Switzerland

 

The Swiss Confederation was founded in 1291 as a defensive alliance among three cantons. In succeeding years, other localities joined the original three. The Swiss Confederation secured its independence from the Holy Roman Empire in 1499. A constitution of 1848, subsequently modified in 1874, replaced the confederation with a centralized federal government. Switzerland’s sovereignty and neutrality have long been honoured by the major European powers, and the country was not involved in either of the two World Wars.

 

The political and economic integration of Europe over the past half century, as well as Switzerland’s role in many UN and international organizations, has strengthened Switzerland’s ties with its neighbours. However, the country did not officially become a UN member until 2002. Switzerland remains active in many UN and international organizations but retains a strong commitment to neutrality.

 

Geography:
Location: Central Europe, east of France, north of Italy
Geographic coordinates: 47 00 N, 8 00 E
People:
Population: 7,925,517 (July 2012 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 15.2% (male 602,894/female 560,175)

15-64 years: 67.8% (male 2,612,557/female 2,569,318)

65 years and over: 17% (male 543,074/female 751,943) (2011 est.)

Government:
Country name: conventional long form: Swiss Confederation

conventional short form: Switzerland

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

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

Government type: formally a confederation but similar in structure to a federal republic
Communications:
Telephones – main lines in use: 4.378 million (2009)
Telephones – mobile cellular: 9.527 million (2009)
Transportation:
Airports: 64 (2012)
Airports – with paved runways: total: 41

over 3,047 m: 3

2,438 to 3,047 m: 2

1,524 to 2,437 m: 14

914 to 1,523 m:6

under 914 m: 17 (2012)

Military:
Military branches: Swiss Armed Forces: Land Forces, Swiss Air Force (Schweizer Luftwaffe) (2010)
Military service age and obligation: 19-26 years of age for male compulsory military service; 18 years of age for voluntary male and female military service; every Swiss male has to serve at least 260 days in the armed forces; conscripts receive 18 weeks of mandatory training, followed by seven 3-week intermittent recalls for training during the next 10 years (2012)

Economy:

Switzerland is a peaceful, prosperous, and stable modern market economy with low unemployment, a highly skilled labour force, and a per capita GDP larger than that of the big Western European economies. The Swiss in recent years have brought their economic practices largely into conformity with the EU’s to enhance their international competitiveness. Switzerland remains a safehaven for investors, because it has maintained a degree of bank secrecy and has kept up the franc’s long-term external value. Reflecting the anemic economic conditions of Europe, GDP growth stagnated during the 2001-03 period, improved during 2004-05, and jumped to 2.9% in 2006, and 2.6% in 2007. Unemployment has remained at less than half the EU average.

Transnational Issues:

Disputes – international: none
Illicit drugs: a major international financial center vulnerable to the layering and integration stages of money laundering; despite significant legislation and reporting requirements, secrecy rules persist and non-residents are permitted to conduct business through offshore entities and various intermediaries; transit country for and consumer of South American cocaine, Southwest Asian heroin, and Western European synthetics; domestic cannabis cultivation and limited ecstasy production

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