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Europe : Switzerland

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Introduction | Geography | People | Government | Economy | Communications | Transportation | Military | Transnational Issues

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

Central Europe, east of France, north of Italy
Geographic coordinates:
47 00 N, 8 00 E
Map references:
total: 41,277 sq km
land: 39,997 sq km
water: 1,280 sq km
Area - comparative:
slightly less than twice the size of New Jersey
Land boundaries:
total: 1,852 km
border countries: Austria 164 km, France 573 km, Italy 740 km, Liechtenstein 41 km, Germany 334 km
0 km (landlocked)
Maritime claims:
none (landlocked)
temperate, but varies with altitude; cold, cloudy, rainy/snowy winters; cool to warm, cloudy, humid summers with occasional showers
mostly mountains (Alps in south, Jura in northwest) with a central plateau of rolling hills, plains, and large lakes
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Lake Maggiore 195 m
highest point: Dufourspitze 4,634 m
Natural resources:
hydropower potential, timber, salt
Land use:
arable land: 9.91%
permanent crops: 0.58%
other: 89.51% (2005)
Irrigated land:
250 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources:
53.3 cu km (2005)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural):
total: 2.52 cu km/yr (24%/74%/2%)
per capita: 348 cu m/yr (2002)
Natural hazards:
avalanches, landslides; flash floods
Environment - current issues:
air pollution from vehicle emissions and open-air burning; acid rain; water pollution from increased use of agricultural fertilizers; loss of biodiversity
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Sulfur 85, Air Pollution-Sulfur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Law of the Sea
Geography - note:
landlocked; crossroads of northern and southern Europe; along with southeastern France, northern Italy, and southwestern Austria, has the highest elevations in the Alps

noun: Swiss (singular and plural)
adjective: Swiss
Ethnic groups:
German 65%, French 18%, Italian 10%, Romansch 1%, other 6%
German (official) 63.7%, French (official) 20.4%, Italian (official) 6.5%, Serbo-Croatian 1.5%, Albanian 1.3%, Portuguese 1.2%, Spanish 1.1%, English 1%, Romansch (official) 0.5%, other 2.8% (2000 census)
note: German, French, Italian, and Romansch are all national and official languages
Roman Catholic 41.8%, Protestant 35.3%, Muslim 4.3%, Orthodox 1.8%, other Christian 0.4%, other 1%, unspecified 4.3%, none 11.1% (2000 census)
7,925,517 (July 2012 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 15.2% (male 621,785/ female 586,205)
15-64 years: 67.6% (male 2,696,392/ female 2,665,191)
65 years and over: 17.1% (male 584,809/ female 771,135) (2012 est.)
Median age:
total: 42 years
male: 40.9 years
female: 43.1 years (2012 est.)
Population growth rate:
0.199% (2012 est.)
Birth rate:
9.51 births/1,000 population (2012 est.)
Death rate:
8.8 deaths/1,000 population (July 2012 est.)
Net migration rate:
1.27 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2012 est.)
urban population: 74% of total population (2010)
rate of urbanization: 0.5% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)
Major cities - population:
Zurich 1.143 million; BERN (capital) 346,000 (2009)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.08 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.73 male(s)/female
total population: 0.97 male(s)/female (2011 est.)
Maternal mortality rate:
8 deaths/100,000 live births (2010)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 4.03 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 4.47 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 3.57 deaths/1,000 live births (2012 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 81.17 years
male: 78.34 years
female: 84.16 years (2012 est.)
Total fertility rate:
1.53 children born/woman (2012 est.)
Health expenditures:
11.3% of GDP (2009)
Physicians density:
4.07 physicians/1,000 population (2009)
Hospital bed density:
5.31 beds/1,000 population (2008)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
0.4% (2009 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
18,000 (2009 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
fewer than 100 (2009 est.)
Obesity - adult prevalence rate:
8.2% (2007)
Education expenditures:
5.2% of GDP (2007)
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99%
male: 99%
female: 99% (2003 est.)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):
total: 16 years
male: 16 years
female: 15 years (2008)
Unemployment, youth ages 15-24:
total: 8.2%
male: 7.7%
female: 8.7% (2009)

Country name:
conventional long form: Swiss Confederation
conventional short form: Switzerland
local long form: Schweizerische Eidgenossenschaft (German); Confederation Suisse (French); Confederazione Svizzera (Italian); Confederaziun Svizra (Romansh)
local short form: Schweiz (German); Suisse (French); Svizzera (Italian); Svizra (Romansh)
Government type:
formally a confederation but similar in structure to a federal republic
name: Bern
geographic coordinates: 46 55 N, 7 28 E
time difference: UTC+1 (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October
Administrative divisions:
26 cantons (cantons, singular - canton in French; cantoni, singular - cantone in Italian; Kantone, singular - Kanton in German); Aargau, Appenzell Ausserrhoden, Appenzell Innerrhoden, Basel-Landschaft, Basel-Stadt, Bern, Fribourg, Geneve, Glarus, Graubunden, Jura, Luzern, Neuchatel, Nidwalden, Obwalden, Sankt Gallen, Schaffhausen, Schwyz, Solothurn, Thurgau, Ticino, Uri, Valais, Vaud, Zug, Zurich
note: 6 of the cantons - Appenzell Ausserrhoden, Appenzell-Innerrhoden, Basel-Landschaft, Basel-Stadt, Nidwalden, Obwalden - are referred to as half cantons because they elect only one member to the Council of States and, in popular referendums where a majority of popular votes and a majority of cantonal votes are required, these six cantons only have a half vote
1 August 1291 (founding of the Swiss Confederation)
National holiday:
Founding of the Swiss Confederation, 1 August (1291)
revision of Constitution of 1874 approved by the Federal Parliament 18 December 1998, adopted by referendum 18 April 1999, officially entered into force 1 January 2000
Legal system:
civil law system; judicial review of legislative acts, except for federal decrees of a general obligatory character
International law organization participation:
accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations; accepts ICCt jurisdiction
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: President of the Swiss Confederation Eveline WIDMER-SCHLUMPF; Vice President Ueli MAURER; note - the president and vice president were elected to office on 14 December 2011 and will take office 1 January 2012; the president is both the chief of state and head of government representing the Federal Council; the Federal Council is the formal chief of state and head of government whose council members, rotating in one-year terms as federal president, represent the Council
head of government: President of the Swiss Confederation Eveline WIDMER-SCHLUMPF; Vice President Ueli MAURER; note - the president and vice president were elected to office on 14 December 2011 and will take office 1 January 2012
cabinet: Federal Council or Bundesrat (in German), Conseil Federal (in French), Consiglio Federale (in Italian) is elected by the Federal Assembly usually from among its members for a four-year term
elections: president and vice president elected by the Federal Assembly from among the members of the Federal Council for a one-year term (they may not serve consecutive terms); election last held on 14 December 2011 (next to be held in early December 2012)
election results: Eveline WIDMER-SCHLUMPF elected president; number of Federal Assembly votes - 179 of 239; Ueli MAURER elected vice president
Legislative branch:
bicameral Federal Assembly or Bundesversammlung (in German), Assemblee Federale (in French), Assemblea Federale (in Italian) consists of the Council of States or Staenderat (in German), Conseil des Etats (in French), Consiglio degli Stati (in Italian) (46 seats; membership consists of 2 representatives from each canton and 1 from each half canton; members serve four-year terms) and the National Council or Nationalrat (in German), Conseil National (in French), Consiglio Nazionale (in Italian) (200 seats; members elected by popular vote on the basis of proportional representation serve four-year terms)
elections: Council of States - last held in most cantons on 23 October 2011 (each canton determines when the next election will be held); National Council - last held on 23 October 2011 (next to be held in October 2015)
election results: Council of States - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - CVP 13, FDP 11, SVP 5, SPS 11, other 6; National Council - percent of vote by party - SVP 26.6%, SPS 18.7%, FDP 15.1%, CVP 12.3%, Greens 8.4%, GLP 5.4%, BDP 5.4%, other 8.1%; seats by party - SVP 54, SPS 46, FDP 30, CVP 28, Green Party 15, GLP 12, BDP 9, other small parties 6
Judicial branch:
Federal Supreme Court (judges elected for six-year terms by the Federal Assembly)
Political parties and leaders:
Christian Democratic People's Party (Christlichdemokratische Volkspartei der Schweiz or CVP, Parti Democrate-Chretien Suisse or PDC, Partito Popolare Democratico Svizzero or PPD, Partida Cristiandemocratica dalla Svizra or PCD) [Christophe DARBELLAY]; Conservative Democratic Party (Buergerlich-Demokratische Partei Schweiz or BDP, Parti Bourgeois Democratique Suisse or PBD, Partito Borghese Democratico Svizzero or PBD, Partido burgais democratica Svizera or (PBD)) [Hans GRUNDER]; Free Democratic Party or FDP.The Liberals (FDP.Die Liberalen, PLR.Les Liberaux-Radicaux, PLR.I Liberali, Ils Liberals) [Fulvio PELLI]; Green Liberal Party (Grunliberale or GLP, Parti vert liberale or PVL, Partito Verde-Liberale or PVL, Partida Verde Liberale or PVL) [Martin BAUMLE]; Green Party (Gruene Partei der Schweiz or Gruene, Parti Ecologiste Suisse or Les Verts, Partito Ecologista Svizzero or I Verdi, Partida Ecologica Svizra or La Verda) [Ueli LEUENBERGER]; Social Democratic Party (Sozialdemokratische Partei der Schweiz or SPS, Parti Socialiste Suisse or PSS, Partito Socialista Svizzero or PSS, Partida Socialdemocratica de la Svizra or PSS) [Christian LEVRAT]; Swiss People's Party (Schweizerische Volkspartei or SVP, Union Democratique du Centre or UDC, Unione Democratica di Centro or UDC, Uniun Democratica dal Center or UDC) [Toni BRUNNER]; and other minor parties
Political pressure groups and leaders:
International organization participation:
ADB (nonregional member), AfDB (nonregional member), Australia Group, BIS, CE, CERN, EAPC, EBRD, EFTA, ESA, FAO, FATF, G-10, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IGAD (partners), ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC, LAIA (observer), MIGA, MONUSCO, NEA, NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OIF, OPCW, OSCE, Paris Club, PCA, PFP, Schengen Convention, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNITAR, UNRWA, UNTSO, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO, ZC
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Manuel SAGER
chancery: 2900 Cathedral Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 745-7900
FAX: [1] (202) 387-2564
consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco
consulate(s): Boston
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Donald S. BEYER, Jr.
embassy: Sulgeneckstrasse 19, CH-3007 Bern
mailing address: use embassy street address
telephone: [41] (031) 357-70-11
FAX: [41] (031) 357-73-44
Flag description:
red square with a bold, equilateral white cross in the center that does not extend to the edges of the flag; various medieval legends purport to describe the origin of the flag; a white cross used as identification for troops of the Swiss Confederation is first attested at the Battle of Laupen (1339)
National symbol(s):
Swiss cross (white cross on red field; arms equal length)
National anthem:
name: "Schweizerpsalm" [German] "Cantique Suisse" [French] "Salmo svizzero," [Italian] "Psalm svizzer" [Romansch] (Swiss Psalm)
lyrics/music: Leonhard WIDMER [German], Charles CHATELANAT [French], Camillo VALSANGIACOMO [Italian], and Flurin CAMATHIAS [Romansch]/Alberik ZWYSSIG
note: unofficially adopted 1961, official adoption 1981; the anthem has been popular in a number of Swiss cantons since its composition (in German) in 1841; translated into the other three official languages of the country (French, Italian, and Romansch), it is official in each of those languages

Economy - overview:
Switzerland is a peaceful, prosperous, and modern market economy with low unemployment, a highly skilled labor force, and a per capita GDP among the highest in the world. Switzerland's economy benefits from a highly developed service sector, led by financial services, and a manufacturing industry that specializes in high-technology, knowledge-based production. Its economic and political stability, transparent legal system, exceptional infrastructure, efficient capital markets, and low corporate tax rates also make Switzerland one of the world's most competitive economies. The Swiss have brought their economic practices largely into conformity with the EU's, to enhance their international competitiveness, but some trade protectionism remains, particularly for its small agricultural sector. The fate of the Swiss economy is tightly linked to that of its neighbors in the euro zone, which purchases half of all Swiss exports. The global financial crisis of 2008 and resulting economic downturn in 2009 stalled export demand and put Switzerland in a recession. The Swiss National Bank (SNB) during this period effectively implemented a zero-interest rate policy to boost the economy as well as prevent appreciation of the franc, and Switzerland's economy recovered in 2010 with 2.7% growth. The sovereign debt crises currently unfolding in neighboring euro-zone countries pose a significant risk to Switzerland's financial stability and are driving up demand for the Swiss franc by investors seeking a safehaven currency. The independent SNB has upheld its zero-interest rate policy and conducted major market interventions to prevent further appreciation of the Swiss franc, but parliamentarians have urged it to do more to weaken the currency. The franc's strength has made Swiss exports less competitive and weakened the country's growth outlook; GDP growth fell to 2.1% in 2011. Switzerland has also come under increasing pressure from individual neighboring countries, the EU, the US, and international institutions to reform its banking secrecy laws. Consequently, the government agreed to conform to OECD regulations on administrative assistance in tax matters, including tax evasion. The government has renegotiated its double taxation agreements with numerous countries, including the US, to incorporate the OECD standard, and in 2011 it reached deals with Germany and the UK to resolve outstanding issues, particularly the possibility of imposing taxes on bank deposits held by foreigners. These steps will have a lasting impact on Switzerland's long history of bank secrecy.
GDP (purchasing power parity):
$344.2 billion (2011 est.) $338 billion (2010 est.) $329.1 billion (2009 est.)
note: data are in 2011 US dollars
GDP (official exchange rate):
$636.1 billion (2011 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
1.9% (2011 est.) 2.7% (2010 est.) -1.9% (2009 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP):
$43,900 (2011 est.) $43,400 (2010 est.) $42,500 (2009 est.)
note: data are in 2011 US dollars
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 1.3%
industry: 27.5%
services: 71.3% (2011 est.)
Labor force:
4.898 million (2011 est.)
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 3.4%
industry: 23.4%
services: 73.2% (2010)
Unemployment rate:
3.1% (2011 est.) 3.9% (2010 est.)
Population below poverty line:
6.9% (2010)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 7.5%
highest 10%: 19% (2007)
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
33.7 (2008) 33.1 (1992)
Investment (gross fixed):
21.1% of GDP (2011 est.)
revenues: $217.9 billion
expenditures: $214.5 billion
note: includes federal, cantonal, and municipal accounts (2011 est.)
Taxes and other revenues:
34.3% of GDP (2011 est.)
Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-):
0.5% of GDP (2011 est.)
Public debt:
52.4% of GDP (2011 est.) 54.5% of GDP (2010)
note: general government gross debt; gross debt consists of all liabilities that require payment or payments of interest and/or principal by the debtor to the creditor at a date or dates in the future; includes debt liabilities in the form of SDRs, currency and deposits, debt securities, loans, insurance, pensions and standardized guarantee schemes, and other accounts payable; all liabilities in the GFSM 2001 system are debt, except for equity and investment fund shares and financial derivatives and employee stock options
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
0.2% (2011 est.) 0.7% (2010 est.)
Central bank discount rate:
0.5% (31 December 2010 est.) 0.75% (31 December 2009 est.)
Commercial bank prime lending rate:
2.72% (31 December 2011 est.) 2.733% (31 December 2010 est.)
Stock of narrow money:
$463 billion (31 December 2011 est.) $412.2 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
Stock of broad money:
$1.047 trillion (31 December 2011 est.) $982.6 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
Stock of domestic credit:
$1.213 trillion (31 December 2011 est.) $1.119 trillion (31 December 2010 est.)
Market value of publicly traded shares:
$932.2 billion (31 December 2011) $1.229 trillion (31 December 2010) $1.071 trillion (31 December 2009)
Agriculture - products:
grains, fruits, vegetables; meat, eggs
machinery, chemicals, watches, textiles, precision instruments, tourism, banking, and insurance
Industrial production growth rate:
0.8% (2011 est.)
Current account balance:
$85.3 billion (2011 est.) $74.02 billion (2010 est.)
$312.5 billion (2011 est.) $258.5 billion (2010 est.)
Exports - commodities:
machinery, chemicals, metals, watches, agricultural products
Exports - partners:
Germany 20.2%, US 10.3%, Italy 7.7%, France 7.1%, UK 4.8%, China 4.3% (2011)
$294.1 billion (2011 est.) $246.2 billion (2010 est.)
Imports - commodities:
machinery, chemicals, vehicles, metals; agricultural products, textiles
Imports - partners:
Germany 32.4%, Italy 10.4%, France 8.6%, US 5%, Netherlands 4.4%, Austria 4.3% (2011)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
$331.9 billion (31 December 2011 est.) $270.3 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
Debt - external:
$1.346 trillion (30 June 2011) $1.2 trillion (30 September 2010)
Stock of direct foreign investment - at home:
$606.7 billion (31 December 2011 est.) $596.6 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad:
$976.1 billion (31 December 2011 est.) $936 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
Exchange rates:
Swiss francs (CHF) per US dollar - 0.888 (2011 est.) 1.0429 (2010 est.) 1.0881 (2009) 1.0774 (2008) 1.1973 (2007)
Fiscal year:
calendar year

Telephones - main lines in use:
4.684 million (2011)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
10.017 million (2011)
Telephone system:
general assessment: highly developed telecommunications infrastructure with excellent domestic and international services
domestic: ranked among leading countries for fixed-line teledensity and infrastructure; mobile-cellular subscribership roughly 125 per 100 persons; extensive cable and microwave radio relay networks
international: country code - 41; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean and Indian Ocean)
Broadcast media:
the publicly-owned radio and TV broadcaster, Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SRG/SSR), operates 7 national TV networks, 3 broadcasting in German, 2 in Italian, and 2 in French; private commercial TV stations broadcast regionally and locally; TV broadcasts from stations in Germany, Italy, and France are widely available via multi-channel cable and satellite TV services; SRG/SSR operates 18 radio stations that, along with private broadcasters, provide national to local coverage (2009)
Internet country code:
Internet hosts:
5.249 million (2010)
Internet users:
6.152 million (2009)

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: 13
914 to 1,523 m: 6
under 914 m: 17 (2012)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 23
under 914 m: 23 (2012)
1 (2012)
gas 1,681 km; oil 94 km; refined products 7 km (2010)
total: 4,876 km
standard gauge: 3,846 km 1.435-m gauge (3,591 km electrified)
narrow gauge: 1,020 km 1.000-m gauge (1,013 km electrified); 10 km 0.800-m gauge (10 km electrified) (2008)
total: 71,454 km
paved: 71,454 km (includes 1,790 of expressways) (2010)
1,292 km (there are 1,227 km of waterways on lakes and rivers for public transport and another 65 km on the Rhine River between Basel-Rheinfelden and Schaffhausen-Bodensee used for the transport of commercial goods) (2010)
Merchant marine:
total: 38
by type: bulk carrier 19, cargo 9, chemical tanker 5, container 4, petroleum tanker 1
registered in other countries: 127 (Antigua and Barbuda 7, Bahamas 1, Belize 1, Cayman Islands 1, France 5, Germany 2, Hong Kong 5, Italy 13, Liberia 25, Luxembourg 1, Malta 20, Marshall Islands 12, NZ 2, Panama 15, Portugal 3, Russia 3, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 7, Singapore 3, Spain 1) (2010)
Ports and terminals:

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)
Manpower available for military service:
males age 16-49: 1,828,043
females age 16-49: 1,786,552 (2010 est.)
Manpower fit for military service:
males age 16-49: 1,493,509
females age 16-49: 1,459,450 (2010 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually:
male: 46,562
female: 42,585 (2010 est.)
Military expenditures:
1% of GDP (2005 est.)

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

Page last updated on 22 October 2012

SOURCE: Central Intelligence Agency - Directorate of Intelligence