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SWITZERLAND (/ˈswɪtsərlənd/ ), officially the SWISS CONFEDERATION, is a federal republic in Europe
Europe
. It consists of 26 cantons , and the city of Bern
Bern
is the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in western -Central Europe
Europe
, and is bordered by Italy
Italy
to the south, France
France
to the west, Germany
Germany
to the north, and Austria
Austria
and Liechtenstein
Liechtenstein
to the east. Switzerland
Switzerland
is a landlocked country geographically divided between the Alps
Alps
, the Swiss Plateau and the Jura , spanning an area of 41,285 km2 (15,940 sq mi). While the Alps
Alps
occupy the greater part of the territory, the Swiss population of approximately eight million people is concentrated mostly on the plateau, where the largest cities are to be found: among them are the two global cities and economic centres Zürich
Zürich
and Geneva .

The establishment of the Old Swiss Confederacy
Old Swiss Confederacy
dates to the late medieval period, resulting from a series of military successes against Austria
Austria
and Burgundy . Swiss independence from the Holy Roman Empire was formally recognized in the Peace of Westphalia
Peace of Westphalia
in 1648. The country has a history of armed neutrality going back to the Reformation ; it has not been in a state of war internationally since 1815 and did not join the United Nations
United Nations
until 2002. Nevertheless, it pursues an active foreign policy and is frequently involved in peace-building processes around the world. In addition to being the birthplace of the Red Cross , Switzerland
Switzerland
is home to numerous international organisations, including the second largest UN office . On the European level, it is a founding member of the European Free Trade Association , but notably not part of the European Union
European Union
or the European Economic Area
European Economic Area
. However, it participates in the Schengen Area and the European Single Market
European Single Market
through bilateral treaties.

Spanning the intersection of Germanic and Romance Europe, Switzerland comprises four main linguistic and cultural regions: German, French, Italian and Romansh . Although the majority of the population are German speaking, Swiss national identity is rooted in a common historical background, shared values such as federalism and direct democracy , and Alpine symbolism. Due to its linguistic diversity, Switzerland
Switzerland
is known by a variety of native names: _Schweiz_ (German ); _Suisse_ (French ); _Svizzera_ (Italian ); and _Svizra_ or (Romansh ). On coins and stamps , Latin
Latin
(frequently shortened to " Helvetia
Helvetia
") is used instead of the four living languages.

Switzerland
Switzerland
is one of the most developed countries in the world, with the highest nominal wealth per adult and the eighth-highest per capita gross domestic product according to the IMF
IMF
. Switzerland
Switzerland
ranks at or near the top globally in several metrics of national performance, including government transparency, civil liberties, quality of life, economic competitiveness , and human development . Zürich
Zürich
and Geneva have each been ranked among the top cities in the world in terms of quality of life, with the former ranked second globally, according to Mercer .

CONTENTS

* 1 Etymology

* 2 History

* 2.1 Early history * 2.2 Old Swiss Confederacy
Old Swiss Confederacy
* 2.3 Napoleonic era * 2.4 Federal state * 2.5 Modern history

* 3 Geography

* 3.1 Climate * 3.2 Environment

* 4 Politics

* 4.1 Direct democracy
Direct democracy
* 4.2 Administrative divisions * 4.3 Foreign relations and international institutions * 4.4 Military * 4.5 The capital or Federal City issue

* 5 Economy and labour law

* 5.1 Education and science * 5.2 Switzerland
Switzerland
and the European Union
European Union
* 5.3 Energy, infrastructure and environment

* 6 Demographics

* 6.1 Languages * 6.2 Health

* 6.3 Urbanisation

* 6.3.1 Largest towns

* 6.4 Religion

* 7 Culture

* 7.1 Literature * 7.2 Media * 7.3 Sports * 7.4 Cuisine

* 8 See also * 9 Notes * 10 References * 11 Bibliography * 12 External links

ETYMOLOGY

Main article: Name of Switzerland

The English name _Switzerland_ is a compound containing _Switzer_, an obsolete term for the Swiss , which was in use during the 16th to 19th centuries. The English adjective _Swiss_ is a loan from French _Suisse_, also in use since the 16th century. The name _Switzer_ is from the Alemannic _Schwiizer_, in origin an inhabitant of _ Schwyz
Schwyz
_ and its associated territory , one of the Waldstätten cantons which formed the nucleus of the Old Swiss Confederacy
Old Swiss Confederacy
. The Swiss began to adopt the name for themselves after the Swabian War
Swabian War
of 1499, used alongside the term for "Confederates", _Eidgenossen _ (literally: _comrades by oath_), used since the 14th century. The data code for Switzerland
Switzerland
, CH, is derived from Latin
Latin
_Confoederatio Helvetica_ (English: Helvetic Confederation).

The toponym _Schwyz_ itself was first attested in 972, as Old High German _Suittes_, ultimately perhaps related to _swedan_ ‘to burn’ (cf. Old Norse
Old Norse
_svíða_ ‘to singe, burn’), referring to the area of forest that was burned and cleared to build. The name was extended to the area dominated by the canton, and after the Swabian War
Swabian War
of 1499 gradually came to be used for the entire Confederation. The Swiss German name of the country, _Schwiiz_, is homophonous to that of the canton and the settlement, but distinguished by the use of the definite article (_d'Schwiiz_ for the Confederation, but simply _Schwyz_ for the canton and the town).

The Latin
Latin
name _Confoederatio Helvetica_ was neologized and introduced gradually after the formation of the federal state in 1848, harking back to the Napoleonic Helvetic Republic
Helvetic Republic
, appearing on coins from 1879, inscribed on the Federal Palace
Federal Palace
in 1902 and after 1948 used in the official seal. (The ISO banking code , "CHF" for the Swiss franc , is taken from the state's Latin
Latin
name). _Helvetica_ is derived from the _ Helvetii
Helvetii
_, a Gaulish tribe living on the Swiss plateau before the Roman era .

_ Helvetia
Helvetia
_ appears as a national personification of the Swiss confederacy in the 17th century with a 1672 play by Johann Caspar Weissenbach.

HISTORY

Main article: History of Switzerland
History of Switzerland

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

EARLY HISTORY

Main articles: Early history of Switzerland
Early history of Switzerland
and Switzerland
Switzerland
in the Roman era

The oldest traces of hominid existence in Switzerland
Switzerland
date back about 150,000 years. The oldest known farming settlements in Switzerland, which were found at Gächlingen , have been dated to around 5300 BC. Founded in 44 BC by Lucius Munatius Plancus
Lucius Munatius Plancus
, Augusta Raurica
Augusta Raurica
was the first Roman settlement on the Rhine
Rhine
and is now among the most important archaeological sites in Switzerland.

The earliest known cultural tribes of the area were members of the Hallstatt and La Tène cultures , named after the archaeological site of La Tène on the north side of Lake Neuchâtel
Lake Neuchâtel
. La Tène culture developed and flourished during the late Iron Age
Iron Age
from around 450 BC, possibly under some influence from the Greek and Etruscan civilisations. One of the most important tribal groups in the Swiss region was the Helvetii
Helvetii
. Steadily harassed by the Germanic tribes , in 58 BC the Helvetii
Helvetii
decided to abandon the Swiss plateau
Swiss plateau
and migrate to western Gallia
Gallia
, but Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar
's armies pursued and defeated them at the Battle of Bibracte
Battle of Bibracte
, in today's eastern France, forcing the tribe to move back to its original homeland. In 15 BC, Tiberius
Tiberius
, who was destined to be the second Roman emperor and his brother, Drusus , conquered the Alps, integrating them into the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
. The area occupied by the Helvetii—the namesakes of the later _Confoederatio Helvetica_—first became part of Rome's Gallia
Gallia
Belgica province and then of its Germania Superior province, while the eastern portion of modern Switzerland
Switzerland
was integrated into the Roman province of Raetia
Raetia
. Sometime around the start of the Common Era, the Romans maintained a large legionary camp called Vindonissa
Vindonissa
, now a ruin at the confluence of the Aare
Aare
and Reuss rivers, near the town of Windisch , an outskirt of Brugg
Brugg
.

The first and second century AD were an age of prosperity for the population living on the Swiss plateau. Several towns, like Aventicum , Iulia Equestris and Augusta Raurica, reached a remarkable size, while hundreds of agricultural estates ( Villae rusticae ) were founded in the countryside.

Around 260 AD, the fall of the Agri Decumates
Agri Decumates
territory north of the Rhine
Rhine
transformed today's Switzerland
Switzerland
into a frontier land of the Empire. Repeated raids by the Alamanni
Alamanni
tribes provoked the ruin of the Roman towns and economy, forcing the population to find shelter near Roman fortresses, like the Castrum Rauracense near Augusta Raurica. The Empire built another line of defence at the north border (the so-called Donau-Iller-Rhine-Limes), but at the end of the fourth century the increased Germanic pressure forced the Romans to abandon the linear defence concept, and the Swiss plateau
Swiss plateau
was finally open to the settlement of Germanic tribes.

In the Early Middle Ages
Early Middle Ages
, from the end of the 4th century, the western extent of modern-day Switzerland
Switzerland
was part of the territory of the Kings of the Burgundians . The Alemanni
Alemanni
settled the Swiss plateau in the 5th century and the valleys of the Alps
Alps
in the 8th century, forming Alemannia. Modern-day Switzerland
Switzerland
was therefore then divided between the kingdoms of Alemannia and Burgundy . The entire region became part of the expanding Frankish Empire
Frankish Empire
in the 6th century, following Clovis I
Clovis I
's victory over the Alemanni
Alemanni
at Tolbiac in 504 AD, and later Frankish domination of the Burgundians.

Throughout the rest of the 6th, 7th and 8th centuries the Swiss regions continued under Frankish hegemony (Merovingian and Carolingian dynasties). But after its extension under Charlemagne
Charlemagne
, the Frankish Empire was divided by the Treaty of Verdun in 843. The territories of present-day Switzerland
Switzerland
became divided into Middle Francia
Middle Francia
and East Francia until they were reunified under the Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
around 1000 AD.

By 1200, the Swiss plateau
Swiss plateau
comprised the dominions of the houses of Savoy , Zähringer
Zähringer
, Habsburg
Habsburg
, and Kyburg . Some regions (Uri , Schwyz
Schwyz
, Unterwalden
Unterwalden
, later known as _Waldstätten_) were accorded the Imperial immediacy to grant the empire direct control over the mountain passes. With the extinction of its male line in 1263 the Kyburg dynasty fell in AD 1264; then the Habsburgs under King Rudolph I ( Holy Roman Emperor
Holy Roman Emperor
in 1273) laid claim to the Kyburg lands and annexed them extending their territory to the eastern Swiss plateau.

OLD SWISS CONFEDERACY

Main article: Old Swiss Confederacy
Old Swiss Confederacy
Further information: Growth of the Old Swiss Confederacy
Old Swiss Confederacy
, Reformation in Switzerland , and Early Modern Switzerland
Switzerland
_ The 1291 Bundesbrief_ (Federal charter)

The Old Swiss Confederacy
Old Swiss Confederacy
was an alliance among the valley communities of the central Alps. The Confederacy facilitated management of common interests and ensured peace on the important mountain trade routes. The Federal Charter of 1291 agreed between the rural communes of Uri , Schwyz
Schwyz
, and Unterwalden
Unterwalden
is considered the confederacy's founding document, even though similar alliances are likely to have existed decades earlier. The Old Swiss Confederacy from 1291 (dark green) to the sixteenth century (light green) and its associates (blue). In the other colours are shown the subject territories.

By 1353, the three original cantons had joined with the cantons of Glarus
Glarus
and Zug
Zug
and the Lucerne
Lucerne
, Zürich
Zürich
and Bern
Bern
city states to form the "Old Confederacy" of eight states that existed until the end of the 15th century. The expansion led to increased power and wealth for the confederation. By 1460, the confederates controlled most of the territory south and west of the Rhine
Rhine
to the Alps
Alps
and the Jura mountains, particularly after victories against the Habsburgs (Battle of Sempach , Battle of Näfels ), over Charles the Bold
Charles the Bold
of Burgundy during the 1470s, and the success of the Swiss mercenaries
Swiss mercenaries
. The Swiss victory in the Swabian War
Swabian War
against the Swabian League
Swabian League
of Emperor Maximilian I in 1499 amounted to _de facto_ independence within the Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
.

The Old Swiss Confederacy
Old Swiss Confederacy
had acquired a reputation of invincibility during these earlier wars, but expansion of the confederation suffered a setback in 1515 with the Swiss defeat in the Battle of Marignano
Battle of Marignano
. This ended the so-called "heroic" epoch of Swiss history. The success of Zwingli
Zwingli
's Reformation in some cantons led to inter-cantonal religious conflicts in 1529 and 1531 ( Wars of Kappel ). It was not until more than one hundred years after these internal wars that, in 1648, under the Peace of Westphalia
Peace of Westphalia
, European countries recognised Switzerland's independence from the Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
and its neutrality .

During the Early Modern period of Swiss history, 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 . In the background to this struggle, the conflict between Catholic and Protestant
Protestant
cantons persisted, erupting in further violence at the First War of Villmergen , in 1656, and the Toggenburg War (or Second War of Villmergen), in 1712.

NAPOLEONIC ERA

Main articles: Switzerland in the Napoleonic era
Switzerland in the Napoleonic era
, Helvetic Republic , and Act of Mediation
Act of Mediation
The Act of Mediation
Act of Mediation
was Napoleon's attempt at a compromise between the Ancien Régime
Ancien Régime
and a Republic.

In 1798, the revolutionary French government conquered Switzerland and imposed a new unified constitution. This centralised the government of the country, effectively abolishing the cantons: moreover, Mülhausen joined France
France
and Valtellina valley, the Cisalpine Republic
Cisalpine Republic
, separating from Switzerland. 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
Switzerland
nothing more than a French satellite state . The fierce French suppression of the Nidwalden
Nidwalden
Revolt in September 1798 was an example of the oppressive presence of the French Army and the local population's resistance to the occupation.

When war broke out between France
France
and its rivals, Russian and Austrian forces invaded Switzerland. The Swiss refused to fight alongside the French in the name of the Helvetic Republic. In 1803 Napoleon organised a meeting of the leading Swiss politicians from both sides in Paris. The result was the Act of Mediation
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
Congress of Vienna
fully re-established Swiss independence and the European powers agreed to permanently recognise Swiss neutrality. Swiss troops still served foreign governments until 1860 when they fought in the Siege of Gaeta . The treaty also allowed Switzerland
Switzerland
to increase its territory, with the admission of the cantons of Valais
Valais
, Neuchâtel
Neuchâtel
and Geneva
Geneva
. Switzerland's borders have not changed since, except for some minor adjustments.

FEDERAL STATE

Main articles: Restoration and Regeneration (Switzerland) and Switzerland as a federal state The first Federal Palace
Federal Palace
in Bern (1857). One of the three cantons presiding over the Tagsatzung (former legislative and executive council), Bern
Bern
was chosen as the federal capital in 1848, mainly because of its closeness to the French-speaking area.

The restoration of power to the patriciate was only temporary. After a period of unrest with repeated violent clashes such as the Züriputsch of 1839, civil war (the _ Sonderbundskrieg _) broke out in 1847 when some Catholic cantons tried to set up a separate alliance (the _Sonderbund_). The war lasted for less than a month, causing fewer than 100 casualties, most of which were through friendly fire . Yet however minor the Sonderbundskrieg appears compared with other European riots and wars in the 19th century, it nevertheless had a major impact on both the psychology and the society of the Swiss and of Switzerland.

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

Thus, while the rest of Europe
Europe
saw revolutionary uprisings , the Swiss drew up a constitution which provided for a federal layout , much of it inspired by the American example . This constitution provided for a central authority while leaving the cantons the right to self-government on local issues. Giving credit to those who favoured the power of the cantons (the Sonderbund Kantone), the national assembly was divided between an upper house (the Council of States , two representatives per canton) and a lower house (the National Council , with representatives elected from across the country). Referendums were made mandatory for any amendment of this constitution. Inauguration in 1882 of the Gotthard Rail Tunnel connecting the southern canton of Ticino, the longest in the world at the time.

A system of single weights and measures was introduced and in 1850 the Swiss franc
Swiss franc
became the Swiss single currency . Article 11 of the constitution forbade sending troops to serve abroad, though the Swiss were still obliged to serve Francis II of the Two Sicilies
Francis II of the Two Sicilies
with Swiss Guards present at the Siege of Gaeta in 1860 , marking the end of foreign service.

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

This need soon proved itself when the rise in population and the Industrial Revolution
Industrial Revolution
that followed led to calls to modify the constitution accordingly. An early draft was rejected by the population in 1872 but modifications led to its acceptance in 1874. It introduced the facultative referendum for laws at the federal level. It also established federal responsibility for defence, trade, and legal matters.

In 1891, the constitution was revised with unusually strong elements of direct democracy , which remain unique even today.

MODERN HISTORY

Main articles: Switzerland during the World Wars
Switzerland during the World Wars
and Modern history of Switzerland
Switzerland
General Ulrich Wille
Ulrich Wille
, Commander-in-Chief of the Swiss Army during World War I
World War I

Switzerland
Switzerland
was not invaded during either of the world wars . During World War I, Switzerland
Switzerland
was home to Vladimir Illych Ulyanov (Vladimir 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
Switzerland
joined the League of Nations
League of Nations
, which was based in Geneva
Geneva
, on condition that it was exempt from any military requirements.

During World War II , detailed invasion plans were drawn up by the Germans, but Switzerland
Switzerland
was never attacked. Switzerland
Switzerland
was able to remain independent through a combination of military deterrence, concessions to Germany, and good fortune as larger events during the war delayed an invasion. Under General Henri Guisan central command, a general mobilisation of the armed forces was ordered. The Swiss military strategy was changed from one of static defence at the borders to protect the economic heartland, to one of organised long-term attrition and withdrawal to strong, well-stockpiled positions high in the Alps
Alps
known as the Reduit . Switzerland
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 a peak after a crucial rail link through Vichy France
France
was severed in 1942, leaving Switzerland
Switzerland
completely surrounded by the Axis. Over the course of the war, Switzerland
Switzerland
interned over 300,000 refugees and the International Red Cross , based in Geneva, played an important part during the conflict. Strict immigration and asylum policies as well as the financial relationships with Nazi
Nazi
Germany
Germany
raised controversy, but not until the end of the 20th century.

During the war, the Swiss Air Force
Swiss Air Force
engaged aircraft of both sides, shooting down 11 intruding Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe
planes in May and June 1940, then forcing down other intruders after a change of policy following threats from Germany. Over 100 Allied bombers and their crews were interned during the war. During 1944–45, Allied bombers mistakenly bombed a few places in Switzerland, among which were the cities of Schaffhausen
Schaffhausen
, Basel
Basel
and Zürich
Zürich
.

After the war, the Swiss government exported credits through the charitable fund known as the Schweizerspende and also donated to the Marshall Plan
Marshall Plan
to help Europe's recovery, efforts that ultimately benefited the Swiss economy.

During the Cold War
Cold War
, Swiss authorities considered the construction of a Swiss nuclear bomb . Leading nuclear physicists at the Federal Institute of Technology Zürich
Zürich
such as Paul Scherrer made this a realistic possibility. In 1988, the Paul Scherrer Institute was founded in his name to explore the therapeutic uses of neutron scattering technologies. Financial problems with the defence budget and ethical considerations prevented the substantial funds from being allocated, and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
of 1968 was seen as a valid alternative. All remaining plans for building nuclear weapons were dropped by 1988.

Switzerland
Switzerland
was the last Western republic to grant women the right to vote . Some Swiss cantons approved this in 1959, while at the federal level it was achieved in 1971 and, after resistance, in the last canton Appenzell Innerrhoden
Appenzell Innerrhoden
(one of only two remaining _Landsgemeinde _) in 1990. After obtaining suffrage at the federal level, women quickly rose in political significance, with the first woman on the seven member Federal Council executive being Elisabeth Kopp , who served from 1984–1989, and the first female president being Ruth Dreifuss in 1999. In 2003, by granting the Swiss People\'s Party a second seat in the governing cabinet , the Parliament altered the coalition which had dominated Swiss politics since 1959.

Switzerland
Switzerland
joined the Council of Europe
Europe
in 1963. In 1979 areas from the canton of Bern
Bern
attained independence from the Bernese, forming the new canton of Jura . On 18 April 1999 the Swiss population and the cantons voted in favour of a completely revised federal constitution .

In 2002 Switzerland
Switzerland
became a full member of the United Nations, leaving the Vatican City
Vatican City
as the last widely recognised state without full UN membership. Switzerland
Switzerland
is a founding member of the EFTA , but is not a member of the European Economic Area
European Economic Area
. An application for membership in the European Union
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 referendums on the EU issue; due to a mixed reaction from the population the membership application has been frozen. Nonetheless, Swiss law is gradually being adjusted to conform with that of the EU, and the government has signed a number of bilateral agreements with the European Union. Switzerland, together with Liechtenstein
Liechtenstein
, has been completely surrounded by the EU since Austria's entry in 1995. On 5 June 2005, Swiss voters agreed by a 55% majority to join the Schengen treaty , a result that was regarded by EU commentators as a sign of support by Switzerland, a country that is traditionally perceived as independent and reluctant to enter supranational bodies.

GEOGRAPHY

Main article: Geography of Switzerland Physical map of Switzerland
Switzerland
Köppen climate classification
Köppen climate classification
types of Switzerland

Extending across the north and south side of the Alps
Alps
in west -central Europe
Europe
, Switzerland
Switzerland
encompasses a great diversity of landscapes and climates on a limited area of 41,285 square kilometres (15,940 sq mi). The population is about 8 million, resulting in an average population density of around 195 people per square kilometre (500/sq mi). The more mountainous southern half of the country is far more sparsely populated than the northern half. In the largest Canton of Graubünden
Graubünden
, lying entirely in the Alps, population density falls to 27 /km² (70 /sq mi).

Switzerland
Switzerland
lies between latitudes 45° and 48° N , and longitudes 5° and 11° E . It contains three basic topographical areas: the Swiss Alps
Swiss Alps
to the south, the Swiss Plateau
Swiss Plateau
or Central Plateau, and the Jura mountains
Jura mountains
on the west. The Alps
Alps
are a high mountain range running across the central-south of the country, comprising about 60% of the country's total area. The majority of the Swiss population live in the Swiss Plateau. Among the high valleys of the Swiss Alps
Swiss Alps
many glaciers are found, totalling an area of 1,063 square kilometres (410 sq mi). From these originate the headwaters of several major rivers, such as the Rhine
Rhine
, Inn , Ticino
Ticino
and Rhône
Rhône
, which flow in the four cardinal directions into the whole of Europe. The hydrographic network includes several of the largest bodies of freshwater in Central and Western Europe, among which are included Lake Geneva
Geneva
(also called le Lac Léman in French), Lake Constance
Lake Constance
(known as Bodensee in German) and Lake Maggiore
Lake Maggiore
. Switzerland
Switzerland
has more than 1500 lakes, and contains 6% of Europe's stock of fresh water. Lakes and glaciers cover about 6% of the national territory. The largest lake is Lake Geneva, in western Switzerland
Switzerland
shared with France. The Rhône
Rhône
is both the main source and outflow of Lake Geneva. Lake Constance
Lake Constance
is the second largest Swiss lake and, like the Lake Geneva, an intermediate step by the Rhine
Rhine
at the border to Austria
Austria
and Germany. While the Rhône
Rhône
flows into the Mediterranean Sea at the French Camargue region and the Rhine
Rhine
flows into the North Sea at Rotterdam in the Netherlands, about 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) apart, both springs are only about 22 kilometres (14 miles) apart from each other in the Swiss Alps. Contrasted landscapes between the regions of the Matterhorn
Matterhorn
and Lake Lucerne
Lucerne

48 of Switzerland's mountains are 4,000 metres (13,000 ft) above sea in altitude or higher. At 4,634 m (15,203 ft), Monte Rosa
Monte Rosa
is the highest, although the Matterhorn
Matterhorn
(4,478 m or 14,692 ft) is often regarded as the most famous. Both are located within the Pennine Alps in the canton of Valais
Valais
, on the border with Italy
Italy
. The section of the Bernese Alps
Alps
above the deep glacial Lauterbrunnen
Lauterbrunnen
valley, containing 72 waterfalls, is well known for the Jungfrau
Jungfrau
(4,158 m or 13,642 ft) Eiger
Eiger
and Mönch , and the many picturesque valleys in the region. In the southeast the long Engadin
Engadin
Valley, encompassing the St. Moritz area in canton of Graubünden
Graubünden
, is also well known; the highest peak in the neighbouring Bernina Alps
Alps
is Piz Bernina
Piz Bernina
(4,049 m or 13,284 ft).

The more populous northern part of the country, comprising about 30% of the country's total area, is called the Swiss Plateau. 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.

CLIMATE

The Swiss climate is generally temperate , but can vary greatly between the localities, from glacial conditions on the mountaintops to the often pleasant near Mediterranean climate
Mediterranean climate
at Switzerland's southern tip. There are some valley areas in the southern part of Switzerland
Switzerland
where some cold-hardy palm trees are found. Summers tend to be warm and humid at times with periodic rainfall so they are ideal for pastures and grazing. The less humid winters in the mountains may see long intervals of stable conditions for weeks, while the lower lands tend to suffer from inversion , during these periods, thus seeing no sun for weeks.

A weather phenomenon known as the föhn (with an identical effect to the chinook wind ) can occur at all times of the year and is characterised by an unexpectedly warm wind, bringing air of very low relative humidity to the north of the Alps
Alps
during rainfall periods on the southern face of the Alps. This works both ways across the alps but is more efficient if blowing from the south due to the steeper step for oncoming wind from the south. Valleys running south to north trigger the best effect. The driest conditions persist in all inner alpine valleys that receive less rain because arriving clouds lose a lot of their content while crossing the mountains before reaching these areas. Large alpine areas such as Graubünden
Graubünden
remain drier than pre-alpine areas and as in the main valley of the Valais
Valais
wine grapes are grown there.

The wettest conditions persist in the high Alps
Alps
and in the Ticino canton which has much sun yet heavy bursts of rain from time to time. Precipitation tends to be spread moderately throughout the year with a peak in summer. Autumn is the driest season, winter receives less precipitation than summer, yet the weather patterns in Switzerland
Switzerland
are not in a stable climate system and can be variable from year to year with no strict and predictable periods. Contrasted climates between the most glaciated area in western Eurasia (Aletsch Glacier ), the cold temperate Jura ( Vallée de Joux ), the southern canton of Ticino
Ticino
( Lake Lugano
Lake Lugano
), and the western canton of Vaud
Vaud
and its vine terraces (Lake Geneva
Geneva
)

ENVIRONMENT

Switzerland's ecosystems can be particularly fragile, because the many delicate valleys separated by high mountains often form unique ecologies. The mountainous regions themselves are also vulnerable, with a rich range of plants not found at other altitudes, and experience some pressure from visitors and grazing. The climatic, geological and topographical conditions of the alpine region make for a very fragile ecosystem that is particularly sensitive to climate change . Nevertheless, according to the 2014 Environmental Performance Index , Switzerland
Switzerland
ranks first among 132 nations in safeguarding the environment, due to its high scores on environmental public health, its heavy reliance on renewable sources of energy (hydropower and geothermal energy), and its control of greenhouse gas emissions.

POLITICS

Main article: Politics of Switzerland
Politics of Switzerland
The Swiss Federal Council in 2016 with President Johann Schneider-Ammann (front, centre)

The Federal Constitution
Constitution
adopted in 1848 is the legal foundation of the modern federal state. It is among the oldest constitutions in the world. A new Constitution
Constitution
was adopted in 1999, but did not introduce notable changes to the federal structure. It outlines basic and political rights of individuals and citizen participation in public affairs, divides the powers between the Confederation and the cantons and defines federal jurisdiction and authority. There are three main governing bodies on the federal level: the bicameral parliament (legislative), the Federal Council (executive) and the Federal Court (judicial). The Federal Palace
Federal Palace
, seat of the Federal Assembly and the Federal Council .

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 and only serve as members of parliament part-time (so-called "Milizsystem" or Citizen legislature ). 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, thus making Switzerland
Switzerland
a direct democracy .

The Federal Council constitutes the federal government, directs the federal administration and serves as collective Head of State
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 and for a one-year term; the President chairs the government and assumes representative functions. However, the president is a _primus inter pares _ with no additional powers, and remains the head of a department within the administration.

The Swiss government has been a coalition of the four major political parties since 1959, each party having a number of seats that roughly reflects its share of electorate and representation in the federal parliament. The classic distribution of 2 CVP/PDC, 2 SPS/PSS, 2 FDP/PRD and 1 SVP/UDC as it stood from 1959 to 2003 was known as the "magic formula ". Following the 2015 Federal Council elections , the seven seats in the Federal Council were distributed as follows: 1 seat for the Christian
Christian
Democratic People\'s Party (CVP/PDC) , 2 seats for the Free Democratic Party (FDP/PRD) , 2 seats for the Social Democratic Party (SPS/PSS) , 2 seats for the Swiss People\'s Party (SVP/UDC) .

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.

DIRECT DEMOCRACY

Main article: Voting in Switzerland The Landsgemeinde
Landsgemeinde
is an old form of direct democracy . It is still practised in two cantons.

Direct democracy
Direct democracy
and federalism are hallmarks of the Swiss political system. Swiss citizens are subject to three legal jurisdictions: the municipality, canton and federal levels. The 1848/1999 federal constitution defines a system of direct democracy (sometimes called _half-direct_ or _representative direct democracy_ because it is aided by the more commonplace institutions of a representative democracy ). The instruments of this system at the federal level, known as popular rights (German : _Volksrechte_, French : _droits populaires_, Italian : _Diritti popolari_), include the right to submit a _federal initiative_ and a _referendum_, both of which may overturn parliamentary decisions.

By calling a federal _referendum_, a group of citizens may challenge a law passed by parliament, if they 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. Any 8 cantons together can also call a constitutional referendum on a federal law.

Similarly, the federal _constitutional initiative_ allows citizens to put a constitutional amendment to a national vote, if 100,000 voters sign the proposed amendment within 18 months. The Federal Council and the Federal Assembly can supplement the proposed amendment with a counter-proposal, and then voters must 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 the national popular vote and the cantonal popular votes.

ADMINISTRATIVE DIVISIONS

Main article: Cantons of Switzerland
Cantons of Switzerland

The Swiss Confederation consists of 20 cantons and 6 half cantons:

CANTON ID CAPITAL CANTON ID CAPITAL

Aargau
Aargau
19 Aarau
Aarau

* Nidwalden
Nidwalden
7 Stans
Stans

* Appenzell Ausserrhoden
Appenzell Ausserrhoden
15 Herisau
Herisau

* Obwalden
Obwalden
6 Sarnen
Sarnen

* Appenzell Innerrhoden
Appenzell Innerrhoden
16 Appenzell

Schaffhausen
Schaffhausen
14 Schaffhausen
Schaffhausen

* Basel-Landschaft
Basel-Landschaft
13 Liestal
Liestal

Schwyz
Schwyz
5 Schwyz
Schwyz

* Basel-Stadt
Basel-Stadt
12 Basel
Basel

Solothurn
Solothurn
11 Solothurn
Solothurn

Bern
Bern
2 Bern
Bern

St. Gallen
St. Gallen
17 St. Gallen
St. Gallen

Fribourg
Fribourg
10 Fribourg
Fribourg

Thurgau
Thurgau
20 Frauenfeld
Frauenfeld

Geneva
Geneva
25 Geneva
Geneva

Ticino
Ticino
21 Bellinzona
Bellinzona

Glarus
Glarus
8 Glarus
Glarus

Uri 4 Altdorf

Grisons
Grisons
18 Chur
Chur

Valais
Valais
23 Sion

Jura 26 Delémont
Delémont

Vaud
Vaud
22 Lausanne
Lausanne

Lucerne
Lucerne
3 Lucerne
Lucerne

Zug
Zug
9 Zug
Zug

Neuchâtel
Neuchâtel
24 Neuchâtel
Neuchâtel

Zürich
Zürich
1 Zürich
Zürich

*These cantons are known as half-cantons and are thus represented by only one councillor (instead of two) in the Council of States .

The cantons have a permanent constitutional status and, in comparison with the situation in other countries, a high degree of independence. Under the Federal Constitution, all 26 cantons are equal in status. Each canton has its own constitution, and its own parliament, government and courts. However, there are considerable differences between the individual cantons, most particularly in terms of population and geographical area. Their populations vary between 15,000 (Appenzell Innerrhoden) and 1,253,500 (Zürich), and their area between 37 km2 (14 sq mi) (Basel-Stadt) and 7,105 km2 (2,743 sq mi) (Graubünden). The cantons comprise a total of 2,485 municipalities . Within Switzerland
Switzerland
there are two enclaves : Büsingen
Büsingen
belongs to Germany, Campione d\'Italia belongs to Italy.

FOREIGN RELATIONS AND INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONS

Main article: Foreign relations of Switzerland

Traditionally, Switzerland
Switzerland
avoids alliances that might entail military, political, or direct economic action and has been neutral since the end of its expansion in 1515. Its policy of neutrality was internationally recognised at the Congress of Vienna
Congress of Vienna
in 1815. Only in 2002 did Switzerland
Switzerland
become a full member of the United Nations
United Nations
and it was the first state to join it by referendum. Switzerland maintains diplomatic relations with almost all countries and historically has served as an intermediary between other states. Switzerland
Switzerland
is not a member of the European Union
European Union
; the Swiss people have consistently rejected membership since the early 1990s. However, Switzerland
Switzerland
does participate in the Schengen Area
Schengen Area
. The monochromatically reversed Swiss flag became the symbol of the Red Cross Movement, founded in 1863 by Henry Dunant
Henry Dunant
.

A large number of international institutions have their seats in Switzerland, in part because of its policy of neutrality. Geneva
Geneva
is the birthplace of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and the Geneva
Geneva
Conventions and, since 2006, hosts the United Nations
United Nations
Human Rights Council . Even though Switzerland
Switzerland
is one of the most recent countries to have joined the United Nations, the Palace of Nations
Palace of Nations
in Geneva
Geneva
is the second biggest centre for the United Nations
United Nations
after New York, and Switzerland
Switzerland
was a founding member and home to the League of Nations .

Apart from the United Nations
United Nations
headquarters, the Swiss Confederation is host to many UN agencies, like the World Health Organization
World Health Organization
(WHO ), the International Labour Organization
International Labour Organization
(ILO ), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU ), the United Nations
United Nations
High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR ) and about 200 other international organisations, including the World Trade Organization
World Trade Organization
and the World Intellectual Property Organization . The annual meetings of the World Economic Forum in Davos
Davos
bring together top international business and political leaders from Switzerland
Switzerland
and foreign countries to discuss important issues facing the world, including health and the environment. Additionally the headquarters of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) are located in Basel
Basel
since 1930.

Furthermore, many sport federations and organisations are located throughout the country, such as the International Basketball Federation
Federation
in Geneva, the Union of European Football Associations ( UEFA
UEFA
) in Nyon
Nyon
, the International Federation
Federation
of Association Football ( FIFA
FIFA
) and the International Ice Hockey Federation
Federation
both in Zürich
Zürich
, the International Cycling Union in Aigle
Aigle
, and the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne
Lausanne
.

MILITARY

Main article: Swiss Armed Forces A Swiss Air Force
Swiss Air Force
F/A-18 Hornet at Axalp Air Show

The Swiss Armed Forces , including the Land Forces and the Air Force , are composed mostly of conscripts, male citizens aged from 20 to 34 (in special cases up to 50) years. Being a landlocked country, Switzerland
Switzerland
has no navy; however, on lakes bordering neighbouring countries, armed military patrol boats are used. Swiss citizens are prohibited from serving in foreign armies, except for the Swiss Guards of the Vatican , or if they are dual citizens of a foreign country and reside there.

The structure of the Swiss militia system stipulates that the soldiers keep their Army issued equipment, including all personal weapons, at home. Some organisations and political parties find this practice controversial but mainstream Swiss opinion is in favour of the system. Compulsory military service concerns all male Swiss citizens; women can serve voluntarily. Men usually receive military conscription orders for training at the age of 18. About two thirds of the young Swiss are found suited for service; for those found unsuited, various forms of alternative service exist. Annually, approximately 20,000 persons are trained in recruit centres for a duration from 18 to 21 weeks. The reform "Army XXI" was adopted by popular vote in 2003, it replaced the previous model "Army 95", reducing the effectives from 400,000 to about 200,000. Of those, 120,000 are active in periodic Army training and 80,000 are non-training reserves. Swiss built Mowag Eagles of the Land Forces

Overall, three general mobilisations have been declared to ensure the integrity and neutrality of Switzerland. The first one was held on the occasion of the Franco-Prussian War
Franco-Prussian War
of 1870–71. The second was in response to the outbreak of the First World War
First World War
in August 1914. The third mobilisation of the army took place in September 1939 in response to the German attack on Poland ; Henri Guisan was elected as the General-in-Chief.

Because of its neutrality policy, the Swiss army
Swiss army
does not currently take part in armed conflicts in other countries, but is part of some peacekeeping missions around the world. Since 2000 the armed force department has also maintained the Onyx intelligence gathering system to monitor satellite communications.

Following the end of the Cold War
Cold War
there have been a number of attempts to curb military activity or even abolish the armed forces altogether. A notable referendum on the subject, launched by an anti-militarist group , was held on 26 November 1989. It was defeated with about two thirds of the voters against the proposal. A similar referendum, called for before, but held shortly after the 11 September attacks in the US, was defeated by over 78% of voters.

Gun politics in Switzerland are unique in Europe
Europe
in that a relatively high percentage (29%) of citizens are legally armed. The large majority of firearms kept at home are issued by the Swiss army
Swiss army
, but ammunition is no longer issued.

THE CAPITAL OR FEDERAL CITY ISSUE

Until 1848 the rather loosely coupled Confederation did not know a central political organisation, but representatives, mayors, and _Landammänner_ met several times a year at the capital of the _Lieu_ presiding the Confederal Diet for one year.

Until 1500 the legates met most of the time in Lucerne
Lucerne
, but also in Zürich, Baden
Baden
, Bern, Schwyz
Schwyz
etc., but sometimes also at places outside of the confederation, such as Constance
Constance
. From the Swabian War in 1499 onwards until Reformation, most conferences met in Zurich. Afterwards the town hall at Baden, where the annual accounts of the common people had been held regularly since 1426, became the most frequent, but not the sole place of assembly. After 1712 Frauenfeld gradually dissolved Baden. From 1526, the Catholic conferences were held mostly in Lucerne, the Protestant
Protestant
conferences from 1528 mostly in Aarau
Aarau
, the one for the legitimation of the French Ambassador in Solothurn
Solothurn
. At the same time the syndicate for the _Ennetbirgischen Vogteien_ located in the present Ticino
Ticino
met from 1513 in Lugano
Lugano
and Locarno
Locarno
.

After the Helvetic Republic
Helvetic Republic
and during the Mediation from 1803 until 1815 the Confederal Diet of the 19 _Lieus_ met at the capitals of the _directoral cantons_ Fribourg
Fribourg
, Berne, Basel
Basel
, Zurich, Lucerne
Lucerne
and Soleure.

After the Long Diet from 6 April 1814 to 31 August 1815 took place in Zurich to replace the constitution and the enhancement of the Confedration to 22 cantons by the admission of the cantons of Valais, Neuchâtel
Neuchâtel
and Geneva
Geneva
to full members, the directoral cantons of Lucerne, Zurich and Berne took over the diet in two-year turns.

In 1848, the federal constitution provided that details concerning the federal institutions, such as their locations, should be taken care of by the Federal Assembly (BV 1848 Art. 108). Thus on 28 November 1848, the Federal Assembly voted in majority to locate the seat of government in Berne. And, as a prototypical federal compromise, to assign other federal institutions, such as the Federal Polytechnical School (1854, the later ETH) to Zurich, and other institutions to Lucerne, such as the later SUVA
SUVA
(1912) and the Federal Insurance
Insurance
Court (1917). In 1875, a law (RS 112) fixed the compensations owed by the city of Bern
Bern
for the federal seat.

According to these living fundamental federalistic feelings further federal institutions were subsequently attributed to Lausanne
Lausanne
(Federal Supreme Court in 1872, and EPFL
EPFL
in 1969), Bellinzona
Bellinzona
(Federal Criminal Court , 2004), and St. Gallen
St. Gallen
(Federal Administrative Court and Federal Patent Court , 2012).

The 1999 new constitution, however, does not contain anything concerning any Federal City. In 2002 a tripartite committee has been asked by the Swiss Federal Council
Swiss Federal Council
to prepare the "creation of a federal law on the status of Bern
Bern
as a Federal City", and to evaluate the positive and negative aspects for the city and the canton of Bern if this status were awarded. After a first report the work of this committee was suspended in 2004 by the Swiss Federal Council, and work on this subject has not resumed since.

Thus as of today, no city in Switzerland
Switzerland
has the official status either of capital or of Federal City, nevertheless Berne is commonly referred to as "Federal City" (German : _Bundesstadt_, French : _ville fédérale_, Italian : _città federale_).

ECONOMY AND LABOUR LAW

Main article: Economy of Switzerland
Economy of Switzerland
See also: Banking
Banking
in Switzerland
Switzerland
, Taxation in Switzerland , and Federal budget of Switzerland
Switzerland
_ Swiss Bond: 3.5% Obligation, issued 6. July 1889 The Omega Speedmaster
Omega Speedmaster
worn on the moon during the Apollo_ missions. In terms of value, Switzerland
Switzerland
is responsible for half of the world production of watches.

Switzerland
Switzerland
has a stable, prosperous and high-tech economy and enjoys great wealth, being ranked as the wealthiest country in the world per capita in multiple rankings. In 2011 it was ranked as the wealthiest country in the world in per capita terms (with "wealth" being defined to include both financial and non-financial assets), while the 2013 Credit Suisse
Credit Suisse
Global Wealth
Wealth
Report showed that Switzerland
Switzerland
was the country with the highest average wealth per adult in 2013. It has the world's nineteenth largest economy by nominal GDP
GDP
and the thirty-sixth largest by purchasing power parity . It is the twentieth largest exporter , despite its small size. Switzerland
Switzerland
has the highest European rating in the Index of Economic Freedom
Index of Economic Freedom
2010, while also providing large coverage through public services. The nominal per capita GDP
GDP
is higher than those of the larger Western and Central European economies and Japan. If adjusted for purchasing power parity, Switzerland
Switzerland
ranks 8th in the world in terms of GDP
GDP
per capita, according to the World Bank and IMF
IMF
(ranked 15th according to the CIA Worldfactbook ).

The World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report currently ranks Switzerland's economy as the most competitive in the world, while ranked by the European Union
European Union
as Europe's most innovative country. For much of the 20th century, Switzerland
Switzerland
was the wealthiest country in Europe
Europe
by a considerable margin (by GDP
GDP
– per capita). In 2007 the gross median household income in Switzerland
Switzerland
was an estimated 137,094 USD at Purchasing power parity
Purchasing power parity
while the median income was 95,824 USD. Switzerland
Switzerland
also has one of the world's largest account balances as a percentage of GDP
GDP
. The Greater Zürich
Zürich
Area, home to 1.5 million inhabitants and 150,000 companies, is one of the most important economic centres in the world.

Switzerland
Switzerland
is home to several large multinational corporations. The largest Swiss companies by revenue are Glencore
Glencore
, Gunvor , Nestlé
Nestlé
, Novartis
Novartis
, Hoffmann-La Roche
Hoffmann-La Roche
, ABB , Mercuria Energy Group and Adecco . Also, notable are UBS AG
UBS AG
, Zurich Financial Services , Credit Suisse , Barry Callebaut
Barry Callebaut
, Swiss Re
Swiss Re
, Tetra Pak
Tetra Pak
, The Swatch Group and Swiss International Air Lines
Swiss International Air Lines
. Switzerland
Switzerland
is ranked as having one of the most powerful economies in the world.

Switzerland's most important economic sector is manufacturing. Manufacturing consists largely of the production of specialist chemicals , health and pharmaceutical goods, scientific and precision measuring instruments and musical instruments . The largest exported goods are chemicals (34% of exported goods), machines/electronics (20.9%), and precision instruments/watches (16.9%). Exported services amount to a third of exports. The service sector – especially banking and insurance , tourism , and international organisations – is another important industry for Switzerland.

Slightly more than 5 million people work in Switzerland; about 25% of employees belonged to a trade union in 2004. Switzerland
Switzerland
has a more flexible job market than neighbouring countries and the unemployment rate is very low. The unemployment rate increased from a low of 1.7% in June 2000 to a peak of 4.4% in December 2009. The unemployment rate decreased to 3.2% in 2014 without further decrease in 2015 and 2016. Population growth from net immigration is quite high, at 0.52% of population in 2004. The foreign citizen population was 21.8% in 2004, about the same as in Australia. GDP
GDP
per hour worked is the world's 16th highest, at 49.46 international dollars in 2012. The Engadin
Engadin
Valley . Tourism
Tourism
constitutes an important revenue for the less industrialised alpine regions.

Switzerland
Switzerland
has an overwhelmingly private sector economy and low tax rates by Western World
Western World
standards; overall taxation is one of the smallest of developed countries . Switzerland
Switzerland
is a relatively easy place to do business, currently ranking 20th of 189 countries in the Ease of Doing Business Index
Ease of Doing Business Index
. The slow growth Switzerland
Switzerland
experienced in the 1990s and the early 2000s has brought greater support for economic reforms and harmonisation with the European Union. According to Credit Suisse
Credit Suisse
, only about 37% of residents own their own homes, one of the lowest rates of home ownership in Europe. Housing and food price levels were 171% and 145% of the EU-25 index in 2007, compared to 113% and 104% in Germany.

The Swiss Federal budget had a size of 62.8 billion Swiss francs in 2010, which is an equivalent 11.35% of the country's GDP
GDP
in that year; however, the regional (canton) budgets and the budgets of the municipalities are not counted as part of the federal budget and the total rate of government spending is closer to 33.8% of GDP. The main sources of income for the federal government are the value-added tax (33%) and the direct federal tax (29%) and the main expenditure is located in the areas of social welfare and finance & tax. The expenditures of the Swiss Confederation have been growing from 7% of GDP
GDP
in 1960 to 9.7% in 1990 and to 10.7% in 2010. While the sectors social welfare and finance from 26.5% in to 12.4% (estimation for the year 2015).

Agricultural protectionism—a rare exception to Switzerland's free trade policies—has contributed to high food prices. Product market liberalisation is lagging behind many EU countries according to the OECD
OECD
. Nevertheless, domestic purchasing power is one of the best in the world. Apart from agriculture, economic and trade barriers between the European Union
European Union
and Switzerland
Switzerland
are minimal and Switzerland has free trade agreements worldwide. Switzerland
Switzerland
is a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).

EDUCATION AND SCIENCE

Main articles: Education in Switzerland and Science and technology in Switzerland
Switzerland
Some Swiss scientists who played a key role in their discipline (clockwise): Leonhard Euler
Leonhard Euler
(mathematics) Louis Agassiz
Louis Agassiz
(glaciology) Auguste Piccard
Auguste Piccard
(aeronautics) Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein
(physics)

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

At the end of primary school (or at the beginning of secondary school), pupils are separated according to their capacities in several (often three) sections. The fastest learners are taught advanced classes to be prepared for further studies and the matura , while students who assimilate a little more slowly receive an education more adapted to their needs. The campus of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETHZ).

There are 12 universities in Switzerland
Switzerland
, ten of which are maintained at cantonal level and usually offer a range of non-technical subjects. The first university in Switzerland
Switzerland
was founded in 1460 in Basel
Basel
(with a faculty of medicine) and has a tradition of chemical and medical research in Switzerland. The largest university in Switzerland
Switzerland
is the University of Zurich
University of Zurich
with nearly 25,000 students.The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETHZ) and the University of Zurich
University of Zurich
are listed 20th and 54th respectively, on the 2015 Academic Ranking of World Universities
Academic Ranking of World Universities
.

The two institutes sponsored by the federal government are the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETHZ) in Zürich
Zürich
, founded 1855 and the EPFL
EPFL
in Lausanne
Lausanne
, founded 1969 as such, which was formerly an institute associated with the University of Lausanne.

In addition, there are various Universities of Applied Sciences . In business and management studies, the University of St. Gallen
St. Gallen
, (HSG) is ranked 329th in the world according to QS World University Rankings and the International Institute for Management Development
International Institute for Management Development
(IMD), was ranked first in open programmes worldwide by the _Financial Times ._ Switzerland
Switzerland
has the second highest rate (almost 18% in 2003) of foreign students in tertiary education, after Australia
Australia
(slightly over 18%).

As might befit a country that plays home to innumerable international organisations, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies , located in Geneva
Geneva
, is not only continental Europe's oldest graduate school of international and development studies, but also widely believed to be one of its most prestigious.

Many Nobel Prize
Nobel Prize
laureates have been Swiss scientists. They include the world-famous physicist Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein
in the field of physics, who developed his Special relativity
Special relativity
while working in Bern. More recently Vladimir Prelog
Vladimir Prelog
, Heinrich Rohrer
Heinrich Rohrer
, Richard Ernst , Edmond Fischer , Rolf Zinkernagel and Kurt Wüthrich received Nobel Prizes in the sciences. In total, 113 Nobel Prize
Nobel Prize
winners in all fields stand in relation to Switzerland
Switzerland
and the Nobel Peace Prize
Nobel Peace Prize
has been awarded nine times to organisations residing in Switzerland. The LHC tunnel. CERN
CERN
is the world's largest laboratory and also the birthplace of the World Wide Web
World Wide Web
.

Geneva
Geneva
and the nearby French department of Ain
Ain
co-host the world's largest laboratory , CERN
CERN
, dedicated to particle physics research. Another important research centre is the Paul Scherrer Institute . Notable inventions include lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), diazepam (Valium), the scanning tunnelling microscope (Nobel prize) and Velcro . Some technologies enabled the exploration of new worlds such as the pressurised balloon of Auguste Piccard
Auguste Piccard
and the Bathyscaphe
Bathyscaphe
which permitted Jacques Piccard to reach the deepest point of the world's oceans.

Switzerland
Switzerland
Space Agency, the Swiss Space Office , has been involved in various space technologies and programmes. In addition it was one of the 10 founders of the European Space Agency
European Space Agency
in 1975 and is the seventh largest contributor to the ESA budget. In the private sector, several companies are implicated in the space industry such as Oerlikon Space or Maxon Motors who provide spacecraft structures.

SWITZERLAND AND THE EUROPEAN UNION

Main article: Switzerland– European Union
European Union
relations

Switzerland
Switzerland
voted against membership in the European Economic Area
European Economic Area
in a referendum in December 1992 and has since maintained and developed its relationships with the European Union
European Union
(EU) and European countries through bilateral agreements. In March 2001, the Swiss people
Swiss people
refused in a popular vote to start accession negotiations with the EU. In recent years, the Swiss have brought their economic practices largely into conformity with those of the EU in many ways, in an effort to enhance their international competitiveness. The economy grew at 3% in 2010, 1.9% in 2011, and 1% in 2012. 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, however with far from any significant share of the population.

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
Bern
and Brussels
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, which includes the Schengen Treaty and the Dublin Convention besides others. They continue to discuss further areas for cooperation.

In 2006, Switzerland
Switzerland
approved 1 billion francs of supportive investment in the poorer Southern and Central 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
Romania
and Bulgaria
Bulgaria
and their recent admission. The Swiss have also been under EU and sometimes international pressure to reduce banking secrecy and to raise tax rates to parity with the EU. Preparatory discussions are being opened in four new areas: opening up the electricity market, participation in the European GNSS project Galileo , cooperating with the European centre for disease prevention and recognising certificates of origin for food products.

On 27 November 2008, the interior and justice ministers of European Union in Brussels
Brussels
announced Switzerland's accession to the Schengen passport-free zone from 12 December 2008. The land border checkpoints will remain in place only for goods movements, but should not run controls on people, though people entering the country had their passports checked until 29 March 2009 if they originated from a Schengen nation.

On 9 February 2014, Swiss voters narrowly approved by 50.3% a ballot initiative launched by the national conservative Swiss People\'s Party (SVP/UDC) to restrict immigration , and thus reintroducing a quota system on the influx of foreigners. This initiative was mostly backed by rural (57.6% approvals) and suburban agglomerations (51.2% approvals), and isolated towns (51.3% approvals) of Switzerland
Switzerland
as well as by a strong majority (69.2% approval) in the canton of Ticino , while metropolitan centres (58.5% rejection) and the French-speaking part (58.5% rejection) of Switzerland
Switzerland
rather rejected it. Some news commentators claim that this proposal _de facto_ contradicts the bilateral agreements on the free movement of persons from these respective countries.

In December 2016, a compromise with the European Union
European Union
was attained effectively canceling quotas on EU citizens but still allowing for favorable treatment of Swiss-based job applicants.

ENERGY, INFRASTRUCTURE AND ENVIRONMENT

See also: Energy in Switzerland , Transport in Switzerland , Waste management in Switzerland
Switzerland
, and Environment of Switzerland Switzerland
Switzerland
has the tallest dams in Europe, among which the Mauvoisin Dam , in the Alps. Hydroelectricity
Hydroelectricity
is the most important domestic source of energy in the country.

Electricity
Electricity
generated in Switzerland
Switzerland
is 56% from hydroelectricity and 39% from nuclear power , 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
Electricity
Without Nuclear (33.7% supported and 66.3% opposed) after a previous moratorium expired in 2000. However, as a reaction to the Fukushima nuclear disaster , the Swiss government announced in 2011 that it plans to end its use of nuclear energy in the next 2 or 3 decades. In November 2016, Swiss voters rejected a proposal by the green party to accelerate the phaseout of nuclear power (45.8% supported and 54.2% opposed). 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. Entrance of the new Lötschberg Base Tunnel , the third-longest railway tunnel in the world, under the old Lötschberg railway line . It is the first completed tunnel of the greater project NRLA .

The most dense rail network in Europe
Europe
of 5,250 kilometres (3,260 mi) carries over 596 million passengers annually (as of 2015). In 2015, each Swiss citizen travelled on average 2,550 kilometres (1,580 mi) by rail, which makes them the keenest rail users. Virtually 100% of the network is electrified. The vast majority (60%) of the network is operated by the Swiss Federal Railways
Swiss Federal Railways
(SBB CFF FFS) . Besides the second largest standard gauge railway company BLS AG two railways companies operating on narrow gauge networks are the Rhaetian Railway (RhB) in the southeastern canton of Graubünden, which includes some World Heritage lines, and the Matterhorn
Matterhorn
Gotthard Bahn (MGB) , which co-operates together with RhB the Glacier Express between Zermatt
Zermatt
and St. Moritz / Davos
Davos
. On 31 May 2016 the world\'s longest and deepest railway tunnel and the first flat, low-level route through the Alps, the 57.1-kilometre long (35.5 mi) Gotthard Base Tunnel
Gotthard Base Tunnel
, opened as the largest part of the New Railway
Railway
Link through the Alps
Alps
(NRLA) project after 17 years of realization. It starts its daily business for passenger transport on 11 December 2016 replacing the old, mountainous, scenic route over and through the St Gotthard Massif .

Switzerland
Switzerland
has a publicly managed road network without road tolls that is financed by highway permits as well as vehicle and gasoline 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 (1,018 mi) (as of 2000) and has, by an area of 41,290 km2 (15,940 sq mi), also one of the highest motorway densities in the world. Zürich
Zürich
Airport is Switzerland's largest international flight gateway, which handled 22.8 million passengers in 2012. The other international airports are Geneva
Geneva
Airport (13.9 million passengers in 2012), EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg which is located in France, Bern
Bern
Airport , Lugano
Lugano
Airport , St. Gallen-Altenrhein Airport and Sion Airport . Swiss International Air Lines
Swiss International Air Lines
is the flag carrier of Switzerland. Its main hub is Zürich.

Switzerland
Switzerland
has one of the best environmental records among nations in the developed world; it was one of the countries to sign the Kyoto Protocol in 1998 and ratified it in 2003. With Mexico
Mexico
and the Republic of Korea it forms the Environmental Integrity Group (EIG). The country is heavily active in recycling and anti-littering regulations and is one of the top recyclers in the world, with 66% to 96% of recyclable materials being recycled, depending on the area of the country. The 2014 Global Green Economy Index ranked Switzerland
Switzerland
among the top 10 green economies in the world.

Switzerland
Switzerland
developed an efficient system to recycle old newspapers and cardboard materials. Publicly organised collection by volunteers and economical railway transport logistics started as early as 1865 under the leadership of the notable industrialist Hans Caspar Escher (Escher Wyss AG) when the first modern Swiss paper manufacturing plant was built in Biberist .

Switzerland
Switzerland
also has an economic system for garbage disposal, which is based mostly on recycling and energy-producing incinerators due to a lack of space for open pit garbage disposals. As in other European countries, the Illegal disposal of garbage is not tolerated but usually the enforcement of such laws is limited to violations that involve the unlawful disposal of garbage bags at traffic intersections and public areas. In some cities, stickers need to be purchased that allow for identification of disposable garbage.

DEMOGRAPHICS

Main articles: Demographics of Switzerland and Swiss people
Swiss people
Further information: List of Swiss people
Swiss people
Population density
Population density
in Switzerland
Switzerland
(2016) Percentage of foreigners in Switzerland (2016)

In 2012, Switzerland's population slightly exceeded eight million. In common with other developed countries, the Swiss population increased rapidly during the industrial era, quadrupling between 1800 and 1990. Growth has since stabilised, and like most of Europe, Switzerland faces an ageing population , albeit with consistent annual growth projected into 2035, due mostly to immigration and a fertility rate close to replacement level .

As of 2012 , resident foreigners made up 23.3% of the population, one of the largest proportions in the developed world. Most of these (64%) were from European Union
European Union
or EFTA countries. Italians
Italians
were the largest single group of foreigners, with 15.6% of total foreign population, followed closely by Germans
Germans
(15.2%), immigrants from Portugal
Portugal
(12.7%), France
France
(5.6%), Serbia
Serbia
(5.3%), Turkey
Turkey
(3.8%), Spain (3.7%), and Austria
Austria
(2%). Immigrants from Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
, most of them former Tamil refugees, were the largest group among people of Asian origin (6.3%).

Additionally, the figures from 2012 show that 34.7% of the permanent resident population aged 15 or over in Switzerland
Switzerland
(around 2.33 million), had an immigrant background. A third of this population (853,000) held Swiss citizenship. Four fifths of persons with an immigration background were themselves immigrants (first generation foreigners and native-born and naturalised Swiss citizens), whereas one fifth were born in Switzerland
Switzerland
(second generation foreigners and native-born and naturalised Swiss citizens).

In the 2000s, domestic and international institutions expressed concern about what was perceived as an increase in xenophobia , particularly in some political campaigns. In reply to one critical report, the Federal Council noted that "racism unfortunately is present in Switzerland", but stated that the high proportion of foreign citizens in the country, as well as the generally unproblematic integration of foreigners", underlined Switzerland's openness.

LANGUAGES

Main article: Linguistic geography of Switzerland Official languages in Switzerland
Switzerland
(2017): German (63.5%) French (22.5%) Italian (8.1%) Romansh (0.5%)

Switzerland
Switzerland
has four official languages : mainly German (spoken by 63.3% of the population in 2014); French (22.7%) in the west; and Italian (8.1%) in the south. The fourth official language, Romansh (0.5%), is a Romance language spoken locally in the southeastern trilingual canton of Graubünden
Graubünden
, and is designated by Article 4 of the Federal Constitution
Constitution
as a national language along with German, French, and Italian, and in Article 70 as an official language if the authorities communicate with persons who speak Romansh. However, federal laws and other official acts do not need to be decreed in Romansh.

In 2013, the languages most spoken at home among permanent residents aged 15 and older were Swiss German
Swiss German
(60.1%), French (23.4%), Standard German (10.1%), and Italian (8.4%). More than two-fifths (42.6%) of the permanent resident population indicated speaking more than one language regularly. Other languages spoken at home included English (4.6%), Portuguese (3.5%), Albanian (2.6%), Serbian and Croatian (2.5%), Spanish (2.2%), and Turkish (1.3%).

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.

Aside from the official forms of their respective languages, the four linguistic regions of Switzerland
Switzerland
also have their local dialectal forms. The role played by dialects in each linguistic region varies dramatically: in the German-speaking regions, Swiss German
Swiss German
dialects have become ever more prevalent since the second half of the 20th century, especially in the media, such as radio and television, and are used as an everyday language, while the Swiss variety of Standard German is almost always used instead of dialect for written communication (c.f. diglossic usage of a language ). Conversely, in the French-speaking regions the local dialects have almost disappeared (only 6.3% of the population of Valais, 3.9% of Fribourg, and 3.1% of Jura still spoke dialects at the end of the 20th century), while in the Italian-speaking regions dialects are mostly limited to family settings and casual conversation.

The principal official languages (German, French, and Italian) have terms, not used outside of Switzerland, known as Helvetisms . German Helvetisms are, roughly speaking, a large group of words typical of Swiss Standard German
Standard German
, which do not appear either in Standard German , nor in other German dialects. These include terms from Switzerland's surrounding language cultures (German _Billett_ from French), from similar term in another language (Italian _azione_ used not only as _act_ but also as _discount_ from German _Aktion_). The French spoken in Switzerland
Switzerland
has similar terms, which are equally known as Helvetisms. The most frequent characteristics of Helvetisms are in vocabulary, phrases, and pronunciation, but certain Helvetisms denote themselves as special in syntax and orthography likewise. Duden
Duden
, one of the prescriptive sources for Standard German, is aware of about 3000 Helvetisms. Current French dictionaries, such as the Petit Larousse , include several hundred Helvetisms.

Learning one of the other national languages at school is compulsory for all Swiss pupils, so many Swiss are supposed to be at least bilingual , especially those belonging to linguistic minority groups.

HEALTH

Main article: Healthcare in Switzerland

Swiss citizens are universally required to buy health insurance from private insurance companies, which in turn are required to accept every applicant. While the cost of the system is among the highest, it compares well with other European countries in terms of health outcomes; patients who are citizens have been reported as being, in general, highly satisfied with it. In 2012, life expectancy at birth was 80.4 years for men and 84.7 years for women — the highest in the world. However, spending on health is particularly high at 11.4% of GDP
GDP
(2010), on par with Germany
Germany
and France
France
(11.6%) and other European countries, but notably less than spending in the USA (17.6%). From 1990, a steady increase can be observed, reflecting the high costs of the services provided. With an ageing population and new healthcare technologies, health spending will likely continue to rise.

URBANISATION

Main article: Towns of Switzerland
Switzerland
Urbanisation in the Rhone Valley (outskirts of Sion )

Between two thirds and three quarters of the population live in urban areas. Switzerland
Switzerland
has gone from a largely rural country to an urban one in just 70 years. Since 1935 urban development has claimed as much of the Swiss landscape as it did during the previous 2,000 years. This urban sprawl does not only affect the plateau but also the Jura and the Alpine foothills and there are growing concerns about land use. However, from the beginning of the 21st century, the population growth in urban areas is higher than in the countryside.

Switzerland
Switzerland
has a dense network of towns, where large, medium and small towns are complementary. The plateau is very densely populated with about 450 people per km2 and the landscape continually shows signs of human presence. The weight of the largest metropolitan areas, which are Zürich
Zürich
, Geneva
Geneva
Lausanne
Lausanne
, Basel
Basel
and Bern
Bern
tend to increase. In international comparison the importance of these urban areas is stronger than their number of inhabitants suggests. In addition the two main centres of Zürich
Zürich
and Geneva
Geneva
are recognised for their particularly great quality of life.

Largest Towns

* v * t * e

Largest towns in Switzerland Swiss Federal Statistical Office (FSO), Neuchâtel, 2015

RANK NAME CANTON POP. RANK NAME CANTON POP.

Zürich
Zürich

Genève 1 Zürich
Zürich
Zürich
Zürich
401,144 11 Thun
Thun
Bern
Bern
43,500

Basel
Basel

Lausanne
Lausanne

2 Genève Genève 198,072 12 Köniz Bern
Bern
40,214

3 Basel
Basel
Basel-Stadt
Basel-Stadt
176,117 13 La Chaux-de-Fonds
La Chaux-de-Fonds
Neuchâtel
Neuchâtel
38,957

4 Lausanne
Lausanne
Vaud
Vaud
135,629 14 Fribourg
Fribourg
Fribourg
Fribourg
38,489

5 Bern
Bern
Bern
Bern
131,554 15 Schaffhausen
Schaffhausen
Schaffhausen
Schaffhausen
35,948

6 Winterthur
Winterthur
Zürich
Zürich
109,377 16 Vernier Genève 34,655

7 Luzern
Luzern
Luzern
Luzern
81,295 17 Chur
Chur
Graubünden
Graubünden
34,652

8 St. Gallen
St. Gallen
St. Gallen
St. Gallen
75,538 18 Sion Valais
Valais
33,879

9 Lugano
Lugano
Ticino
Ticino
63,583 19 Uster
Uster
Zürich
Zürich
34,216

10 Biel/Bienne Bern
Bern
54,163 20 Neuchâtel
Neuchâtel
Neuchâtel
Neuchâtel
33,712

RELIGION

Main article: Religion in Switzerland

Religion (age 15+) in Switzerland
Switzerland
– 2014 AFFILIATION % OF SWISS POPULATION

CHRISTIANITY 71.5 71.5

_Roman Catholic _ 38.0 38

_Swiss Reformed _ 26.0 26

_Eastern Orthodox _ 2.2 2.2

_Evangelical _ 1.7 1.7

_Lutheran _ 1.0 1

_Anglican _ 0.1 0.1

_Old Catholic or other Christian_ 2.5 2.5

NON-CHRISTIAN FAITHS 6.5 6.5

_ Muslim
Muslim
_ 5.0 5

_Buddhist _ 0.5 0.5

_Hindu _ 0.5 0.5

_ Jewish
Jewish
_ 0.2 0.2

_Other non- Christian
Christian
faith_ 0.3 0.3

UNAFFILIATED * 22.0 22

_*of whom: 42% theistic /ietsistic , 32% atheistic , 25% agnostic _

Switzerland
Switzerland
has no official state religion , though most of the cantons (except Geneva
Geneva
and Neuchâtel
Neuchâtel
) recognise official churches, which are either the Catholic Church
Catholic Church
or the Swiss Reformed Church . These churches, and in some cantons also the Old Catholic Church
Catholic Church
and Jewish
Jewish
congregations, are financed by official taxation of adherents.

Christianity
Christianity
is the predominant religion of Switzerland
Switzerland
(about 71% of resident population and 75% of Swiss citizens ), divided between the Catholic Church
Catholic Church
(38.21% of the population), the Swiss Reformed Church (26.93%), further Protestant
Protestant
churches (2.89%) and other Christian denominations (2.79%). There has been a recent rise in Evangelicalism . Immigration has established Islam
Islam
(4.95%) and Eastern Orthodoxy (around 2%) as sizeable minority religions. According to a 2015 poll by Gallup International , 12% of Swiss people
Swiss people
self-identified as "convinced atheists."

As of the 2000 census other Christian
Christian
minority communities included Neo- Pietism
Pietism
(0.44%), Pentecostalism
Pentecostalism
(0.28%, mostly incorporated in the Schweizer Pfingstmission ), Methodism
Methodism
(0.13%), the New Apostolic Church (0.45%), Jehovah\'s Witnesses (0.28%), other Protestant denominations (0.20%), the Old Catholic Church
Catholic Church
(0.18%), other Christian
Christian
denominations (0.20%). Non- Christian
Christian
religions are Hinduism (0.38%), Buddhism
Buddhism
(0.29%), Judaism
Judaism
(0.25%) and others (0.11%); 4.3% did not make a statement. 21.4% in 2012 declared themselves as unchurched i.e. not affiliated with any church or other religious body ( Agnostic
Agnostic
, Atheist
Atheist
, or just not related to any official religion).

The country was historically about evenly balanced between Catholic and Protestant, with a complex patchwork of majorities over most of the country. Geneva
Geneva
converted to Protestantism
Protestantism
in 1536, just before John Calvin
John Calvin
arrived there. It became known internationally as the _ Protestant
Protestant
Rome_, being base for such reformers as Theodore Beza
Theodore Beza
or William Farel
William Farel
. Zürich
Zürich
became another stronghold around the same time, with Huldrych Zwingli
Zwingli
and Heinrich Bullinger
Heinrich Bullinger
taking the lead there. One canton, Appenzell, was officially divided into Catholic and Protestant
Protestant
sections in 1597. The larger cities and their cantons (Bern, Geneva, Lausanne, Zürich
Zürich
and Basel) used to be predominantly Protestant. Central Switzerland
Central Switzerland
, the Valais
Valais
, the Ticino
Ticino
, Appenzell Innerrhodes , the Jura , and Fribourg
Fribourg
are traditionally Catholic. The Swiss Constitution of 1848, under the recent impression of the clashes of Catholic vs. Protestant
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 rejected by 78.9% of the voters. Some traditionally Protestant
Protestant
cantons and cities nowadays have a slight Catholic majority, not because they were growing in members, quite the contrary, but only because since about 1970 a steadily growing minority became not affiliated with any church or other religious body (21.4% in Switzerland, 2012) especially in traditionally Protestant regions, such as Basel-City (42%), canton of Neuchâtel
Neuchâtel
(38%), canton of Geneva
Geneva
(35%), canton of Vaud
Vaud
(26%), or Zürich
Zürich
city (city: >25%; canton: 23%).

CULTURE

Main article: Culture of Switzerland See also: Music of Switzerland , Swiss folklore
Swiss folklore
, and Alpine culture Alphorn
Alphorn
concert in Vals

Three of Europe's major languages are official in Switzerland. Swiss culture is characterised by diversity, which is reflected in a wide range of traditional customs. A region may be in some ways strongly culturally connected to the neighbouring country that shares its language, the country itself being rooted in western European culture . The linguistically isolated Romansh culture in Graubünden
Graubünden
in eastern Switzerland
Switzerland
constitutes an exception, it survives only in the upper valleys of the Rhine
Rhine
and the Inn and strives to maintain its rare linguistic tradition.

Switzerland
Switzerland
is home to many notable contributors to literature, art, architecture, music and sciences. In addition the country attracted a number of creative persons during time of unrest or war in Europe. Some 1000 museums are distributed through the country; the number has more than tripled since 1950. Among the most important cultural performances held annually are the Paléo Festival , Lucerne
Lucerne
Festival , the Montreux Jazz Festival
Montreux Jazz Festival
, the Locarno
Locarno
International Film Festival and the Art Basel
Basel
.

Alpine symbolism has played an essential role in shaping the history of the country and the Swiss national identity. Nowadays some concentrated mountain areas have a strong highly energetic ski resort culture in winter, and a hiking (ger: _das Wandern_) or Mountain biking culture in summer. Other areas throughout the year have a recreational culture that caters to tourism, yet the quieter seasons are spring and autumn when there are fewer visitors. A traditional farmer and herder culture also predominates in many areas and small farms are omnipresent outside the cities. Folk art is kept alive in organisations all over the country. In Switzerland
Switzerland
it is mostly expressed in music, dance, poetry, wood carving and embroidery. The alphorn , a trumpet-like musical instrument made of wood, has become alongside yodeling and the accordion an epitome of traditional Swiss music .

LITERATURE

Main article: Literature of Switzerland Jean-Jacques Rousseau was not only a writer but also an influential philosopher of the eighteenth century (his statue in Geneva
Geneva
).

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

Among the classics of Swiss German
Swiss German
literature are Jeremias Gotthelf (1797–1854) and Gottfried Keller
Gottfried Keller
(1819–1890). The undisputed giants of 20th century Swiss literature
Swiss literature
are Max Frisch (1911–91) and Friedrich Dürrenmatt
Friedrich Dürrenmatt
(1921–90), whose repertoire includes _Die Physiker_ ( The Physicists ) and _Das Versprechen_ ( The Pledge
The Pledge
), released in 2001 as a Hollywood film.

Prominent French-speaking writers were Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778) and Germaine de Staël (1766–1817). More recent authors include Charles Ferdinand Ramuz (1878–1947), whose novels describe the lives of peasants and mountain dwellers, set in a harsh environment and Blaise Cendrars
Blaise Cendrars
(born Frédéric Sauser, 1887–1961). Also Italian and Romansh-speaking authors contributed but in more modest way given their small number.

Probably the most famous Swiss literary creation, _ Heidi
Heidi
_, the story of an orphan girl who lives with her grandfather in the Alps, is one of the most popular children's books ever and has come to be a symbol of Switzerland. Her creator, Johanna Spyri (1827–1901), wrote a number of other books on similar themes.

MEDIA

Main article: Media of Switzerland

The freedom of the press and the right to free expression is guaranteed in the federal constitution of Switzerland. The Swiss News Agency (SNA) broadcasts information around-the-clock in three of the four national languages—on politics, economics, society and culture. The SNA supplies almost all Swiss media and a couple dozen foreign media services with its news.

Switzerland
Switzerland
has historically boasted the greatest number of newspaper titles published in proportion to its population and size. The most influential newspapers are the German-language Tages-Anzeiger and Neue Zürcher Zeitung NZZ, and the French-language Le Temps
Le Temps
, but almost every city has at least one local newspaper. The cultural diversity accounts for a large number of newspapers.

The government exerts greater control over broadcast media than print media, especially due to finance and licensing. The Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, whose name was recently changed to SRG SSR
SRG SSR
, is charged with the production and broadcast of radio and television programmes. SRG SSR
SRG SSR
studios are distributed throughout the various language regions. Radio content is produced in six central and four regional studios while the television programmes are produced in Geneva
Geneva
, Zürich
Zürich
and Lugano
Lugano
. An extensive cable network also allows most Swiss to access the programmes from neighbouring countries.

SPORTS

Main article: Sport in Switzerland Ski area over the glaciers of Saas-Fee
Saas-Fee

Skiing
Skiing
, snowboarding and mountaineering are among the most popular sports in Switzerland, the nature of the country being particularly suited for such activities. Winter sports are practised by the natives and tourists since the second half of the 19th century with the invention of bobsleigh in St. Moritz . The first world ski championships were held in Mürren (1931) and St. Moritz (1934). The latter town hosted the second Winter Olympic Games
Winter Olympic Games
in 1928 and the fifth edition in 1948. Among the most successful skiers and world champions are Pirmin Zurbriggen
Pirmin Zurbriggen
and Didier Cuche . Spengler Cup in Davos
Davos
The Switzerland national football team
Switzerland national football team
lining up against Argentina in 2012

The most prominently watched sports in Switzerland
Switzerland
are football , ice hockey , Alpin skiing , " Schwingen ", and tennis .

The headquarters of the international football's and ice hockey's governing bodies, the International Federation
Federation
of Association Football (FIFA) and International Ice Hockey Federation
Federation
(IIHF) , are located in Zürich. Actually many other headquarters of international sports federations are located in Switzerland. For example, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) , IOC's Olympic Museum
Olympic Museum
and the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) are located in Lausanne
Lausanne
.

Switzerland
Switzerland
hosted the 1954 FIFA
FIFA
World Cup , and was the joint host, with Austria, of the Euro 2008
Euro 2008
tournament. The Swiss Super League
Swiss Super League
is the nation's professional football club league. Europe's highest football pitch, at 2,000 metres (6,600 ft) above sea level, is located in Switzerland
Switzerland
and is named the _Ottmar Hitzfeld Stadium_.

Many Swiss also follow ice hockey and support one of the 12 teams of the National League , which is the most attended league in Europe. In 2009, Switzerland
Switzerland
hosted the IIHF World Championship for the 10th time. It also became World Vice-Champion in 2013. The numerous lakes make Switzerland
Switzerland
an attractive place for sailing. The largest, Lake Geneva
Geneva
, is the home of the sailing team Alinghi
Alinghi
which was the first European team to win the America\'s Cup in 2003 and which successfully defended the title in 2007. Tennis
Tennis
has become an increasingly popular sport, and Swiss players such as Martina Hingis
Martina Hingis
, Roger Federer
Roger Federer
, and most recently, Stanislas Wawrinka have won multiple Grand Slams . Roger Federer
Roger Federer
has won a record 19 Grand Slam singles titles, making him the most successful men's tennis player ever.

Motorsport
Motorsport
racecourses and events were banned in Switzerland following the 1955 Le Mans disaster
1955 Le Mans disaster
with exception to events such as Hillclimbing . During this period, the country still produced successful racing drivers such as Clay Regazzoni , Sébastien Buemi
Sébastien Buemi
, Jo Siffert
Jo Siffert
, Dominique Aegerter
Dominique Aegerter
, successful World Touring Car Championship driver Alain Menu
Alain Menu
, 2014 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Marcel Fässler and 2015 24 Hours Nürburgring
24 Hours Nürburgring
winner Nico Müller . Switzerland
Switzerland
also won the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport
Motorsport
in 2007–08 with driver Neel Jani . Swiss motorcycle racer Thomas Lüthi won the 2005 MotoGP
MotoGP
World Championship in the 125cc category. In June 2007 the Swiss National Council , one house of the Federal Assembly of Switzerland
Switzerland
, voted to overturn the ban, however the other house, the Swiss Council of States rejected the change and the ban remains in place.

Traditional sports include Swiss wrestling or " Schwingen ". It is an old tradition from the rural central cantons and considered the national sport by some. Hornussen
Hornussen
is another indigenous Swiss sport, which is like a cross between baseball and golf. Steinstossen is the Swiss variant of stone put , a competition in throwing a heavy stone. Practised only among the alpine population since prehistoric times , it is recorded to have taken place in Basel
Basel
in the 13th century. It is also central to the Unspunnenfest , first held in 1805, with its symbol the 83.5 stone named _Unspunnenstein_.

CUISINE

Main article: Swiss cuisine
Swiss cuisine
Fondue
Fondue
is melted cheese, into which bread is dipped

The cuisine of Switzerland
Switzerland
is multifaceted. While some dishes such as fondue , raclette or rösti are omnipresent through the country, each region developed its own gastronomy according to the differences of climate and languages. Traditional Swiss cuisine
Swiss cuisine
uses ingredients similar to those in other European countries, as well as unique dairy products and cheeses such as Gruyère or Emmental
Emmental
, produced in the valleys of Gruyères and Emmental
Emmental
. The number of fine-dining establishments is high, particularly in western Switzerland.

Chocolate has been made in Switzerland
Switzerland
since the 18th century but it gained its reputation at the end of the 19th century with the invention of modern techniques such as conching and tempering which enabled its production on a high quality level. Also a breakthrough was the invention of solid milk chocolate in 1875 by Daniel Peter . The Swiss are the world's largest consumers of chocolate.

Due to the popularisation of processed foods at the end of the 19th century, Swiss health food pioneer Maximilian Bircher-Benner created the first nutrition-based therapy in form of the well-known rolled oats cereal dish, called Birchermüesli .

The most popular alcoholic drink in Switzerland
Switzerland
is wine. Switzerland is notable for the variety of grapes grown because of the large variations in terroirs , with their specific mixes of soil, air, altitude and light. Swiss wine is produced mainly in Valais
Valais
, Vaud ( Lavaux
Lavaux
), Geneva
Geneva
and Ticino
Ticino
, with a small majority of white wines. Vineyards have been cultivated in Switzerland
Switzerland
since the Roman era, even though certain traces can be found of a more ancient origin. The most widespread varieties are the Chasselas
Chasselas
(called Fendant in Valais) and Pinot noir
Pinot noir
. The Merlot
Merlot
is the main variety produced in Ticino.

SEE ALSO

* Index of Switzerland-related articles * Outline of Switzerland * _ Switzerland
Switzerland
_ – Wikipedia
Wikipedia
book

NOTES

* ^ _A_ _B_ Bern
Bern
is referred to as "federal city" (German : _Bundesstadt_, French : _ville fédérale_, Italian : _città federale_). Swiss law does not designate a _capital_ as such, but the federal parliament and government are located in Bern, while the federal courts are located in other cities. * ^ The original date of the Rütlischwur was 1307 (reported by Aegidius Tschudi in the 16th century) and is just one among several comparable treaties between more or less the same parties during that period. The date of the Federal Charter of 1291 was selected in 1891 for the official celebration of the "Confederacy's 600th anniversary". * ^ A solemn declaration of the Tagsatzung declared the Federal Constitution
Constitution
adopted on 12 September 1848. A resolution of the _Tagsatzung_ of 14 September 1848 specified that the powers of the institutions provided for by the 1815 Federal Treaty would expire at the time of the constitution of the Federal Council , which took place on 16 November 1848. * ^ There are several definitions. See Geography of Switzerland#Western or Central Europe? . * ^ Swiss Standard German
Standard German
spelling and pronunciation. The Swiss German name is sometimes spelled as _Schwyz_ or _Schwiiz_ . _ Schwyz
Schwyz
_ is also the standard German (and international) name of one of the Swiss cantons. * ^ The latter is the common Sursilvan pronunciation. * ^ As shown in this image, the current members of the council are (as of January 2016, from left to right): Federal Councillor Alain Berset , Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter , Vice-President Doris Leuthard , President Johann Schneider-Ammann , Federal Councillor Ueli Maurer , Federal Councillor Simonetta Sommaruga , Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin and Federal Chancellor Corina Casanova
Corina Casanova
* ^ 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. * ^ In 2008, the ETH Zürich
Zürich
was ranked 15th in the field _Natural Sciences and Mathematics_ by the Shanghai Academic Ranking of World Universities and the EPFL
EPFL
in Lausanne
Lausanne
was ranked 18th in the field _Engineering/Technology and Computer Sciences_ by the same ranking. * ^ Nobel prizes in non-science categories included.

REFERENCES

* ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ Georg Kreis: _Federal city_ in German, French and Italian in the online _ Historical Dictionary of Switzerland
Historical Dictionary of Switzerland
_, 20 March 2015. * ^ _A_ _B_ Holenstein, André (2012). "Die Hauptstadt existiert nicht" (PDF) (scientific article). UniPress – Forschung und Wissenschaft an der Universität Bern
Bern
(in German) (152: Sonderfall Hauptstatdtregion). Berne: Department Communication, University of Berne: 16–19. doi :10.7892/boris.41280 . Retrieved 7 May 2017. Als 1848 ein politisch-administratives Zentrum für den neuen Bundesstaat zu bestimmen war, verzichteten die Verfassungsväter darauf, eine Hauptstadt der Schweiz zu bezeichnen und formulierten stattdessen in Artikel 108: «Alles, was sich auf den Sitz der Bundesbehörden bezieht, ist Gegenstand der Bundesgesetzgebung.» Die Bundesstadt ist also nicht mehr und nicht weniger als der Sitz der Bundesbehörden. * ^ Andreas Kley: _Federal constitution_ in German, French and Italian in the online _ Historical Dictionary of Switzerland
Historical Dictionary of Switzerland
_, 3 May 2011. * ^ "Bevölkerungsbestand am Ende des 2. Quartals 2016" (XLS) (official statistics) (in German, French, and Italian). Neuchâtel, Switzerland: Swiss Federal Statistical Office (FSO), Swiss Confederation. 6 October 2016. 1155-1500. Retrieved 7 December 2016. * ^ Jacqueline Kucera, Athena Krummenacher, eds. (22 November 2016). Switzerland\'s population 2015 (PDF) (official report). Swiss Statistics. Neuchâtel, Switzerland: Swiss Federal Statistical Office (FSO), Swiss Confederation. Retrieved 7 December 2016. CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link ) * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ "5. Report for Selected Countries and Subjects: Switzerland". Washington, DC, U.S.: International Monetary Fund. Retrieved 7 December 2016. * ^ " Gini coefficient
Gini coefficient
of equivalised disposable income – EU-SILC survey" (Eurostat Data Explorer). Brussels, Belgium: European Commission. 15 November 2016. Retrieved 7 December 2016. * ^ "2016 Human Development Report" (PDF). United Nations Development Programme. 2016. Retrieved 25 March 2017. * ^ Thomas Fleiner, Alexander Misic, Nicole Töpperwien (5 August 2005). _Swiss Constitutional Law_. Kluwer Law International. p. 28. ISBN 978-9041124043 . CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link ) * ^ Prof. Dr. Adrian Vatter (2014). _Das politische System der Schweiz_ . Studienkurs Politikwissenschaft (in German). Baden-Baden: UTB Verlag. ISBN 978-3-8252-4011-0 . * ^ _A_ _B_ Zimmer, Oliver (12 January 2004) . "In Search of Natural Identity: Alpine Landscape and the Reconstruction of the Swiss Nation". _Comparative Studies in Society and History_. London: Society for Comparative Study of Society and History. 40 (4): 637–665. doi :10.1017/S0010417598001686 – via Cambridge Journals. * ^ Josef Lang (14 December 2015). "Die Alpen als Ideologie". _ Tages-Anzeiger _ (in German). Zürich, Switzerland. Retrieved 14 December 2015. * ^ Subir Ghosh (9 October 2010). "US is still by far the richest country, China fastest growing". _Digital Journal_. Canada. Retrieved 14 December 2015. * ^ Simon Bowers (19 October 2011). "Franc\'s rise puts Swiss top of rich list". _The Guardian_. London, UK. Retrieved 14 December 2015.

* ^ "Swiss and German cities dominate ranking of best cities in the world". _City Mayors_. London, UK: Mercer Consulting. 28 April 2009. Retrieved 29 April 2010. * ^ OED
OED
Online Etymology Dictionary etymonline.com. Retrieved on 25 June 2009 * ^ Room, Adrian (2003) _Placenames of the World_. London: MacFarland and Co., ISBN 0-7864-1814-1 . * ^ Switzerland, the Catholic Encyclopedia newadvent.org. Retrieved on 26 January 2010 * ^ On Schwyzers, Swiss and Helvetians Archived 5 August 2010 at the Wayback Machine
Wayback Machine
., Federal Department of Home Affairs, admin.ch. * ^ Züritütsch, Schweizerdeutsch (p. 2) schweizerdeutsch.ch. Retrieved on 26 January 2010 * ^ Kanton Schwyz: Kurzer historischer Überblick sz.ch. Retrieved on 26 January 2010 * ^ Marco Marcacci, Confederatio helvetica (2002), Historical Lexicon of Switzerland. * ^ _Helvetia_ in German, French and Italian in the online _ Historical Dictionary of Switzerland
Historical Dictionary of Switzerland
_. * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ _E_ _F_ _G_ _H_ History. swissworld.org. Retrieved on 27 June 2009 * ^ Switzerland\'s Roman heritage comes to life swissinfo.ch * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ Switzerland
Switzerland
history Nationsencyclopedia.com. Retrieved on 27 November 2009 * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ _E_ _F_ _G_ History of Switzerland Nationsonline.org. Retrieved on 27 November 2009 * ^ Schwabe & Co.: _Geschichte der Schweiz und der Schweizer_, Schwabe & Co 1986/2004. ISBN 3-7965-2067-7 (in German) * ^ _A_ _B_ _C_ _D_ _E_ _F_ _G_ _H_ _I_ _J_ _K_ _L_ _M_ _N_ _O_ _P_ "A Brief Survey of Swiss History" . admin.ch. Archived from the original on 26 June 2009. Retrieved 22 June 2009. * ^ _Swiss border ("Les principales rectifications postérieures à 1815 concernent la vallée des Dappes en 1862 (frontière Vaud-France, env. 7,5 km2), la valle di Lei en 1952 (Grisons-Italie, 0,45 km2), l'Ellhorn en 1955 (colline revendiquée par la Suisse pour des raisons militaires, Grisons-Liechtenstein) et l'enclave allemande du Verenahof dans le canton de Schaffhouse en 1967.")_ in French and

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