Europe :: Switzerland

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

    Central Europe, east of France, north of Italy
    47 00 N, 8 00 E
    total: 41,277 sq km
    country comparison to the world: 136
    land: 39,997 sq km
    water: 1,280 sq km
    slightly less than twice the size of New Jersey
    total: 1,852 km
    border countries: Austria 164 km, France 573 km, Italy 740 km, Liechtenstein 41 km, Germany 334 km
    0 km (landlocked)
    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
    lowest point: Lake Maggiore 195 m
    highest point: Dufourspitze 4,634 m
    hydropower potential, timber, salt
    arable land: 9.8%
    permanent crops: 0.57%
    other: 89.63% (2011)
    550 sq km (2007)
    53.5 cu km (2011)
    total: 2.61 cu km/yr (39%/58%/3%)
    per capita: 360.3 cu m/yr (2010)
    avalanches, landslides; flash floods
    air pollution from vehicle emissions and open-air burning; acid rain; water pollution from increased use of agricultural fertilizers; loss of biodiversity
    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
    landlocked; crossroads of northern and southern Europe; along with southeastern France, northern Italy, and southwestern Austria, has the highest elevations in the Alps

People and Society ::Switzerland

Government ::Switzerland

    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)
    formally a confederation but similar in structure to a federal republic
    name: Bern
    geographic coordinates: 46 55 N, 7 28 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
    26 cantons (cantons, singular - canton in French; cantoni, singular - cantone in Italian; Kantone, singular - Kanton in German); Aargau, Appenzell Ausserrhoden, Appenzell Innerrhoden, Basel-Landschaft, Basel-Stadt, Bern, Fribourg, Geneve, Glarus, Graubuenden, Jura, Luzern, Neuchatel, Nidwalden, Obwalden, Sankt Gallen, Schaffhausen, Schwyz, Solothurn, Thurgau, Ticino, Uri, Valais, Vaud, Zug, Zuerich
    note: 6 of the cantons - Appenzell Ausserrhoden, Appenzell Innerrhoden, Basel-Landschaft, Basel-Stadt, Nidwalden, Obwalden - are referred to as 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)
    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
    civil law system; judicial review of legislative acts, except for federal decrees of a general obligatory character
    accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations; accepts ICCt jurisdiction
    18 years of age; universal
    chief of state: President of the Swiss Confederation Ueli MAURER; Vice President Didier BURKHALTER; note - the Federal Council, which is comprised of seven federal councillors, constitutes the federal government of Switzerland; council members rotate in one-year terms as federal president (chief of state and head of government)
    head of government: President of the Swiss Confederation Ueli MAURER (since 1 January 2013); Vice President Didier BURKHALTER (since 1 January 2013)
    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 Opens in New Window)
    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 5 December 2012 (next to be held in early December 2013)
    election results: Ueli MAURER elected president; number of Federal Assembly votes - 148 of 202; Didier BURKHALTER elected vice president
    bicameral Federal Assembly or Bundesversammlung (in German), Assemblee Federale (in French), Assemblea Federale (in Italian) consists of the Council of States or Staenderat (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 on 23 October 2011 (each canton determines when the next election will be held); National Council - last held on 23 October 2011 (next to be held in October 2015)
    election results: Council of States - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - CVP 13, FDP 11, SVP 5, SPS 11, other 6; National Council - percent of vote by party - SVP 26.6%, SPS 18.7%, FDP 15.1%, CVP 12.3%, Green Party 8.4%, GLP 5.4%, BDP 5.4%, other 8.1%; seats by party - SVP 54, SPS 46, FDP 30, CVP 28, Green Party 15, GLP 12, BDP 9, other small parties 6
    highest court(s): Federal Supreme Court (consists of 38 judges and 31 substitutes and organized into 5 sections)
    judge selection and term of office: judges elected by the Federal Assembly for 6-year terms; note - judges are affiliated with political parties and are elected according to linguistic and regional criteria in approximate proportion to the level of party representation in the Federal Assembly
    subordinate courts: Federal Criminal Court (began in 2004); Federal Administrative Court (began in 2007); note - each of Switzerland's 26 cantons has its own courts
    Christian Democratic People's Party (Christlichdemokratische Volkspartei der Schweiz or CVP, Parti Democrate-Chretien Suisse or PDC, Partito Popolare Democratico Svizzero or PPD, Partida Cristiandemocratica dalla Svizra or PCD) [Christophe DARBELLAY]
    Conservative Democratic Party (Buergerlich-Demokratische Partei Schweiz or BDP, Parti Bourgeois Democratique Suisse or PBD, Partito Borghese Democratico Svizzero or PBD, Partido burgais democratica Svizera or PBD) [Martin LANDOLT]
    Free Democratic Party or FDP.The Liberals (FDP.Die Liberalen, PLR.Les Liberaux-Radicaux, PLR.I Liberali, Ils Liberals) [Philipp MUELLER]
    Green Liberal Party (Grunliberale or GLP, Parti vert liberale or PVL, Partito Verde-Liberale or PVL, Partida Verde Liberale or PVL) [Martin BAEUMLE]
    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) [Adele THORENS]
    Social Democratic Party (Sozialdemokratische Partei der Schweiz or SPS, Parti Socialiste 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 di Centro or UDC, Uniun Democratica dal Center or UDC) [Toni BRUNNER]
    and other minor parties
    ADB (nonregional member), AfDB (nonregional member), Australia Group, BIS, CD, CE, CERN, EAPC, EBRD, EFTA, EITI (implementing country), ESA, FAO, FATF, G-10, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC (national committees), ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IGAD (partners), ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC (NGOs), LAIA (observer), MIGA, MONUSCO, NEA, NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OIF, OPCW, OSCE, Paris Club, PCA, PFP, Schengen Convention, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNITAR, UNMISS, UNRWA, UNTSO, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO, ZC
    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
    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
    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)
    Swiss cross (white cross on red field; arms equal length)
    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

    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. Its economic and political stability, transparent legal system, exceptional infrastructure, efficient capital markets, and low corporate tax rates also make Switzerland one of the world's most competitive economies. The Swiss have brought their economic practices largely into conformity with the EU's to enhance their international competitiveness, but some trade protectionism remains, particularly for its small agricultural sector. The fate of the Swiss economy is tightly linked to that of its neighbors in the euro zone, which purchases half of all Swiss exports. The global financial crisis of 2008 and resulting economic downturn in 2009 stalled export demand and put Switzerland in a recession. The Swiss National Bank (SNB) during this period effectively implemented a zero-interest rate policy to boost the economy as well as prevent appreciation of the franc, and Switzerland's economy recovered in 2010 with 3.0% growth. The sovereign debt crises currently unfolding in neighboring euro-zone countries pose a significant risk to Switzerland's financial stability and are driving up demand for the Swiss franc by investors seeking a safe-haven currency. The independent SNB has upheld its zero-interest rate policy and conducted major market interventions to prevent further appreciation of the Swiss franc, but parliamentarians have urged it to do more to weaken the currency. The franc's strength has made Swiss exports less competitive and weakened the country's growth outlook; GDP growth fell to 1.9% in 2011 and 0.8% in 2012. 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 is considering the possibility of imposing taxes on bank deposits held by foreigners. These steps will have a lasting impact on Switzerland's long history of bank secrecy.
    $369.4 billion (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 37
    $365.8 billion (2011 est.)
    $358.9 billion (2010 est.)
    note: data are in 2012 US dollars
    $632.4 billion (2012 est.)
    1% (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 161
    1.9% (2011 est.)
    3% (2010 est.)
    $46,200 (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 16
    $46,000 (2011 est.)
    $45,600 (2010 est.)
    note: data are in 2012 US dollars
    29.4% of GDP (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 27
    26.2% of GDP (2011 est.)
    33.4% of GDP (2010 est.)
    household consumption: 58%
    government consumption: 11.2%
    investment in fixed capital: 20%
    investment in inventories: 1.1%
    exports of goods and services: 51.1%
    imports of goods and services: -41%
    (2012 est.)
    agriculture: 1.4%
    industry: 28%
    services: 70.6% (2012 est.)
    grains, fruits, vegetables; meat, eggs
    machinery, chemicals, watches, textiles, precision instruments, tourism, banking, and insurance
    2% (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 101
    4.954 million (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 77
    agriculture: 3.4%
    industry: 23.4%
    services: 73.2% (2010)
    2.9% (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 22
    2.8% (2011 est.)
    7.9% (2010)
    lowest 10%: 7.5%
    highest 10%: 19% (2007)
    29.6 (2010)
    country comparison to the world: 117
    33.1 (1992)
    revenues: $212.6 billion
    expenditures: $212.9 billion
    note: includes federal, cantonal, and municipal accounts (2012 est.)
    33.6% of GDP (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 72
    0% of GDP (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 46
    52.4% of GDP (2011 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 58
    54.5% of GDP (2010)
    note: general government gross debt; gross debt consists of all liabilities that require payment or payments of interest and/or principal by the debtor to the creditor at a date or dates in the future; includes debt liabilities in the form of SDRs, currency and deposits, debt securities, loans, insurance, pensions and standardized guarantee schemes, and other accounts payable; all liabilities in the GFSM 2001 system are debt, except for equity and investment fund shares and financial derivatives and employee stock options
    calendar year
    -0.7% (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 3
    0.2% (2011 est.)
    0.5% (31 December 2010 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 132
    0.75% (31 December 2009 est.)
    2.69% (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 179
    2.72% (31 December 2011 est.)
    $534.5 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 11
    $464.8 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
    $1.166 trillion (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 15
    $1.05 trillion (31 December 2011 est.)
    $1.247 trillion (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 15
    $1.159 trillion (31 December 2011 est.)
    $932.2 billion (31 December 2011)
    country comparison to the world: 12
    $1.229 trillion (31 December 2010)
    $1.071 trillion (31 December 2009)
    $66.5 billion (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 9
    $74.06 billion (2011 est.)
    $333.4 billion (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 17
    $345.6 billion (2011 est.)
    note: trade data exclude trade with Switzerland
    machinery, chemicals, metals, watches, agricultural products
    Germany 19.8%, US 11.1%, Italy 7.2%, France 7.1%, UK 5.4% (2012)
    $287.7 billion (2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 19
    $320.4 billion (2011 est.)
    machinery, chemicals, vehicles, metals; agricultural products, textiles
    Germany 29.7%, Italy 10.2%, France 8.4%, US 5.6%, China 5.6%, Austria 4.2% (2012)
    $531.1 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 6
    $331.9 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
    $1.563 trillion (31 December 2012)
    country comparison to the world: 12
    $1.424 trillion (31 December 2011)
    $641.6 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 10
    $621.9 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
    $1.041 trillion (31 December 2012 est.)
    country comparison to the world: 7
    $994.1 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
    Swiss francs (CHF) per US dollar -
    0.9374 (2012 est.)
    0.8876 (2011 est.)
    1.0429 (2010 est.)
    1.0881 (2009)
    1.0774 (2008)

Energy ::Switzerland

Communications ::Switzerland

    4.613 million (2011)
    country comparison to the world: 34
    10.122 million (2011)
    country comparison to the world: 75
    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 125 per 100 persons; extensive cable and microwave radio relay networks
    international: country code - 41; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean and Indian Ocean) (2011)
    the publicly owned radio and TV broadcaster, Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SRG/SSR), operates 7 national TV networks, 3 broadcasting in German, 2 in Italian, and 2 in French; private commercial TV stations broadcast regionally and locally; TV broadcasts from stations in Germany, Italy, and France are widely available via multi-channel cable and satellite TV services; SRG/SSR operates 18 radio stations that, along with private broadcasters, provide national to local coverage (2009)
    5.301 million (2012)
    country comparison to the world: 20
    6.152 million (2009)
    country comparison to the world: 42

Transportation ::Switzerland

    63 (2013)
    country comparison to the world: 78
    total: 40
    over 3,047 m: 3
    2,438 to 3,047 m: 2
    1,524 to 2,437 m: 12
    914 to 1,523 m: 6
    under 914 m: 17 (2013)
    total: 23
    under 914 m:
    23 (2013)
    2 (2013)
    gas 1,800 km; oil 94 km; refined products 7 km (2013)
    total: 4,876 km
    country comparison to the world: 37
    standard gauge: 3,846 km 1.435-m gauge (3,591 km electrified)
    narrow gauge: 1,020 km 1.000-m gauge (1,013 km electrified); 10 km 0.800-m gauge (10 km electrified) (2008)
    total: 71,454 km
    country comparison to the world: 66
    paved: 71,454 km (includes 1,790 of expressways) (2010)
    1,292 km (there are 1,227 km of waterways on lakes and rivers for public transport and another 65 km on the Rhine River between Basel-Rheinfelden and Schaffhausen-Bodensee used for the transport of commercial goods) (2010)
    country comparison to the world: 58
    total: 38
    country comparison to the world: 78
    by type: bulk carrier 19, cargo 9, chemical tanker 5, container 4, petroleum tanker 1
    registered in other countries: 127 (Antigua and Barbuda 7, Bahamas 1, Belize 1, Cayman Islands 1, France 5, Germany 2, Hong Kong 5, Italy 13, Liberia 25, Luxembourg 1, Malta 20, Marshall Islands 12, NZ 2, Panama 15, Portugal 3, Russia 3, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 7, Singapore 3, Spain 1) (2010)

Military ::Switzerland

Transnational Issues ::Switzerland

    refugees (country of origin): 10,981 (Eritrea) (2012)
    stateless persons: 69 (2012)
    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