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  Introduction Back To Top

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 Back To Top

Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural):
total: 2.52 cu km/yr (24%/74%/2%)
per capita: 348 cu m/yr (2002)

Total renewable water resources:
53.3 cu km (2005)

Land boundaries:
total: 1,852 km
border countries: Austria 164 km, France 573 km, Italy 740 km, Liechtenstein 41 km, Germany 334 km

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

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

Map references:

Geographic coordinates:
47 00 N, 8 00 E

Natural resources:
hydropower potential, timber, salt

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Lake Maggiore 195 m
highest point: Dufourspitze 4,634 m

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

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

total: 41,290 sq km
land: 39,770 sq km
water: 1,520 sq km

Central Europe, east of France, north of Italy

0 km (landlocked)

Area - comparative:
slightly less than twice the size of New Jersey

Irrigated land:
250 sq km (2003)

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

Maritime claims:
none (landlocked)

Natural hazards:
avalanches, landslides, flash floods

Land use:
arable land: 9.91%
permanent crops: 0.58%
other: 89.51% (2005)

  People Back To Top

Total fertility rate:
1.44 children born/woman (2008 est.)

Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.08 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.7 male(s)/female
total population: 0.97 male(s)/female (2008 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
0.4% (2001 est.)

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
13,000 (2001 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 80.74 years
male: 77.91 years
female: 83.71 years (2008 est.)

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99%
male: 99%
female: 99% (2003 est.)

Net migration rate:
2.21 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)

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

Median age:
total: 40.7 years
male: 39.6 years
female: 41.7 years (2008 est.)

7,581,520 (July 2008 est.)

Education expenditures:
5.8% of GDP (2005)

Population growth rate:
0.329% (2008 est.)

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

Death rate:
8.54 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)

Infant mortality rate:
total: 4.23 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 4.71 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 3.73 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths:
fewer than 100 (2003 est.)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):
total: 15 years
male: 15 years
female: 15 years (2006)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 15.8% (male 623,213/female 577,430)
15-64 years: 68.2% (male 2,605,044/female 2,562,354)
65 years and over: 16% (male 501,699/female 711,780) (2008 est.)

Birth rate:
9.62 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)

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)

noun: Swiss (singular and plural)
adjective: Swiss

  Government Back To Top

Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Peter R. CONEWAY
embassy: Sulgeneckstrasse 19, CH-3007 Bern
mailing address: use embassy street address
telephone: [41] (031) 357 70 11
FAX: [41] (031) 357 73 44

National holiday:
Founding of the Swiss Confederation, 1 August (1291)

18 years of age; universal

Government type:
formally a confederation but similar in structure to a federal republic

Political pressure groups and leaders:

Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Urs ZISWILER
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

International organization participation:

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; to serve four-year terms) and the National Council or Nationalrat (in German), Conseil National (in French), Consiglio Nazionale (in Italian) (200 seats; members are elected by popular vote on the basis of proportional representation to 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

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

Flag description:
red square with a bold, equilateral white cross in the center that does not extend to the edges of the flag

1 August 1291 (founding of the Swiss Confederation)

Country name (Goverment):
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)

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]; Radical Free Democratic Party (Freisinnig-Demokratische Partei der Schweiz or FDP, Parti Radical-Democratique Suisse or PRD, Partitio Liberal-Radicale Svizzero or PLR) [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 parties

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

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

Executive branch:
chief of state: President Hans-Rudolf MERZ (since 1 January 2009); Vice President Doris LEUTHARD (since 1 January 2009); 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 Hans-Rudolf MERZ (since 1 January 2009); Vice President Doris LEUTHARD (since 1 January 2009);
cabinet: Federal Council or Bundesrat (in German), Conseil Federal (in French), Consiglio Federale (in Italian) elected by the Federal Assembly usually from among its members for a four-year term
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 10 December 2008 (next to be held in December 2009)
election results: Hans-Rudolf MERZ elected president; percent of Federal Assembly vote - 88.5%; Doris LEUTHARD elected vice president; percent of Federal Assembly vote - 87.4%

Administrative divisions:
26 cantons (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

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

  Economy Back To Top

Exports - partners:
Germany 20.3%, US 9.7%, Italy 8.7%, France 8.4%, UK 5.1% (2007)

Electricity - consumption:
58.77 billion kWh (2006 est.)

Central bank discount rate:
2.05% (31 December 2007)

Electricity - imports:
48.4 billion kWh (2007 est.)

Current account balance:
$40.81 billion (2008 est.)

Debt - external:
$1.34 trillion (30 June 2007)

Unemployment rate:
2.6% (2008 est.)

Oil - exports:
9,370 bbl/day (2005)

GDP - per capita (PPP):
$40,900 (2008 est.)

Investment (gross fixed):
21.5% of GDP (2008 est.)

Stock of domestic credit:
$864.4 billion (31 December 2008 est.)

GDP (purchasing power parity):
$309.9 billion (2008 est.)

GDP (official exchange rate):
$492.6 billion (2008 est.)

Distribution of family income - Gini index:
33.7 (2008)

Exchange rates:
Swiss francs (CHF) per US dollar - 1.0774 (2008 est.), 1.1973 (2007), 1.2539 (2006), 1.2452 (2005), 1.2435 (2004)

GDP - real growth rate:
2% (2008 est.)

Stock of money:
$207 billion (31 December 2008 est.)

Labor force:
4.04 million (2008 est.)

Imports - partners:
Germany 32.6%, Italy 10.8%, France 9.5%, US 5.8%, Netherlands 4.6%, Austria 4.2%, UK 4.2% (2007)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):
2.4% (2008 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 1.5%
industry: 34%
services: 64.5% (2003 est.)

Oil - imports:
274,900 bbl/day (2005)

$172.7 billion f.o.b. (2008 est.)

Natural gas - consumption:
3.232 billion cu m (2007 est.)

Currency (code):
Swiss franc (CHF)

Economy - overview:
Switzerland is a peaceful, prosperous, and stable 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 prodution. The Swiss in recent years 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. Switzerland remains a safehaven for investors, because it has maintained a degree of bank secrecy and has kept up the franc's long-term external value. The global financial crisis and resulting economic downturn could, however, put Switzerland in a recession in 2009, particularly as global export demand stalls. Switzerland's largest banks suffered significant losses in 2008 and the country's largest bank accepted a government rescue deal in late 2008. The Swiss National Bank, beginning in Ocober 2008, cut interest rates on several consecutive occasions, effectively instituting a zero-rate policy in a bid to boost the economy.

Economic aid - donor:
ODA, $1.646 billion (2006)

Natural gas - exports:
0 cu m (2007 est.)

Imports - commodities:
machinery, chemicals, vehicles, metals; agricultural products, textiles

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

Electricity - exports:
50.2 billion kWh (2007 est.)

Population below poverty line:

Commercial bank prime lending rate:
3.15% (31 December 2007)

Stock of quasi money:
$477.6 billion (31 December 2008 est.)

Electricity - production:
64.56 billion kWh (2007 est.)

$212.8 billion f.o.b. (2008 est.)

Oil - proved reserves:

Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 3.9%
industry: 22.8%
services: 73.2% (2005)

Natural gas - proved reserves:
0 cu m (1 January 2006 est.)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
$75.37 billion (2008 est.)

Oil - consumption:
244,900 bbl/day (2007 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad:
$621.7 billion (2008 est.)

Public debt:
44% of GDP (2008 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - at home:
$333.8 billion (2008 est.)

Market value of publicly traded shares:
$1.275 trillion (31 December 2007)

Currency code:

Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 2.9%
highest 10%: 25.9% (2000)

Exports - commodities:
machinery, chemicals, metals, watches, agricultural products

Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 1.3%
hydro: 59.5%
nuclear: 37.1%
other: 2% (2001)

Natural gas - imports:
3.232 billion cu m (2007 est.)

Natural gas - production:
0 cu m (2007 est.)

revenues: $173.6 billion
expenditures: $168.2 billion (2008 est.)

Fiscal year:
calendar year

Oil - production:
3,202 bbl/day (2007 est.)

  Communications Back To Top

Internet users:
4.61 million (2007)

Telephones - main lines in use:
5 million (2007)

3.31 million (1997)

Internet country code:

Radio broadcast stations:
AM 4, FM 113 (plus many low-power stations), shortwave 2 (1998)

7.1 million (1997)

Telephones - mobile cellular:
8.096 million (2007)

Television broadcast stations:
115 (plus 1,919 repeaters) (1995)

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 100 per 100 persons; extensive cable and microwave radio relay networks
international: country code - 41; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean and Indian Ocean)

Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
44 (Switzerland and Liechtenstein) (2000)

Internet hosts:
3.437 million (2008)

  Transportation Back To Top

65 km (Rhine River between Basel-Rheinfelden and Schaffhausen-Bodensee) (2008)

gas 1,781 km; oil 94 km; refined products 7 km (2007)

total: 4,839 km
standard gauge: 3,561 km 1.435-m gauge (3,195 km electrified)
narrow gauge: 1,268 km 1.000-m gauge (1,274 km electrified); 10 km 0.800-m gauge (10 km electrified) (2006)

Ports and terminals:

2 (2007)

Merchant marine:
total: 35
by type: bulk carrier 13, cargo 9, chemical tanker 6, container 6, specialized tanker 1
registered in other countries: 106 (Antigua and Barbuda 8, Bahamas 1, France 3, Italy 8, Liberia 13, Malta 20, Marshall Islands 12, Panama 25, Portugal 2, Russia 3, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 6, Singapore 2, Tonga 1, UK 1, Vanuatu 1) (2008)

Airports - with paved runways:
total: 42
over 3,047 m: 3
2,438 to 3,047 m: 4
1,524 to 2,437 m: 12
914 to 1,523 m: 7
under 914 m: 16 (2007)

total: 71,298 km
paved: 71,298 km (includes 1,758 of expressways) (2006)

Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 23
under 914 m: 23 (2007)

65 (2007)

  Military Back To Top

Military service age and obligation:
19 years of age for male compulsory military service; 18 years of age for voluntary male and female military service; the Swiss Constitution states that "every Swiss male is obliged to do 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 (2008)

Manpower available for military service:
males age 16-49: 1,852,580
females age 16-49: 1,807,667 (2008 est.)

Manpower fit for military service:
males age 16-49: 1,513,984
females age 16-49: 1,478,761 (2008 est.)

Military branches:
Swiss Armed Forces: Land Forces, Swiss Air Force (Schweizer Luftwaffe) (2007)

Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually:
male: 49,205
female: 45,220 (2008 est.)

Military expenditures:
1% of GDP (2005 est.)

  Transnational Issues Back To Top

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

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