for the entire Confederation.

The Swiss German
Swiss German
Swiss German is any of the Alemannic dialects spoken in Switzerland and in some Alpine communities in Northern Italy. Occasionally, the Alemannic dialects spoken in other countries are grouped together with Swiss German as well, especially the dialects of Liechtenstein and Austrian Vorarlberg...

 name of the country, , is homophonous to that of the canton and the settlement, but distinguished by the use of the definite article ( for the Confederation, but simply for the canton and the town).

The New Latin
New Latin
The term New Latin, or Neo-Latin, is used to describe the Latin language used in original works created between c. 1500 and c. 1900. Among other uses, Latin during this period was employed in scholarly and scientific publications...

 name Confoederatio Helvetica was introduced gradually after the formation of the federal state
Switzerland as a federal state
The rise of Switzerland as a federal state began on September 12, 1848, with the creation of a federal constitution, which was created in response to a 27-day civil war in Switzerland, the Sonderbundskrieg...

 in 1848, harking back to the Napoleonic Helvetic Republic
Helvetic Republic
In Swiss history, the Helvetic Republic represented an early attempt to impose a central authority over Switzerland, which until then consisted mainly of self-governing cantons united by a loose military alliance, and conquered territories such as Vaud...

, appearing on coins from 1879, inscribed on the Federal Palace in 1902 and after 1948 used in the official seal.
It is derived from the name of the Helvetii
Helvetii
The Helvetii were a Celtic tribe or tribal confederation occupying most of the Swiss plateau at the time of their contact with the Roman Republic in the 1st century BC...

, a Gaulish tribe living on the Swiss plateau
Swiss plateau
The Swiss Plateau or Central Plateau constitutes one of the three major landscapes in Switzerland alongside the Jura mountains and the Swiss Alps. It covers about 30% of the Swiss surface...

 before the Roman era
Switzerland in the Roman era
The history of Switzerland in the Roman era encompasses the roughly six centuries during which the territory of modern Switzerland was a part of the Roman Republic and Empire...

.
Helvetia
Helvetia
Helvetia is the female national personification of Switzerland, officially Confœderatio Helvetica, the "Helvetic Confederation".The allegory is typically pictured in a flowing gown, with a spear and a shield emblazoned with the Swiss flag, and commonly with braided hair, commonly with a wreath as...

appears as a national personification
National personification
A national personification is an anthropomorphization of a nation or its people; it can appear in both editorial cartoons and propaganda.Some early personifications in the Western world tended to be national manifestations of the majestic wisdom and war goddess Minerva/Athena, and often took the...

 of the Swiss confederacy in the 17th century, with a 1672 play by Johann Caspar Weissenbach.

History



Switzerland has existed as a state in its present form since the adoption of the Swiss Federal Constitution in 1848. The precursors of modern Switzerland established a protective alliance at the end of the 13th century (1291), forming a loose confederation of states which persisted for centuries.

Early history



The oldest traces of hominid existence in Switzerland date back about 150,000 years. The oldest known farming settlements in Switzerland, which were found at Gächlingen
Gächlingen
Gächlingen is a municipality in the canton of Schaffhausen in Switzerland.-History:An area near Gächlingen was the site of the first settlement in Switzerland. This Linear Band Ceramic settlement dates to about 6000BC and is the first long-term, farming community in the borders of modern...

, have been dated to around 5300 BC.

The earliest known cultural tribes of the area were members of the Hallstatt
Hallstatt culture
The Hallstatt culture was the predominant Central European culture from the 8th to 6th centuries BC , developing out of the Urnfield culture of the 12th century BC and followed in much of Central Europe by the La Tène culture.By the 6th century BC, the Hallstatt culture extended for some...

 and La Tène culture
La Tène culture
The La Tène culture was a European Iron Age culture named after the archaeological site of La Tène on the north side of Lake Neuchâtel in Switzerland, where a rich cache of artifacts was discovered by Hansli Kopp in 1857....

s, named after the archaeological site of La Tène on the north side of Lake Neuchâtel
Lake Neuchâtel
Lake Neuchâtel is a lake in Romandy, Switzerland . The lake lies mainly in the canton of Neuchâtel, but is also shared by the cantons of Vaud, of Fribourg, and of Bern....

. La Tène culture developed and flourished during the late Iron Age
Iron Age
The Iron Age is the archaeological period generally occurring after the Bronze Age, marked by the prevalent use of iron. The early period of the age is characterized by the widespread use of iron or steel. The adoption of such material coincided with other changes in society, including differing...

 from around 450 BC
450 BC
Year 450 BC was a year of the pre-Julian Roman calendar. At the time, it was known as the Second year of the decemviri...

, possibly under some influence from the Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

 and Etruscan
Etruscan civilization
Etruscan civilization is the modern English name given to a civilization of ancient Italy in the area corresponding roughly to Tuscany. The ancient Romans called its creators the Tusci or Etrusci...

 civilisations. One of the most important tribal groups in the Swiss region was the Helvetii
Helvetii
The Helvetii were a Celtic tribe or tribal confederation occupying most of the Swiss plateau at the time of their contact with the Roman Republic in the 1st century BC...

. In 58 BC, at the Battle of Bibracte
Battle of Bibracte
The Battle of Bibracte was fought between the Helvetii and six Roman legions, under the command of Gaius Julius Caesar. It was the second major battle of the Gallic Wars....

, Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar
Gaius Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman and a distinguished writer of Latin prose. He played a critical role in the gradual transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire....

's armies defeated the Helvetii. In 15 BC, Tiberius
Tiberius
Tiberius , was Roman Emperor from 14 AD to 37 AD. Tiberius was by birth a Claudian, son of Tiberius Claudius Nero and Livia Drusilla. His mother divorced Nero and married Augustus in 39 BC, making him a step-son of Octavian...

, who was destined to be the second Roman emperor and his brother, Drusus
Nero Claudius Drusus
Nero Claudius Drusus Germanicus , born Decimus Claudius Drusus also called Drusus, Drusus I, Nero Drusus, or Drusus the Elder was a Roman politician and military commander. He was a fully patrician Claudian on his father's side but his maternal grandmother was from a plebeian family...

, conquered the Alps, integrating them into the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

. The area occupied by the Helvetii
Helvetii
The Helvetii were a Celtic tribe or tribal confederation occupying most of the Swiss plateau at the time of their contact with the Roman Republic in the 1st century BC...

—the namesakes of the later Confoederatio Helvetica—first became part of Rome's Gallia Belgica
Gallia Belgica
Gallia Belgica was a Roman province located in what is now the southern part of the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, northeastern France, and western Germany. The indigenous population of Gallia Belgica, the Belgae, consisted of a mixture of Celtic and Germanic tribes...

 province and then of its Germania Superior
Germania Superior
Germania Superior , so called for the reason that it lay upstream of Germania Inferior, was a province of the Roman Empire. It comprised an area of western Switzerland, the French Jura and Alsace regions, and southwestern Germany...

 province, while the eastern portion of modern Switzerland was integrated into the Roman province
Roman province
In Ancient Rome, a province was the basic, and, until the Tetrarchy , largest territorial and administrative unit of the empire's territorial possessions outside of Italy...

 of Raetia
Raetia
Raetia was a province of the Roman Empire, named after the Rhaetian people. It was bounded on the west by the country of the Helvetii, on the east by Noricum, on the north by Vindelicia, on the west by Cisalpine Gaul and on south by Venetia et Histria...

.

In the Early Middle Ages
Early Middle Ages
The Early Middle Ages was the period of European history lasting from the 5th century to approximately 1000. The Early Middle Ages followed the decline of the Western Roman Empire and preceded the High Middle Ages...

, from the 4th century, the western extent of modern-day Switzerland was part of the territory of the Kings of the Burgundians
Kingdom of Burgundy
Burgundy is a historic region in Western Europe that has existed as a political entity in a number of forms with very different boundaries. Two of these entities - the first around the 6th century, the second around the 11th century - have been called the Kingdom of Burgundy; a third was very...

. The Alemanni settled the Swiss plateau
Swiss plateau
The Swiss Plateau or Central Plateau constitutes one of the three major landscapes in Switzerland alongside the Jura mountains and the Swiss Alps. It covers about 30% of the Swiss surface...

 in the 5th century and the valleys of the Alps
Valleys of the Alps
-Rhine basin :High Rhine*Aare**Limmat***Linth ****Lake Walen*****Seez****Klöntal****Sernftal**Reuss River***Lake Lucerne****Sarner Aa ****Muotathal***Schächen, Klausen Pass connects to Glarus...

 in the 8th century, forming Alemannia. Modern-day Switzerland was therefore then divided between the kingdoms of Alemannia and Burgundy. The entire region became part of the expanding Frankish Empire
Frankish Empire
Francia or Frankia, later also called the Frankish Empire , Frankish Kingdom , Frankish Realm or occasionally Frankland, was the territory inhabited and ruled by the Franks from the 3rd to the 10th century...

 in the 6th century, following Clovis I
Clovis I
Clovis Leuthwig was the first King of the Franks to unite all the Frankish tribes under one ruler, changing the leadership from a group of royal chieftains, to rule by kings, ensuring that the kingship was held by his heirs. He was also the first Catholic King to rule over Gaul . He was the son...

's victory over the Alemanni at Tolbiac in 504 AD, and later Frankish domination of the Burgundians.

Throughout the rest of the 6th, 7th and 8th centuries the Swiss regions continued under Frankish hegemony (Merovingian and Carolingian
Carolingian Empire
Carolingian Empire is a historiographical term which has been used to refer to the realm of the Franks under the Carolingian dynasty in the Early Middle Ages. This dynasty is seen as the founders of France and Germany, and its beginning date is based on the crowning of Charlemagne, or Charles the...

 dynasties). But after its extension under Charlemagne
Charlemagne
Charlemagne was King of the Franks from 768 and Emperor of the Romans from 800 to his death in 814. He expanded the Frankish kingdom into an empire that incorporated much of Western and Central Europe. During his reign, he conquered Italy and was crowned by Pope Leo III on 25 December 800...

, the Frankish empire was divided by the Treaty of Verdun
Treaty of Verdun
The Treaty of Verdun was a treaty between the three surviving sons of Louis the Pious, the son and successor of Charlemagne, which divided the Carolingian Empire into three kingdoms...

 in 843. The territories of present day Switzerland became divided into Middle Francia
Middle Francia
Middle Francia was an ephemeral Frankish kingdom created by the Treaty of Verdun in 843, which divided the Carolingian Empire among the sons of Louis the Pious...

 and East Francia until they were reunified under the Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

 around 1000 AD.

By 1200, the Swiss plateau comprised the dominions of the houses of Savoy
House of Savoy
The House of Savoy was formed in the early 11th century in the historical Savoy region. Through gradual expansion, it grew from ruling a small county in that region to eventually rule the Kingdom of Italy from 1861 until the end of World War II, king of Croatia and King of Armenia...

, Zähringer, Habsburg
Habsburg
The House of Habsburg , also found as Hapsburg, and also known as House of Austria is one of the most important royal houses of Europe and is best known for being an origin of all of the formally elected Holy Roman Emperors between 1438 and 1740, as well as rulers of the Austrian Empire and...

 and Kyburg
House of Kyburg
The House of Kyburg was family of Grafen or counts from Zürich in Switzerland. The family was one of the three most powerful noble families in the Swiss plateau beside the Habsburg and the House of Savoy during the 11th and 12th Centuries...

. Some regions (Uri
Canton of Uri
Uri is one of the 26 cantons of Switzerland and a founding member of the Swiss Confederation. It is located in Central Switzerland. The canton's territory covers the valley of the Reuss River between Lake Lucerne and the St. Gotthard Pass. German is the primary language spoken in Uri...

, Schwyz
Canton of Schwyz
Schwyz is a canton in central Switzerland between the Alps in the south, Lake Lucerne in the east and Lake Zurich in the north, centered around and named after the town of Schwyz....

, Unterwalden
Unterwalden
Unterwalden is the old name of a forest-canton of the Old Swiss Confederacy in central Switzerland, south of Lake Lucerne, consisting of two valleys or Talschaften, now organized as two half-cantons, an upper part, Obwalden, and a lower part, Nidwalden.Unterwalden was one of the three participants...

, later known as Waldstätten) were accorded the Imperial immediacy to grant the empire direct control over the mountain passes. When the Kyburg dynasty fell in 1264 AD, the Habsburgs under King Rudolph I (Holy Roman Emperor in 1273) extended their territory to the eastern Swiss plateau.

Old Swiss Confederacy


The Old Swiss Confederacy
Old Swiss Confederacy
The Old Swiss Confederacy was the precursor of modern-day Switzerland....

 was an alliance among the valley communities of the central Alps. The Confederacy facilitated management of common interests (free trade
Free trade
Under a free trade policy, prices emerge from supply and demand, and are the sole determinant of resource allocation. 'Free' trade differs from other forms of trade policy where the allocation of goods and services among trading countries are determined by price strategies that may differ from...

) and ensured peace on the important mountain trade routes. The Federal Charter of 1291
Federal Charter of 1291
The Federal Charter or Letter of Alliance documents the Eternal Alliance or League Of The Three Forest Cantons , the union of three cantons in what is now central Switzerland. It is dated in early August, 1291 and initiates the current August 1 national Swiss holiday. This agreement cites a...

 agreed between the rural communes
Medieval commune
Medieval communes in the European Middle Ages had sworn allegiances of mutual defense among the citizens of a town or city. They took many forms, and varied widely in organization and makeup. Communes are first recorded in the late 11th and early 12th centuries, thereafter becoming a widespread...

 of Uri
Canton of Uri
Uri is one of the 26 cantons of Switzerland and a founding member of the Swiss Confederation. It is located in Central Switzerland. The canton's territory covers the valley of the Reuss River between Lake Lucerne and the St. Gotthard Pass. German is the primary language spoken in Uri...

, Schwyz
Canton of Schwyz
Schwyz is a canton in central Switzerland between the Alps in the south, Lake Lucerne in the east and Lake Zurich in the north, centered around and named after the town of Schwyz....

, and Unterwalden
Unterwalden
Unterwalden is the old name of a forest-canton of the Old Swiss Confederacy in central Switzerland, south of Lake Lucerne, consisting of two valleys or Talschaften, now organized as two half-cantons, an upper part, Obwalden, and a lower part, Nidwalden.Unterwalden was one of the three participants...

 is considered the confederacy's founding document, even though similar alliances are likely to have existed decades earlier.


By 1353, the three original cantons
Cantons of Switzerland
The 26 cantons of Switzerland are the member states of the federal state of Switzerland. Each canton was a fully sovereign state with its own borders, army and currency from the Treaty of Westphalia until the establishment of the Swiss federal state in 1848...

 had joined with the cantons of Glarus
Canton of Glarus
The Canton of Glarus is a canton in east central Switzerland. The capital is Glarus.The population speaks a variety of Alemannic German.The majority of the population identifies as Christian, about evenly split between the Protestant and Catholic confessions.-History:According to legend, the...

 and Zug
Canton of Zug
The Canton of Zug is one of the 26 cantons of Switzerland. It is located in central Switzerland and its capital is Zug. With 239 km² the canton is one of the smallest of the cantons in terms of area. It is not subdivided into districts.- History :The earlier history of the canton is...

 and the Lucerne
Lucerne
Lucerne is a city in north-central Switzerland, in the German-speaking portion of that country. Lucerne is the capital of the Canton of Lucerne and the capital of the district of the same name. With a population of about 76,200 people, Lucerne is the most populous city in Central Switzerland, and...

, Zurich
Zürich
Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland and the capital of the canton of Zurich. It is located in central Switzerland at the northwestern tip of Lake Zurich...

 and Bern city states to form the "Old Confederacy" of eight states that existed until the end of the 15th century. The expansion led to increased power and wealth for the federation. By 1460, the confederates controlled most of the territory south and west of the Rhine to the Alps and the Jura mountains, particularly after victories against the Habsburgs (Battle of Sempach
Battle of Sempach
An armistice was agreed upon on 12 October, followed by a peace agreement valid for one year, beginning on 14 January 1387.The battle was a severe blow to Austrian interests in the region, and allowed for the further growth of the Old Swiss Confederacy....

, Battle of Näfels
Battle of Näfels
The Battle of Näfels was fought on 9 April 1388 between Glarus with their allies, the Old Swiss Confederation, and the Habsburgs. It was a decisive Glarner victory despite being outnumbered sixteen to one.-History:...

), over Charles the Bold of Burgundy
Duchy of Burgundy
The Duchy of Burgundy , was heir to an ancient and prestigious reputation and a large division of the lands of the Second Kingdom of Burgundy and in its own right was one of the geographically larger ducal territories in the emergence of Early Modern Europe from Medieval Europe.Even in that...

 during the 1470s, and the success of the Swiss mercenaries
Swiss mercenaries
Swiss mercenaries were notable for their service in foreign armies, especially the armies of the Kings of France, throughout the Early Modern period of European history, from the Later Middle Ages into the Age of the European Enlightenment...

. The Swiss victory in the Swabian War
Swabian War
The Swabian War of 1499 was the last major armed conflict between the Old Swiss Confederacy and the House of Habsburg...

 against the Swabian League
Swabian League
The Swabian League was an association of Imperial States - cities, prelates, principalities and knights - principally in the territory of the Early medieval stem duchy of Swabia, established in 1488 at the behest of Emperor Frederick III of Habsburg and supported as well by Bertold von...

 of Emperor
Holy Roman Emperor
The Holy Roman Emperor is a term used by historians to denote a medieval ruler who, as German King, had also received the title of "Emperor of the Romans" from the Pope...

 Maximilian I
Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor
Maximilian I , the son of Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor and Eleanor of Portugal, was King of the Romans from 1486 and Holy Roman Emperor from 1493 until his death, though he was never in fact crowned by the Pope, the journey to Rome always being too risky...

 in 1499 amounted to de facto independence within the Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

.

The Old Swiss Confederacy had acquired a reputation of invincibility during these earlier wars, but expansion of the federation
Growth of the Old Swiss Confederacy
The growth of the Old Swiss Confederacy began as an alliance between the communities of the valleys in the Central Alps to facilitate the management of common interests such as free trade and to ensure the peace along the important trade routes through the mountains...

 suffered a setback in 1515 with the Swiss defeat in the Battle of Marignano
Battle of Marignano
The Battle of Marignano was fought during the phase of the Italian Wars called the War of the League of Cambrai, between France and the Old Swiss Confederacy. It took place on September 13 and 15, 1515, near the town today called Melegnano, 16 km southeast of Milan...

. This ended the so-called "heroic" epoch of Swiss history. The success of Zwingli's Reformation
Reformation in Switzerland
The Protestant Reformation in Switzerland was promoted initially by Huldrych Zwingli, who gained the support of the magistrate and population of Zürich in the 1520s. It led to significant changes in civil life and state matters in Zürich and spread to several other cantons of the Old Swiss...

 in some cantons led to inter-cantonal religious conflicts in 1529 and 1531 (Wars of Kappel
Wars of Kappel
The wars of Kappel were two armed conflicts fought near Kappel am Albis between the Protestant and the Roman Catholic cantons of the Old Swiss Confederacy during the reformation in Switzerland.*First war of Kappel...

). It was not until more than one hundred years after these internal wars that, in 1648, under the Peace of Westphalia
Peace of Westphalia
The Peace of Westphalia was a series of peace treaties signed between May and October of 1648 in Osnabrück and Münster. These treaties ended the Thirty Years' War in the Holy Roman Empire, and the Eighty Years' War between Spain and the Dutch Republic, with Spain formally recognizing the...

, European countries recognized Switzerland's independence from the Holy Roman Empire and its neutrality
Neutral country
A neutral power in a particular war is a sovereign state which declares itself to be neutral towards the belligerents. A non-belligerent state does not need to be neutral. The rights and duties of a neutral power are defined in Sections 5 and 13 of the Hague Convention of 1907...

.

During the Early Modern
Early Modern Switzerland
The early modern history of the Old Swiss Confederacy , lasting from formal independence in 1648 to the French invasion of 1798 came to be referred as Ancien Régime retrospectively, in post-Napoleonic Switzerland.The early modern period was characterized by an increasingly...

 period of Swiss history, the growing authoritarianism
Authoritarianism
Authoritarianism is a form of social organization characterized by submission to authority. It is usually opposed to individualism and democracy...

 of the patriciate families combined with a financial crisis in the wake of the Thirty Years' War
Thirty Years' War
The Thirty Years' War was fought primarily in what is now Germany, and at various points involved most countries in Europe. It was one of the most destructive conflicts in European history....

 led to the Swiss peasant war of 1653
Swiss peasant war of 1653
The Swiss peasant war of 1653 was a popular revolt in the Old Swiss Confederacy at the time of the Ancien Régime. A devaluation of Bernese money caused a tax revolt that spread from the Entlebuch valley in the Canton of Lucerne to the Emmental valley in the Canton of Bern and then to the cantons of...

. In the background to this struggle, the conflict between Catholic and Protestant
Protestantism
Protestantism is one of the three major groupings within Christianity. It is a movement that began in Germany in the early 16th century as a reaction against medieval Roman Catholic doctrines and practices, especially in regards to salvation, justification, and ecclesiology.The doctrines of the...

 cantons persisted, erupting in further violence at the Battles of Villmergen
Battles of Villmergen
The Battles of Villmergen were two battles between Reformed and Catholic Swiss cantons. They occurred on January 24, 1656 and July 24, 1712 at Villmergen, Canton of Aargau, Switzerland ....

 in 1656 and 1712.

Napoleonic era


In 1798, the revolutionary French
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

 government conquered Switzerland and imposed a new unified constitution. This centralised the government of the country and effectively abolished the cantons and Mülhausen
Mulhouse
Mulhouse |mill]] hamlet) is a city and commune in eastern France, close to the Swiss and German borders. With a population of 110,514 and 278,206 inhabitants in the metropolitan area in 2006, it is the largest city in the Haut-Rhin département, and the second largest in the Alsace region after...

 and Valtellina
Valtellina
Valtellina or the Valtelline valley ; is a valley in the Lombardy region of northern Italy, bordering Switzerland. Today it is known for its skiing, its hot spring spas, its cheeses and its wines...

 valley separated from Switzerland. The new regime
Regime
The word regime refers to a set of conditions, most often of a political nature.-Politics:...

, known as the Helvetic Republic
Helvetic Republic
In Swiss history, the Helvetic Republic represented an early attempt to impose a central authority over Switzerland, which until then consisted mainly of self-governing cantons united by a loose military alliance, and conquered territories such as Vaud...

, was highly unpopular. It had been imposed by a foreign invading army and destroyed centuries of tradition, making Switzerland nothing more than a French satellite state
Satellite state
A satellite state is a political term that refers to a country that is formally independent, but under heavy political and economic influence or control by another country...

. The fierce French suppression of the Nidwalden Revolt
Nidwalden
Nidwalden is a canton of Switzerland. It is located in the centre of Switzerland. The population is 40,287 of which 4,046 are foreigners. The capital is Stans.-History:...

 in September 1798 was an example of the oppressive presence of the French Army
French Army
The French Army, officially the Armée de Terre , is the land-based and largest component of the French Armed Forces.As of 2010, the army employs 123,100 regulars, 18,350 part-time reservists and 7,700 Legionnaires. All soldiers are professionals, following the suspension of conscription, voted in...

 and the local population's resistance to the occupation.

When war broke out between France and its rivals, Russian and Austrian
Habsburg Monarchy
The Habsburg Monarchy covered the territories ruled by the junior Austrian branch of the House of Habsburg , and then by the successor House of Habsburg-Lorraine , between 1526 and 1867/1918. The Imperial capital was Vienna, except from 1583 to 1611, when it was moved to Prague...

 forces invaded Switzerland. The Swiss refused to fight alongside the French in the name of the Helvetic Republic. In 1803 Napoleon
Napoleon I of France
Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military and political leader during the latter stages of the French Revolution.As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1815...

 organised a meeting of the leading Swiss politicians from both sides in Paris. The result was the Act of Mediation
Act of Mediation
The Act of Mediation was issued by Napoleon Bonaparte on 19 February 1803 establishing the Swiss Confederation. The act also abolished the previous Helvetic Republic, which had existed since the invasion of Switzerland by French troops in 1798. After the withdrawal of French troops in July 1802,...

 which largely restored Swiss autonomy and introduced a Confederation of 19 cantons. Henceforth much of Swiss politics would concern balancing the cantons' tradition of self-rule with the need for a central government.

In 1815 the Congress of Vienna
Congress of Vienna
The Congress of Vienna was a conference of ambassadors of European states chaired by Klemens Wenzel von Metternich, and held in Vienna from September, 1814 to June, 1815. The objective of the Congress was to settle the many issues arising from the French Revolutionary Wars, the Napoleonic Wars,...

 fully re-established Swiss independence and the European powers agreed to permanently recognise Swiss neutrality. Swiss troops still served foreign governments until 1860 when they fought in the Siege of Gaeta
Siege of Gaeta (1860)
The Siege of Gaeta was the concluding event of the war between the Kingdom of Sardinia and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. It started on November 5, 1860 and ended February 13, 1861, and took place in Gaeta, in today's Southern Lazio .-Background:...

. The treaty also allowed Switzerland to increase its territory, with the admission of the cantons of Valais
Valais
The Valais is one of the 26 cantons of Switzerland in the southwestern part of the country, around the valley of the Rhône from its headwaters to Lake Geneva, separating the Pennine Alps from the Bernese Alps. The canton is one of the drier parts of Switzerland in its central Rhône valley...

, Neuchâtel
Canton of Neuchâtel
Neuchâtel is a canton of French speaking western Switzerland. In 2007, its population was 169,782 of which 39,654 were foreigners. The capital is Neuchâtel.-History:...

 and Geneva
Canton of Geneva
The Republic and Canton of Geneva is the French speaking westernmost canton or state of Switzerland, surrounded on almost all sides by France. As is the case in several other Swiss cantons The Republic and Canton of Geneva is the French speaking westernmost canton or state of Switzerland,...

. Switzerland's borders have not changed since.

Federal state


The restoration of the power to the patriciate was only temporary. After a period of unrest with repeated violent clashes such as the Züriputsch
Züriputsch
The Züriputsch of 6 September 1839 was a putsch of the rural conservative population against the liberal rule of the city of Zürich on the eve of the formation of the Swiss federal state. The reason for the putsch was the appointment of the controversial German theologian David Strauss to the...

 of 1839, civil war broke out in 1847 when some of the Catholic cantons tried to set up a separate alliance (the Sonderbundskrieg). The war lasted for less than a month, causing fewer than 100 casualties, most of which were through friendly fire
Friendly fire
Friendly fire is inadvertent firing towards one's own or otherwise friendly forces while attempting to engage enemy forces, particularly where this results in injury or death. A death resulting from a negligent discharge is not considered friendly fire...

. However minor the Sonderbundskrieg seems to be when compared with other European riots and wars in the 19th century, it nevertheless had a major impact on both the psychology and the society of the Swiss and of Switzerland.

The war convinced most Swiss of the need for unity and strength towards its European neighbours. Swiss people from all strata of society, whether Catholic, Protestant, or from the liberal or conservative current, realised that the cantons would profit more if their economic and religious interests were merged.

Thus, while the rest of Europe was plagued by revolutionary uprisings
Revolutions of 1848
The European Revolutions of 1848, known in some countries as the Spring of Nations, Springtime of the Peoples or the Year of Revolution, were a series of political upheavals throughout Europe in 1848. It was the first Europe-wide collapse of traditional authority, but within a year reactionary...

, the Swiss drew up a constitution which provided for a federal layout
Swiss Federal Constitution
The Federal Constitution of 18 April 1999 is the third and current federal constitution of Switzerland. It establishes the Swiss Confederation as a federal republic of 26 cantons , contains a catalogue of individual and popular rights , delineates the responsibilities of the...

, much of it inspired by the American example
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

. This constitution provided for a central authority while leaving the cantons the right to self-government on local issues. Giving credit to those who favoured the power of the cantons (the Sonderbund Kantone), the national assembly was divided between an upper house
Upper house
An upper house, often called a senate, is one of two chambers of a bicameral legislature, the other chamber being the lower house; a legislature composed of only one house is described as unicameral.- Possible specific characteristics :...

 (the Swiss Council of States
Swiss Council of States
The Council of States of Switzerland is the smaller chamber of the Federal Assembly of Switzerland, and is considered the Assembly's upper house. There are 46 Councillors....

, 2 representatives per canton) and a lower house
Lower house
A lower house is one of two chambers of a bicameral legislature, the other chamber being the upper house.Despite its official position "below" the upper house, in many legislatures worldwide the lower house has come to wield more power...

 (the National Council of Switzerland
National Council of Switzerland
The National Council of Switzerland is the lower house of the Federal Assembly of Switzerland. With 200 seats, it is the larger of the two houses....

, representatives elected from across the country). Referenda were made mandatory for any amendment of this constitution.
A system of single weights and measures was introduced and in 1850 the Swiss franc
Swiss franc
The franc is the currency and legal tender of Switzerland and Liechtenstein; it is also legal tender in the Italian exclave Campione d'Italia. Although not formally legal tender in the German exclave Büsingen , it is in wide daily use there...

 became the Swiss single currency. Article 11 of the constitution forbade sending troops to serve abroad, though the Swiss were still obliged to serve Francis II of the Two Sicilies
Francis II of the Two Sicilies
Francis II , was King of the Two Sicilies from 1859 to 1861. He was the last King of the Two Sicilies, as successive invasions by Giuseppe Garibaldi and Victor Emmanuel II of Sardinia ultimately brought an end to his rule, and marked the first major event of Italian unification...

 with Swiss Guards present at the Siege of Gaeta in 1860
Siege of Gaeta (1860)
The Siege of Gaeta was the concluding event of the war between the Kingdom of Sardinia and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. It started on November 5, 1860 and ended February 13, 1861, and took place in Gaeta, in today's Southern Lazio .-Background:...

, marking the end of foreign service.

An important clause of the constitution was that it could be re-written completely if this was deemed necessary, thus enabling it to evolve as a whole rather than being modified one amendment at a time.

This need soon proved itself when the rise in population and the Industrial Revolution
Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution was a period from the 18th to the 19th century where major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and technology had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions of the times...

 that followed led to calls to modify the constitution accordingly. An early draft was rejected by the population in 1872 but modifications led to its acceptance in 1874. It introduced the facultative referendum for laws at the federal level. It also established federal responsibility for defense, trade, and legal matters.

In 1891, the constitution was revised with unusually strong elements of direct democracy
Direct democracy
Direct democracy is a form of government in which people vote on policy initiatives directly, as opposed to a representative democracy in which people vote for representatives who then vote on policy initiatives. Direct democracy is classically termed "pure democracy"...

, which remain unique even today.

Modern history




Switzerland was not invaded during either of the world war
World war
A world war is a war affecting the majority of the world's most powerful and populous nations. World wars span multiple countries on multiple continents, with battles fought in multiple theaters....

s. During World War I, Switzerland was home to Vladimir Illych Ulyanov (Lenin) and he remained there until 1917. Swiss neutrality was seriously questioned by the Grimm-Hoffmann Affair
Grimm-Hoffmann Affair
The Grimm-Hoffmann Affair was a short-lived scandal that seriously brought into question Switzerland's neutrality during World War I. Robert Grimm, a socialist politician, travelled to Russia as an activist to negotiate a separate peace between Russia and Germany, in order to end the war on the...

 in 1917, but it was short-lived. In 1920, Switzerland joined the League of Nations
League of Nations
The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first permanent international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace...

, which was based in Geneva
Geneva
Geneva In the national languages of Switzerland the city is known as Genf , Ginevra and Genevra is the second-most-populous city in Switzerland and is the most populous city of Romandie, the French-speaking part of Switzerland...

, on the condition that it was exempt from any military requirements.

During World War II, detailed invasion plans were drawn up by the Germans, but Switzerland was never attacked. Switzerland was able to remain independent through a combination of military deterrence, concessions to Germany, and good fortune as larger events during the war delayed an invasion. Under General Henri Guisan
Henri Guisan
Henri Guisan was a Swiss army officer, and held the office of the General of the Swiss Army during World War II. He was the fourth and the most recent man to be appointed to the rarely used Swiss rank of General, and was possibly Switzerland's most famous soldier...

, a massive mobilisation of militia forces was ordered. The Swiss military strategy was changed from one of static defence at the borders to protect the economic heartland, to one of organised long-term attrition and withdrawal to strong, well-stockpiled positions high in the Alps known as the Reduit
Reduit
A reduit is a fortified structure such as a citadel or a keep into which the defending troops can retreat when the outer defences are breached...

. Switzerland was an important base for espionage by both sides in the conflict and often mediated communications between the Axis and Allied powers.

Switzerland's trade was blockaded by both the Allies
Allies of World War II
The Allies of World War II were the countries that opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War . Former Axis states contributing to the Allied victory are not considered Allied states...

 and by the Axis
Axis Powers
The Axis powers , also known as the Axis alliance, Axis nations, Axis countries, or just the Axis, was an alignment of great powers during the mid-20th century that fought World War II against the Allies. It began in 1936 with treaties of friendship between Germany and Italy and between Germany and...

. Economic cooperation and extension of credit to the Third Reich varied according to the perceived likelihood of invasion and the availability of other trading partners. Concessions reached a peak after a crucial rail link through Vichy France
Vichy France
Vichy France, Vichy Regime, or Vichy Government, are common terms used to describe the government of France that collaborated with the Axis powers from July 1940 to August 1944. This government succeeded the Third Republic and preceded the Provisional Government of the French Republic...

 was severed in 1942, leaving Switzerland completely surrounded by the Axis. Over the course of the war, Switzerland interned over 300,000 refugees and the International Red Cross, based in Geneva, played an important part during the conflict. Strict immigration and asylum policies as well as the financial relationships with Nazi Germany raised controversy but not until the end of the 20th century, carrying on to this day with some Swiss banks and entities still refusing to surrender the assets obtained from victims of Nazi persecution.

During the war, the Swiss Air Force engaged aircraft of both sides, shooting down 11 intruding Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe is a generic German term for an air force. It is also the official name for two of the four historic German air forces, the Wehrmacht air arm founded in 1935 and disbanded in 1946; and the current Bundeswehr air arm founded in 1956....

 planes in May and June 1940, then forcing down other intruders after a change of policy following threats from Germany. Over 100 Allied bombers and their crews were interned during the war. During 1944–45, Allied bombers mistakenly bombed a few places in Switzerland, among which were the cities of Schaffhausen
Schaffhausen
Schaffhausen is a city in northern Switzerland and the capital of the canton of the same name; it has an estimated population of 34,587 ....

, Basel
Basel
Basel or Basle In the national languages of Switzerland the city is also known as Bâle , Basilea and Basilea is Switzerland's third most populous city with about 166,000 inhabitants. Located where the Swiss, French and German borders meet, Basel also has suburbs in France and Germany...

 and Zurich
Zürich
Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland and the capital of the canton of Zurich. It is located in central Switzerland at the northwestern tip of Lake Zurich...

.

After the war, the Swiss government exported credits through the charitable fund known as the Schweizerspende and also donated to the Marshall Plan
Marshall Plan
The Marshall Plan was the large-scale American program to aid Europe where the United States gave monetary support to help rebuild European economies after the end of World War II in order to combat the spread of Soviet communism. The plan was in operation for four years beginning in April 1948...

 to help Europe's recovery, efforts that ultimately benefit the Swiss economy.

Women were granted the right to vote
Suffrage
Suffrage, political franchise, or simply the franchise, distinct from mere voting rights, is the civil right to vote gained through the democratic process...

 in the first Swiss cantons in 1959, at the federal level in 1971 and, after resistance, in the last canton Appenzell Innerrhoden
Appenzell Innerrhoden
Appenzell Innerrhoden is the smallest canton of Switzerland by population and the second smallest by area, Basel-City having less area.-Foundation:...

 in 1990. After suffrage
Suffrage
Suffrage, political franchise, or simply the franchise, distinct from mere voting rights, is the civil right to vote gained through the democratic process...

 at the federal level, women quickly rose in political significance, with the first woman on the seven member Federal Council
Swiss Federal Council
The Federal Council is the seven-member executive council which constitutes the federal government of Switzerland and serves as the Swiss collective head of state....

 executive being Elisabeth Kopp
Elisabeth Kopp
Elisabeth Kopp is a Swiss politician and the first woman elected to the Swiss Federal Council .Elisabeth Kopp grew up in Bern. After finishing her law studies in 1960 she married Hans W. Kopp...

, who served from 1984–1989, and the first female president being Ruth Dreifuss
Ruth Dreifuss
Ruth Dreifuss is a Swiss politician affiliated with the Social Democratic Party. She was a member of the Swiss Federal Council from 1993 to 2002, representing the Canton of Geneva)....

 in 1999.

The election of Blocher was undone by the Federal Assembly (parliament) in 2007 when the politician was replaced by a female representative from his own party.
Switzerland joined the Council of Europe
Council of Europe
The Council of Europe is an international organisation promoting co-operation between all countries of Europe in the areas of legal standards, human rights, democratic development, the rule of law and cultural co-operation...

 in 1963. In 1979 areas from the canton of Bern attained independence from the Bernese, forming the new canton of Jura
Canton of Jura
The Republic and Canton of the Jura , also known as the Canton of Jura or Canton Jura, is one of the cantons of Switzerland. It is the newest of the 26 Swiss cantons, located in the northwestern part of Switzerland. The capital is Delémont...

. On 18 April 1999 the Swiss population and the cantons voted in favour of a completely revised federal constitution
Swiss Federal Constitution
The Federal Constitution of 18 April 1999 is the third and current federal constitution of Switzerland. It establishes the Swiss Confederation as a federal republic of 26 cantons , contains a catalogue of individual and popular rights , delineates the responsibilities of the...

.

In 2002 Switzerland became a full member of the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

, leaving the Vatican City
Holy See
The Holy See is the episcopal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, in which its Bishop is commonly known as the Pope. It is the preeminent episcopal see of the Catholic Church, forming the central government of the Church. As such, diplomatically, and in other spheres the Holy See acts and...

 as the last widely recognised state without full UN membership. Switzerland is a founding member of the EFTA
European Free Trade Association
The European Free Trade Association or EFTA is a free trade organisation between four European countries that operates parallel to, and is linked to, the European Union . EFTA was established on 3 May 1960 as a trade bloc-alternative for European states who were either unable to, or chose not to,...

, but is not a member of the European Economic Area
European Economic Area
The European Economic Area was established on 1 January 1994 following an agreement between the member states of the European Free Trade Association and the European Community, later the European Union . Specifically, it allows Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway to participate in the EU's Internal...

. An application for membership in the European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

 was sent in May 1992, but not advanced since the EEA was rejected in December 1992 when Switzerland was the only country to launch a referendum on the EEA. There have since been several referenda on the EU issue; due to a mixed reaction from the population the membership application has been frozen. Nonetheless, Swiss law is gradually being adjusted to conform with that of the EU, and the government has signed a number of bilateral agreements
Bilateralism
Bilateralism consists of the political, economic, or cultural relations between two sovereign states. For example, free trade agreements signed by two states are examples of bilateral treaties. It is in contrast to unilateralism or multilateralism, which refers to the conduct of diplomacy by a...

 with the European Union. Switzerland, together with Liechtenstein
Liechtenstein
The Principality of Liechtenstein is a doubly landlocked alpine country in Central Europe, bordered by Switzerland to the west and south and by Austria to the east. Its area is just over , and it has an estimated population of 35,000. Its capital is Vaduz. The biggest town is Schaan...

, has been completely surrounded by the EU since Austria's membership in 1995. On 5 June 2005, Swiss voters agreed by a 55% majority to join the Schengen treaty, a result that was regarded by EU commentators as a sign of support by Switzerland, a country that is traditionally perceived as independent and reluctant to enter supranational bodies.

Geography



Extending across the north and south side of the Alps
Alps
The Alps is one of the great mountain range systems of Europe, stretching from Austria and Slovenia in the east through Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Germany to France in the west....

, Switzerland encompasses a great diversity of landscapes and climates on a limited area of 41285 square kilometres (15,940.2 sq mi). The population is about 7.9 million, resulting in an average population density
Population density
Population density is a measurement of population per unit area or unit volume. It is frequently applied to living organisms, and particularly to humans...

 of around 190 people per square kilometre (485/sq mi). The more mountainous southern half of the country is far more sparsely populated than the northern half. In the largest Canton of Graubünden
Graubünden
Graubünden or Grisons is the largest and easternmost canton of Switzerland. The canton shares borders with the cantons of Ticino, Uri, Glarus and St. Gallen and international borders with Italy, Austria and Liechtenstein...

, lying entirely in the Alps, population density falls to 27 /km² (70 /sq mi).
Switzerland lies between latitudes 45° and 48° N
48th parallel north
The 48th parallel north is a circle of latitude that is 48 degrees north of the Earth's equatorial plane. It crosses Europe, Asia, the Pacific Ocean, North America, and the Atlantic Ocean....

, and longitudes
5th meridian east
The meridian 5° east of Greenwich is a line of longitude that extends from the North Pole across the Arctic Ocean, Europe, Africa, the Atlantic Ocean, the Southern Ocean, and Antarctica to the South Pole....

 and 11° E
11th meridian east
The meridian 11° east of Greenwich is a line of longitude that extends from the North Pole across the Arctic Ocean, Europe, Africa, the Atlantic Ocean, the Southern Ocean, and Antarctica to the South Pole....

. It contains three basic topographical areas: the Swiss Alps
Swiss Alps
The Swiss Alps are the portion of the Alps mountain range that lies within Switzerland. Because of their central position within the entire Alpine range, they are also known as the Central Alps....

 on the south, the Central Plateau
Swiss plateau
The Swiss Plateau or Central Plateau constitutes one of the three major landscapes in Switzerland alongside the Jura mountains and the Swiss Alps. It covers about 30% of the Swiss surface...

 or middleland, and the Jura mountains
Jura mountains
The Jura Mountains are a small mountain range located north of the Alps, separating the Rhine and Rhone rivers and forming part of the watershed of each...

 on the north. The Alps are a high mountain range running across the central-south of the country, comprising about 60% of the country's total area. Among the high valleys of the Swiss Alps many glaciers are found, totalling an area of 1,063 square kilometres. From these originate the headwaters of several major rivers, such as the Rhine, Inn
Inn River
The Inn is a river in Switzerland, Austria and Germany. It is a right tributary of the Danube and is approximately 500km long. The highest point of its drainage basin is the summit of Piz Bernina, at 4,049 metres.- Geography :...

, Ticino
Ticino River
The river Ticino is a left-bank tributary of the Po River. It has given its name to the Swiss canton through which its upper portion flows.-The course:...

 and Rhone
Rhône
Rhone can refer to:* Rhone, one of the major rivers of Europe, running through Switzerland and France* Rhône Glacier, the source of the Rhone River and one of the primary contributors to Lake Geneva in the far eastern end of the canton of Valais in Switzerland...

, which flow in the four cardinal directions into the whole of Europe. The hydrographic network includes several of the largest bodies of freshwater in Central and Western Europe, among which are included Lake Geneva
Lake Geneva
Lake Geneva or Lake Léman is a lake in Switzerland and France. It is one of the largest lakes in Western Europe. 59.53 % of it comes under the jurisdiction of Switzerland , and 40.47 % under France...

, Lake Constance
Lake Constance
Lake Constance is a lake on the Rhine at the northern foot of the Alps, and consists of three bodies of water: the Obersee , the Untersee , and a connecting stretch of the Rhine, called the Seerhein.The lake is situated in Germany, Switzerland and Austria near the Alps...

 and Lake Maggiore
Lake Maggiore
Lake Maggiore is a large lake located on the south side of the Alps. It is the second largest of Italy and largest of southern Switzerland. Lake Maggiore is the most westerly of the three great prealpine lakes of Italy, it extends for about 70 km between Locarno and Arona.The climate is mild...

. Switzerland has more than 1500 lakes, and contains 6% of Europe's stock of fresh water. Lakes and glaciers cover about 6% of the national territory.

About a hundred of Switzerland's mountain peaks are close to or higher than 4000 metres (13,123.4 ft). At 4634 m (15,203 ft), Monte Rosa
Monte Rosa
The Monte Rosa Massif is a mountain massif located in the eastern part of the Pennine Alps. It is located between Switzerland and Italy...

 is the highest, although the Matterhorn
Matterhorn
The Matterhorn , Monte Cervino or Mont Cervin , is a mountain in the Pennine Alps on the border between Switzerland and Italy. Its summit is 4,478 metres high, making it one of the highest peaks in the Alps. The four steep faces, rising above the surrounding glaciers, face the four compass points...

 (4478 m (14,692 ft)) is probably the most famous. Both are located within the Pennine Alps
Pennine Alps
The Pennine Alps are a mountain range in the western part of the Alps. They are located in Switzerland and Italy...

 in the canton of Valais
Valais
The Valais is one of the 26 cantons of Switzerland in the southwestern part of the country, around the valley of the Rhône from its headwaters to Lake Geneva, separating the Pennine Alps from the Bernese Alps. The canton is one of the drier parts of Switzerland in its central Rhône valley...

. The section of the Bernese Alps
Bernese Alps
The Bernese Alps are a group of mountain ranges in the western part of the Alps, in Switzerland. Although the name suggests that they are located in the Bernese Oberland region of the canton of Bern, portions of the Bernese Alps are in the adjacent cantons of Valais, Lucerne, Obwalden, Fribourg and...

 above the deep glacial Lauterbrunnen
Lauterbrunnen
Lauterbrunnen is a municipality in the Interlaken-Oberhasli administrative district in the canton of Bern in Switzerland.The municipality lies in the Lauterbrunnen Valley and comprises the villages Lauterbrunnen, Wengen, Mürren, Gimmelwald, Stechelberg and Isenfluh...

 valley, containing 72 waterfalls, is well known for the Jungfrau
Jungfrau
The Jungfrau is one of the main summits in the Bernese Alps, situated between the cantons of Valais and Bern in Switzerland...

 (4158 m (13,642 ft)) and Eiger
Eiger
The Eiger is a mountain in the Bernese Alps in Switzerland. It is the easternmost peak of a ridge crest that extends across the Mönch to the Jungfrau at 4,158 m...

, and the many picturesque valleys in the region. In the southeast the long Engadin
Engadin
The Engadin or Engadine is a long valley in the Swiss Alps located in the canton of Graubünden in southeast Switzerland. It follows the route of the Inn River from its headwaters at Maloja Pass running northeast until the Inn flows into Austria one hundred kilometers downstream...

 Valley, encompassing the St. Moritz
St. Moritz
St. Moritz is a resort town in the Engadine valley in Switzerland. It is a municipality in the district of Maloja in the Swiss canton of Graubünden...

 area in canton Graubünden
Graubünden
Graubünden or Grisons is the largest and easternmost canton of Switzerland. The canton shares borders with the cantons of Ticino, Uri, Glarus and St. Gallen and international borders with Italy, Austria and Liechtenstein...

, is also well known; the highest peak in the neighbouring Bernina Alps is Piz Bernina
Piz Bernina
Piz Bernina is the highest mountain of the Eastern Alps and the highest point of the Bernina Range the highest peak in south Rhetic Alps. It is also the farthest easterly mountain higher than 4,000 m in the Alps, the highest point of the Swiss canton of Graubünden, and the fifth-most prominent...

 (4049 m (13,284 ft)).

The more populous northern part of the country, comprising about 30% of the country's total area, is called the Middle Land. It has greater open and hilly landscapes, partly forested, partly open pastures, usually with grazing herds, or vegetables and fruit fields, but it is still hilly. There are large lakes found here and the biggest Swiss cities are in this area of the country. The largest lake is Lake Geneva
Lake Geneva
Lake Geneva or Lake Léman is a lake in Switzerland and France. It is one of the largest lakes in Western Europe. 59.53 % of it comes under the jurisdiction of Switzerland , and 40.47 % under France...

 (also called Lac Léman in French), in western Switzerland. The Rhone River
Rhône River
The Rhone is one of the major rivers of Europe, rising in Switzerland and running from there through southeastern France. At Arles, near its mouth on the Mediterranean Sea, the river divides into two branches, known as the Great Rhone and the Little Rhone...

 is both the main input and output of Lake Geneva.

Climate



The Swiss climate
Climate
Climate encompasses the statistics of temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind, rainfall, atmospheric particle count and other meteorological elemental measurements in a given region over long periods...

 is generally temperate, but can vary greatly between the localities, from glacial conditions on the mountaintops to the often pleasant near Mediterranean climate
Mediterranean climate
A Mediterranean climate is the climate typical of most of the lands in the Mediterranean Basin, and is a particular variety of subtropical climate...

 at Switzerland's southern tip. Summers tend to be warm and humid at times with periodic rainfall so they are ideal for pastures and grazing. The less humid winters in the mountains may see long intervals of stable conditions for weeks, while the lower lands tend to suffer from inversion, during this periods, thus seeing no sun for weeks.

A weather phenomenon known as the föhn (with an identical effect to the chinook wind
Chinook wind
Chinook winds , often called chinooks, commonly refers to foehn winds in the interior West of North America, where the Canadian Prairies and Great Plains meet various mountain ranges, although the original usage is in reference to wet, warm coastal winds in the Pacific Northwest.Chinook is claimed...

) can occur at all times of the year and is characterised by an unexpectedly warm wind, bringing air of very low relative humidity to the north of the Alps during rainfall periods on the southern face of the Alps. This works both ways across the alps but is more efficient if blowing from the south due to the steeper step for oncoming wind from the south. Valleys running south to north trigger the best effect.
The driest conditions persist in all inner alpine valleys that receive less rain because arriving clouds lose a lot of their content while crossing the mountains before reaching these areas. Large alpine areas such as Graubünden
Graubünden
Graubünden or Grisons is the largest and easternmost canton of Switzerland. The canton shares borders with the cantons of Ticino, Uri, Glarus and St. Gallen and international borders with Italy, Austria and Liechtenstein...

 remain drier than pre-alpine areas and as in the main valley of the Valais
Valais
The Valais is one of the 26 cantons of Switzerland in the southwestern part of the country, around the valley of the Rhône from its headwaters to Lake Geneva, separating the Pennine Alps from the Bernese Alps. The canton is one of the drier parts of Switzerland in its central Rhône valley...

 wine grapes are grown there.

The wettest conditions persist in the high Alps and in the Ticino
Ticino
Canton Ticino or Ticino is the southernmost canton of Switzerland. Named after the Ticino river, it is the only canton in which Italian is the sole official language...

 canton which has much sun yet heavy bursts of rain from time to time. Precipitation tends to be spread moderately throughout the year with a peak in summer. Autumn is the driest season, winter receives less precipitation than summer, yet the weather patterns in Switzerland are not in a stable climate system and can be variable from year to year with no strict and predictable periods.

Environment


Switzerland's ecosystems can be particularly fragile, because of the many delicate valleys separated by high mountains, often forming unique ecologies. The mountainous regions themselves are also vulnerable, with a rich range of plants not found at other altitudes, and experience some pressure from visitors and grazing. The climatic, geological and topographical conditions of the alpine region make for a very fragile ecosystem that is particularly sensitive to climate change
Climate change
Climate change is a significant and lasting change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns over periods ranging from decades to millions of years. It may be a change in average weather conditions or the distribution of events around that average...

.

Politics


The Federal Constitution adopted in 1848 is the legal foundation of the modern federal state. It is among the oldest constitutions in the world. A new Constitution was adopted in 1999, but did not introduce notable changes to the federal structure. It outlines basic and political rights of individuals and citizen participation in public affairs, divides the powers between the Confederation and the cantons and defines federal jurisdiction and authority. There are three main governing bodies on the federal level: the bicameral
Bicameralism
In the government, bicameralism is the practice of having two legislative or parliamentary chambers. Thus, a bicameral parliament or bicameral legislature is a legislature which consists of two chambers or houses....

 parliament (legislative), the Federal Council
Swiss Federal Council
The Federal Council is the seven-member executive council which constitutes the federal government of Switzerland and serves as the Swiss collective head of state....

 (executive) and the Federal Court
Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland
The Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland is the supreme court of Switzerland. It is located in Lausanne.According to the Constitution of Switzerland, the court has jurisdiction over violations of:*federal law;*public international law;*intercantonal law;...

 (judicial).
The Swiss Parliament consists of two houses: the Council of States
Swiss Council of States
The Council of States of Switzerland is the smaller chamber of the Federal Assembly of Switzerland, and is considered the Assembly's upper house. There are 46 Councillors....

 which has 46 representatives (two from each canton and one from each half-canton) who are elected under a system determined by each canton, and the National Council
National Council of Switzerland
The National Council of Switzerland is the lower house of the Federal Assembly of Switzerland. With 200 seats, it is the larger of the two houses....

, which consists of 200 members who are elected under a system of proportional representation
Proportional representation
Proportional representation is a concept in voting systems used to elect an assembly or council. PR means that the number of seats won by a party or group of candidates is proportionate to the number of votes received. For example, under a PR voting system if 30% of voters support a particular...

, depending on the population of each canton. Members of both houses serve for 4 years. When both houses are in joint session, they are known collectively as the Federal Assembly. Through referendum
Referendum
A referendum is a direct vote in which an entire electorate is asked to either accept or reject a particular proposal. This may result in the adoption of a new constitution, a constitutional amendment, a law, the recall of an elected official or simply a specific government policy. It is a form of...

s, citizens may challenge any law passed by parliament and through initiative
Initiative
In political science, an initiative is a means by which a petition signed by a certain minimum number of registered voters can force a public vote...

s, introduce amendments to the federal constitution, thus making Switzerland a direct democracy
Direct democracy
Direct democracy is a form of government in which people vote on policy initiatives directly, as opposed to a representative democracy in which people vote for representatives who then vote on policy initiatives. Direct democracy is classically termed "pure democracy"...

.

The Federal Council
Swiss Federal Council
The Federal Council is the seven-member executive council which constitutes the federal government of Switzerland and serves as the Swiss collective head of state....

 constitutes the federal government
Government
Government refers to the legislators, administrators, and arbitrators in the administrative bureaucracy who control a state at a given time, and to the system of government by which they are organized...

, directs the federal administration
Federal administration of Switzerland
The federal administration of Switzerland is the ensemble of agencies that constitute, together with the Swiss Federal Council, the executive branch of the Swiss federal authorities...

 and serves as collective Head of State
Head of State
A head of state is the individual that serves as the chief public representative of a monarchy, republic, federation, commonwealth or other kind of state. His or her role generally includes legitimizing the state and exercising the political powers, functions, and duties granted to the head of...

. It is a collegial body of seven members, elected for a four-year mandate by the Federal Assembly which also exercises oversight
Regulation
Regulation is administrative legislation that constitutes or constrains rights and allocates responsibilities. It can be distinguished from primary legislation on the one hand and judge-made law on the other...

 over the Council. The President of the Confederation is elected by the Assembly from among the seven members, traditionally in rotation and for a one-year term; the President chairs the government and assumes representative functions. However, the president is a primus inter pares
Primus inter pares
Primus inter pares is Latin phrase describing the most senior person of a group sharing the same rank or office.When not used in reference to a specific title, it may indicate that the person so described is formally equal, but looked upon as an authority of special importance by their peers...

with no additional powers, and remains the head of a department within the administration.

The Swiss government has been a coalition of the four major political parties since 1959, each party having a number of seats that roughly reflects its share of electorate and representation in the federal parliament.
The classic distribution of 2 CVP/PDC, 2 SPS/PSS, 2 FDP/PRD and 1 SVP/UDC as it stood from 1959 to 2003 was known as the "magic formula".
In the 2007 Federal Council elections
Swiss Federal Council election, 2007
On December 12, 2007, all seven members of the Federal Council, the government of Switzerland, were elected by the joint chambers of the Federal Assembly for the 2008–2012 term of office...

 the seven seats in the Federal Council were distributed as follows:
2 Social Democrats (SPS/PSS)
Social Democratic Party of Switzerland
The Social Democratic Party of Switzerland is the largest centre-left political party in Switzerland....

,
2 Liberal Democrats (FDP/PRD)
Free Democratic Party of Switzerland
The Free Democratic Party was a classical liberal political party in Switzerland. It was one of the major parties in Switzerland until its merger with the smaller classical liberal Liberal Party, to form FDP.The Liberals on 1 January 2009....

,
2 Swiss People's Party (SVP/UDC)
Swiss People's Party
The Swiss People's Party , also known as the Democratic Union of the Centre , is a conservative political party in Switzerland. Chaired by Toni Brunner, but spearheaded by Christoph Blocher, the party is the largest party in the Federal Assembly, with 58 members of the National Council and 6 of...

,The SVP/UDC has suffered a split since the election, with both their councillors defecting to the Conservative Democratic Party of Switzerland (BDP/PBD). As of 2009, with the election of Ueli Maurer
Ueli Maurer
Ueli Maurer is a member of the Swiss Federal Council and head of the Swiss Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sports...

, the SVP/UDC and the BDP/PBD hold one seat each.
1 Christian Democrats (CVP/PDC)
Christian Democratic People's Party of Switzerland
The Christian Democratic People's Party of Switzerland is a Christian democratic political party in Switzerland. It is the fourth-largest party in the National Council, with 31 seats, and the largest in the Council of States, with 15 seats. It has one seat, that of Doris Leuthard, on the Swiss...

.


The function of the Federal Supreme Court
Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland
The Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland is the supreme court of Switzerland. It is located in Lausanne.According to the Constitution of Switzerland, the court has jurisdiction over violations of:*federal law;*public international law;*intercantonal law;...

 is to hear appeals against rulings of cantonal or federal courts. The judges are elected by the Federal Assembly for six-year terms.

Direct democracy




Swiss citizens are subject to three legal jurisdictions: the commune, canton and federal levels. The 1848 federal constitution defines a system of direct democracy
Direct democracy
Direct democracy is a form of government in which people vote on policy initiatives directly, as opposed to a representative democracy in which people vote for representatives who then vote on policy initiatives. Direct democracy is classically termed "pure democracy"...

 (sometimes called half-direct or representative direct democracy since it is aided by the more commonplace institutions of a parliamentary democracy). The instruments of Swiss direct democracy at the federal level, known as civic rights (Volksrechte, droits civiques), include the right to submit a constitutional initiative and a referendum, both of which may overturn parliamentary decisions.

By calling a federal referendum a group of citizens may challenge a law that has been passed by Parliament, if they can gather 50,000 signatures against the law within 100 days. If so, a national vote is scheduled where voters decide by a simple majority
Majority
A majority is a subset of a group consisting of more than half of its members. This can be compared to a plurality, which is a subset larger than any other subset; i.e. a plurality is not necessarily a majority as the largest subset may consist of less than half the group's population...

 whether to accept or reject the law. Eight cantons together can also call a referendum on a federal law.

Similarly, the federal constitutional initiative allows citizens to put a constitutional amendment
Constitutional amendment
A constitutional amendment is a formal change to the text of the written constitution of a nation or state.Most constitutions require that amendments cannot be enacted unless they have passed a special procedure that is more stringent than that required of ordinary legislation...

 to a national vote, if they can get 100,000 voters to sign the proposed amendment within 18 months.Since 1999, an initiative can also be in the form of a general proposal to be elaborated by Parliament, but because it is considered less attractive for various reasons, this form of initiative has yet to find any use. Parliament can supplement the proposed amendment with a counter-proposal, with voters having to indicate a preference on the ballot in case both proposals are accepted. Constitutional amendments, whether introduced by initiative or in Parliament, must be accepted by a double majority
Double majority
A double majority is the name given to a vote which requires a majority of votes according to two separate criteria. The mechanism is usually used to require strong support for any measure considered to be of great importance...

 of both the national popular vote and a majority of the cantonal popular votes.That is a majority of 23 cantonal votes, because the result of the popular vote in the six traditional half-cantons each counts as half the vote of one of the other cantons.

Administrative divisions


The Swiss Confederation consists of 26 cantons:
Canton Capital | Canton Capital
Aargau
Aargau
Aargau is one of the more northerly cantons of Switzerland. It comprises the lower course of the river Aare, which is why the canton is called Aar-gau .-History:...

 
Aarau
Aarau
Aarau is the capital of the northern Swiss canton of Aargau. The city is also the capital of the district of Aarau. It is German-speaking and predominantly Protestant. Aarau is situated on the Swiss plateau, in the valley of the Aar, on the river's right bank, and at the southern foot of the Jura...

 
*Nidwalden
Nidwalden
Nidwalden is a canton of Switzerland. It is located in the centre of Switzerland. The population is 40,287 of which 4,046 are foreigners. The capital is Stans.-History:...

 
Stans
Stans
Stans is the capital of the canton of Nidwalden in Switzerland.-History:Stans is one of the oldest settlements in the entire Nidwalden valley. The first traces of human settlement date to the 2nd Century BC...

*Appenzell Ausserrhoden
Appenzell Ausserrhoden
Appenzell Ausserrhoden is a canton of Switzerland. The seat of the government and parliament is Herisau, judicial authorities are in Trogen. Appenzell Ausserrhoden is located in the north east of Switzerland, bordering the cantons of St...

 
Herisau
Herisau
Herisau is a municipality of the canton of Appenzell Ausserrhoden in Switzerland. It is the seat of the canton's government and parliament; the judicial authorities are situated in Trogen....

 
*Obwalden
Obwalden
Obwalden is a canton of Switzerland. It is located in the centre of Switzerland. The population is 33,997 of which 4,043 are foreigners. Its capital is Sarnen. The canton contains the geographical centre of Switzerland.-History:...

 
Sarnen
Sarnen
Sarnen is the capital of the canton of Obwalden situated on the shores of Lake Sarnen , Switzerland. It has a population of just under 10,000 and is surrounded by countryside and mountains. Sarnen is located 20 km south of Lucerne.- History :...

*Appenzell Innerrhoden
Appenzell Innerrhoden
Appenzell Innerrhoden is the smallest canton of Switzerland by population and the second smallest by area, Basel-City having less area.-Foundation:...

 
Appenzell
Appenzell (town)
Appenzell is the capital of the canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden in Switzerland. Appenzell has no municipal government of its own; rather, the different parts of Appenzell belong to the districts Appenzell, Schwende and Rüte...

 
Schaffhausen
Canton of Schaffhausen
The Canton of is a canton of Switzerland. The principal city and capital of the canton is Schaffhausen.- History:Schaffhausen was a city-state in the Middle Ages, documented to have struck its own coins starting in 1045. It was then known as Villa Scafhusun. Around 1049 Count Eberhard von...

 
Schaffhausen
Schaffhausen
Schaffhausen is a city in northern Switzerland and the capital of the canton of the same name; it has an estimated population of 34,587 ....

*Basel-Landschaft  Liestal
Liestal
Liestal is the capital of the canton of Basel-Country in Switzerland, south of Basel.It is an industrial town with a cobbled-street Old Town.-History:...

 
Schwyz
Canton of Schwyz
Schwyz is a canton in central Switzerland between the Alps in the south, Lake Lucerne in the east and Lake Zurich in the north, centered around and named after the town of Schwyz....

 
Schwyz
Schwyz
The town of is the capital of the canton of Schwyz in Switzerland.The Federal Charter of 1291 or Bundesbrief, the charter that eventually led to the foundation of Switzerland, can be seen at the Bundesbriefmuseum.-History of the toponym:...

*Basel-Stadt  Basel
Basel
Basel or Basle In the national languages of Switzerland the city is also known as Bâle , Basilea and Basilea is Switzerland's third most populous city with about 166,000 inhabitants. Located where the Swiss, French and German borders meet, Basel also has suburbs in France and Germany...

 
Solothurn
Canton of Solothurn
Solothurn is a canton of Switzerland. It is located in the northwest of Switzerland. The capital is Solothurn.-History:The territory of the canton comprises land acquired by the capital...

 
Solothurn
Solothurn
The city of Solothurn is the capital of the Canton of Solothurn in Switzerland. The city also comprises the only municipality of the district of the same name.-Pre-roman settlement:...

Bern  Bern  St. Gallen
Canton of St. Gallen
The Canton of St. Gallen is a canton of Switzerland. St. Gallen is located in the north east of Switzerland. It covers an area of 2,026 km², and has a population of . , the population included 97,461 foreigners, or about 20.9% of the total population. The capital is St. Gallen. Spelling...

 
St. Gallen
St. Gallen
St. Gallen is the capital of the canton of St. Gallen in Switzerland. It evolved from the hermitage of Saint Gall, founded in the 7th century. Today, it is a large urban agglomeration and represents the center of eastern Switzerland. The town mainly relies on the service sector for its economic...

Fribourg
Canton of Fribourg
The Canton of Fribourg is a canton of Switzerland. It is located in the west of the country. The capital of the canton is Fribourg. The name Fribourg is French, whereas is the German name for both the canton and the town.-History:...

 
Fribourg
Fribourg
Fribourg is the capital of the Swiss canton of Fribourg and the district of Sarine. It is located on both sides of the river Saane/Sarine, on the Swiss plateau, and is an important economic, administrative and educational center on the cultural border between German and French Switzerland...

 
Thurgau
Thurgau
Thurgau is a northeast canton of Switzerland. The population, , is . In 2007, there were a total of 47,390 who were resident foreigners. The capital is Frauenfeld.-History:...

 
Frauenfeld
Frauenfeld
Frauenfeld is the capital of the canton of Thurgau in Switzerland.-Early history:The earliest trace of human settlement are several La Tène era graves to the east of Langdorf. The Roman road from Oberwinterthur to Pfyn ran through what is now the Allmend in Frauenfeld. Two Roman villas were...

Geneva
Canton of Geneva
The Republic and Canton of Geneva is the French speaking westernmost canton or state of Switzerland, surrounded on almost all sides by France. As is the case in several other Swiss cantons The Republic and Canton of Geneva is the French speaking westernmost canton or state of Switzerland,...

 
Geneva
Geneva
Geneva In the national languages of Switzerland the city is known as Genf , Ginevra and Genevra is the second-most-populous city in Switzerland and is the most populous city of Romandie, the French-speaking part of Switzerland...

 
Ticino
Ticino
Canton Ticino or Ticino is the southernmost canton of Switzerland. Named after the Ticino river, it is the only canton in which Italian is the sole official language...

 
Bellinzona
Bellinzona
Bellinzona is the administrative capital of the canton Ticino in Switzerland. The city is famous for its three castles that have been UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 2000....

Glarus
Canton of Glarus
The Canton of Glarus is a canton in east central Switzerland. The capital is Glarus.The population speaks a variety of Alemannic German.The majority of the population identifies as Christian, about evenly split between the Protestant and Catholic confessions.-History:According to legend, the...

 
Glarus
Glarus
Glarus is the capital of the Canton of Glarus in Switzerland. Glarus municipality since 1 January 2011 incorporates the former municipalities of Ennenda, Netstal and Riedern....

 
Uri
Canton of Uri
Uri is one of the 26 cantons of Switzerland and a founding member of the Swiss Confederation. It is located in Central Switzerland. The canton's territory covers the valley of the Reuss River between Lake Lucerne and the St. Gotthard Pass. German is the primary language spoken in Uri...

 
Altdorf
Altdorf, Switzerland
Altdorf is the capital of the Swiss canton of Uri. The municipality covers an area of and is located at a height of above sea-level, to the right of the river Reuss.-Location:...

Graubünden
Graubünden
Graubünden or Grisons is the largest and easternmost canton of Switzerland. The canton shares borders with the cantons of Ticino, Uri, Glarus and St. Gallen and international borders with Italy, Austria and Liechtenstein...

 
Chur
Chur
Chur or Coire is the capital of the Swiss canton of Graubünden and lies in the northern part of the canton.-History:The name "chur" derives perhaps from the Celtic kora or koria, meaning "tribe", or from the Latin curia....

 
Valais
Valais
The Valais is one of the 26 cantons of Switzerland in the southwestern part of the country, around the valley of the Rhône from its headwaters to Lake Geneva, separating the Pennine Alps from the Bernese Alps. The canton is one of the drier parts of Switzerland in its central Rhône valley...

 
Sion
Sion, Switzerland
Sion is the capital of the Swiss canton of Valais. it had a population of .Landmarks include the Basilique de Valère and Château de Tourbillon. Sion has an airfield for civilian and military use, which, because of its location in a valley, causes a reasonable amount of noise pollution. FC Sion...

Jura
Canton of Jura
The Republic and Canton of the Jura , also known as the Canton of Jura or Canton Jura, is one of the cantons of Switzerland. It is the newest of the 26 Swiss cantons, located in the northwestern part of Switzerland. The capital is Delémont...

 
Delémont
Delémont
Delémont is the capital of the Swiss canton of Jura. The city has approximately 11,000 inhabitants as of 2007.-Geography:Delémont lies southwest of Basel, about halfway between Basel and Bienne...

 
Vaud
Vaud
Vaud is one of the 26 cantons of Switzerland and is located in Romandy, the French-speaking southwestern part of the country. The capital is Lausanne. The name of the Canton in Switzerland's other languages are Vaud in Italian , Waadt in German , and Vad in Romansh.-History:Along the lakes,...

 
Lausanne
Lausanne
Lausanne is a city in Romandy, the French-speaking part of Switzerland, and is the capital of the canton of Vaud. The seat of the district of Lausanne, the city is situated on the shores of Lake Geneva . It faces the French town of Évian-les-Bains, with the Jura mountains to its north-west...

Lucerne
Canton of Lucerne
Lucerne is a canton of Switzerland. It is located in the centre of Switzerland. The population of the canton is . , the population included 57,268 foreigners, or about 15.8% of the total population. The cantonal capital is Lucerne.-History:...

 
Lucerne
Lucerne
Lucerne is a city in north-central Switzerland, in the German-speaking portion of that country. Lucerne is the capital of the Canton of Lucerne and the capital of the district of the same name. With a population of about 76,200 people, Lucerne is the most populous city in Central Switzerland, and...

 
Zug
Canton of Zug
The Canton of Zug is one of the 26 cantons of Switzerland. It is located in central Switzerland and its capital is Zug. With 239 km² the canton is one of the smallest of the cantons in terms of area. It is not subdivided into districts.- History :The earlier history of the canton is...

 
Zug
Zug
Zug , is a German-speaking city in Switzerland. The name ‘Zug’ originates from fishing vocabulary; in the Middle Ages it referred to the right to ‘pull up’ fishing nets and hence to the right to fish.The city of Zug is located in the Canton of Zug and is its capital...

Neuchâtel
Canton of Neuchâtel
Neuchâtel is a canton of French speaking western Switzerland. In 2007, its population was 169,782 of which 39,654 were foreigners. The capital is Neuchâtel.-History:...

 
Neuchâtel  Zurich
Canton of Zürich
The Canton of Zurich has a population of . The canton is located in the northeast of Switzerland and the city of Zurich is its capital. The official language is German, but people speak the local Swiss German dialect called Züritüütsch...

 
Zurich
Zürich
Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland and the capital of the canton of Zurich. It is located in central Switzerland at the northwestern tip of Lake Zurich...


*These half-cantons are represented by one councillor (instead of two) in the Council of States
Swiss Council of States
The Council of States of Switzerland is the smaller chamber of the Federal Assembly of Switzerland, and is considered the Assembly's upper house. There are 46 Councillors....

.


The cantons have a permanent constitutional status and, in comparison with the situation in other countries, a high degree of independence. Under the Federal Constitution, all 26 cantons are equal in status. Each canton has its own constitution, and its own parliament, government and courts. However, there are considerable differences between the individual cantons, most particularly in terms of population and geographical area. Their populations vary between 15,000 (Appenzell Innerrhoden) and 1,253,500 (Zurich), and their area between 37 km² (14.3 sq mi) (Basel-Stadt) and 7105 km² (2,743.3 sq mi) (Graubünden). The Cantons comprise a total of 2,889 municipalities
Municipalities of Switzerland
Communes , also known as municipalities, are the smallest government division in Switzerland, numbering 2,596 . While many have a population of a few hundred citizens, the largest cities such as Zürich or Geneva also have the legal status of municipalities...

. Within Switzerland there are two enclaves: Büsingen
Büsingen
Büsingen am Hochrhein is a German town entirely surrounded by the Swiss canton of Schaffhausen and, south across the Rhine, by the cantons of Zürich and Thurgau. It has a population of about 1,450 inhabitants...

 belongs to Germany, Campione d'Italia
Campione d'Italia
Campione d'Italia is an Italian comune of the Province of Como in the Lombardy region, occupying an enclave within the Swiss canton of Ticino, separated from the rest of Italy by Lake Lugano and mountains...

 belongs to Italy.

In a referendum held in the Austrian state
States of Austria
Austria is a federal republic made up of nine states, known in German as Länder . Since Land is also the German word for a country, the term Bundesländer is often used instead to avoid ambiguity. The Constitution of Austria uses both terms...

 of Vorarlberg
Vorarlberg
Vorarlberg is the westernmost federal-state of Austria. Although it is the second smallest in terms of area and population , it borders three countries: Germany , Switzerland and Liechtenstein...

 on 11 May 1919 over 80% of those voting supported a proposal that the state should join the Swiss Confederation. However, this was prevented by the opposition of the Austrian Government, the Allies
Allies of World War I
The Entente Powers were the countries at war with the Central Powers during World War I. The members of the Triple Entente were the United Kingdom, France, and the Russian Empire; Italy entered the war on their side in 1915...

, Swiss liberals
Liberalism and radicalism in Switzerland
This article gives an overview of liberalism and radicalism in Switzerland. It is limited to liberal and radical parties with substantial support, mainly proved by having had a representation in parliament. The sign ⇒ means a reference to another party in that scheme...

 and non German-speaking Swiss.

Foreign relations and international institutions


Traditionally, Switzerland avoids alliances that might entail military, political, or direct economic action and had been neutral since the end of its expansion
Growth of the Old Swiss Confederacy
The growth of the Old Swiss Confederacy began as an alliance between the communities of the valleys in the Central Alps to facilitate the management of common interests such as free trade and to ensure the peace along the important trade routes through the mountains...

 in 1515. Its policy of neutrality has been internationally recognised at the Congress of Vienna
Congress of Vienna
The Congress of Vienna was a conference of ambassadors of European states chaired by Klemens Wenzel von Metternich, and held in Vienna from September, 1814 to June, 1815. The objective of the Congress was to settle the many issues arising from the French Revolutionary Wars, the Napoleonic Wars,...

 in 1815. Only in 2002 did Switzerland become a full member of the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 and it was the first state to join it by referendum. Switzerland maintains diplomatic relations with almost all countries and historically has served as an intermediary between other states. Switzerland is not a member of the European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

; the Swiss people have consistently rejected membership since the early 1990s.

An unusual number of international institutions have their seats in Switzerland, in part because of its policy of neutrality. Geneva
Geneva
Geneva In the national languages of Switzerland the city is known as Genf , Ginevra and Genevra is the second-most-populous city in Switzerland and is the most populous city of Romandie, the French-speaking part of Switzerland...

 is the birth place of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and the Geneva Conventions
Geneva Conventions
The Geneva Conventions comprise four treaties, and three additional protocols, that establish the standards of international law for the humanitarian treatment of the victims of war...

 and, since 2006, hosts the United Nations Human Rights Council
United Nations Human Rights Council
The United Nations Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations System. The UNHRC is the successor to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights , and is a subsidiary body of the United Nations General Assembly...

. Even though Switzerland is one of the most recent countries to have joined the United Nations, the Palace of Nations in Geneva is the second biggest centre for the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 after New York, and Switzerland was a founding member and home to the League of Nations
League of Nations
The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first permanent international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace...

.

Apart from the United Nations headquarters, the Swiss Confederation is host to many UN agencies, like the World Health Organization (WHO
Who
Who may refer to:* Who , an English-language pronoun* who , a Unix command* Who?, one of the Five Ws in journalism- Art and entertainment :* Who? , a 1958 novel by Algis Budrys...

), the International Labour Organization (ILO
International Labour Organization
The International Labour Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations that deals with labour issues pertaining to international labour standards. Its headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland. Its secretariat — the people who are employed by it throughout the world — is known as the...

), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU
International Telecommunication Union
The International Telecommunication Union is the specialized agency of the United Nations which is responsible for information and communication technologies...

), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees , also known as The UN Refugee Agency is a United Nations agency mandated to protect and support refugees at the request of a government or the UN itself and assists in their voluntary repatriation, local integration or resettlement to...

) and about 200 other international organisations, including the World Trade Organization
World Trade Organization
The World Trade Organization is an organization that intends to supervise and liberalize international trade. The organization officially commenced on January 1, 1995 under the Marrakech Agreement, replacing the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade , which commenced in 1948...

. The annual meetings of the World Economic Forum
World Economic Forum
The World Economic Forum is a Swiss non-profit foundation, based in Cologny, Geneva, best known for its annual meeting in Davos, a mountain resort in Graubünden, in the eastern Alps region of Switzerland....

 in Davos
Davos
Davos is a municipality in the district of Prättigau/Davos in the canton of Graubünden, Switzerland. It has a permanent population of 11,248 . Davos is located on the Landwasser River, in the Swiss Alps, between the Plessur and Albula Range...

 bring together top international business and political leaders from Switzerland and foreign countries to discuss important issues facing the world, including health and the environment.

Furthermore, many sport federations and organisations are located throughout the country, such as the International Basketball Federation
International Basketball Federation
The International Basketball Federation, more commonly known as FIBA , from its French name Fédération Internationale de Basketball, is an association of national organizations which governs international competition in basketball...

, in Geneva, the UEFA
UEFA
The Union of European Football Associations , almost always referred to by its acronym UEFA is the administrative and controlling body for European association football, futsal and beach soccer....

 (Union of European Football Associations), in Nyon
Nyon
Nyon is a municipality in the district of Nyon in the canton of Vaud in Switzerland. It is located some 25 kilometers north east of Geneva's city centre, and since the 1970s it has become part of the Geneva metropolitan area. It lies on the shores of Lake Geneva, and is the seat of the district of...

, the FIFA
FIFA
The Fédération Internationale de Football Association , commonly known by the acronym FIFA , is the international governing body of :association football, futsal and beach football. Its headquarters are located in Zurich, Switzerland, and its president is Sepp Blatter, who is in his fourth...

 (International Federation of Association Football) and the International Ice Hockey Federation
International Ice Hockey Federation
The International Ice Hockey Federation is the worldwide governing body for ice hockey and in-line hockey. It is based in Zurich, Switzerland, and has 70 members...

, in Zurich
Zürich
Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland and the capital of the canton of Zurich. It is located in central Switzerland at the northwestern tip of Lake Zurich...

, the International Cycling Union
Union Cycliste Internationale
Union Cycliste Internationale is the world governing body for sports cycling and oversees international competitive cycling events. The UCI is based in Aigle, Switzerland....

, in Aigle
Aigle
Aigle is the capital of the district of Aigle in the canton of Vaud in Switzerland. The town has a population of 8,100 people.The name of this municipality in French means eagle.-Geography:...

, and the International Olympic Committee
International Olympic Committee
The International Olympic Committee is an international corporation based in Lausanne, Switzerland, created by Pierre de Coubertin on 23 June 1894 with Demetrios Vikelas as its first president...

, in Lausanne
Lausanne
Lausanne is a city in Romandy, the French-speaking part of Switzerland, and is the capital of the canton of Vaud. The seat of the district of Lausanne, the city is situated on the shores of Lake Geneva . It faces the French town of Évian-les-Bains, with the Jura mountains to its north-west...

.

Military


The Swiss Armed Forces
Military of Switzerland
The Swiss Armed Forces perform the roles of Switzerland's militia and regular army. Under the country's militia system, professional soldiers constitute about 5 percent of military personnel; the rest are male citizen conscripts 19 to 34 years old...

, including the Land Forces and the Air Force
Swiss Air Force
The Swiss Air Force is the air component of the Swiss Armed Forces, established on July 31, 1914, as part of the Army and as of January 1966 an independent service.In peacetime, Dübendorf is the operational Air Force HQ...

, are composed of conscripts
Conscription in Switzerland
Switzerland has mandatory military service for all able-bodied male citizens, who are conscripted when they reach the age of majority, though women may volunteer for any position....

: professional soldiers constitute only about 5 percent of the military personnel, and all the rest are conscript male citizens aged from 20 to 34 (in special cases up to 50) years. Being a landlocked
Landlocked
A landlocked country is a country entirely enclosed by land, or whose only coastlines lie on closed seas. There are 48 landlocked countries in the world, including partially recognized states...

 country, Switzerland has no navy; however on lakes bordering neighbouring countries armed military patrol boats are used. Swiss citizens are prohibited from serving in foreign armies, with the exception of the Swiss Guard
Swiss Guard
Swiss Guards or Schweizergarde is the name given to the Swiss soldiers who have served as bodyguards, ceremonial guards, and palace guards at foreign European courts since the late 15th century. They have had a high reputation for discipline, as well as loyalty to their employers...

s of the Vatican
Vatican City
Vatican City , or Vatican City State, in Italian officially Stato della Città del Vaticano , which translates literally as State of the City of the Vatican, is a landlocked sovereign city-state whose territory consists of a walled enclave within the city of Rome, Italy. It has an area of...

.

The structure of the Swiss militia system stipulates that the soldiers keep their Army issued equipment, including all personal weapons, at home. Some organizations and political parties find this practice controversial but mainstream Swiss opinion is in favour of the system. Compulsory military service
Conscription
Conscription is the compulsory enlistment of people in some sort of national service, most often military service. Conscription dates back to antiquity and continues in some countries to the present day under various names...

 is no longer required but concerns all male Swiss citizens; women can serve voluntarily. Men usually receive military conscription orders for training at the age of 19. About two thirds of the young Swiss are found suited for service; for those found unsuited, various forms of alternative service exist. Annually, approximately 20,000 persons are trained in recruit centres for a duration from 18 to 21 weeks. The reform "Army XXI" was adopted by popular vote in 2003, it replaced the previous model "Army 95", reducing the effectives from 400,000 to about 200,000. Of those, 120,000 are active in periodic Army training and 80,000 are non-training reserves.
Overall, three general mobilisations have been declared to ensure the integrity and neutrality of Switzerland. The first one was held on the occasion of the Franco-Prussian War
Franco-Prussian War
The Franco-Prussian War or Franco-German War, often referred to in France as the 1870 War was a conflict between the Second French Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia. Prussia was aided by the North German Confederation, of which it was a member, and the South German states of Baden, Württemberg and...

 of 1870–71. The second one was decided in response to the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914. The third mobilisation of the army took place on September 1939 in response to the German attack on Poland; Henri Guisan
Henri Guisan
Henri Guisan was a Swiss army officer, and held the office of the General of the Swiss Army during World War II. He was the fourth and the most recent man to be appointed to the rarely used Swiss rank of General, and was possibly Switzerland's most famous soldier...

 was elected as the General-in-Chief.

Because of its neutrality policy, the Swiss army does not currently take part in armed conflicts in other countries, but is part of some peacekeeping missions around the world. Since 2000 the armed forces department has also maintained the Onyx
Onyx (interception system)
Onyx is a Swiss intelligence gathering system maintained by the Swiss Army. The costs of the system are not public, but the amount of 100 million Swiss francs has been mentioned several times, in particular in 2000 by Werner Marti, SP deputy to the National Council of Switzerland...

 intelligence gathering system to monitor satellite communications.

Following the end of the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

 there have been a number of attempts to curb military activity or even abolish the armed forces altogether. A notable referendum on the subject, launched by an anti-militarist group
Group for a Switzerland without an Army
The Group for a Switzerland without an Army, is a group working to reduce the military activities of Switzerland. The Group was created in Solothurn on 12 September 1982 by 120 people...

, was held on 26 November 1989. It was defeated with about two thirds of the voters against the proposal. A similar referendum, called for before, but held shortly after, the September 11 attacks in the US, was defeated by over 78% of voters.

Economy


Switzerland has a stable and modern economy. It has the highest European rating in the Index of Economic Freedom
Index of Economic Freedom
The Index of Economic Freedom is a series of 10 economic measurements created by The Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal. Its stated objective is to measure the degree of economic freedom in the world's nations....

 2010, while also providing large coverage through public services. The nominal per capita GDP
Gross domestic product
Gross domestic product refers to the market value of all final goods and services produced within a country in a given period. GDP per capita is often considered an indicator of a country's standard of living....

 is higher than those of the larger Western and Central European economies and Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

 (and indeed one of the highest in the world). The Swiss franc
Swiss franc
The franc is the currency and legal tender of Switzerland and Liechtenstein; it is also legal tender in the Italian exclave Campione d'Italia. Although not formally legal tender in the German exclave Büsingen , it is in wide daily use there...

 remains one of the world's strongest currencies with the lowest inflation rate (rising to an estimated 0.7% ).

If adjusted for purchasing power parity
Purchasing power parity
In economics, purchasing power parity is a condition between countries where an amount of money has the same purchasing power in different countries. The prices of the goods between the countries would only reflect the exchange rates...

, Switzerland ranks eleventh in the world in terms of GDP per capita, according to the CIA World Factbook. The World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report
Global Competitiveness Report
The Global Competitiveness Report is a yearly report published by the World Economic Forum. The first report was released in 1979. The 2011–2012 report covers 142 major and emerging economies....

 currently ranks Switzerland's economy as the most competitive in the world. For much of the 20th century, Switzerland was the wealthiest country in Europe by a considerable margin. In 2010, the Global Wealth Report by Credit Suisse Research Institute found that Switzerland has the highest average wealth per adult at $372,692, followed by Norway, Australia and Singapore at $326,530, $320,909 and $255,488 respectively, with wealth defined by the value of financial and non-financial (such as real estate) assets. In 2005 the median household income
Median household income
The median household income is commonly used to generate data about geographic areas and divides households into two equal segments with the first half of households earning less than the median household income and the other half earning more...

 in Switzerland was an estimated 95,000 CHF
Swiss franc
The franc is the currency and legal tender of Switzerland and Liechtenstein; it is also legal tender in the Italian exclave Campione d'Italia. Although not formally legal tender in the German exclave Büsingen , it is in wide daily use there...

, the equivalent of roughly 100,000 USD (as of December 2010) in nominal terms.
Switzerland is home to several large multinational corporations. The largest Swiss companies by revenue are Glencore
Glencore
Glencore International plc is a multinational mining and commodities trading company headquartered in Baar, Switzerland and with its registered office in Saint Helier, Jersey...

, Nestlé
Nestlé
Nestlé S.A. is the world's largest food and nutrition company. Founded and headquartered in Vevey, Switzerland, Nestlé originated in a 1905 merger of the Anglo-Swiss Milk Company, established in 1867 by brothers George Page and Charles Page, and Farine Lactée Henri Nestlé, founded in 1866 by Henri...

, Novartis
Novartis
Novartis International AG is a multinational pharmaceutical company based in Basel, Switzerland, ranking number three in sales among the world-wide industry...

, Hoffmann-La Roche
Hoffmann-La Roche
F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd. is a Swiss global health-care company that operates worldwide under two divisions: Pharmaceuticals and Diagnostics. Its holding company, Roche Holding AG, has shares listed on the SIX Swiss Exchange....

, ABB and Adecco
Adecco
Adecco S.A. is a human resources company, based in Glattbrugg near Zurich, Switzerland. Adecco employs 700,000 temporary workers and contractors who are supplied to business clients, and has over 32,000 employees and 5,500 offices in 60 countries and territories around the world...

. Also notable are UBS AG
UBS AG
UBS AG is a Swiss global financial services company headquartered in Basel and Zürich, Switzerland, which provides investment banking, asset management, and wealth management services for private, corporate, and institutional clients worldwide, as well as retail clients in Switzerland...

, Zurich Financial Services
Zurich Financial Services
Zurich Financial Services AG is a major financial services group based in Zurich, Switzerland.-History:The Company was founded in 1872 as subsidiary of the Schweiz Marine Insurance Company under the name Versicherung Verein...

, Credit Suisse
Credit Suisse
The Credit Suisse Group AG is a Swiss multinational financial services company headquartered in Zurich, with more than 250 branches in Switzerland and operations in more than 50 countries.-History:...

, Swiss Re
Swiss Re
Swiss Reinsurance Company Ltd , generally known as Swiss Re, is a Swiss reinsurance company. It is the world’s second-largest reinsurer, after having acquired GE Insurance Solutions. The company has its headquarters in Zurich...

, and The Swatch Group. Switzerland is ranked as having one of the most powerful economies in the world.

Chemicals
Chemical industry
The chemical industry comprises the companies that produce industrial chemicals. Central to the modern world economy, it converts raw materials into more than 70,000 different products.-Products:...

, health and pharmaceutical, measuring instrument
Measuring instrument
In the physical sciences, quality assurance, and engineering, measurement is the activity of obtaining and comparing physical quantities of real-world objects and events. Established standard objects and events are used as units, and the process of measurement gives a number relating the item...

s, musical instrument
Musical instrument
A musical instrument is a device created or adapted for the purpose of making musical sounds. In principle, any object that produces sound can serve as a musical instrument—it is through purpose that the object becomes a musical instrument. The history of musical instruments dates back to the...

s, real estate
Real estate
In general use, esp. North American, 'real estate' is taken to mean "Property consisting of land and the buildings on it, along with its natural resources such as crops, minerals, or water; immovable property of this nature; an interest vested in this; an item of real property; buildings or...

, banking and insurance
Insurance
In law and economics, insurance is a form of risk management primarily used to hedge against the risk of a contingent, uncertain loss. Insurance is defined as the equitable transfer of the risk of a loss, from one entity to another, in exchange for payment. An insurer is a company selling the...

, tourism
Tourism
Tourism is travel for recreational, leisure or business purposes. The World Tourism Organization defines tourists as people "traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes".Tourism has become a...

, and international organisations
International organization
An intergovernmental organization, sometimes rendered as an international governmental organization and both abbreviated as IGO, is an organization composed primarily of sovereign states , or of other intergovernmental organizations...

 are important industries in Switzerland. The largest exported goods are chemicals (34% of exported goods), machines/electronics (20.9%), and precision instruments/watches (16.9%). Exported services amount to a third of exported goods.

Around 3.8 million people work in Switzerland. Switzerland has a more flexible job market than neighboring countries and the unemployment
Unemployment
Unemployment , as defined by the International Labour Organization, occurs when people are without jobs and they have actively sought work within the past four weeks...

 rate is very low. Unemployment
Unemployment
Unemployment , as defined by the International Labour Organization, occurs when people are without jobs and they have actively sought work within the past four weeks...

 rate increased from a low of 1.7% in June 2000 to a peak of 4.4%, as of December 2009. Population growth from net immigration is quite high, at 0.52% of population in 2004. Foreign citizen population is 21.8% as of 2004, about the same as in Australia. GDP per hour worked is the world's 17th highest, at 27.44 international dollars in 2006.


Switzerland has an overwhelmingly private sector economy and low tax rates by the Western World
Western world
The Western world, also known as the West and the Occident , is a term referring to the countries of Western Europe , the countries of the Americas, as well all countries of Northern and Central Europe, Australia and New Zealand...

 standards; overall taxation is one of the smallest of developed countries
Developed country
A developed country is a country that has a high level of development according to some criteria. Which criteria, and which countries are classified as being developed, is a contentious issue...

. Switzerland is an easy place to do business; Switzerland currently ranks 27th of 178 countries in the Ease of Doing Business Index
Ease of Doing Business Index
The Ease of Doing Business Index is an index created by the World Bank. Higher rankings indicate better, usually simpler, regulations for businesses and stronger protections of property rights...

. The slow growth Switzerland experienced in the 1990s and the early 2000s has brought greater support for economic reforms and harmonisation with the European Union. According to Credit Suisse
Credit Suisse
The Credit Suisse Group AG is a Swiss multinational financial services company headquartered in Zurich, with more than 250 branches in Switzerland and operations in more than 50 countries.-History:...

, only about 37% of residents own their own homes, one of the lowest rates of home ownership in Europe. Housing and food price levels were 171% and 145% of the EU-25 index in 2007, compared to 113% and 104% in Germany.

Agricultural protectionism—a rare exception to Switzerland's free trade policies—has contributed to high food prices. Product market liberalisation is lagging behind many EU countries according to the OECD. Nevertheless, domestic purchasing power
Purchasing power
Purchasing power is the number of goods/services that can be purchased with a unit of currency. For example, if you had taken one dollar to a store in the 1950s, you would have been able to buy a greater number of items than you would today, indicating that you would have had a greater purchasing...

 is one of the best in the world. Apart from agriculture, economic and trade barriers between the European Union and Switzerland are minimal and Switzerland has free trade agreements worldwide. Switzerland is a member of the European Free Trade Association
European Free Trade Association
The European Free Trade Association or EFTA is a free trade organisation between four European countries that operates parallel to, and is linked to, the European Union . EFTA was established on 3 May 1960 as a trade bloc-alternative for European states who were either unable to, or chose not to,...

 (EFTA).

Education and science


Education in Switzerland is very diverse because the constitution of Switzerland delegates the authority for the school system to the cantons. There are both public and private schools, including many private international schools. The minimum age for primary school is about six years in all cantons, but most cantons provide a free "children's school" starting at four or five years old. Primary school continues until grade four or five, depending on the school. Traditionally, the first foreign language in school was always one of the other national languages, although recently (2000) English was introduced first in a few cantons.

At the end of primary school (or at the beginning of secondary school), pupils are separated according to their capacities in several (often three) sections. The fastest learners are taught advanced classes to be prepared for further studies and the matura
Matura
Matura or a similar term is the common name for the high-school leaving exam or "maturity exam" in various countries, including Albania, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Kosovo, Liechtenstein, Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Serbia,...

, while students who assimilate a little bit more slowly receive an education more adapted to their needs.
There are 12 universities in Switzerland, ten of which are maintained at cantonal level and usually offer a range of non-technical subjects. The first university in Switzerland
University of Basel
The University of Basel is located in Basel, Switzerland, and is considered to be one of leading universities in the country...

 was founded in 1460 in Basel
Basel
Basel or Basle In the national languages of Switzerland the city is also known as Bâle , Basilea and Basilea is Switzerland's third most populous city with about 166,000 inhabitants. Located where the Swiss, French and German borders meet, Basel also has suburbs in France and Germany...

 (with a faculty of medicine) and has a tradition of chemical and medical research in Switzerland. The biggest university in Switzerland is the University of Zurich
University of Zurich
The University of Zurich , located in the city of Zurich, is the largest university in Switzerland, with over 25,000 students. It was founded in 1833 from the existing colleges of theology, law, medicine and a new faculty of philosophy....

 with nearly 25,000 students. The two institutes sponsored by the federal government are the ETHZ in Zurich
Zürich
Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland and the capital of the canton of Zurich. It is located in central Switzerland at the northwestern tip of Lake Zurich...

 (founded 1855) and the EPFL in Lausanne
Lausanne
Lausanne is a city in Romandy, the French-speaking part of Switzerland, and is the capital of the canton of Vaud. The seat of the district of Lausanne, the city is situated on the shores of Lake Geneva . It faces the French town of Évian-les-Bains, with the Jura mountains to its north-west...

 (founded 1969 as such, formerly an institute associated with the University of Lausanne) which both have an excellent international reputation.In 2008, the ETH Zurich was ranked 15th in the field Natural Sciences and Mathematics by the Shanghai Academic Ranking of World Universities
Academic Ranking of World Universities
The Academic Ranking of World Universities , commonly known as the Shanghai ranking, is a publication that was founded and compiled by the Shanghai Jiaotong University to rank universities globally. The rankings have been conducted since 2003 and updated annually...

 and the EPFL in Lausanne was ranked 18th in the field Engineering/Technology and Computer Sciences by the same ranking.


In addition there are various Universities of Applied Sciences. In business and management studies, University of St. Gallen
University of St. Gallen
The University of St. Gallen is a public research university located in St. Gallen, Switzerland. It is specialized in the fields of business administration, economics, law, and international affairs. The University of St. Gallen is also known as HSG, which is an abbreviation of its former German...

, (HSG) and International Institute for Management Development
International Institute for Management Development
IMD - International Institute for Management Development is a non profit business school located in Lausanne, Switzerland.- History & Mission :...

 (IMD) are the leaders. Switzerland has the second highest rate of foreign students in tertiary education, after Australia.

Many Nobel prize
Nobel Prize
The Nobel Prizes are annual international awards bestowed by Scandinavian committees in recognition of cultural and scientific advances. The will of the Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, established the prizes in 1895...

s were awarded to Swiss scientists, for example to the world-famous physicist Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of general relativity, effecting a revolution in physics. For this achievement, Einstein is often regarded as the father of modern physics and one of the most prolific intellects in human history...

 in the field of physics who developed his theory of relativity
Special relativity
Special relativity is the physical theory of measurement in an inertial frame of reference proposed in 1905 by Albert Einstein in the paper "On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies".It generalizes Galileo's...

 while working in Bern. More recently Vladimir Prelog
Vladimir Prelog
Vladimir Prelog FRS was a Croatian chemist and Nobel Prize winner in chemistry. Prelog lived and worked in Prague, Zagreb and Zürich during his lifetime.-Biography:...

, Heinrich Rohrer
Heinrich Rohrer
Heinrich Rohrer is a Swiss physicist who shared half of the 1986 Nobel Prize in Physics with Gerd Binnig for the design of the scanning tunneling microscope .-Biography:...

, Richard Ernst
Richard R. Ernst
Richard Robert Ernst is a Swiss physical chemist and Nobel Laureate.Born in Winterthur, Switzerland, Ernst was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1991 for his contributions towards the development of Fourier Transform nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy while at Varian Associates, Palo...

, Edmond Fischer
Edmond H. Fischer
Edmond H. Fischer is a Swiss American biochemist. He and his collaborator Edwin G. Krebs were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1992 for describing how reversible phosphorylation works as a switch to activate proteins and regulate various cellular processes.-Early life:Fischer...

, Rolf Zinkernagel and Kurt Wüthrich
Kurt Wüthrich
Kurt Wüthrich is a Swiss chemist and Nobel Chemistry laureate.-Biography:Born in Aarberg, Switzerland, Wüthrich was educated in chemistry, physics, and mathematics at the University of Berne before pursuing his Ph.D. under the direction of Silvio Fallab at the University of Basel, awarded in 1964...

 received Nobel prizes in the sciences. In total, 113 Nobel Prize winners stand in relation to Switzerland and the Nobel Peace Prize
Nobel Peace Prize
The Nobel Peace Prize is one of the five Nobel Prizes bequeathed by the Swedish industrialist and inventor Alfred Nobel.-Background:According to Nobel's will, the Peace Prize shall be awarded to the person who...

 was awarded 9 times to organisations residing in Switzerland.
Geneva
Geneva
Geneva In the national languages of Switzerland the city is known as Genf , Ginevra and Genevra is the second-most-populous city in Switzerland and is the most populous city of Romandie, the French-speaking part of Switzerland...

 and the nearby French department of Ain
Ain
Ain is a department named after the Ain River on the eastern edge of France. Being part of the region Rhône-Alpes and bordered by the rivers Saône and Rhône, the department of Ain enjoys a privileged geographic situation...

 co-host the world's largest laboratory
Laboratory
A laboratory is a facility that provides controlled conditions in which scientific research, experiments, and measurement may be performed. The title of laboratory is also used for certain other facilities where the processes or equipment used are similar to those in scientific laboratories...

, CERN
CERN
The European Organization for Nuclear Research , known as CERN , is an international organization whose purpose is to operate the world's largest particle physics laboratory, which is situated in the northwest suburbs of Geneva on the Franco–Swiss border...

, dedicated to particle physics
Particle physics
Particle physics is a branch of physics that studies the existence and interactions of particles that are the constituents of what is usually referred to as matter or radiation. In current understanding, particles are excitations of quantum fields and interact following their dynamics...

 research. Another important research center is the Paul Scherrer Institute
Paul Scherrer Institute
The Paul Scherrer Institute is a multi-disciplinary research institute which belongs to the Swiss ETH-Komplex covering also the ETH Zurich and EPFL...

. Notable inventions include lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), the scanning tunneling microscope
Scanning tunneling microscope
A scanning tunneling microscope is an instrument for imaging surfaces at the atomic level. Its development in 1981 earned its inventors, Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer , the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1986. For an STM, good resolution is considered to be 0.1 nm lateral resolution and...

 (Nobel prize) and Velcro
Velcro
Velcro is the brand name of the first commercially marketed fabric hook-and-loop fastener, invented in 1948 by the Swiss electrical engineer George de Mestral...

. Some technologies enabled the exploration of new worlds such as the pressurized balloon of Auguste Piccard
Auguste Piccard
Auguste Antoine Piccard was a Swiss physicist, inventor and explorer.-Biography:Piccard and his twin brother Jean Felix were born in Basel, Switzerland...

 and the Bathyscaphe
Bathyscaphe
A bathyscaphe is a free-diving self-propelled deep-sea submersible, consisting of a crew cabin similar to a bathysphere, but suspended below a float rather than from a surface cable, as in the classic bathysphere design....

 which permitted Jacques Piccard
Jacques Piccard
Jacques Piccard was a Swiss oceanographer and engineer, known for having developed underwater vehicles for studying ocean currents. He was one of only two people, along with Lt...

 to reach the deepest point of the world's oceans.

Switzerland Space Agency, the Swiss Space Office
Swiss Space Office
Swiss Space Office is the national space program of the Switzerland. It was roughly the 16th highest funded public space agency with a budget of about 110 million USD in the early 2000s. According to Jane's, the SSO is "the administrative unit charged with planning and implementing Swiss space...

, has been involved in various space technologies and programs. In addition it was one of the 10 founders of the European Space Agency
European Space Agency
The European Space Agency , established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organisation dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 18 member states...

 in 1975 and is the seventh largest contributor to the ESA budget. In the private sector, several companies are implicated in the space industry such as Oerlikon Space or Maxon Motors who provide spacecraft structures.

Switzerland and the European Union



Switzerland voted against membership in the European Economic Area
European Economic Area
The European Economic Area was established on 1 January 1994 following an agreement between the member states of the European Free Trade Association and the European Community, later the European Union . Specifically, it allows Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway to participate in the EU's Internal...

 in a referendum in December 1992 and has since maintained and developed its relationships with the European Union (EU) and European countries through bilateral agreements. In March 2001, the Swiss people refused in a popular vote to start accession negotiations with the EU. In recent years, the Swiss have brought their economic practices largely into conformity with those of the EU in many ways, in an effort to enhance their international competitiveness. The economy has been growing most recently at around 3% per year. Full EU membership is a long-term objective of some in the Swiss government, but there is considerable popular sentiment against this supported by the conservative SVP
Swiss People's Party
The Swiss People's Party , also known as the Democratic Union of the Centre , is a conservative political party in Switzerland. Chaired by Toni Brunner, but spearheaded by Christoph Blocher, the party is the largest party in the Federal Assembly, with 58 members of the National Council and 6 of...

 party. The western French-speaking areas and the urban regions of the rest of the country tend to be more pro-EU, however with far from any significant share of the population.

The government has established an Integration Office under the Department of Foreign Affairs
Federal Department of Foreign Affairs
The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs is a department of the federal administration of Switzerland. It is charged with maintaining the foreign relations of Switzerland and serves as Switzerland's ministry of foreign affairs...

 and the Department of Economic Affairs
Federal Department of Economic Affairs
The Federal Department of Economic Affairs is one of the seven departments of the federal government of Switzerland, headed by a member of the Swiss Federal Council.-Organisation:The Department is composed of the following offices:...

. To minimise the negative consequences of Switzerland's isolation from the rest of Europe, Bern and Brussels signed seven bilateral agreements to further liberalise trade ties. These agreements were signed in 1999 and took effect in 2001. This first series of bilateral agreements included the free movement of persons. A second series covering nine areas was signed in 2004 and has since been ratified. The second series includes the Schengen Treaty and the Dublin Convention
Dublin Convention
The Dublin Regulation is a European Union law that determines the EU Member State responsible to examine an application for asylum seekers seeking international protection under the Geneva Convention and the EU Qualification Directive, within the European Union...

. They continue to discuss further areas for cooperation.

In 2006, Switzerland approved a billion francs supportive investment in the poorer Southern and Central Europe
Central Europe
Central Europe or alternatively Middle Europe is a region of the European continent lying between the variously defined areas of Eastern and Western Europe...

an countries in support of cooperation and positive ties to the EU as a whole. A further referendum will be needed to approve 300 million francs to support Romania and Bulgaria and their recent admission. The Swiss have also been under EU and sometimes international pressure to reduce banking secrecy and to raise tax rates to parity with the EU. Preparatory discussions are being opened in four new areas: opening up the electricity market, participation in the European GNSS project Galileo
Galileo positioning system
Galileo is a global navigation satellite system currently being built by the European Union and European Space Agency . The €20 billion project is named after the famous Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei...

, cooperating with the European centre for disease prevention and recognising certificates of origin for food products.

On 27 November 2008, the interior and justice ministers of European Union in Brussels
Brussels
Brussels , officially the Brussels Region or Brussels-Capital Region , is the capital of Belgium and the de facto capital of the European Union...

 announced Switzerland's accession to the Schengen passport-free zone from 12 December 2008. The land border checkpoints will remain in place only for goods movements, but should not run controls on people, though people entering the country had their passports checked until 29 March 2009 if they originated from a Schengen nation.

Energy, infrastructure, and environment


Electricity
Electricity
Electricity is a general term encompassing a variety of phenomena resulting from the presence and flow of electric charge. These include many easily recognizable phenomena, such as lightning, static electricity, and the flow of electrical current in an electrical wire...

 generated in Switzerland is 56% from hydroelectricity
Hydroelectricity
Hydroelectricity is the term referring to electricity generated by hydropower; the production of electrical power through the use of the gravitational force of falling or flowing water. It is the most widely used form of renewable energy...

 and 39% from nuclear power
Nuclear power
Nuclear power is the use of sustained nuclear fission to generate heat and electricity. Nuclear power plants provide about 6% of the world's energy and 13–14% of the world's electricity, with the U.S., France, and Japan together accounting for about 50% of nuclear generated electricity...

, with 5% of the electricity generated from conventional power sources resulting in a nearly CO2-free electricity-generating network. On 18 May 2003, two anti-nuclear
Anti-nuclear
The anti-nuclear movement is a social movement that opposes the use of nuclear technologies. Many direct action groups, environmental groups, and professional organisations have identified themselves with the movement at the local, national, and international level...

 initiatives were turned down: Moratorium Plus, aimed at forbidding the building of new nuclear power plants (41.6% supported and 58.4% opposed), and Electricity Without Nuclear (33.7% supported and 66.3% opposed).

The former ten-year moratorium on the construction of new nuclear power plants was the result of a citizens' initiative
Initiative
In political science, an initiative is a means by which a petition signed by a certain minimum number of registered voters can force a public vote...

 voted on in 1990 which had passed with 54.5% Yes vs. 45.5% No votes. A new nuclear plant in the Canton of Bern is presently planned. The Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE) is the office responsible for all questions relating to energy supply and energy use within the Federal Department of Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications (DETEC). The agency is supporting the 2000-watt society
2000-watt society
The 2000-watt society is a vision, originated by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich at the end of 1998, in which each person in the developed world would cut their over-all rate of energy use to an average of no more than 2,000 watts The 2000-watt society (2,000-Watt Society) is a...

 initiative to cut the nation's energy use by more than half by the year 2050.

On 25 May 2011 the Swiss government announced that it plans to end its use of nuclear energy in the next 2 or 3 decades. "The government has voted for a phaseout because we want to ensure a secure and autonomous supply of energy," Energy Minister Doris Leuthard said that day at a press conference in Bern. "Fukushima showed that the risk of nuclear power is too high, which in turn has also increased the costs of this energy form." The first reactor would reportedly be taken offline in 2019 and the last one in 2034. Parliament will discuss the plan in June 2011, and there could be a referendum as well.
The most dense rail network in Europe of 5063 km (3,146 mi) carries over 350 million passengers annually. In 2007, each Swiss citizen travelled on average 2103 km (1,306.7 mi) by rail, which makes them the keenest rail users. The network is administered mainly by the Federal Railways
SBB-CFF-FFS
Swiss Federal Railways and SFR are not in official use) is the national railway company of Switzerland headquartered in Bern. Formerly a government institution, it is since 1999 a special stock corporation with all shares held by the Swiss Confederation or the Swiss cantons...

, except in Graubünden, where the 366 km (227.4 mi) narrow gauge railway
Narrow gauge
A narrow gauge railway is a railway that has a track gauge narrower than the of standard gauge railways. Most existing narrow gauge railways have gauges of between and .- Overview :...

 is operated by the Rhaetian Railways and includes some World Heritage lines. The building of new railway base tunnels through the Alps is under way to reduce the time of travel between north and south through the AlpTransit
AlpTransit
AlpTransit, also known as New Railway Link through the Alps NRLA , is a Swiss federal project aimed to build faster north-south rail links across the Swiss Alps by constructing base tunnels several hundred metres below the level of the current tunnels...

 project.

Swiss private-public managed road network is funded by road toll
Road toll
Road toll is the term used in some countries for the number of deaths caused annually by road accidents.The term is in common and official use in Australia and New Zealand.-Australia:In Australia the road toll is reported at a state level...

s and vehicle taxes. The Swiss autobahn/autoroute system requires the purchase of a vignette
Vignette (road tax)
A road tax vignette is a form of tax on vehicles, used in several non-English speaking European countries. The term is of French origin, and is now used throughout Central Europe....

 (toll sticker)—which costs 40 Swiss franc
Swiss franc
The franc is the currency and legal tender of Switzerland and Liechtenstein; it is also legal tender in the Italian exclave Campione d'Italia. Although not formally legal tender in the German exclave Büsingen , it is in wide daily use there...

s—for one calendar year in order to use its roadways, for both passenger cars and trucks. The Swiss autobahn/autoroute network has a total length of 1638 km (1,017.8 mi) (as of 2000) and has, by an area of 41290 km² (15,942.2 sq mi), also one of the highest motorway densities in the world. Zurich Airport is Switzerland's largest international flight gateway, which handled 22.8 million passengers in 2010. The other international airports are Geneva Airport (11.8 million passengers), EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg
EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg
EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg is an international airport northwest of Basel , southeast of Mulhouse , and south of Freiburg . It is located in France, on the administrative territory of the commune of Saint-Louis near the Swiss and German borders...

 which is located in France, Bern Airport
Bern Airport
Bern-Belp Airport is an airport serving Bern in Switzerland. The airport is within the town limits of Belp, and it is often known simply as Belp Airport....

, Lugano Airport
Lugano Airport
Lugano Airport is a regional airport located west of Lugano, Switzerland. It lies closer to the nearby village of Agno than to Lugano itself, and so is usually known as Lugano-Agno....

, St. Gallen-Altenrhein Airport
St. Gallen-Altenrhein Airport
St. Gallen-Altenrhein Airport is an airport at Altenrhein in the Canton of St. Gallen, Switzerland .-Airlines and destinations:-External links:*http://www.peoples.ch/...

 and Sion Airport
Sion Airport
Sion Airport is the airport of the city of Sion in Switzerland and is located 2.5 km SW of Sion city in the Rhone Valley-Airlines and destinations:...

.

Switzerland has one of the best environmental records among nations in the developed world; it was one of the countries to sign the Kyoto Protocol
Kyoto Protocol
The Kyoto Protocol is a protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change , aimed at fighting global warming...

 in 1998 and ratified it in 2003. With Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

 and the Republic of Korea it forms the Environmental Integrity Group (EIG). The country is heavily active in recycling and anti-littering regulations and is one of the top recyclers in the world, with 66% to 96% of recyclable materials being recycled, depending on the area of the country.

In many places in Switzerland, household garbage disposal is charged for. Garbage (except dangerous items, batteries etc.) is only collected if it is in bags which either have a payment sticker attached, or in official bags with the surcharge paid at the time of purchase. This gives a financial incentive to recycle as much as possible, since recycling is free. Illegal disposal of garbage is not tolerated but usually the enforcement of such laws is limited to violations that involve the unlawful disposal of larger volumes at traffic intersections and public areas. Fines for not paying the disposal fee range from CHF 200–500.

Switzerland also has internationally the most efficient system to recycle old newspapers and cardboard materials. Publicly organized collection by volunteers and economical railway transport logistics started as early as 1865 under the leadership of the notable industrialist Hans Caspar Escher (Escher Wyss AG) when the first modern Swiss paper
Paper
Paper is a thin material mainly used for writing upon, printing upon, drawing or for packaging. It is produced by pressing together moist fibers, typically cellulose pulp derived from wood, rags or grasses, and drying them into flexible sheets....

 manufacturing plant was built in Biberist
Biberist
Biberist is a municipality in the district of Wasseramt in the canton of Solothurn in Switzerland.-History:Biberist is first mentioned in 762 as als Biberussa. In 1300 Ober- and Unterbiberist were mentioned as ze beiden Biberschon....

.

Demographics


Switzerland lies at the crossroads of several major European cultures that have heavily influenced the country's languages and culture. Switzerland has four official language
Official language
An official language is a language that is given a special legal status in a particular country, state, or other jurisdiction. Typically a nation's official language will be the one used in that nation's courts, parliament and administration. However, official status can also be used to give a...

s: German (63.7% total population share, with foreign residents; 72.5% of residents with Swiss citizenship
Swiss nationality law
Swiss citizenship is the status of being a citizen of Switzerland and it can be obtained by birth, marriage or naturalisation.The Swiss Citizenship Law is based on the following principles:...

, in 2000) in the north, east and centre of the country; French (20.4%; 21.0%) to the west; Italian (6.5%; 4.3%) in the south. Romansh (0.5%; 0.6%), a Romance language
Romance languages
The Romance languages are a branch of the Indo-European language family, more precisely of the Italic languages subfamily, comprising all the languages that descend from Vulgar Latin, the language of ancient Rome...

 spoken locally in the southeastern trilingual canton of Graubünden
Graubünden
Graubünden or Grisons is the largest and easternmost canton of Switzerland. The canton shares borders with the cantons of Ticino, Uri, Glarus and St. Gallen and international borders with Italy, Austria and Liechtenstein...

, is designated by the Federal Constitution as a national language along with German, French and Italian (Article 4 of the Constitution), and as official language if the authorities communicate with persons of Romansh language (Article 70), but federal laws and other official acts do not need to be decreed in this language. The federal government is obliged to communicate in the official languages, and in the federal parliament simultaneous translation is provided from and into German, French and Italian.

The German spoken in Switzerland is predominantly a group of Alemannic dialects collectively known as Swiss German, but written communication typically use Swiss Standard German
Swiss Standard German
Swiss Standard German, referred to by the Swiss as Schriftdeutsch, or Hochdeutsch, is one of four official languages in Switzerland, besides French, Italian and Romansh...

, whilst the majority of radio and TV broadcast is now in Swiss German as well. Similarly, there are some dialects of Franco-Provençal
Franco-Provençal language
Franco-Provençal , Arpitan, or Romand is a Romance language with several distinct dialects that form a linguistic sub-group separate from Langue d'Oïl and Langue d'Oc. The name Franco-Provençal was given to the language by G.I...

 in rural communities in the French speaking part, known as "Suisse romande", called Vaudois, Gruérien, Jurassien, Empro, Fribourgeois, Neuchâtelois, and in the Italian speaking area, Ticinese
Ticinese
Ticinese is a comprehensive denomination for the varieties of Lombard language spoken in Canton Ticino and in the north of the Province of Varese....

 (a dialect of Lombard). Moreover, the official languages (German, French and Italian) borrow some terms not understood outside of Switzerland, i.e. terms from other languages (German Billette from French), from similar term in another language (Italian azione used not as act but as discount from German Aktion). Learning one of the other national languages at school is obligatory for all Swiss, so many Swiss are supposed to be at least bilingual
Multilingualism
Multilingualism is the act of using, or promoting the use of, multiple languages, either by an individual speaker or by a community of speakers. Multilingual speakers outnumber monolingual speakers in the world's population. Multilingualism is becoming a social phenomenon governed by the needs of...

, especially those belonging to minorities.

Resident foreigners and temporary foreign workers make up about 22% of the population. Most of these (60%) are from European Union or EFTA
European Free Trade Association
The European Free Trade Association or EFTA is a free trade organisation between four European countries that operates parallel to, and is linked to, the European Union . EFTA was established on 3 May 1960 as a trade bloc-alternative for European states who were either unable to, or chose not to,...

 countries. Italians are the largest single group of foreigners with 17.3% of total foreign population. They are followed by Germans
Germans
The Germans are a Germanic ethnic group native to Central Europe. The English term Germans has referred to the German-speaking population of the Holy Roman Empire since the Late Middle Ages....

 (13.2%), immigrants from Serbia
Serbia
Serbia , officially the Republic of Serbia , is a landlocked country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe, covering the southern part of the Carpathian basin and the central part of the Balkans...

 and Montenegro
Montenegro
Montenegro Montenegrin: Crna Gora Црна Гора , meaning "Black Mountain") is a country located in Southeastern Europe. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea to the south-west and is bordered by Croatia to the west, Bosnia and Herzegovina to the northwest, Serbia to the northeast and Albania to the...

 (11.5%) as well as Portugal (11.3%). Immigrants from Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

, most of them former Tamil refugees, are the largest group among people of Asian origin. In the 2000s, domestic and international institutions have expressed concern about what they perceive as an increase of xenophobia
Xenophobia
Xenophobia is defined as "an unreasonable fear of foreigners or strangers or of that which is foreign or strange". It comes from the Greek words ξένος , meaning "stranger," "foreigner" and φόβος , meaning "fear."...

, particularly in some political campaignings. However, the high proportion of foreign citizens in the country, as well as the generally unproblematic integration of foreigners, underlines Switzerland's openness.

Health



Swiss citizens are required to buy universal health insurance from private insurance companies, which in turn are required to accept every applicant. This system permits access to a broad range of modern medical services. The healthcare system compares well with other European countries and patients are largely satisfied with it. In 2006 life expectancy at birth was 79 years for men and 84 years for women. It is among the highest in the world. However, spending on health is particularly high, with 11.5% of GDP
Gross domestic product
Gross domestic product refers to the market value of all final goods and services produced within a country in a given period. GDP per capita is often considered an indicator of a country's standard of living....

 (2003) and, from 1990, a steady increase is observed, reflecting the high prices of the services provided. With aging populations and new healthcare technologies, health spending will likely continue to rise.

Urbanization


Between two thirds and three quarters of the population live in urban areas. Switzerland has gone from a largely rural country to an urban one in just 70 years. Since 1935 urban development has claimed as much of the Swiss landscape as it did during the previous 2,000 years. This urban sprawl
Urban sprawl
Urban sprawl, also known as suburban sprawl, is a multifaceted concept, which includes the spreading outwards of a city and its suburbs to its outskirts to low-density and auto-dependent development on rural land, high segregation of uses Urban sprawl, also known as suburban sprawl, is a...

 does not only affect the plateau but also the Jura and the Alpine foothills and there are growing concerns about land use. However from the beginning of the 21st century, the population growth in urban areas is higher than in the countryside, Greater Metropolitan Zurich having the greatest population of nearly 2 million people.

Switzerland has a dense network of cities, where large, medium and small cities are complementary. The plateau
Swiss plateau
The Swiss Plateau or Central Plateau constitutes one of the three major landscapes in Switzerland alongside the Jura mountains and the Swiss Alps. It covers about 30% of the Swiss surface...

 is very densely populated with about 450 people per km2 and the landscape continually shows signs of man's presence. The weight of the largest metropolitan areas, which are Zurich
Zürich
Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland and the capital of the canton of Zurich. It is located in central Switzerland at the northwestern tip of Lake Zurich...

, Geneva
Geneva
Geneva In the national languages of Switzerland the city is known as Genf , Ginevra and Genevra is the second-most-populous city in Switzerland and is the most populous city of Romandie, the French-speaking part of Switzerland...

Lausanne
Lausanne
Lausanne is a city in Romandy, the French-speaking part of Switzerland, and is the capital of the canton of Vaud. The seat of the district of Lausanne, the city is situated on the shores of Lake Geneva . It faces the French town of Évian-les-Bains, with the Jura mountains to its north-west...

, Basel
Basel
Basel or Basle In the national languages of Switzerland the city is also known as Bâle , Basilea and Basilea is Switzerland's third most populous city with about 166,000 inhabitants. Located where the Swiss, French and German borders meet, Basel also has suburbs in France and Germany...

 and Bern tend to increase. In international comparison the importance of these urban areas is stronger than their number of inhabitants suggests. In addition the two main centers of Zurich and Geneva are recognized for their particular great quality of life.

Religion


Switzerland has no official state religion
State religion
A state religion is a religious body or creed officially endorsed by the state...

, though most of the cantons
Cantons of Switzerland
The 26 cantons of Switzerland are the member states of the federal state of Switzerland. Each canton was a fully sovereign state with its own borders, army and currency from the Treaty of Westphalia until the establishment of the Swiss federal state in 1848...

 (except Geneva
Canton of Geneva
The Republic and Canton of Geneva is the French speaking westernmost canton or state of Switzerland, surrounded on almost all sides by France. As is the case in several other Swiss cantons The Republic and Canton of Geneva is the French speaking westernmost canton or state of Switzerland,...

 and Neuchâtel
Canton of Neuchâtel
Neuchâtel is a canton of French speaking western Switzerland. In 2007, its population was 169,782 of which 39,654 were foreigners. The capital is Neuchâtel.-History:...

) recognize official churches, which are either the Catholic Church or the Swiss Reformed Church
Swiss Reformed Church
The Reformed branch of Protestantism in Switzerland was started in Zürich by Huldrych Zwingli and spread within a few years to Basel , Bern , St...

. These churches, and in some cantons also the Old Catholic Church
Old Catholic Church
The term Old Catholic Church is commonly used to describe a number of Ultrajectine Christian churches that originated with groups that split from the Roman Catholic Church over certain doctrines, most importantly that of Papal Infallibility...

 and Jewish congregations, are financed by official taxation of adherents.
Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 is the predominant religion of Switzerland, divided between the Catholic Church (41.8% of the population) and various Protestant denominations (35.3%). Immigration
Immigration to Switzerland
There has been significant immigration to Switzerland since the 1980s.By contrast, during the 19th century, emigration from Switzerland was more common, as Switzerland was economically a poor country where a large fraction of population survived on subsistence farming.As of 2008, 30.6% of Swiss...

 has brought Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

 (4.26%) and Eastern Orthodoxy (1.8%) as sizeable minority religions.
Other Christian minority communities include Neo-Pietism
Pietism
Pietism was a movement within Lutheranism, lasting from the late 17th century to the mid-18th century and later. It proved to be very influential throughout Protestantism and Anabaptism, inspiring not only Anglican priest John Wesley to begin the Methodist movement, but also Alexander Mack to...

 (0.44%), Pentecostalism
Pentecostalism
Pentecostalism is a diverse and complex movement within Christianity that places special emphasis on a direct personal experience of God through the baptism in the Holy Spirit, has an eschatological focus, and is an experiential religion. The term Pentecostal is derived from Pentecost, the Greek...

 (0.28%, mostly incorporated in the Schweizer Pfingstmission
Schweizer Pfingstmission
The Swiss Pentecostal Mission is an umbrella organization of Pentecostal congregations in Switzerland and the Swiss affiliate of the Assemblies of God, the largest Pentecostal denomination in the world....

), Methodism
Methodism
Methodism is a movement of Protestant Christianity represented by a number of denominations and organizations, claiming a total of approximately seventy million adherents worldwide. The movement traces its roots to John Wesley's evangelistic revival movement within Anglicanism. His younger brother...

 (0.13%), the New Apostolic Church
New Apostolic Church
The New Apostolic Church is a chiliastic church, converted to Protestantism as a free church from the Catholic Apostolic Church. The church has existed since 1879 in Germany and since 1897 in the Netherlands...

 (0.45%), Jehovah's Witnesses
Jehovah's Witnesses
Jehovah's Witnesses is a millenarian restorationist Christian denomination with nontrinitarian beliefs distinct from mainstream Christianity. The religion reports worldwide membership of over 7 million adherents involved in evangelism, convention attendance of over 12 million, and annual...

 (0.28%), other Protestant denominations (0.20%), the Old Catholic Church
Old Catholic Church
The term Old Catholic Church is commonly used to describe a number of Ultrajectine Christian churches that originated with groups that split from the Roman Catholic Church over certain doctrines, most importantly that of Papal Infallibility...

 (0.18%), other Christian denominations (0.20%).
Minor non-Christian minority groups are Hinduism
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

 (0.38%), Buddhism
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

 (0.29%), Judaism
Judaism
Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

 (0.25%) and "other religions" (0.11%). 4.3% did not make a statement. The 2005 Eurobarometer poll found 48% to be theist
Theism
Theism, in the broadest sense, is the belief that at least one deity exists.In a more specific sense, theism refers to a doctrine concerning the nature of a monotheistic God and God's relationship to the universe....

, 39% expressing belief in "a spirit or life force", 9% atheist
Atheism
Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities...

 and 4% agnostic
Agnosticism
Agnosticism is the view that the truth value of certain claims—especially claims about the existence or non-existence of any deity, but also other religious and metaphysical claims—is unknown or unknowable....

. Greeley (2003) found that 27% of the population does not believe in a God.

The country is historically about evenly balanced between Catholic and Protestant, with a complex patchwork of majorities over most of the country. One canton, Appenzell, was officially divided into Catholic and Protestant sections in 1597. The larger cities (Bern, Geneva, Zurich and Basel) are predominantly Protestant. Central Switzerland
Central Switzerland
Central Switzerland is the region of the Alpine foothills geographically the heart and historically the origin of Switzerland, with the cantons of Uri, Schwyz, Obwalden, Nidwalden, Lucerne and Zug....

, as well as Ticino, is traditionally Catholic. The Swiss Constitution of 1848, under the recent impression of the clashes of Catholic vs. Protestant cantons that culminated in the Sonderbundskrieg, consciously defines a consociational state, allowing the peaceful co-existence of Catholics and Protestants. A 1980 initiative calling for the complete separation of church and state
Separation of church and state
The concept of the separation of church and state refers to the distance in the relationship between organized religion and the nation state....

 was rejected by 78.9% of the voters.

Culture


Three of Europe's major languages are official in Switzerland. Swiss culture is characterised by diversity, which is reflected in a wide range of traditional customs. A region may be in some ways strongly culturally connected to the neighbouring country that shares its language, the country itself being rooted in western European culture
Culture of Europe
The culture of Europe might better be described as a series of overlapping cultures. Whether it is a question of North as opposed to South; West as opposed to East; Orthodoxism as opposed to Protestantism as opposed to Catholicism as opposed to Secularism; many have claimed to identify cultural...

. The linguistically isolated Romansh culture in Graubünden
Graubünden
Graubünden or Grisons is the largest and easternmost canton of Switzerland. The canton shares borders with the cantons of Ticino, Uri, Glarus and St. Gallen and international borders with Italy, Austria and Liechtenstein...

 in eastern Switzerland constitutes an exception, it survives only in the upper valleys of the Rhine and the Inn and strives to maintain its rare linguistic tradition.

Switzerland is home to many notable contributors to literature, art, architecture, music and sciences. In addition the country attracted a number of creative persons during time of unrest or war in Europe.
Some 1000 museums are distributed through the country; the number has more than tripled since 1950. Among the most important cultural performances held annually are the Lucerne Festival
Lucerne Festival
- History :The festival was founded in 1938 with a series of concerts in the gardens of Wagner's villa conducted by Arturo Toscanini, who had formed an orchestra with members of different orchestras and soloists for the concert...

, the Montreux Jazz Festival
Montreux Jazz Festival
The Montreux Jazz Festival is the best-known music festival in Switzerland and one of the most prestigious in Europe; it is held annually in early July in Montreux on the shores of Lake Geneva...

 and the Locarno International Film Festival
Locarno International Film Festival
The Film Festival Locarno is an international film festival held annually in the city of Locarno, Switzerland since 1946. After Cannes and Venice and together with Karlovy Vary, Locarno is the Film Festival with the longest history...

.

Alpine symbolism has played an essential role in shaping the history of the country and the Swiss national identity. Nowadays some concentrated mountain areas have a strong highly energetic ski resort
Ski resort
A ski resort is a resort developed for skiing and other winter sports. In Europe a ski resort is a town or village in a ski area - a mountainous area, where there are ski trails and supporting services such as hotels and other accommodation, restaurants, equipment rental and a ski lift system...

 culture in winter, and a hiking
Hiking
Hiking is an outdoor activity which consists of walking in natural environments, often in mountainous or other scenic terrain. People often hike on hiking trails. It is such a popular activity that there are numerous hiking organizations worldwide. The health benefits of different types of hiking...

 (wandering) or Mountain biking
Mountain biking
Mountain biking is a sport which consists of riding bicycles off-road, often over rough terrain, using specially adapted mountain bikes. Mountain bikes share similarities with other bikes, but incorporate features designed to enhance durability and performance in rough terrain.Mountain biking can...

 culture in summer. Other areas throughout the year have a recreational culture that caters to tourism, yet the quieter seasons are spring and autumn when there are fewer visitors. A traditional farmer and herder culture also predominates in many areas and small farms are omnipresent outside the cities. Folk art is kept alive in organisations all over the country. In Switzerland it is mostly expressed in music, dance, poetry, wood carving and embroidery. The alphorn
Alphorn
The alphorn or alpenhorn or alpine horn is a labrophone, consisting of a natural wooden horn of conical bore, having a wooden cup-shaped mouthpiece, used by mountain dwellers in Switzerland and elsewhere...

, a trumpet-like musical instrument made of wood, has become alongside yodeling and the accordion an epitome of traditional Swiss music
Music of Switzerland
Switzerland has long had a distinct cultural identity, despite its diversity of German, French, Italian, Romansh and other ethnicities. Religious and folk music dominated the country until the 17th century, with growth in production of other kinds of music occurring slowly.-Classical music:One of...

.

Literature


As the Confederation, from its foundation in 1291, was almost exclusively composed of German-speaking regions, the earliest forms of literature are in German. In the 18th century French became the fashionable language in Bern and elsewhere, while the influence of the French-speaking allies and subject lands was more marked than before.

Among the classics of Swiss German literature are Jeremias Gotthelf
Jeremias Gotthelf
Albert Bitzius , Swiss novelist, best known by his pen name of Jeremias Gotthelf, was born at Murten, where his father was pastor.In 1804 the home was moved to Utzenstorf, a village in the Bernese Emmental...

 (1797–1854) and Gottfried Keller
Gottfried Keller
Gottfried Keller , a Swiss writer of German-language literature, was best known for his novel Green Henry .- Life and work :...

 (1819–1890). The undisputed giants of 20th century Swiss literature are Max Frisch
Max Frisch
Max Rudolf Frisch was a Swiss playwright and novelist, regarded as highly representative of German-language literature after World War II. In his creative works Frisch paid particular attention to issues relating to problems of human identity, individuality, responsibility, morality and political...

 (1911–91) and Friedrich Dürrenmatt
Friedrich Dürrenmatt
Friedrich Dürrenmatt was a Swiss author and dramatist. He was a proponent of epic theatre whose plays reflected the recent experiences of World War II. The politically active author's work included avant-garde dramas, philosophically deep crime novels, and often macabre satire...

 (1921–90), whose repertoire includes Die Physiker (The Physicists) and Das Versprechen (The Pledge), released in 2001 as a Hollywood film.

Prominent French-speaking writers were Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a Genevan philosopher, writer, and composer of 18th-century Romanticism. His political philosophy influenced the French Revolution as well as the overall development of modern political, sociological and educational thought.His novel Émile: or, On Education is a treatise...

 (1712–1778) and Germaine de Staël (1766–1817). More recent authors include Charles Ferdinand Ramuz
Charles Ferdinand Ramuz
Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz was a French-speaking Swiss writer.He was born in Lausanne in the canton of Vaud and educated at the University of Lausanne. He taught briefly in nearby Aubonne, and then in Weimar, Germany. In 1903, he left for Paris and remained there until World War I, with frequent...

 (1878–1947), whose novels describe the lives of peasants and mountain dwellers, set in a harsh environment and Blaise Cendrars
Blaise Cendrars
Frédéric Louis Sauser , better known as Blaise Cendrars, was a Swiss novelist and poet naturalized French in 1916. He was a writer of considerable influence in the modernist movement.-Early years:...

 (born Frédéric Sauser, 1887–1961). Also Italian and Romansh-speaking authors contributed but in more modest way given their small number.

The probably most famous Swiss literary creation, Heidi
Heidi
Heidi is a Swiss work of fiction, published in two parts as Heidi's years of learning and travel and Heidi makes use of what she has learned.It is a novel about the events in the life of a young girl in her grandfather's care, in the Swiss Alps...

, the story of an orphan girl who lives with her grandfather in the Alps, was one of the most popular children's books ever and has come to be a symbol of Switzerland. Her creator, Johanna Spyri
Johanna Spyri
Johanna Spyri was an author of children's stories, and is best known for her book Heidi. Born Johanna Louise Heusser in the rural area of Hirzel, Switzerland, as a child she spent several summers in the area around Chur in Graubünden, the setting she later would use in her novels.-Biography:In...

 (1827–1901), wrote a number of other books around similar themes.

Media



The freedom of the press and the right to free expression is guaranteed in the federal constitution of Switzerland. The Swiss News Agency
Schweizerische Depeschenagentur
Schweizerische Depeschenagentur AG is the national press agency of Switzerland, founded in 1894. The SDA is a non-profit organization, but is owned privately....

 (SNA) broadcasts information around-the-clock in three of the four national languages—on politics, economics, society and culture. The SNA supplies almost all Swiss media and a couple dozen foreign media services with its news.

Switzerland has historically boasted the greatest number of newspaper titles published in proportion to its population and size. The most influential newspapers are the German-language Tages-Anzeiger
Tages-Anzeiger
Tages-Anzeiger, also abbreviated Tagi or TA, is a German language Swiss national daily newspaper based in Zurich. Among newspapers in Switzerland, it has one of the largest readerships, reaching around 550,000 readers. The Tages-Anzeiger was first published in 1893...

 and Neue Zürcher Zeitung
Neue Zürcher Zeitung
The Neue Zürcher Zeitung is a major German language Swiss daily newspaper based in Zurich.One of the oldest newspapers still published, it originally appeared as Zürcher Zeitung, edited by Salomon Gessner, from January 12, 1780, and was renamed to Neue Zürcher Zeitung in 1821...

 NZZ, and the French-language Le Temps
Le Temps
Founded in 1998, Le Temps is a Swiss newspaper edited in French. Le Temps consists of a daily newspaper , several supplements , thematic special editions, a performing website and digital applications.Le Temps is the...

, but almost every city has at least one local newspaper. The cultural diversity accounts for a large number of newspapers.

In contrast to the print media, the broadcast media has always been under greater control of the government. The Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, whose name was recently changed to SRG SSR idée suisse
SRG SSR idée suisse
SRG SSR is the Swiss public broadcasting organisation, founded in 1931 as SRG-SSR. Headquartered in Bern, SRG SSR is a non-profit organisation, funded mainly through radio and television licence fees and making the remaining income from advertising and sponsorship.Switzerland's system of direct...

, is charged with the production and broadcast of radio and television programs. SRG SSR studios are distributed throughout the various language regions. Radio content is produced in six central and four regional studios while the television programs are produced in Geneva
Geneva
Geneva In the national languages of Switzerland the city is known as Genf , Ginevra and Genevra is the second-most-populous city in Switzerland and is the most populous city of Romandie, the French-speaking part of Switzerland...

, Zurich
Zürich
Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland and the capital of the canton of Zurich. It is located in central Switzerland at the northwestern tip of Lake Zurich...

 and Lugano
Lugano
Lugano is a city of inhabitants in the city proper and a total of over 145,000 people in the agglomeration/city region, in the south of Switzerland, in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino, which borders Italy...

. An extensive cable network also allows most Swiss to access the programs from neighboring countries.

Sports


Skiing
Skiing
Skiing is a recreational activity using skis as equipment for traveling over snow. Skis are used in conjunction with boots that connect to the ski with use of a binding....

, snowboarding
Snowboarding
Snowboarding is a sport that involves descending a slope that is covered with snow on a snowboard attached to a rider's feet using a special boot set onto mounted binding. The development of snowboarding was inspired by skateboarding, sledding, surfing and skiing. It was developed in the U.S.A...

 and mountaineering
Mountaineering
Mountaineering or mountain climbing is the sport, hobby or profession of hiking, skiing, and climbing mountains. While mountaineering began as attempts to reach the highest point of unclimbed mountains it has branched into specialisations that address different aspects of the mountain and consists...

 are among the most popular sports in Switzerland, the nature of the country being particularly suited for such activities. Winter sports are practiced by the natives and tourists since the second half of the 19th century with the invention of bobsleigh
Bobsleigh
Bobsleigh or bobsled is a winter sport in which teams of two or four make timed runs down narrow, twisting, banked, iced tracks in a gravity-powered sled that are combined to calculate the final score....

 in St. Moritz
St. Moritz
St. Moritz is a resort town in the Engadine valley in Switzerland. It is a municipality in the district of Maloja in the Swiss canton of Graubünden...

. The first world ski championships were held in Mürren
Mürren
Mürren is a traditional Walser mountain village in Bernese Oberland, Switzerland, at an elevation of 1,650 m above sea level and unreachable by public road....

 (1931) and St. Moritz (1934). The latter town hosted the second Winter Olympic Games
Winter Olympic Games
The Winter Olympic Games is a sporting event, which occurs every four years. The first celebration of the Winter Olympics was held in Chamonix, France, in 1924. The original sports were alpine and cross-country skiing, figure skating, ice hockey, Nordic combined, ski jumping and speed skating...

 in 1928 and the fifth edition in 1948. Among the most successful skiers and world champions are Pirmin Zurbriggen
Pirmin Zurbriggen
Pirmin Zurbriggen is a former champion alpine ski racer. He won the overall World Cup title four times, an Olympic gold medal in 1988 in Downhill, and 9 World Championships medals ....

 and Didier Cuche
Didier Cuche
Didier Cuche is a Swiss alpine ski racer. He primarily competes in the speed disciplines of downhill and Super-G, along with the technical discipline of giant slalom...

.


Many Swiss are fans of football and the national team or 'Nati
Switzerland national football team
The Swiss national football team is the national football team of Switzerland...

' is widely supported. Switzerland was the joint host, with Austria, of the Euro 2008 tournament. Many Swiss also follow ice hockey
Ice hockey
Ice hockey, often referred to as hockey, is a team sport played on ice, in which skaters use wooden or composite sticks to shoot a hard rubber puck into their opponent's net. The game is played between two teams of six players each. Five members of each team skate up and down the ice trying to take...

 and support one of the 12 clubs in the League A. In April 2009, Switzerland hosted the 2009 IIHF World Championship
2009 IIHF World Championship
The 2009 IIHF World Championship took place in Switzerland from 24 April to 10 May. The games were played in the PostFinance Arena in Bern and Schluefweg in Kloten....

 for the 10th time. The National League A is the most attended league in Europe. The numerous lakes make Switzerland an attractive place for sailing. The largest, Lake Geneva
Lake Geneva
Lake Geneva or Lake Léman is a lake in Switzerland and France. It is one of the largest lakes in Western Europe. 59.53 % of it comes under the jurisdiction of Switzerland , and 40.47 % under France...

, is the home of the sailing team Alinghi
Alinghi
Alinghi is the syndicate set up by Ernesto Bertarelli, racing under the colors of the Société Nautique de Genève, to challenge for the America's Cup. Bertarelli had raced several smaller yachts named Alinghi previously, but 2003 was his first attempt at the America's Cup...

 which was the first European team to win the America's Cup
America's Cup
The America’s Cup is a trophy awarded to the winner of the America's Cup match races between two yachts. One yacht, known as the defender, represents the yacht club that currently holds the America's Cup and the second yacht, known as the challenger, represents the yacht club that is challenging...

 in 2003 and which successfully defended the title in 2007. Tennis has become an increasingly popular sport, and Swiss players such as Martina Hingis
Martina Hingis
Martina Hingis is a retired Swiss professional tennis player who spent a total of 209 weeks as World No. 1. She won five Grand Slam singles titles...

 and Roger Federer
Roger Federer
Roger Federer is a Swiss professional tennis player who held the ATP no. 1 position for a record 237 consecutive weeks, and 285 weeks overall. As of 28 November 2011, he is ranked World No. 3 by the Association of Tennis Professionals . Federer has won a men's record 16 Grand Slam singles titles...

 have won multiple Grand Slams
Grand Slam (tennis)
The four Major tennis tournaments, also called the Slams, are the most important tennis events of the year in terms of world tour ranking points, tradition, prize-money awarded, strength and size of player field, and public attention. They are the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon, and...

.
Motorsport
Motorsport
Motorsport or motorsports is the group of sports which primarily involve the use of motorized vehicles, whether for racing or non-racing competition...

 racecourses and events were banned in Switzerland following the 1955 Le Mans disaster
1955 Le Mans disaster
The 1955 Le Mans disaster occurred during the 1955 24 Hours of Le Mans motor race, when a crash caused large parts of racing car debris to fly into the crowd. The driver was killed, as were 83 spectators. A further 120 people were injured...

 with exception to events such as Hillclimbing
Hillclimbing
Hillclimbing is a branch of motorsport in which drivers compete against the clock to complete an uphill course....

. However, this ban was overturned in June 2007. During this period, the country still produced successful racing drivers such as Clay Regazzoni
Clay Regazzoni
Gianclaudio Giuseppe "Clay" Regazzoni was a Swiss racing car driver. He competed in Formula One races from 1970 to 1980, winning five Grands Prix. His first win was the Italian Grand Prix at Monza in his debut season, driving for Ferrari. He remained with the Italian team until...

, Sebastian Buemi, Jo Siffert
Jo Siffert
Joseph Siffert was a Swiss racing driver.Affectionately known as "Seppi" to his family and close friends, Siffert was born in Fribourg, Switzerland, the son of a dairy owner...

 and successful World Touring Car Championship
World Touring Car Championship
For the video game, known as World Touring Car Championship in Japan, see TOCA World Touring CarsThe FIA World Touring Car Championship is an international Touring Car championship sanctioned by the FIA.-History:...

 driver Alain Menu
Alain Menu
Alain Menu is a Swiss racing driver. He was one of the most successful touring car drivers of the 1990s, winning the prestigious British Touring Car Championship twice . He currently races for Chevrolet in the World Touring Car Championship.- BTCC :He is the son of a farmer...

. Switzerland
A1 Team Switzerland
A1 Team Switzerland is the Swiss team of A1 Grand Prix, an international racing series. The team were the A1 Grand Prix champions for the third season, 2007-08.-History:...

 also won the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport
A1 Grand Prix
A1 Grand Prix was a 'single make' open-wheel auto racing series. It was unique in its field in that competitors solely represented their nation as opposed to themselves or a team, the usual format in most formula racing series. As such, it was often promoted as the "World Cup of Motorsport"...

 in 2007–08
2007-08 A1 Grand Prix season
The 2007-08 A1 Grand Prix season was the third in the relatively short history of the championship.- Teams :All teams used same A1 Grand Prix car including chassis , engine and tyre...

 with driver Neel Jani
Neel Jani
Neel Jani is a Swiss race car driver of Indian origin. He has achieved his greatest success driving for A1 Team Switzerland in A1 Grand Prix, helping them win the 2007-2008 title and finishing runner-up in 2005-06 and 2008-09. He has been also a GP2 Series race-winner and Formula One tester...

. Swiss motorcycle racer Thomas Lüthi
Thomas Lüthi
Thomas Lüthi is a professional motorcycle road racer currently competing in the Moto2 Grand Prix World Championship for the Czech Emmi - Caffè Latte Aprilia run by Swiss Daniel Epp....

 won the 2005 MotoGP World Championship in the 125cc category.

Traditional sports include Swiss wrestling or "Schwingen
Schwingen
' , also known as Swiss wrestling and natively as , is a style of folk wrestling native to Switzerland, more specifically the pre-alpine parts of German-speaking Switzerland.Wrestlers wear with belts that are used for taking holds...

". It is an old tradition from the rural central cantons and considered the national sport by some. Hornussen
Hornussen
Hornussen is an indigenous Swiss sport. The sport gets its name from the puck which is known as a "Hornuss" or "Nouss". When hit, it can whizz through the air at up to 300 km/h and create a buzzing sound.-History:...

 is another indigenous Swiss sport, which is like a cross between baseball and golf. Steinstossen
Steinstossen
Steinstossen is the Swiss variant of stone put, a competition in throwing a heavy stone. Practiced among the alpine population since prehistoric times, it is recorded to have taken place in Basel in the 13th century. During the 15th century, it is frequently recorded to have been practiced...

 is the Swiss variant of stone put
Stone put
The stone put is one of the main Scottish heavy athletic events at modern-day Highland games gatherings. Similar to the shot put, the stone put more frequently uses an ordinary stone or rock instead of a steel ball...

, a competition in throwing a heavy stone. Practiced only among the alpine population since prehistoric times
Prehistory
Prehistory is the span of time before recorded history. Prehistory can refer to the period of human existence before the availability of those written records with which recorded history begins. More broadly, it refers to all the time preceding human existence and the invention of writing...

, it is recorded to have taken place in Basel
Basel
Basel or Basle In the national languages of Switzerland the city is also known as Bâle , Basilea and Basilea is Switzerland's third most populous city with about 166,000 inhabitants. Located where the Swiss, French and German borders meet, Basel also has suburbs in France and Germany...

 in the 13th century. It is also central to the Unspunnenfest
Unspunnenfest
Unspunnenfest is a festival held in the town of Interlaken, Switzerland, near the old ruin of Unspunnen Castle, in the Bernese Alps, approximately once every twelve years, most recently in 2006. The festival highlights traditional Swiss culture and features competitions of Steinstossen , Schwingen ...

, first held in 1805, with its symbol the 83.5 kg stone named Unspunnenstein.

Cuisine



The cuisine of Switzerland is multi-faceted. While some dishes such as fondue
Fondue
Fondue is a Swiss dish of melted cheese served in a communal pot over a spirit lamp , and eaten by dipping long-stemmed forks with bread into the cheese...

, raclette
Raclette
Raclette is both a type of cheese and a Swiss and French dish based on heating the cheese and scraping off the melted part.-Cheese:Raclette is a semi-firm, cow's milk cheese - most commonly used for melting...

 or rösti
Rösti
Rösti is a Swiss dish consisting mainly of potatoes. It was originally a common breakfast eaten by farmers in the canton of Bern, but today is eaten all over Switzerland and also in many restaurants in the Western World. Many Swiss people consider rösti a national dish...

 are omnipresent through the country, each region developed its own gastronomy according to the differences of climate and languages. Traditional Swiss cuisine uses ingredients similar to those in other European countries, as well as unique dairy product
Dairy product
Dairy products are generally defined as foods produced from cow's or domestic buffalo's milk. They are usually high-energy-yielding food products. A production plant for such processing is called a dairy or a dairy factory. Raw milk for processing comes mainly from cows, and, to a lesser extent,...

s and cheeses such as Gruyère
Gruyère (cheese)
Gruyère is a hard yellow cheese, named after the town of Gruyères in Switzerland, and originated in the cantons of Fribourg, Vaud, Neuchâtel, Jura, and Berne...

 or Emmental
Emmental (cheese)
Emmental or Emmentaler is a cheese from Switzerland. It is sometimes known as Swiss cheese in North America, Australia and New Zealand, although Swiss cheese does not always imply Emmentaler....

, produced in the valleys of Gruyères
Gruyères
Gruyères is a town in the district of Gruyère in the canton of Fribourg in Switzerland. Its German name is Greyerz.The medieval town is an important tourist location in the upper valley of the Saane river, and gives its name to the well-known cheese. In this town, a trackless train is the only...

 and Emmental
Emmental
For the cheese made in the region, see Emmental .The Emmental is a region in west central Switzerland, forming part of the canton of Bern. It is a hilly landscape comprising the basins of the Emme and Ilfis rivers. The region is mostly devoted to farming, particularly dairy farming...

. The number of fine-dining establishments is high, particularly in western Switzerland.

Chocolate
Swiss chocolate
Switzerland's chocolates have earned an international reputation for high quality.The famous Toblerone came from Switzerland; a man named Jean Tobler started the business in 1867.-History:The 17th century saw the start of chocolate processed in Switzerland...

 had been made in Switzerland since the 18th century but it gained its reputation at the end of the 19th century with the invention of modern techniques such as conching and tempering which enabled its production on a high quality level. Also a breakthrough was the invention of milk chocolate in 1875 by Daniel Peter
Daniel Peter
Daniel Peter was a famous Swiss chocolatier. He was the first person to make a milk chocolate bar, in 1875. M. Peter began his career as a candle maker in his native Vevey, Switzerland, but soon demand fell due to the emergence of oil lamps....

. The Swiss are the world's largest consumers of chocolate.

The most popular alcoholic drink in Switzerland is wine. Switzerland is notable for the variety of grapes grown because of the large variations in terroir
Terroir
Terroir comes from the word terre "land". It was originally a French term in wine, coffee and tea used to denote the special characteristics that the geography, geology and climate of a certain place bestowed upon particular varieties...

s, with their specific mixes of soil, air, altitude and light. Swiss wine
Swiss wine
Swiss wine is produced from nearly 15 000 hectares of vineyards, and the wines are mainly produced in the west and in the south of Switzerland, in the cantons of Geneva, Neuchâtel, Ticino, Valais and Vaud...

 is produced mainly in Valais, Vaud
Vaud
Vaud is one of the 26 cantons of Switzerland and is located in Romandy, the French-speaking southwestern part of the country. The capital is Lausanne. The name of the Canton in Switzerland's other languages are Vaud in Italian , Waadt in German , and Vad in Romansh.-History:Along the lakes,...

 (Lavaux
Lavaux
The Lavaux is a region in the canton of Vaud in Switzerland, in the district of Lavaux. Although there is some evidence that vines were grown in the area in Roman times, the actual vine terraces can be traced back to the 11th century, when Benedictine and Cistercian monasteries controlled the area...

), Geneva and Ticino
Ticino (wine region)
The wine region of Ticino started producing wine in the Roman era, but only after 1906, with the introduction of Merlot, did it begin to produce quality wine. Geographically the wine region is located in the south of Switzerland, and includes the canton Ticino and the district of Moesa in the...

, with a small majority of white wines. Vineyards have been cultivated in Switzerland since the Roman era, even though certain traces can be found of a more ancient origin. The most widespread varieties are the Chasselas
Chasselas
Chasselas or Chasselas Blanc is a wine grape variety grown in Switzerland, France, Germany, Portugal, Baja Norte, Mexico, Hungary and New Zealand.Theories of its origin vary. Pierre Galet believes it is a native Swiss variety....

 (called Fendant in Valais) and Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir
Pinot noir is a black wine grape variety of the species Vitis vinifera. The name may also refer to wines created predominantly from Pinot noir grapes...

. The Merlot
Merlot
Merlot is a darkly blue-coloured wine grape, that is used as both a blending grape and for varietal wines. The name Merlot is thought to derive from the Old French word for young blackbird, merlot, a diminutive of merle, the blackbird , probably from the color of the grape. Merlot-based wines...

 is the main variety produced in Ticino.

Crime


Switzerland is a relatively peaceful country. The Swiss have a strong gun culture and Shooting Festivals are commonplace. Switzerland has a very high number of guns per capital, however very low gun crimes. UCR crime reported statistics calculate the murder rate at 1.2 per 100,000 and violent crimes were estimated at 8 per 100,000 in 2006, also Switzerland claimed a robbery rate of 36 per 100,000. Swiss police report about 44% of crime in Switzerland is done by foreign tourists. Switzerland has 163 jails throughout the country.

Drugs used to be legal in Switzerland but have been recently cracked-down upon. Zurich experimented with a designated drug zone which came to be known as "Needle Park" where drug users could openly buy narcotics but was closed in 1992. The majority of narcotics are illegal in Switzerland and have stiff penalties, but citizens with minor instances of possession are rarely arrested.

Prostitution is legal in Switzerland, it is considered a profession and sex trade workers are required to pay taxes on what they earn. http://www.isyours.com/e/swiss-business-guide/outside-the-law.htmlhttp://www.nationmaster.com/country/sz-switzerland/cri-crime

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Reference
  • Switzerland entry at Encyclopædia Britannica
    Encyclopædia Britannica
    The Encyclopædia Britannica , published by Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., is a general knowledge English-language encyclopaedia that is available in print, as a DVD, and on the Internet. It is written and continuously updated by about 100 full-time editors and more than 4,000 expert...

  • Switzerland at UCB Libraries GovPubs


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