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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.
Country Please Select Please select a country. Yes No Please fill out this field. For more info on how we might use your data, see our privacy notice and access policy and privacy website. Or, read more articles on DailyFX. Your forecast is headed to your inbox. An error occurred submitting your form. Please try again later. Upcoming Events Economic Event. Forex Economic Calendar A: The Confederacy, governed by nobles and patricians of various cantons, facilitated management of common interests and ensured peace on the important mountain trade routes.
The Federal Charter of agreed between the rural communes of Uri , Schwyz , and Unterwalden is considered the confederacy's founding document, even though similar alliances are likely to have existed decades earlier. By , the three original cantons had joined with the cantons of Glarus and Zug and the Lucerne , Zürich and 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. The Old Swiss Confederacy had acquired a reputation of invincibility during these earlier wars, but expansion of the confederation suffered a setback in with the Swiss defeat in the Battle of Marignano.
This ended the so-called "heroic" epoch of Swiss history. It was not until more than one hundred years after these internal wars that, in , under the Peace of Westphalia , European countries recognised Switzerland's independence from the 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 In the background to this struggle, the conflict between Catholic and Protestant cantons persisted, erupting in further violence at the First War of Villmergen , in , and the Toggenburg War or Second War of Villmergen , in In , the revolutionary French government conquered Switzerland and imposed a new unified constitution.
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 nothing more than a French satellite state.
The fierce French suppression of the Nidwalden Revolt in September 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 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 Napoleon organised a meeting of the leading Swiss politicians from both sides in Paris. The result was the Act of Mediation which largely restored Swiss autonomy and introduced a Confederation of 19 cantons. In the Congress of Vienna fully re-established Swiss independence and the European powers agreed to permanently recognise Swiss neutrality. Switzerland's borders have not changed since, except for some minor adjustments.
The restoration of power to the patriciate was only temporary. After a period of unrest with repeated violent clashes, such as the Züriputsch of , civil war the Sonderbundskrieg broke out in when some Catholic cantons tried to set up a separate alliance the Sonderbund. 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 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 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.
A system of single weights and measures was introduced and in the Swiss franc became the Swiss single currency. Article 11 of the constitution forbade sending troops to serve abroad, with the exception of serving the Holy See , though the Swiss were still obliged to serve Francis II of the Two Sicilies with Swiss Guards present at the Siege of Gaeta in , 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 that followed led to calls to modify the constitution accordingly. An early draft was rejected by the population in but modifications led to its acceptance in It also established federal responsibility for defence, trade, and legal matters. In , the constitution was revised with unusually strong elements of direct democracy , which remain unique even today.
Switzerland was not invaded during either of the world wars. In , Switzerland joined the League of Nations , which was based in Geneva , on condition that it was exempt from any military requirements. 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 known as the Reduit.
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 was severed in , leaving Switzerland together with Liechtenstein entirely isolated from the wider world by Axis controlled territory.
Over the course of the war, Switzerland interned over , 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 Germany raised controversy, but not until the end of the 20th century.
During the war, the Swiss Air Force engaged aircraft of both sides, shooting down 11 intruding Luftwaffe planes in May and June , then forcing down other intruders after a change of policy following threats from Germany. Over Allied bombers and their crews were interned during the war. Between and , Switzerland was bombed by the Allies causing fatalities and property damage. Allied forces explained the bombings, which violated the 96th Article of War , resulted from navigation errors, equipment failure, weather conditions, and errors made by bomber pilots.
The Swiss expressed fear and concern that the bombings were intended to put pressure on Switzerland to end economic cooperation and neutrality with Nazi Germany.
After the war, the Swiss government exported credits through the charitable fund known as the Schweizerspende and also donated to the Marshall Plan to help Europe's recovery, efforts that ultimately benefited the Swiss economy.
During the Cold War , Swiss authorities considered the construction of a Swiss nuclear bomb. In , 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 of was seen as a valid alternative. All remaining plans for building nuclear weapons were dropped by Switzerland was the last Western republic to grant women the right to vote.
Some Swiss cantons approved this in , while at the federal level it was achieved in   and, after resistance, in the last canton Appenzell Innerrhoden one of only two remaining Landsgemeinde in 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 to ,  and the first female president being Ruth Dreifuss in Switzerland joined the Council of Europe in On 18 April the Swiss population and the cantons voted in favour of a completely revised federal constitution.
In Switzerland became a full member of the United Nations, leaving the Vatican City as the last widely recognised state without full UN membership. An application for membership in the European Union was sent in May , but not advanced since the EEA was rejected in December  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 opposition from the citizens, the membership application has been withdrawn.
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 , has been completely surrounded by the EU since Austria's entry in It contains three basic topographical areas: The majority of the Swiss population live in the Swiss Plateau. The largest lake is Lake Geneva, in western Switzerland shared with France.
Lake Constance is the second largest Swiss lake and, like the Lake Geneva, an intermediate step by the Rhine at the border to Austria and Germany.
Both are located within the Pennine Alps in the canton of Valais , on the border with Italy. In the southeast the long Engadin Valley, encompassing the St. 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.
Within Switzerland there are two small enclaves: Büsingen belongs to Germany, Campione d'Italia belongs to Italy. 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 at Switzerland's southern tip.
There are some valley areas in the southern part of 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 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 remain drier than pre-alpine areas and as in the main valley of the Valais wine grapes are grown there. The wettest conditions persist in the high Alps and in the Ticino canton which has much sun yet heavy bursts of rain from time to time.
Autumn is the driest season, winter receives less precipitation than summer, yet the weather patterns in Switzerland are not in a stable climate system and can be variable from year to year with no strict and predictable periods.
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.
The Federal Constitution adopted in is the legal foundation of the modern federal state. 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 Swiss Parliament consists of two houses: Members of both houses serve for 4 years and only serve as members of parliament part-time so-called Milizsystem or citizen legislature.
Through referendums , citizens may challenge any law passed by parliament and through initiatives , introduce amendments to the federal constitution, thus making Switzerland a direct democracy. The Federal Council constitutes the federal government, directs the federal administration and serves as collective 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 , each party having a number of seats that roughly reflects its share of electorate and representation in the federal parliament.
Following the Federal Council elections , the seven seats in the Federal Council were distributed as follows:. 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 and federalism are hallmarks of the Swiss political system. The and Swiss Constitutions define 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: 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, signatures against the law within 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 , voters sign the proposed amendment within 18 months.
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. The Swiss Confederation consists of 26 cantons: The cantons are federated states , 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, except that 6 referred to often as the half-cantons are represented by only one councillor instead of two in the Council of States and have only half a cantonal vote with respect to the required cantonal majority in referendums on constitutional amendments.
Each canton has its own constitution, and its own parliament, government, police and courts. The cantons comprise a total of 2, municipalities as of Traditionally, Switzerland avoids alliances that might entail military, political, or direct economic action and has been neutral since the end of its expansion in Its policy of neutrality was internationally recognised at the Congress of Vienna in Switzerland maintains diplomatic relations with almost all countries and historically has served as an intermediary between other states.
A large number of international institutions have their seats in Switzerland, in part because of its policy of neutrality. Even though Switzerland is one of the most recent countries to have joined the United Nations, the Palace of Nations in Geneva is the second biggest centre for the United Nations after New York, and Switzerland was a founding member and home to the League of Nations.
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 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. Men usually receive military conscription orders for training at the age of The reform "Army XXI" was adopted by popular vote in , it replaced the previous model "Army 95", reducing the effectives from , to about , Of those, , are active in periodic Army training and 80, are non-training reserves.
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 of — The second was in response to the outbreak of the First World War in August The third mobilisation of the army took place in September 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 does not currently take part in armed conflicts in other countries, but is part of some peacekeeping missions around the world.
Since the armed force department has also maintained the Onyx intelligence gathering system to monitor satellite communications. Following the end of the 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 It was defeated with about two thirds of the voters against the proposal.
The large majority of firearms kept at home are issued by the Swiss army , but ammunition is no longer issued. Until 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 the legates met most of the time in Lucerne , but also in Zürich, Baden , Bern, Schwyz etc. From the Swabian War in 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 , became the most frequent, but not the sole place of assembly. After Frauenfeld gradually dissolved Baden. From , the Catholic conferences were held mostly in Lucerne, the Protestant conferences from mostly in Aarau , the one for the legitimation of the French Ambassador in Solothurn.
At the same time the syndicate for the Ennetbirgischen Vogteien located in the present Ticino met from in Lugano and Locarno. In , the federal constitution provided that details concerning the federal institutions, such as their locations, should be taken care of by the Federal Assembly BV Art.
Thus on 28 November , the Federal Assembly voted in majority to locate the seat of government in Berne. In , a law RS fixed the compensations owed by the city of Bern for the federal seat. The new constitution, however, does not contain anything concerning any Federal City.
In a tripartite committee has been asked by the Swiss Federal Council to prepare the "creation of a federal law on the status of 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 by the Swiss Federal Council, and work on this subject has not resumed since.
Thus as of today, no city in Switzerland has the official status either of capital or of Federal City, nevertheless Berne is commonly referred to as "Federal City" German: 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 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 Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report showed that Switzerland was the country with the highest average wealth per adult in It is the twentieth largest exporter , despite its small size.
Switzerland has the highest European rating in the Index of Economic Freedom , while also providing large coverage through public services. 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 as Europe's most innovative country.
Switzerland is home to several large multinational corporations. 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 unemployment rate increased from a low of 1. GDP per hour worked is the world's 16th highest, at Switzerland has an overwhelmingly private sector economy and low tax rates by Western World standards; overall taxation is one of the smallest of developed countries.
Switzerland is a relatively easy place to do business, currently ranking 20th of countries in the Ease of Doing Business Index. The slow growth Switzerland experienced in the s and the early s has brought greater support for economic reforms and harmonisation with the European Union.
The Swiss Federal budget had a size of Agricultural protectionism—a rare exception to Switzerland's free trade policies—has contributed to high food prices. Education in Switzerland is very diverse because the constitution of Switzerland delegates the authority for the school system to the cantons.
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. Traditionally, the first foreign language in school was always one of the other national languages, although recently 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.
There are 12 universities in Switzerland , ten of which are maintained at cantonal level and usually offer a range of non-technical subjects. The first university in Switzerland was founded in in Basel with a faculty of medicine and has a tradition of chemical and medical research in Switzerland. The largest university in Switzerland is the University of Zurich with nearly 25, students. In addition, there are various Universities of Applied Sciences. In business and management studies, the University of St.
As might befit a country that plays home to innumerable international organisations, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies , located in 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 laureates have been Swiss scientists. They include the world-famous physicist Albert Einstein  in the field of physics, who developed his special relativity while working in Bern. In total, Nobel Prize winners in all fields stand in relation to Switzerland  [note 11] and the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded nine times to organisations residing in Switzerland.
Geneva and the nearby French department of Ain co-host the world's largest laboratory , 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 and the Bathyscaphe which permitted Jacques Piccard to reach the deepest point of the world's oceans.
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 in 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 voted against membership in the European Economic Area in a referendum in December and has since maintained and developed its relationships with the European Union EU and European countries through bilateral agreements. In March , the Swiss people refused in a popular vote to start accession negotiations with the EU. The application for membership of the EU was formally withdrawn in , having long been frozen.
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