SwitzerlandFor other uses of the word Switzerland, see Switzerland (disambiguation). For uses of the word Swiss, see Swiss (disambiguation). Confoederatio Helvetica (Latin)
Schweizerische Eidgenossenschaft (German)
Confédération suisse (French)
Confederazione Svizzera (Italian)
Confederaziun svizra (Romansh)
Swiss Confederation FlagCoat of arms
"One for all, all for one" Anthem: "Swiss Psalm"
Location of Switzerland (orange)
on the European continent (white)Capital Berne (federal capital)
46°57′N 7°27′E / 46.95, 7.45 Largest city Zürich Official languages German,
Romansh Demonym Swiss Government Direct democracy
Federal parliamentary republic - Federal Council M. Leuenberger
P. Couchepin (Pres. 08)
H.-R. Merz (VP 08)
E. Widmer-Schlumpf Independence - Foundation date 1 August 1291 - de facto 22 September 1499 - Recognized 24 October 1648 - Restored 7 August 1815 - Federal state 12 September 1848 Area - Total 41,285 km² (135th)
15,940 sq mi - Water (%) 4.2 Population - 2007 estimate 7,591,400 (95th) - 2000 census 7,288,010 - Density 181.4/km² (61st)
479.8/sq mi GDP (PPP) 2007 estimate - Total $296.2 billion (38th) - Per capita $38,706 (6th) GDP (nominal) 2006 estimate - Total $388 billion (19th) - Per capita $56,711 (7th) Gini (2000) 33.7 (medium) HDI (2007) ▲ 0.955 (high) (7th) Currency Swiss franc (CHF) Time zone CET (UTC+1) - Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2) Internet TLD .ch Calling code +41
Switzerland (German: Schweiz, French: Suisse, Italian: Svizzera, Romansh: Svizra), officially the Swiss Confederation (Confoederatio Helvetica in Latin, hence its ISO country codes CH and CHE), is a landlocked alpine country of roughly 7.5 million people in Western Europe with an area of 41,285 km². Switzerland is a federal republic consisting of 26 states. These states are called cantons. Berne is the seat of the federation and de facto capital, while the country's economic centres are its two global cities, Geneva and especially Zürich. Switzerland has high degrees of economic freedom, immigrants, and globally-oriented business. Switzerland is one of the richest countries in the world.
It is bordered by Germany, France, Italy, Austria and Liechtenstein and has a long history of neutrality — it has not been at war since 1815 — and hosts many international organizations, including the Red Cross, the World Trade Organization and one of the U.N.'s two European offices. Switzerland is multilingual and has four national languages: German, French, Italian and Romansh. The country's Latin formal name, Confoederatio Helvetica is derived from the Helvetii, an ancient Celtic people in the Alpine region. It is rendered in German as Schweizerische Eidgenossenschaft, in French as Confédération suisse, in Italian as Confederazione Svizzera and in Romansh as Confederaziun svizra. The establishment of Switzerland is traditionally dated to August 1, 1291; the first of August is the national holiday.
- 1 History
- 2 Politics
- 3 Geography
- 4 Economy
- 5 Demographics
- 6 Religion
- 7 Culture
- 8 Notes
- 9 References
- 10 See also
- 11 External links
- Main article: History of Switzerland
- Main article: Early history of Switzerland
- Further information: History of the Alps, Alemannia, and Upper Burgundy
In 15 BC, Tiberius and Drusus conquered the Alps, integrating them into the Roman Empire: the Helvetii area first became part of Gallia Belgica and then of the Germania Superior province, while the eastern portion was integrated to the province of Raetia. In the Early Middle Ages, the Alemanni settled the Swiss plateau and the valleys of the Alps. The area of Switzerland proper was incorporated to the Frankish Empire in the 530s, and, when part of the Holy Roman Empire, was divided between Alemannia and Upper Burgundy; by AD 1200, the Swiss plateau comprised the dominions of the houses of Savoy, Zähringer, Habsburg and Kyburg. When the Kyburg dynasty fell in 1264, the Habsburgs under King Rudolph I (Emperor in 1273) extended its territory to the eastern Swiss plateau.The house dominions that existed around AD 1200:
Savoy Zähringer Habsburg Kyburg
Old Swiss Confederacy
- Main article: Old Swiss Confederacy
- Further information: Growth of the Old Swiss Confederacy, Reformation in Switzerland, and Early Modern Switzerland
The Old Swiss Confederacy was an alliance among the communities of the central Alps valleys facilitating management of common interests (free trade) and ensure peace on the important mountain trade routess. The Federal Charter of 1291 among the rural communes of Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden traditionally is the confederacy's founding document; even though similar alliances are likely to have existed decades earlier.A view of Zug in 1548.
By 1353 the three original cantons had joined with the cantons of Glarus and Zug and the Lucerne, Zürich and Berne city states, forming the "Old Confederacy" of eight states that existed most of the 15th century, leading to increased power and wealth for the federation, particularly because of victories against the Habsburgs (Battle of Sempach, Battle of Näfels), over Charles the Bold of Burgundy during the 1470s, and the success of the Swiss mercenaries. The Swiss victory in the Swabian War against the Swabian League of Emperor Maximilian I in 1499 amounted to de facto independence within the Holy Roman Empire.Federal charter of 1291
The expansion of the federation, and the reputation of being invincible acquired during the earlier wars, suffered a first setback in 1515 with the Swiss defeat in the Battle of Marignano, which ended the so-called "heroic" epoch of Swiss history. The success of Zwingli's Reformation in some cantons led to inter-cantonal wars in 1529 and 1531 (Kappeler Kriege). Under the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, European countries recognised Switzerland's independence from the Holy Roman Empire and its neutrality (ancien régime). In Early Modern Switzerland, the conflict between Catholic and Protestant cantons persisted, erupting in further violence at the battles of Villmergen in 1656 and 1712, and the growing authoritarianism of the patriciate families combined with a financial crisis in the wake of the Thirty Years' War led to the Swiss peasant war of 1653.
Napoleonic eraThe Act of Mediation was Napoleon's attempt at a compromise between the Ancien Régime and a Republic.
In 1798 the armies of the French Revolution conquered Switzerland and imposed a new unified constitution. This centralised the government of the country and effectively abolished the cantons. The new regime, known as the Helvetic Republic, 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. The fierce French suppression of the Nidwalden Revolt in September of 1798 is an example of the suppressing presence of the French army and the local population's resistance to the occupation.
When war broke out between France and its rivals, Russian and Austrian forces invaded Switzerland. In 1803 Napoleon organised a meeting of the leading Swiss politicians from both sides in Paris. The result was the Act of Mediation 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 fully re-established Swiss independence and the European powers agreed to permanently recognise Swiss neutrality. The treaty marked the last time that Switzerland fought in an international conflict. The treaty also allowed Switzerland to increase its territory, with the admission of the cantons of Valais, Neuchâtel and Geneva – this was also the last time Switzerland's territory expanded.
The restoration of the power to the patriciate was only temporary. After a period of unrest with repeated violent clashes such as the Züriputsch of 1839, civil war broke out between some of the Catholic and most of the other cantons in 1847 (the Sonderbundskrieg). The war lasted for less than a month, causing fewer than 100 casualties; most of which were through 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 made all Swiss understand 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 interest were merged. Credit to those who favored the power of the cantons (the Sonderbund Kantone), the national assembly was divided among an upper house (the Swiss Council of States) and a lower house (the National Council of Switzerland). Thus, the interests of the Federationalists were accounted for. Switzerland adopted a federal constitution and the use of referenda (mandatory for any amendment of this constitution) in 1848. This constitution provided for a central authority while leaving the cantons the right to self-government on local issues. In 1850 the Swiss franc became the Swiss single currency. The constitution was amended extensively in 1874 in order to take into account the rise in population and the Industrial Revolution. It introduced the facultative referendum for laws at the federal level. It also established federal responsibility for defence, trade, and legal matters.
In 1891, the constitution was revised with unusually strong elements of direct democracy, which remain unique even today. Since then, continued political, economic, and social improvement has characterised Swiss history.
Modern historyThe Zmutt Valley and the Mischabelhörner (or Mischabel) mountains in the canton of Valais. The image is from a photochrom postcard (circa 1890).
Switzerland was not invaded during either of the World Wars. 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 in 1917, but it was short-lived. In 1920, Switzerland joined the League of Nations, and in 1963 the Council of Europe.
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, economic concessions to Germany, and good fortune as larger events during the war delayed an invasion. Attempts by Switzerland's small Nazi party to cause an Anschluss with Germany failed miserably. The Swiss press vigorously criticised the Third Reich, often infuriating its leadership. Under General Henri Guisan, 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 a strategy of organised long-term attrition and withdrawal to strong, well-stockpiled positions high in the Alps known as the Réduit. 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 and by the Axis. 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 an apex after a crucial rail link through Vichy France was severed in 1942, leaving Switzerland completely surrounded by the Axis. Over the course of the war, Switzerland interned over 300,000 refugees, 104,000 of which were foreign troops, interned according to the Rights and Duties of Neutral Powers outlined in the Hague Conventions. 60,000 of the refugees were civilians escaping persecution by the Nazis. Of these, 26,000 to 27,000 were Jews. However, strict immigration and asylum policies as well as the financial relationships with Nazi Germany raised controversy.The Grossmünster cathedral and waterfront in modern day Zürich.
Women were granted the right to vote in the first Swiss cantons in 1959, at the federal level in 1971, and after resistance, in the last canton Appenzell Innerrhoden in 1990. After suffrage at the federal level women quickly rose in political significance, with the first woman on the seven member high council being Elisabeth Kopp from 1984–1989. The first female president was Ruth Dreifuss, elected in 1998 to become president during 1999. (The Swiss president is elected every year from those among the seven member high council). The second female president is Micheline Calmy-Rey who held the 2007 Swiss high office. She is originally from the French-speaking western area of canton Valais (Wallis in German). She is presently joined on the seven member cabinet/high council by two other women, Doris Leuthard, from the canton of Aargau and Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, from the canton of Graubünden.
In 1979 areas from inside the previous borders in the canton of Bern attained independence from the Bernese, forming the new canton of Jura. On April 18, 1999 the Swiss population and the cantons voted in favour of a completely revised federal constitution.
In 2002 Switzerland became a full member of the United Nations, leaving the Vatican as the last widely recognized state without full UN membership. Switzerland is a founding member of the EFTA, but is not a member of the European Economic Area. An application for membership in the European Union 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, with a mixed reaction to these 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 with the European Union. Switzerland, together with Liechtenstein, 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, neutral, or isolationist.
- Main article: Politics of Switzerland
- See also: International relations of Switzerland and Voting in Switzerland
The Federal Constitution adopted in 1848 is the legal foundation of the modern federal state. 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, and divides the powers between the Confederation and the cantons and defines federal jurisdictions and authorities. There are three main governing bodies on the federal level: the bicameral parliament (legislative), the Federal Council (executive) and the Federal Court (judicial).
The Swiss Parliament consists of two houses: the Council of States 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, which consists of 200 members who are elected under a system of proportional representation, 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 referendums, citizens may challenge any law passed by parliament and through initiatives, introduce amendments to the federal constitution, making Switzerland a direct democracy.The Swiss Federal Council in 2008. The current members of the council are (from left to right): Widmer-Schlumpf, Leuenberger, Calmy-Rey, Couchepin, Schmid, Leuthard, Merz. The Federal Chancellor of Switzerland, Casanova, is also pictured.
The Federal Council constitutes the federal government, directs the federal administration and serves as collective Head of State. It is a collegial body of seven members, elected for a four-year mandate by the Federal Assembly which also exercises oversight over the Council. The President of the Confederation is elected by the Assembly from among the seven members, traditionally in rotation, for a one-year term, in order to chair the government and assume representative functions. However, the president is a primus inter pares with no additional powers, and remains the head of a department of 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: currently there are 1 Christian Democrat (CVP/PDC), 2 Social Democrats (SPS/PSS), 2 Liberal Democrats (FDP/PRD), and 2 representatives of the Swiss People's Party (SVP/UDC) in the government. This traditional distribution of seats is called the "magic formula", and is not backed up by any law. The original distribution of 2 CVP/PDC, 2 SPS/PSS, 2 FDP/PRD and 1 SVP/UDC lasted from 1959 to 2003, until the CVP/PDC lost their second seat to the SVP/UDC, which had become the strongest party in Switzerland's legislative following the 2003 parliamentary elections.
The function of the Federal Supreme Court is to hear appeals against rulings of cantonal or federal courts. The judges are elected by the Federal Assembly for six-year terms.
Swiss citizens are subject to three legal jurisdictions: the commune, canton and federal levels. The 1848 federal constitution defines a system of direct democracy (sometimes called half-direct democracy since it is added by the more commonplace institutions of a parliamentary democracy). The instruments of Swiss direct democracy at the federal level, known as civil 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 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 to a national vote, if they can get 100,000 voters to sign the proposed amendment within 18 months. 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 of both the national popular vote and a majority of the cantonal popular votes.
- Main article: Cantons of Switzerland
(Grisons) Geneva Vaud Neuchâtel Jura Berne Thurgau Zurich Aargau Lucerne Solothurn Basel-Land Schaffhausen Uri Schwyz Glarus St. Gallen Appenzell Innerrhoden Appenzell Ausserrhoden Obwalden Nidwalden Zug Fribourg Basel-City France Italy Liechenstein Austria Germany Cantons of Switzerland The Zytglogge clock tower in the Kramgasse, Berne. A detailed map of Switzerland.
The Swiss Confederation consists of 26 cantons:
- Appenzell Ausserrhoden*
- St. Gallen
*These cantons, called half-cantons, are represented by one councillor (instead of two) in the Council of States and only count half (instead of one) in national votes on constitutional amendments.
Their populations vary between 15,000 (Appenzell Innerrhoden) and 1,253,500 (Zürich), and their area between 37 km² (Basel-Stadt) and 7,105 km² (Graubünden). The Cantons comprise a total of 2,889 municipalities. Within Switzerland there are two enclaves: Büsingen belongs to Germany, Campione d'Italia belongs to Italy.
In a referendum held in the Austrian state of Vorarlberg 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, Swiss liberals, the Swiss-Italians (persons of Swiss nationality who live in Italian Switzerland – see map) and the Romands (Swiss nationals living in the French-speaking regions of Switzerland – see map).
International institutions in Switzerland
An unusual number of international institutions have their seats in Switzerland, in part due to its policy of neutrality. The Red Cross was founded there in 1863 and still has its institutional centre in the country. Switzerland is not a member of the European Union; the Swiss people rejected membership in a referendum in the early 1990s. Switzerland is one of the most recent countries to have joined the United Nations, in 2002, even though Geneva is the second biggest centre for the United Nations after New York, and Switzerland was a founding member of the League of Nations.
- Main article: Geography of Switzerland
- See also: Swiss Alps, Swisstopo, List of lakes of Switzerland, List of rivers of Switzerland, and List of mountain passes in Switzerland.
With an area of 41,285 square kilometres (15,940 sq mi), Switzerland is a relatively small country. The population is about 7.5 million, resulting in an average population density of 182 people per square kilometer (472/sq mi). However, the more mountainous southern half of the country is far more sparsely populated than this average, while the northern half has a somewhat greater density, as it comprises more hospitable hilly terrain, partly forested and partly cleared, as well as several large lakes.
Switzerland comprises three basic topographical areas: the Swiss Alps, the Swiss plateau or "middleland", and the Jura mountains along the northwestern border with France. 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 peaks of the Swiss Alps, the highest of which is the Dufourspitze at 4,634 metres (15,203 ft), countless valleys are found, many with waterfalls and glaciers. From these the headwaters of several major European rivers such as the Rhine, Rhône, Inn, Aare, and Ticino flow finally into the largest Swiss lakes such as Lake Geneva (Lac Léman), Lake Zürich, Lake Neuchâtel, and Lake Constance.
The most famous mountain is the Matterhorn (4,478 m) in Valais and Pennine Alps bordering Italy. The highest mountain, the Dufourspitze (4,634 m) of Monte Rosa, is close to the Matterhorn. The section of the Bernese Alps above the deep glacial Lauterbrunnen Valley containing 72 waterfalls is also well known for the Jungfrau (4,158 m), Mönch, Eiger group of peaks, and the many picturesque valleys in the region. In the southeast the long Engadin Valley, encompassing the St Moritz area in canton Graubünden, is also well known; the highest peak in the neighbouring Bernina Alps is Piz Bernina (4,049 m).Morcote in the warmer southern canton of Ticino. The canton of Schwyz in the center of Switzerland.
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. This region, particularly the west, is also referred to as the "Seeland" (the land of lakes) and the largest lake is Lake Geneva (also called Lac Léman), in the West of Switzerland. The Rhone River is the main tributary to Lac Léman.The Swiss National Park in the canton of Graubünden. A sunset in the Swiss Alps. View from Bettmeralp, Valais.
The Swiss climate is generally temperate, but can vary greatly between the localities, from glacial conditions on the mountaintops to the often pleasant Mediterranean 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 winters in the mountains alternate with sun and snow, while the lower lands tend to be more cloudy and foggy in winter. A weather phenomenon known as the Föhn can occur at all times of the year, even in winter, and is characterized by a wind with warm Mediterranean air crossing the Alps from Italy. The driest conditions persist in the southern valleys of the Wallis/Valais above which valuable saffron is harvested and many wine grapes are grown, Graubünden also tends to be drier in climate and slightly colder, yet with plentiful snow in winter. The wettest conditions persist in the high Alps and in the Ticino canton which has much sun yet heavy bursts of rain from time to time. The east tends to be colder than the west of Switzerland, yet anywhere up high in the mountains can experience a cold spell at any time of the year. Precipitation tends to be spread moderately throughout the year, with minor variations across the seasons depending on locale. Autumn frequently tends to be the driest season, yet the weather patterns in Switzerland can be highly variable from year to year, and difficult to predict.
Switzerland's eco-systems can be particularly vulnerable, due to 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 tree line in the mountains of Switzerland has advanced down 1000 ft over the years, largely due to the increasing absence of herding and grazing pressures.
- Main article: Economy of Switzerland
- See also: List of Swiss companies, Swiss bank, and Merchant Marine of Switzerland
Switzerland has a stable, modern, and some of the most capitalist economies in the world, having the 2nd highest European rating (after Ireland) in the Index of Economic Freedom 2008 edition. Public sector has always been minimal and overall taxation amounted to just 29.2% of GDP in 2007, about the same as United States, Ireland, or Estonia. The nominal per capita GDP that is higher than those of the larger western European economies, Japan ranking 6th behind Luxembourg, Norway, Qatar, Iceland and Ireland. If adjusted for purchasing power parity it ranks 15th. The World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report currently ranks Switzerland's economy as the second most competitive in the world. For much of the 20th century, Switzerland was the wealthiest country in Europe by a considerable margin. In 2005 the median household income in Switzerland was an estimated 95,000 CHF, the equivalent of roughly 55,000 USD in purchasing power parity, which is similar to wealthy American states like California and Vermont.Cheese making and dairying is a famous and extraordinary Swiss industry, which was liberalized in 2007.
Switzerland is home to several large multinational corporations. Notable among these are Nestlé, UBS AG, Zurich Financial Services, Credit Suisse, Novartis, Roche, ABB, Swiss Re, and The Swatch Group. Switzerland is ranked as one of the most powerful economies in the world.
Chemicals, health and pharmaceuticals, instruments, real estate, banking and insurance, and tourism are important industries in Switzerland. The manufacturing of precision instruments for engineering is important, as is watch-making, and the biological sciences industries all enjoy a high place in the Swiss economy. The many international organizations in Switzerland contribute to the Swiss economy and labour market. The largest exported goods are chemicals (34% of exported goods or 62 billion USD in 2006), machines/electronics (20.9%), and precision instruments/watches (16.9%). Pharmaceuticals are the largest high-technology export category at around 30 billion USD in 2006, followed by instruments at around 20 billion USD. Exported services amount to a third of exported goods.
Switzerland has relatively free labor market compared to neighboring countries. Switzerland's unemployment rate increased from a low of 1.7% in June 2000 to a peak of 3.9% in September 2004. Partly due to the economic upturn which started in mid-2003, the unemployment rate is currently 2.8% as of February 2008. Average household size is a typical 2.2 persons. Net immigration is quite high at 0.52% of population in 2004, compared to 0.76% in Austria, 0.34% in UK and 0.1% in Germany. 21.8% of residents were foreigners in 2004, higher than any major Western country. According to Credit Suisse, only about 37 percent of residents own their own homes. Ownership rates are among the lowest 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. Food prices are particularly affected by agricultural protectionism, which keeps more competitive imports outside and swallows comparatively a lot resources.
Switzerland is relatively easy place to do business, ranking 16th in the Ease of Doing Business Index. Among others, Switzerland has relatively low taxation and relatively free job market. However, OECD argues that the product market reform is still lagging behind most OECD countries. The slow growth Switzerland experienced in the 1990s and the early 2000s has brought greater support for liberalization and harmonization with the European Union. In 2004, the government launched a “growth package”, including a series of measures aimed at boosting productivity, and legislative changes are slowly taking place.
Science, technology, and educationThe Einstein Museum in Berne. Albert Einstein discovered the special theory of relativity in 1905, while living in Berne.
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. Typically children choose their school depending on whether they want to speak French, German or Italian. Primary school continues until grade four or five, depending on the school. 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, while students who assimilate a little bit more slowly receive an education more adapted to their needs.
The first university in Switzerland was founded in 1460 in Basel, with a faculty of medicine. This place has a long tradition of chemical and medical research in Switzerland. Other large universities are the ETHZ in Zürich and the EPFL in Lausanne. There are 14 Universities in Switzerland, 10 of which are maintained at cantonal level and usually offer a range of non-technical subjects. Switzerland has the second highest rate of foreign students in tertiary education, after Australia.
Many Nobel prizes were awarded to Swiss scientists, for example to the world-famous physicist Albert Einstein or more recently to Heinrich Rohrer also in the field of physics. Geneva host the world's largest particle physics laboratory, the CERN. An other important research center is the Paul Scherrer Institute which belongs to the ETHZ.
Switzerland and the European Union
- Main article: Switzerland and the European Union
- See also: Enlargement of the European Union - Switzerland
In recent years, the Swiss have brought their economic practices largely into conformity with those of the European Union 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 party. The western French-speaking areas and the urban regions of the rest of the country tend to be more pro-EU.[citations needed]
The government has established an Integration Office under the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Economic Affairs. 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. They continue to discuss further areas for cooperation. Switzerland most recently (2006) approved a billion francs supportive investment in the poorer eastern European 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 European Union. Preparatory discussions are being opened in four new areas: opening up the electricity market, participation in the European GNSS project Galileo, cooperating with the European centre for disease prevention and recognising certificates of origin for food products. Switzerland voted against membership in the European Economic Area in December 1992 and has since maintained and developed its relationships with the European Union and European countries through bilateral agreements. In March 2001, the Swiss people refused in a popular vote to start accession negotiations with the EU.
Infrastructure and environmentThe Leibstadt Nuclear Power Plant is located in the canton of Aargau.
- See also: Transport in Switzerland, Nuclear power in Switzerland, and Waste management in Switzerland
Electricity generated in Switzerland is 53% from hydroelectricity and 42% from nuclear power, with 5% of the electricity generated from conventional power sources (thermal etc.) resulting in a nearly CO2-free electricity-generating network.
On 18 May 2003, two anti-nuclear 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 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 initiative to cut the nation's energy use by more than half by the year 2050. See also SwissEnergy.
Swiss private-public managed road network is funded by road tolls and vehicle taxes. The Swiss autobahn/autoroute system requires the purchase of a vignette (toll sticker) - which costs 40 Swiss francs - 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 1,638 km (as of 2000) and has, by an area of 41,290 km², also the one of the highest motorway densities in the world. Zürich Airport, managed by Unique Airport, is Switzerland's largest international flight gateway, which handled 20.7 million passengers in 2007. The second largest Geneva Cointrin International Airport handled 10.8 million passengers and the third largest EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg 4.3 million passengers, both airports being shared with France.
Switzerland is heavily active in recycling and anti-littering regulations and is one of the top recyclers in the world with 66% to 96% of the different recyclable materials being recycled. In many places in Switzerland, household rubbish disposal is charged for. Garbage (except dangerous items, batteries etc.) will only be collected if it is in bags which either have a payment sticker attached, or in official bags with the surcharge paid when the bags are purchased. This gives a financial incentive to recycle as much as possible, since recycling is free. Swiss health officials and police often open up garbage for which the disposal charge has not been paid. They search for evidence such as old bills which connect the bag to the household/person they originated from. Fines for not paying the disposal fee range from CHF 200–500.
- Main articles: Swiss (people), Demographics of Switzerland, and Linguistic geography of Switzerland
- Further information: List of Swiss people
Switzerland lies at the crossroads of several major European cultures that have heavily influenced the country's languages and culture. Switzerland has four official languages: German (63.7% total population share, with foreign residents; 72.5% of residents with Swiss citizenship, 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, a Romance language spoken locally by a small minority (0.5%; 0.6%) in the southeastern canton of Graubünden, 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, whilst a the majority of radio and TV broadcast is (nowadays) in Swiss German as well. Similarly, there are some dialects of Franco-Provençal 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 (a dialect of Lombard). Also 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 most Swiss are supposed to be at least bilingual.
Resident foreigners and temporary foreign workers make up about 21% of the population. Most of these are from European Union and EFTA countries. Italians are the largest single group of foreigners with 18,9% of total foreign population, while people from the various nations of former Yugoslavia make up 21%, there are also many ethnic Albanians. Immigrants from Sri Lanka, most of them former Tamil refugees, are the largest group among people of Asian origin.
- Main article: Religion in Switzerland
Switzerland has no official state religion, though most of the cantons (except Geneva and Neuchâtel) recognise official churches, in all cases including the Catholic Church and the Swiss Reformed Church. These churches, and in some cantons also the Old Catholic Church and Jewish congregations, are financed by official taxation of adherents.
Christianity is the predominant religion of Switzerland, divided between various Protestant denominations (42.5% of the population) and the Catholic Church (41%). Immigration has brought Islam (4.3%, predominantly Albanians mostly from Kosovo) and Eastern Orthodoxy (1.8%) as sizeable minority religions. The 2005 Eurobarometer poll found 48% to be theist, 39% expressing belief in "a spirit or life force", 9% atheist and 4% agnostic.Notre Dame de Valère in the canton of Valais.
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, Zürich and Basel) are predominantly Protestant. Central Switzerland, as well as the 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 was clearly rejected, with only 21.1% voting in support.
- Main article: Culture of Switzerland
- See also: Music of Switzerland, Swiss folklore, Alpine culture, Swiss cuisine, Swiss literature, and Swiss media
The culture of Switzerland is influenced by its neighbours and its international sentiment, but over the years a distinctive culture with some regional differences and an independent streak has developed. In particular, French-speaking regions have tended to orient themselves slightly more on French culture and tend to be more pro EU. In general, the Swiss are known for their long standing humanitarian tradition as Switzerland is the birth place of the Red Cross Movement and hosts the United Nations Human Rights Council. Swiss German speaking areas may perhaps be seen more oriented on German culture, although German-speaking Swiss people identify strictly as Swiss because of the difference between High German, and the Swiss German dialects. Italian-speaking areas can have more of an Italian culture. A region may be in some ways strongly culturally connected to the neighbouring country that shares its language. The linguistically isolated Rhaeto-Romanic culture in the eastern mountains of Switzerland is also robust and strives to maintain its rare linguistic tradition. Switzerland's entry to the Eurovision Song Contest of 1989 was in Romansh.
Many mountain areas have a strong highly energetic ski town culture in winter, and a hiking/wandering culture in summer. Some 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 and a higher ratio of Swiss. A traditional farmer and herder culture also predominates in many areas, and this connection to the land and agriculture is a strong glue holding all the Swiss together. Even though most no longer actually farm themselves, the small farms are omnipresent outside the cities, and as well many Swiss at least have a small garden plot or many window boxes with geraniums and other flowers.
SportA game of Hornussen.
Like many European nations the Swiss are big fans of football and the national team or 'Nati' is widely supported. Switzerland's most well known football clubs include Grasshoppers Zurich, Neuchatel Xamax and Basle.
Swiss wrestling or "Schwingen" is an old tradition from the rural central cantons and considered the national sport.
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. It is also central to the Unspunnenfest, first held in 1805, with its symbol the 83.5 kg Unspunnenstein.
Floorball is a new sport in Switzerland that grows every year in popularity. A main factor is the professional league called Nationalliga A that draws many famous players from other countries.
Over the last few years several Swiss tennis players, like Roger Federer and Martina Hingis, have been multiple Grand Slam singles champions. One of the world's best current ice skaters is Swiss Stéphane Lambiel. Many Swiss also follow hockey and support one of the 12 clubs in the league A. Two clubs are from the French speaking part, and two other from the Italian part. The canton Graubünden has HC Davos as its own club which won the 2006–2007 Swiss championship. The German speaking part of Switzerland has 7 clubs. The most known Swiss club is SCBerne. Switzerland is also the home of the successful sailing team Alinghi. Other sports where the Swiss have been successful include fencing (Marcel Fischer), whitewater slalom (Ronnie Dürrenmatt – canoe, Mathias Röthenmund – kayak), ice hockey (Swiss National League), beach volleyball (Sascha Heyer, Markus Egger, Paul and Martin Laciga), and skiing (Bernhard Russi, Pirmin Zurbriggen, Didier Cuche). Motorsport racecourses were banned in Switzerland following the 1955 Le Mans disaster, however the country has produced successful racers such as Clay Regazzoni and Jo Siffert, and leading drivers such as Michael Schumacher, Kimi Räikkönen, Fernando Alonso and now Lewis Hamilton all live there. Switzerland is also the joint venue following Austria in the Euro 2008 football tournament.
- ^ The motto is traditional; it is not officially defined by the Swiss constitution or Swiss law. See Unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno for more information.
- ^ Federal Constitution, article 4, "National languages" : National languages are German, French, Italian and Romansh; Federal Constitution, article 70, "Languages", paragraph 1: The official languages of the Confederation are German, French, and Italian. Romansh shall be an official language for communicating with persons of Romansh language.
- ^ Traditional. Federal Charter only mentions "early August" and the treaty is clearly a renewal of an older and lost one.
- ^ Current population and population growth, Source: Annual Population Statistics (ESPOP), Swiss Federal Statistical Office.
- ^ Due to historical federalist sensibilities, Swiss law does not designate a formal capital, and several federal institutions such as courts are spread across the country.
- ^ Schwabe & Co.: Geschichte der Schweiz und der Schweizer, Schwabe & Co 1986/2004. ISBN 3-7965-2067-7 (German)
- ^ See Vladimir Lenin
- ^ Let's Swallow Switzerland by Klaus Urner (Lexington Books, 2002).
- ^ The Bergier Commission Final Report, page 117.
- ^ Political System. Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.
- ^ 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.
- ^ 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.
- ^ Tremblay; Lecours; et. al. (2004) Mapping the Political Landscape. Toronto: Nelson.
- ^ Turner; Barry (2001). The Statement's Yearbook. New York: MacMillan Press ltd.
- ^ Banks, Arthur (2006). Political Handbook of The World 2005-2006. Washington: Cq Press.
- ^ unige.ch - Direct democracy in the world
- ^ A zoomable map of Switzerland is available at either swissinfo-geo.org or swissgeo.ch; a zoomable satellite picture is at map.search.ch.
- ^ a b Herbermann, Charles George (1913). The Catholic Encyclopedia. Encyclopedia Press, 358.
- ^ CIA World Factbook
- ^ World Economic Forum - Global Competitiveness Report
- ^ a b Taylor & Francis Group (2002). Western Europe. Routledge, 645-646. ISBN 1857431529.
- ^ Median household income
- ^ A cheesy tale, The Economist
- ^ a b c d e f g Swiss Statistical Yearbook 2008 by Swiss Federal Statistical Office
- ^ a b Policy Brief: Economic Survey of Switzerland, 2007, OECD
- ^ Economic Policy Reforms: Going for Growth 2008 - Switzerland Country Note
- ^ Education at Glance 2005 by OECD: Percentage of foreign students in tertiary education.
- ^ Prof Clive Church (2003). The contexts of swiss opposition to europe (PDF) p. 12. Sussex European Institute. Retrieved on 2008-06-13.
- ^ Vote No. 502 – Summary (German) (18 May 2003).
- ^ Vote No. 501 – Summary (German) (18 May 2003).
- ^ Federal government energy research (16 January 2008).
- ^ Swiss Recycling
- ^ Stadtreinigung Basel-Stadt - Pricelist bags and stickers
- ^ Recycling around the world. BBC (25 June 2005). Retrieved on 2006-04-24.
- ^ Richtig Entsorgen (Kanton Basel-Stadt) - Wilde Deponien sind verboten... Für die Beseitigung widerrechtlich deponierter Abfälle wird zudem eine Umtriebsgebühr von Fr. 200.– oder eine Busse erhoben (page 90)
- ^ a b Swiss Federal Statistical Office. Languages and religions - Data, indicators. Retrieved on 2007-10-09. The first number refers to the share of languages within total population. The second refers to the Swiss citizens only.
- ^ SBB: Billette - OnlineTicket
- ^ Foreign population in Switzerland, 2006 (German), Swiss Federal Statistical Office, page 8.
- ^ Foreign resident population by nationality, 2006, Source: Foreign population structure and migration statistics (PETRA), Swiss Federal Statistical Office.
- ^ Foreign population in Switzerland detailed by nationality, 1980 - 2006 (German), Swiss Federal Statistical Office.
- ^ International Religious Freedom Report 2004 – Switzerland, U.S. Department of State.
- ^ CIA World Factbook section on Switzerland
- ^ Social values, Science and TechnologyPDF (1.64 MiB), Eurobarometer, June 2005.
- ^ Reclus, Élisée (1881). The Earth and Its Inhabitants. D. Appleton and Company, 478.
- ^ BBC Hamilton decides to leave Britain
- Clive H. Church (2004) The Politics and Government of Switzerland. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-69277-2.
- Dieter Fahrni (2003) An Outline History of Switzerland. From the Origins to the Present Day. 8th enlarged edition. Pro Helvetia, Zürich. ISBN 3-908102-61-8
- Historical Dictionary of Switzerland (2002-). Published electronically and in print simultaneously in three national languages of Switzerland.
See alsoSwitzerland Portal
- Swiss Alps
- 2004 in Switzerland, 2005 in Switzerland
- Switzerland and the European Union
- Enlargement of the European Union - Switzerland
- Foreign relations of Switzerland
- List of cities in Switzerland
- List of Swiss people
- Swiss citizenship
- Swiss National Day
- Communications in Switzerland
- Data codes for Switzerland
- Education in Switzerland
- Gun politics in Switzerland
- Military of Switzerland
- Public holidays in Switzerland
- Transport in Switzerland
- List of Swiss companies
- List of Switzerland-related topics
- Swiss folklore
- Visitor attractions in Switzerland
External linksFind more about Switzerland on Wikipedia's sister projects: Dictionary definitionsTextbooksQuotationsSource textsImages and mediaNews storiesLearning resources
- The Federal Authorities of the Swiss Confederation
- Presence Switzerland
- Swiss Statistics, official website of the Swiss Federal Statistical Office.
- Historical Dictionary of Switzerland (German) (French) (Italian)
- Neue Zürcher Zeitung (German), a Swiss daily newspaper
- Le Temps (French), a Swiss daily newspaper
- Corriere Del Ticino (Italian), a Swiss daily newspaper
- swissinfo - News + Infos in 9 languages
- Science, Research and Technology
- The Swiss Portal for Research and Innovation
- State Scretariat for Education and Research, SER
- The Swiss National Science Foundation
- CTI, Commission for Technology and Innovation
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