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Switzerland, See : Flags, Maps

Basel : Images

Bern : Images

Zürich : Images


Switzerland , Sir Frank Fox

The Story of Switzerland, Lina Hug and Richard Stead

The Spell of Switzerland, by Nathan Haskell Dole

Heidi, by Johanna Spyri


Briefe aus der Schweiz—Zweite Abteilung , Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


Artists from Switzerland

Switzerland (Europe)

Introduction ::Switzerland


The Swiss Confederation was founded in 1291 as a defensive alliance among three cantons. In succeeding years, other localities joined the original three. The Swiss Confederation secured its independence from the Holy Roman Empire in 1499. A constitution of 1848, subsequently modified in 1874, replaced the confederation with a centralized federal government. Switzerland's sovereignty and neutrality have long been honored by the major European powers, and the country was not involved in either of the two World Wars. The political and economic integration of Europe over the past half century, as well as Switzerland's role in many UN and international organizations, has strengthened Switzerland's ties with its neighbors. However, the country did not officially become a UN member until 2002. Switzerland remains active in many UN and international organizations but retains a strong commitment to neutrality.

Geography ::Switzerland

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Central Europe, east of France, north of Italy

Geographic coordinates:
47 00 N, 8 00 E

Map references:



total: 41,277 sq km country comparison to the world: 135 land: 39,997 sq km

water: 1,280 sq km

Area - comparative:

slightly less than twice the size of New Jersey

Land boundaries:

total: 1,852 km

border countries: Austria 164 km, France 573 km, Italy 740 km, Liechtenstein 41 km, Germany 334 km


0 km (landlocked)

Maritime claims:

none (landlocked)


temperate, but varies with altitude; cold, cloudy, rainy/snowy winters; cool to warm, cloudy, humid summers with occasional showers


mostly mountains (Alps in south, Jura in northwest) with a central plateau of rolling hills, plains, and large lakes

Elevation extremes:

lowest point: Lake Maggiore 195 m

highest point: Dufourspitze 4,634 m

Natural resources:

hydropower potential, timber, salt

Land use:

arable land: 9.91%

permanent crops: 0.58%

other: 89.51% (2005)

Irrigated land:

250 sq km (2003)

Total renewable water resources:

53.3 cu km (2005)

Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural):

total: 2.52 cu km/yr (24%/74%/2%)

per capita: 348 cu m/yr (2002)

Natural hazards:

avalanches, landslides; flash floods

Environment - current issues:

air pollution from vehicle emissions and open-air burning; acid rain; water pollution from increased use of agricultural fertilizers; loss of biodiversity

Environment - international agreements:

party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air
Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Sulfur 85,
Air Pollution-Sulfur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds,
Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto
Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental
Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Dumping, Marine Life
Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical
Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling

signed, but not ratified: Law of the Sea

Geography - note:

landlocked; crossroads of northern and southern Europe; along with southeastern France, northern Italy, and southwestern Austria, has the highest elevations in the Alps

People ::Switzerland


7,623,438 (July 2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 94

Age structure:

0-14 years: 15.6% (male 616,561/female 571,610)

15-64 years: 68.1% (male 2,609,673/female 2,567,245)

65 years and over: 16.3% (male 514,761/female 724,617) (2010 est.)

Median age:

total: 41.3 years

male: 40.3 years

female: 42.4 years (2010 est.)

Population growth rate:

0.223% (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 180

Birth rate:

9.56 births/1,000 population (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 204

Death rate:

8.65 deaths/1,000 population (July 2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 83

Net migration rate:

1.31 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 49


urban population: 73% of total population (2008)

rate of urbanization: 0.5% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)

Sex ratio:

at birth: 1.054 male(s)/female

under 15 years: 1.08 male(s)/female

15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.72 male(s)/female

total population: 0.97 male(s)/female (2010 est.)

Infant mortality rate:

total: 4.12 deaths/1,000 live births country comparison to the world: 203 male: 4.58 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 3.64 deaths/1,000 live births (2010 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 80.97 years country comparison to the world: 15 male: 78.14 years

female: 83.95 years (2010 est.)

Total fertility rate:

1.46 children born/woman (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 192

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:

0.6% (2007 est.) country comparison to the world: 68

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:

25,000 (2007 est.) country comparison to the world: 74

HIV/AIDS - deaths:

fewer than 500 (2007 est.) country comparison to the world: 92


noun: Swiss (singular and plural)

adjective: Swiss

Ethnic groups:

German 65%, French 18%, Italian 10%, Romansch 1%, other 6%


Roman Catholic 41.8%, Protestant 35.3%, Muslim 4.3%, Orthodox 1.8%, other Christian 0.4%, other 1%, unspecified 4.3%, none 11.1% (2000 census)


German (official) 63.7%, French (official) 20.4%, Italian (official) 6.5%, Serbo-Croatian 1.5%, Albanian 1.3%, Portuguese 1.2%, Spanish 1.1%, English 1%, Romansch (official) 0.5%, other 2.8% (2000 census)

note: German, French, Italian, and Romansch are all national and official languages


definition: age 15 and over can read and write

total population: 99%

male: 99%

female: 99% (2003 est.)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):

total: 16 years

male: 16 years

female: 15 years (2008)

Education expenditures:

5.3% of GDP (2007) country comparison to the world: 53

Government ::Switzerland

Country name:

conventional long form: Swiss Confederation

conventional short form: Switzerland

local long form: Schweizerische Eidgenossenschaft (German); Confederation Suisse (French); Confederazione Svizzera (Italian); Confederaziun Svizra (Romansh)

local short form: Schweiz (German); Suisse (French); Svizzera (Italian); Svizra (Romansh)

Government type:

formally a confederation but similar in structure to a federal republic


name: Bern

geographic coordinates: 46 57 N, 7 26 E

time difference: UTC+1 (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)

daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October

Administrative divisions:

26 cantons, singular - canton in French; cantoni, singular - cantone in Italian; Kantone, singular - Kanton in German); Aargau, Appenzell Ausser-Rhoden, Appenzell Inner-Rhoden, Basel-Landschaft, Basel-Stadt, Bern, Fribourg, Geneve, Glarus, Graubunden, Jura, Luzern, Neuchatel, Nidwalden, Obwalden, Sankt Gallen, Schaffhausen, Schwyz, Solothurn, Thurgau, Ticino, Uri, Valais, Vaud, Zug, Zurich

note: 6 of the cantons - Appenzell Ausser-Rhoden, Appenzell-Inner-Rhoden, Basel-Landschaft, Basel-Stadt, Nidwalden, Obwalden - are styled half cantons because they elect only one member to the Council of States and, in popular referendums where a majority of popular votes and a majority of cantonal votes are required, these six cantons only have a half vote


1 August 1291 (founding of the Swiss Confederation)

National holiday:

Founding of the Swiss Confederation, 1 August (1291)


revision of Constitution of 1874 approved by the Federal Parliament 18 December 1998, adopted by referendum 18 April 1999, officially entered into force 1 January 2000

Legal system:

civil law system influenced by customary law; judicial review of legislative acts, except with respect to federal decrees of general obligatory character; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations


18 years of age; universal

Executive branch:

chief of state: President of the Swiss Confederation Micheline CALMY-REY (since 1 January 2011); Vice President Eveline WIDMER-SCHLUMPF (since 1 January 2011); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government representing the Federal Council; the Federal Council is the formal chief of state and head of government whose council members, rotating in one-year terms as federal president, represent the Council

head of government: President of the Swiss Confederation Micheline CALMY-REY (since 1 January 2011); Vice President Eveline WIDMER-SCHLUMPF (since 1 January 2011)

cabinet: Federal Council or Bundesrat (in German), Conseil Federal (in French), Consiglio Federale (in Italian) is elected by the Federal Assembly usually from among its members for a four-year term (For more information visit the World Leaders website ) elections: president and vice president elected by the Federal Assembly from among the members of the Federal Council for a one-year term (they may not serve consecutive terms); election last held on 8 December 2010 (next to be held in early December 2011)

election results: Micheline CALMY-REY elected president; number of Federal Assembly votes - 106 of 189; Eveline WIDMER-SCHLUMPF elected vice president; current Vice President Eveline WIDMER-SCHLUMPF is slated to become president on 1 January 2012

Legislative branch:

bicameral Federal Assembly or Bundesversammlung (in German), Assemblee Federale (in French), Assemblea Federale (in Italian) consists of the Council of States or Standerat (in German), Conseil des Etats (in French), Consiglio degli Stati (in Italian) (46 seats; membership consists of 2 representatives from each canton and 1 from each half canton; members serve four-year terms) and the National Council or Nationalrat (in German), Conseil National (in French), Consiglio Nazionale (in Italian) (200 seats; members elected by popular vote on the basis of proportional representation serve four-year terms)

elections: Council of States - last held in most cantons in October 2007 (each canton determines when the next election will be held); National Council - last held on 21 October 2007 (next to be held in October 2011)

election results: Council of States - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - CVP 15, FDP 12, SVP 7, SPS 9, other 3; National Council - percent of vote by party - SVP 29%, SPS 19.5%, FDP 15.6%, CVP 14.6%, Greens 9.6%, other 11.7%; seats by party - SVP 62, SPS 43, FDP 31, CVP 31, Green Party 20, other small parties 13

Judicial branch:

Federal Supreme Court (judges elected for six-year terms by the
Federal Assembly)

Political parties and leaders:

Green Party (Gruene Partei der Schweiz or Gruene, Parti Ecologiste
Suisse or Les Verts, Partito Ecologista Svizzero or I Verdi, Partida
Ecologica Svizra or La Verda) [Ueli LEUENBERGER]; Christian
Democratic People's Party (Christlichdemokratische Volkspartei der
Schweiz or CVP, Parti Democrate-Chretien Suisse or PDC, Partito
Democratico-Cristiano Popolare Svizzero or PDC, Partida
Cristiandemocratica dalla Svizra or PCD) [Christophe DARBELLAY];
Free Democratic Party or FDP.The Liberals (FDP.Die Liberalen,
PLR.Les Liberaux-Radicaux, PLR.I Liberali) [Fulvio PELLI]; Social
Democratic Party (Sozialdemokratische Partei der Schweiz or SPS,
Parti Socialist Suisse or PSS, Partito Socialista Svizzero or PSS,
Partida Socialdemocratica de la Svizra or PSS) [Christian LEVRAT];
Swiss People's Party (Schweizerische Volkspartei or SVP, Union
Democratique du Centre or UDC, Unione Democratica de Centro or UDC,
Uniun Democratica dal Center or UDC) [Toni BRUNNER]; and other minor

Political pressure groups and leaders:

International organization participation:

ADB (nonregional member), AfDB (nonregional member), Australia
(observer), MIGA, MONUSCO, NEA, NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OIF,
OPCW, OSCE, Paris Club, PCA, PFP, Schengen Convention, UN, UNCTAD,

Diplomatic representation in the US:

chief of mission: Ambassador Manuel SAGER

chancery: 2900 Cathedral Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008

telephone: [1] (202) 745-7900
FAX: [1] (202) 387-2564

consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco

consulate(s): Boston

Diplomatic representation from the US:

chief of mission: Ambassador Donald S. BEYER, Jr.

embassy: Sulgeneckstrasse 19, CH-3007 Bern

mailing address: use embassy street address

telephone: [41] (031) 357 70 11
FAX: [41] (031) 357 73 44

Flag description:

red square with a bold, equilateral white cross in the center that does not extend to the edges of the flag; various medieval legends purport to describe the origin of the flag; a white cross used as identification for troops of the Swiss Confederation is first attested at the Battle of Laupen (1339)

National anthem:

name: "Schweizerpsalm" [German] "Cantique Suisse" [French] "Salmo svizzero," [Italian] "Psalm svizzer" [Romansch] (Swiss Psalm)

lyrics/music: Leonhard WIDMER [German], Charles CHATELANAT [French], Camillo VALSANGIACOMO [Italian], and Flurin CAMATHIAS [Romansch]/Alberik ZWYSSIG

note: unofficially adopted 1961, official adoption 1981; the anthem has been popular in a number of Swiss cantons since its composition (in German) in 1841; translated into the other three official languages of the country (French, Italian, and Romansch), it is official in each of those languages

Economy ::Switzerland

Economy - overview:

Switzerland is a peaceful, prosperous, and modern market economy with low unemployment, a highly skilled labor force, and a per capita GDP among the highest in the world. Switzerland's economy benefits from a highly developed service sector, led by financial services, and a manufacturing industry that specializes in high-technology, knowledge-based production. The Swiss have brought their economic practices largely into conformity with the EU's, in order to enhance their international competitiveness, but some trade protectionism remains, particularly for its small agricultural sector. The global financial crisis and resulting economic downturn put Switzerland in a recession in 2009 as global export demand stalled. The Swiss National Bank during this period effectively implemented a zero-interest rate policy in a bid to boost the economy and prevent appreciation of the franc. Switzerland's economy grew 2.8% in 2010, when Bern implemented a third fiscal stimulus program, but its prized banking sector has recently faced significant challenges. The country's largest banks suffered sizable losses in 2008-09, leading its largest bank to accept a government rescue deal in late 2008. Switzerland has also come under increasing pressure from individual neighboring countries, the EU, the US, and international institutions to reform its banking secrecy laws. Consequently, the government agreed to conform to OECD regulations on administrative assistance in tax matters, including tax evasion. The government has renegotiated its double taxation agreements with numerous countries, including the US, to incorporate the OECD standard, and it is working with Germany and the UK to resolve outsanding issues, particularly the possibility of imposing taxes on bank deposits held by foreigners. Parliament passed the first five double-taxation agreements, including that with the US, in March 2010, but the agreements are subject to public referendum. In 2009, Swiss financial regulators ordered the country's largest bank to reveal at Washington's behest the names of US account-holders suspected of using the bank to commit tax fraud. These steps will have a lasting impact on Switzerland's long history of bank secrecy.

GDP (purchasing power parity):

$326.9 billion (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 37 $318 billion (2009 est.)

$324.1 billion (2008 est.)

note: data are in 2010 US dollars

GDP (official exchange rate):

$522.4 billion (2010 est.)

GDP - real growth rate:

2.8% (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 132 -1.9% (2009 est.)

1.9% (2008 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP):

$42,900 (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 15 $41,800 (2009 est.)

$42,800 (2008 est.)

note: data are in 2010 US dollars

GDP - composition by sector:

agriculture: 1.3%

industry: 27.5%

services: 71.2% (2010 est.)

Labor force:

4.13 million (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 87

Labor force - by occupation:

agriculture: 3.8%

industry: 23.9%

services: 72.3% (2009)

Unemployment rate:

3.9% (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 35 3.7% (2009 est.)

Population below poverty line:

7.4% (2009)

Household income or consumption by percentage share:

lowest 10%: 7.5%

highest 10%: 19% (2007)

Distribution of family income - Gini index:

33.7 (2008) country comparison to the world: 93 33.1 (1992)

Investment (gross fixed):

19.9% of GDP (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 89

Public debt:

39.6% of GDP (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 73 40.5% of GDP (2009 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):

0.7% (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 14 -0.5% (2009 est.)

Central bank discount rate:

0.05% (31 December 2009) country comparison to the world: 140 0.05% (31 December 2008)

Commercial bank prime lending rate:

2.75% (31 December 2009 est.) country comparison to the world: 154 3.34% (31 December 2008 est.)

Stock of narrow money:

$384.2 billion (31 December 2010 est) country comparison to the world: 11 $334.9 billion (31 December 2009 est)

Stock of broad money:

$834.6 billion (31 December 2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 19 $764.9 billion (31 December 2009 est.)

Stock of domestic credit:

$992.6 billion (31 December 2009 est.) country comparison to the world: 16 $923.1 billion (31 December 2008)

Market value of publicly traded shares:

$1.071 trillion (31 December 2009) country comparison to the world: 12 $862.7 billion (31 December 2008)

$1.275 trillion (31 December 2007)

Agriculture - products:

grains, fruits, vegetables; meat, eggs


machinery, chemicals, watches, textiles, precision instruments, tourism, banking, and insurance

Industrial production growth rate:

2.7% (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 117

Electricity - production:

59.1 billion kWh (2009 est.) country comparison to the world: 42

Electricity - consumption:

62 billion kWh (2009 est.) country comparison to the world: 40

Electricity - exports:

49.9 billion kWh (2009 est.)

Electricity - imports:

46.6 billion kWh (2009 est.)

Oil - production:

3,488 bbl/day (2009 est.) country comparison to the world: 100

Oil - consumption:

280,000 bbl/day (2009 est.) country comparison to the world: 46

Oil - exports:

12,230 bbl/day (2008 est.) country comparison to the world: 94

Oil - imports:

269,400 bbl/day (2008 est.) country comparison to the world: 38

Oil - proved reserves:

0 bbl (1 January 2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 115

Natural gas - production:

0 cu m (2008 est.) country comparison to the world: 121

Natural gas - consumption:

3.282 billion cu m (2009 est.) country comparison to the world: 71

Natural gas - exports:

0 cu m (2008 est.) country comparison to the world: 115

Natural gas - imports:

3.282 billion cu m (2009 est.) country comparison to the world: 39

Natural gas - proved reserves:

NA cu m (1 January 2009 est.)

Current account balance:

$49.35 billion (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 7 $54.01 billion (2009 est.)


$235.2 billion (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 20 $208.5 billion (2009 est.)

Exports - commodities:

machinery, chemicals, metals, watches, agricultural products

Exports - partners:

Germany 20.98%, US 9.09%, France 8.62%, Italy 8.08%, Austria 5.38% (2009)


$220.4 billion (2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 20 $192.8 billion (2009 est.)

Imports - commodities:

machinery, chemicals, vehicles, metals; agricultural products, textiles

Imports - partners:

Germany 27.19%, Italy 10.42%, US 9.61%, France 7.69%, Netherlands 4.35% (2009)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:

$NA (31 December 2010 est.)

$135.3 billion (31 December 2009 est.)

Debt - external:

$1.19 trillion (30 June 2010) country comparison to the world: 13 $1.305 trillion (31 December 2008)

Stock of direct foreign investment - at home:

$514 billion (31 December 2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 11 $496.8 billion (31 December 2009 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad:

$814.6 billion (31 December 2010 est.) country comparison to the world: 8 $806.5 billion (31 December 2009 est.)

Exchange rates:

Swiss francs (CHF) per US dollar - 1.0723 (2010), 1.0881 (2009), 1.0774 (2008), 1.1973 (2007), 1.2539 (2006)

Communications ::Switzerland

Telephones - main lines in use:

4.65 million (2009) country comparison to the world: 32

Telephones - mobile cellular:

9.255 million (2009) country comparison to the world: 69

Telephone system:

general assessment: highly developed telecommunications infrastructure with excellent domestic and international services

domestic: ranked among leading countries for fixed-line teledensity and infrastructure; mobile-cellular subscribership roughly 120 per 100 persons; extensive cable and microwave radio relay networks

international: country code - 41; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean and Indian Ocean)

Broadcast media:

the publicly-owned radio and television broadcaster, Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SRG/SSR), operates 7 national television networks, 3 broadcasting in German, 2 in Italian, and 2 in French; private commercial television stations broadcast regionally and locally; television broadcasts from stations in Germany, Italy, and France are widely accessed using multi-channel cable and satellite TV services; SRG/SSR operates 18 radio stations that, along with private broadcasters, provide national to local coverage (2008)

Internet country code:


Internet hosts:

4.816 million (2010) country comparison to the world: 17

Internet users:

6.152 million (2009) country comparison to the world: 42

Transportation ::Switzerland


65 (2010) country comparison to the world: 76

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 42

over 3,047 m: 3

2,438 to 3,047 m: 3

1,524 to 2,437 m: 14

914 to 1,523 m: 5

under 914 m: 17 (2010)

Airports - with unpaved runways:

total: 23

under 914 m: 23 (2010)


1 (2010)


gas 1,662 km; oil 94 km; refined products 7 km (2009)


total: 4,888 km country comparison to the world: 36 standard gauge: 3,397 km 1.435-m gauge (3,142 km electrified)

narrow gauge: 1,481 km 1.000-m gauge (1,378 km electrified); 10 km 0.800-m gauge (10 km electrified) (2008)


total: 71,384 km country comparison to the world: 66 paved: 71,384 km (includes 1,793 of expressways) (2009)


65 km; (Rhine River between Basel-Rheinfelden and Schaffhausen-Bodensee) (2008) country comparison to the world: 103

Merchant marine:

total: 35 country comparison to the world: 81 by type: bulk carrier 15, cargo 9, chemical tanker 6, container 4, petroleum tanker 1

registered in other countries: 109 (Antigua and Barbuda 7, Bahamas 2, Cayman Islands 1, France 5, Germany 1, Italy 6, Liberia 17, Luxembourg 1, Malta 14, Marshall Islands 12, NZ 2, Panama 22, Portugal 3, Russia 4, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 5, Singapore 4, Spain 1, Tonga 1, Tuvalu 1) (2010)

Ports and terminals:


Military ::Switzerland

Military branches:

Swiss Armed Forces: Land Forces, Swiss Air Force (Schweizer
Luftwaffe) (2010)

Military service age and obligation:

19-26 years of age for male compulsory military service; 18 years of age for voluntary male and female military service; every Swiss male has to serve at least 260 days in the armed forces; conscripts receive 18 weeks of mandatory training, followed by seven 3-week intermittent recalls for training during the next 10 years (2010)

Manpower available for military service:

males age 16-49: 1,839,382

females age 16-49: 1,797,317 (2010 est.)

Manpower fit for military service:

males age 16-49: 1,502,736

females age 16-49: 1,468,785 (2010 est.)

Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually:

male: 47,043

female: 43,033 (2010 est.)

Military expenditures:

1% of GDP (2005 est.) country comparison to the world: 130

Transnational Issues ::Switzerland

Disputes - international:


Illicit drugs:

a major international financial center vulnerable to the layering and integration stages of money laundering; despite significant legislation and reporting requirements, secrecy rules persist and nonresidents are permitted to conduct business through offshore entities and various intermediaries; transit country for and consumer of South American cocaine, Southwest Asian heroin, and Western European synthetics; domestic cannabis cultivation and limited ecstasy production


Hellenica World - Scientific Library