Geographic and Governmental Profile of Switzerland

Background
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.
Location
Central Europe, east of France, north of Italy
Geographic coordinates
47 00 N, 8 00 E
Continent / Subcontinent
Europe
Area
total:
41,277 sq km
rank:
136
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
Coastline
0 km (landlocked)
Maritime claims
none (landlocked)
Climate
temperate, but varies with altitude; cold, cloudy, rainy/snowy winters; cool to warm, cloudy, humid summers with occasional showers
Terrain
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)
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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
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
Capital
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
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
Independence
1 August 1291 (founding of the Swiss Confederation)
Constitution
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
Suffrage
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
NA
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
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
Data source 1: All Above textual data, maps and flags were extracted from The World Factbook which was prepared by the Central Intelligence Agency and made available on the following link: The World Factbook. Lebanese Economy Forum is not sponsered or affiliated, in any way, by the US Central Intelligence Agency
Data source 2: Plots and Charts are constructed using the world bank public data catalog which can be viewed by visiting the following link: World Bank Data Catalog. Lebanese Economy Forum is not sponsored or affiliated, in any way, by the worldbank

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