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Flag of Switzerland
Map of Switzerland
Introduction Switzerland
Switzerland's independence and neutrality have long been honored by the major European powers, and Switzerland was not involved in either of the two World Wars. The political and economic integration of Europe over the past half century, as well as Switzerland's role in many UN and international organizations, has strengthened Switzerland's ties with its neighbors. However, the country did not officially become a UN member until 2002. Switzerland remains active in many UN and international organizations, but retains a strong commitment to neutrality.
Geography Switzerland
Central Europe, east of France, north of Italy
Geographic coordinates:
47 00 N, 8 00 E
Map references:
total: 41,290 sq km
water: 1,520 sq km
land: 39,770 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: 10.42%
permanent crops: 0.61%
other: 88.97% (2001)
Irrigated land:
250 sq km (1998 est.)
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
People Switzerland
7,450,867 (July 2004 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 16.8% (male 647,362; female 602,333)
15-64 years: 67.9% (male 2,555,089; female 2,503,331)
65 years and over: 15.3% (male 466,615; female 676,137) (2004 est.)
Median age:
total: 39.5 years
male: 38.5 years
female: 40.5 years (2004 est.)
Population growth rate:
0.54% (2004 est.)
Birth rate:
9.83 births/1,000 population (2004 est.)
Death rate:
8.44 deaths/1,000 population (2004 est.)
Net migration rate:
4.05 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2004 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.08 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.69 male(s)/female
total population: 0.97 male(s)/female (2004 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 4.43 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 3.89 deaths/1,000 live births (2004 est.)
male: 4.94 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 80.31 years
male: 77.51 years
female: 83.27 years (2004 est.)
Total fertility rate:
1.42 children born/woman (2004 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
0.5% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
19,000 (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
less than 100 (2001 est.)
noun: Swiss (singular and plural)
adjective: Swiss
Ethnic groups:
German 65%, French 18%, Italian 10%, Romansch 1%, other 6%
Roman Catholic 46.1%, Protestant 40%, other 5%, none 8.9% (1990)
German (official) 63.7%, French (official) 19.2%, Italian (official) 7.6%, Romansch (official) 0.6%, other 8.9%
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99% (1980 est.)
Government Switzerland
Country name:
conventional long form: Swiss Confederation
conventional short form: Switzerland
local short form: Schweiz (German), Suisse (French), Svizzera (Italian)
local long form: Schweizerische Eidgenossenschaft (German), Confederation Suisse (French), Confederazione Svizzera (Italian)
Government type:
federal republic
Administrative divisions:
26 cantons (cantons, singular - canton in French; cantoni, singular - cantone in Italian; kantone, singular - kanton in German); Aargau, Appenzell Ausser-Rhoden, Appenzell Inner-Rhoden, Basel-Landschaft, Basel-Stadt, Bern, Fribourg, Geneve, Glarus, Graubunden, Jura, Luzern, Neuchatel, Nidwalden, Obwalden, Sankt Gallen, Schaffhausen, Schwyz, Solothurn, Thurgau, Ticino, Uri, Valais, Vaud, Zug, Zurich
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 influenced by customary law; judicial review of legislative acts, except with respect to federal decrees of general obligatory character; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: President Joseph DEISS (since 1 January 2004); Vice President Samuel SCHMID (since 1 January 2004); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Joseph DEISS (since 1 January 2004); Vice President Samuel SCHMID (since 1 January 2004); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
cabinet: Federal Council or Bundesrat (in German), Conseil Federal (in French), Consiglio Federale (in Italian) elected by the Federal Assembly usually from among its own 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 one-year terms that run concurrently; election last held NA December 2003 (next to be held NA December 2004)
election results: Joseph DEISS elected president; percent of Federal Assembly vote - 70.7%; Samuel SCHMID elected vice president; percent of legislative vote - 58.1%
Legislative branch:
bicameral Federal Assembly or Bundesversammlung (in German), Assemblee Federale (in French), Assemblea Federale (in Italian) consists of the Council of States or Standerat (in German), Conseil des Etats (in French), Consiglio degli Stati (in Italian) (46 seats - members serve four-year terms) and the National Council or Nationalrat (in German), Conseil National (in French), Consiglio Nazionale (in Italian) (200 seats - members are elected by popular vote on the basis of proportional representation to serve four-year terms)
elections: Council of States - last held in most cantons 19 October 2003 (each canton determines when the next election will be held); National Council - last held 19 October 2003 (next to be held NA October 2007)
election results: Council of States - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - CVP 15, FDP 14, SVP 8, SPS 6, other 3; National Council - percent of vote by party - SVP 26.6%, SPS 23.3%, FDP 17.3%, CVP 14.4%, Greens 7.4%, other small parties all under 5%; seats by party - SVP 55, SPS 54, FDP 36, CVP 28, Green Party 13, other small parties 14
Judicial branch:
Federal Supreme Court (judges elected for six-year terms by the Federal Assembly)
Political parties and leaders:
Green Party (Grune Partei der Schweiz or Grune, Parti Ecologiste Suisse or Les Verts, Partito Ecologista Svizzero or I Verdi, Partida Ecologica Svizra or La Verda) [Ruth GENNER]; Christian Democratic People's Party (Christichdemokratische Volkspartei der Schweiz or CVP, Parti Democrate-Chretien Suisse or PDC, Partito Democratico-Cristiano Popolare Svizzero or PDC, Partida Cristiandemocratica dalla Svizra or PCD) [Doris LEUTHARD, president]; Radical Free Democratic Party (Freisinnig-Demokratische Partei der Schweiz or FDP, Parti Radical-Democratique Suisse or PRD, Partitio Liberal-Radicale Svizzero or PLR) [Christiane LANGENBERGER, president]; Social Democratic Party (Sozialdemokratische Partei der Schweiz or SPS, Parti Socialist Suisse or PSS, Partito Socialista Svizzero or PSS, Partida Socialdemocratica de la Svizra or PSS) [Hans-Jurg FEHR, president]; Swiss People's Party (Schweizerische Volkspartei or SVP, Union Democratique du Centre or UDC, Unione Democratica de Centro or UDC, Uniun Democratica dal Center or UDC) [Ueli MAURER, president]; and other minor parties
Political pressure groups and leaders:
International organization participation:
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Christian BLICKENSTORFER
consulate(s): Boston
consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco
FAX: [1] (202) 387-2564
telephone: [1] (202) 745-7900
chancery: 2900 Cathedral Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Pamela WILLEFORD
embassy: Jubilaeumsstrasse 93, 3005 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
Economy Switzerland
Economy - overview:
Switzerland is a prosperous and stable modern market economy with low unemployment, a highly skilled labor 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 safe haven 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 dropped in 2001 to about 0.8%, to 0.2% in 2002, and to -0.3% in 2003.
purchasing power parity - $239.3 billion (2004 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
-0.5% (2004 est.)
GDP - per capita:
purchasing power parity - $32,700 (2004 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 1.5%
industry: 34%
services: 64.5% (2003 est.)
Investment (gross fixed):
20.1% of GDP (2004 est.)
Population below poverty line:
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 2.6%
highest 10%: 25.2% (1992)
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
33.1 (1992)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
0.6% (2004 est.)
Labor force:
3.72 million (2004 est.)
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture 4.6%, industry 26.3%, services 69.1% (1998)
Unemployment rate:
3.7% (2004 est.)
revenues: $123.2 billion
expenditures: $128 billion, including capital expenditures of NA (2004 est.)
Public debt:
57.1% of GDP (2004 est.)
Agriculture - products:
grains, fruits, vegetables; meat, eggs
machinery, chemicals, watches, textiles, precision instruments
Industrial production growth rate:
0.4% (2004 est.)
Electricity - production:
68.68 billion kWh (2001)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 1.3%
hydro: 59.5%
other: 2% (2001)
nuclear: 37.1%
Electricity - consumption:
53.43 billion kWh (2001)
Electricity - exports:
34.54 billion kWh (2001)
Electricity - imports:
24.1 billion kWh (2001)
Oil - production:
0 bbl/day (2001 est.)
Oil - consumption:
290,400 bbl/day (2001 est.)
Oil - exports:
10,420 bbl/day (2001)
Oil - imports:
289,500 bbl/day (2001)
Natural gas - production:
0 cu m (2001 est.)
Natural gas - consumption:
3.093 billion cu m (2001 est.)
Natural gas - exports:
0 cu m (2001 est.)
Natural gas - imports:
3.093 billion cu m (2001 est.)
Current account balance:
$36 billion (2004 est.)
$110 billion f.o.b. (2004 est.)
Exports - commodities:
machinery, chemicals, metals, watches, agricultural products
Exports - partners:
Germany 20.8%, US 11.3%, France 8.7%, Italy 8.3%, UK 4.9%, Japan 4% (2003)
$102.2 billion f.o.b. (2003 est.)
Imports - commodities:
machinery, chemicals, vehicles, metals; agricultural products, textiles
Imports - partners:
Germany 32.3%, France 10.8%, Italy 10.7%, US 5.5%, Netherlands 5%, Austria 4.2%, UK 4.1% (2003)
Reserves of foreign exchange & gold:
$69.58 billion (2003)
Debt - external:
NA (2000)
Economic aid - donor:
ODA, $1.1 billion (1995)
Swiss franc (CHF)
Currency code:
Exchange rates:
Swiss francs per US dollar - 1.3467 (2003), 1.5586 (2002), 1.6876 (2001), 1.6888 (2000), 1.5022 (1999)
Fiscal year:
calendar year
Communications Switzerland
Telephones - main lines in use:
5.419 million (2002)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
6.172 million (2003)
Telephone system:
general assessment: excellent domestic and international services
domestic: extensive cable and microwave radio relay networks
international: country code - 41; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean and Indian Ocean)
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 4, FM 113 (plus many low power stations), shortwave 2 (1998)
7.1 million (1997)
Television broadcast stations:
115 (plus 1,919 repeaters) (1995)
3.31 million (1997)
Internet country code:
Internet hosts:
667,275 (2004)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
44 (Switzerland and Liechtenstein) (2000)
Internet users:
2.556 million (2002)
Transportation Switzerland
total: 4,533 km
standard gauge: 3,483 km 1.435-m gauge (3,472 km electrified)
narrow gauge: 1,004 km 1.000-m gauge (974 km electrified); 46 km 0.800-m gauge (46 km electrified) (2003)
total: 71,011 km
paved: 71,011 km (including 1,638 of expressways)
unpaved: 0 km (2000)
65 km
note: Rhine River between Basel-Rheinfelden and Schaffhausen-Bodensee, some canals, and 12 navigable lakes (2003)
gas 1,831 km; oil 212 km; refined products 7 km (2003)
Ports and harbors:
Merchant marine:
total: 30 ships (1,000 GRT or over) 604,843 GRT/1,050,914 DWT
registered in other countries: 182 (2003 est.)
by type: bulk 15, cargo 6, chemical tanker 3, container 3, petroleum tanker 2, specialized tanker 1
foreign-owned: Belgium 1, Netherlands 1, United Kingdom 6, United States 1
65 (2003 est.)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 42
over 3,047 m: 3
2,438 to 3,047 m: 5
914 to 1,523 m: 8
under 914 m: 16 (2003 est.)
1,524 to 2,437 m: 10
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 23
under 914 m: 23 (2003 est.)
2 (2003 est.)
Military Switzerland
Military branches:
Land Forces, Air Force
Military manpower - military age:
20 years of age (2004 est.)
Military manpower - availability:
males age 15-49: 1,890,091 (2004 est.)
Military manpower - fit for military service:
males age 15-49: 1,606,391 (2004 est.)
Military manpower - reaching military age annually:
males: 45,654 (2004 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure:
$2.548 billion (FY01)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP:
1% (FY01)
Transnational Issues Switzerland
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 and Southwest Asian heroin

This page was last updated on 30 November, 2004