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zwitserland

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Zwitserland ontstond op 1 augustus 1291, toen de oerkantons - Uri, Schwyz en Unterwalden - van het Heilige Roomse Rijk een confederatie (zie Bondsbrief van 1291) stichtten, om hun onafhankelijkheid ten opzichte van de Habsburgse vorsten te bewaren. Hun onafhankelijkheid werd pas erkend bij de Vrede van Westfalen in 1648, die ook een einde maakte aan de Tachtigjarige Oorlog en de Dertigjarige Oorlog. Na verloop van tijd sloten ook andere kantons zich bij hen aan. De Zwitserse Confederatie bestond uit een bonte mengeling van staten, die al dan niet met hun vazalstaten (bv. Wallis was een vazalstaat van Bern) bij de confederatie hoorden. Tijdens de Franse Revolutie wijzigde de structuur, en werd -na lang gepalaver tussen unitaristen, federalisten en confederalisten- de unitaire Helvetische Republiek afgekondigd. Deze was zo instabiel dat men in 1803 reeds terug keerde naar een confederatie. In 1848 werd na een kleine burgeroorlog (zie Sonderbund) de staat definitief omgevormd tot een bondsstaat. Tijdens de beide wereldoorlogen bleef Zwitserland neutraal. [bewerk] Demografie [bewerk] Bevolking In 2002 woonden 15.393 mensen met de Nederlandse nationaliteit en 8437 mensen met de Belgische nationaliteit in Zwitserland. [bewerk] Taal Zie Zwitserland (taal) voor het hoofdartikel over dit onderwerp. De nationale talen van Zwitserland zijn: Duits Frans Italiaans Reto-Romaans Duits, Frans en Italiaans zijn de officiele talen van het land. Het Duits dat er gesproken wordt is Zwitserduits (Schwyzerdütsch), dat op veel punten afwijkt van het 'gewone' Duits en ook grote verschillen kent tussen de verschillende steden en dorpen. Ook het Zwitserse Frans wijkt in details af van het Frans van Frankrijk. Het Reto-Romaans wordt gesproken in een deel van het kanton Graubünden, door ongeveer 1% van de Zwitserse bevolking. In de verschillende landstalen noemt men Zwitserland Schweiz (Duits), Suisse (Frans), Svizzera (Italiaans) en Svizra (Retoromaans). [bewerk] Geografie Zie Zwitserland (geografie) voor het hoofdartikel over dit onderwerp. [bewerk] Steden Bern is alleen de facto hoofdstad, want officieel heeft Zwitserland geen hoofdstad. De stad wordt Bundesstadt of la ville fédérale (Bondsstad) genoemd. De discussie of Zwitserland een hoofdstad moet hebben is al zo oud als het land zelf. Buiten Bern zijn andere belangrijke steden onder andere: Zürich (de grootste stad) Genève Bazel Lausanne Lugano Luzern Zie: Lijst van steden in Zwitserland Zwitserland is bij uitstek een Alpenland. De hoogste bergen liggen in het zuiden en oosten van het land. In het noordwesten ligt de Jura. Het noorden en het midden van het land zijn minder bergachtig en daardoor het dichtst bevolkt. [bewerk] Meren/rivieren De grootste meren in Zwitserland zijn: het Bodenmeer en het Meer van Genève, maar deze beide meren worden gedeeld met andere landen. Het grootste geheel in Zwitserland liggende meer is het Meer van Neuchâtel. De voornaamste rivieren zijn de Rijn met zijn zijrivier de Aare, en verder de Rhône en de Inn, die alle in Zwitserland ontspringen. Zie: Een overzicht van de meren in Zwitserland Zie: Een overzicht van de rivieren in Zwitserland De meren hebben een belangrijke toeristische waarde. Jaarlijks bezoeken honderdduizenden mensen de meren. Behalve de grote meren, bestaan er ook nog kleinere meren, ook al zijn deze vaak nog groot. De bekendste zijn het Meer van Zurich, Vierwoudstedenmeer, Meer van Thun, Meer van Brienz, Meer van Maggiore en het Meer van Lugano. De laatste twee genoemde wateren worden geografisch gedeeld met Italië. Het Vierwoudstedenmeer is met haar 3 miljoen toeristen per jaar zelfs het drukst bezochte meer van Europa. In Zwitserland bevindt zich de waterscheiding tussen de Noordzee, de Zwarte Zee, de Adriatische Zee en de Middellandse Zee. Zie: Een overzicht van de gletsjers in Zwitserland Zie: Een overzicht van de bergpassen in Zwitserland [bewerk] Bestuurlijke indeling [bewerk] Kantons Zie kanton (Zwitserland) voor het hoofdartikel over dit onderwerp. Het landsbestuur is zeer decentraal geregeld, met een grote mate van autonomie voor de gemeenten en de kantons. Het land telt officieel 26 kantons, waarvan 6 op historische gronden bestaan als halfkanton (dwz met een gehalveerd stem in de Kantonsraad). Aargau - Aarau Graubünden - Chur Solothurn - Solothurn Appenzell Ausserrhoden - Herisau Jura - Delémont Thurgau - Frauenfeld Appenzell Innerrhoden - Appenzell Luzern - Luzern Ticino - Bellinzona Bazel-Landschap - Liestal Neuchâtel - Neuchâtel Uri - Altdorf Bazel-Stad - Bazel Nidwalden - Stans Wallis (Frans: Valais) - Sion (Duits: Sitten) Bern - Bern Obwalden - Sarnen Vaud - Lausanne Fribourg (Duits: Freiburg) - Fribourg Sankt Gallen - Sankt Gallen Zug - Zug Genève - Genève Schaffhausen - Schaffhausen Zürich - Zürich Glarus - Glarus Schwyz - Schwyz Van deze kantons zijn de meeste Duitstalig. Genève, Vaud, Neuchâtel en Jura zijn Franstalig, Wallis, Fribourg en Bern zowel Frans- als Duitstalig, Ticino Italiaanstalig en Graubünden Duits-, Italiaans- en Retoromaanstalig. Bevolkingsverloop van Zwitserland [bewerk] Godsdienst Zie Godsdienst in Zwitserland voor het hoofdartikel over dit onderwerp. In Zwitserland domineert de Christelijke godsdienst, hoewel de ontkerkelijk zeker in de steden ver is voortgeschreden. 41% van de Zwitsers is rooms-katholiek, 40% Gereformeerd, 2,5% is lid van een zgn. Freikirche (Protestantse kerk zonder bijzondere band met de overheid), 5,5% behoort tot een andere kerkgenootschap of andere godsdienst en 11% is niet aangesloten bij enige religie. Van de buitenlanders in Zwitserland is 44% rooms-katholiek, 5% Gereformeerd, 17% Orthodox, 18% Islamitisch en 2% is niet aangesloten bij enige religie. De snelst groeiende religie in Zwitserland is de Islam. De Grossmünsterkerk in ZürichDe kantons zijn vrij om aan een kerkgenootschap een bijzondere status toe te kennen, namelijk die van Landeskirche (Landskerk). In de meeste protestantse kantons bezit de Evangelisch-Gereformeerde Kerk de status van Landeskirche en in de meeste katholieke kantons bezit de rooms-katholieke Kerk de status van Landeskirche. Soms is aan de Oud-katholieke kerk eveneens de status van Landeskirche toegekend. In enkele West-Zwitserse kantons kent men geen Landeskiriche, omdat daar de scheiding van kerk en staat volledig is doorgevoerd. Overwegend Protestants zijn de West-Zwitserse kantons (in het bijzonder Genève), Bern, delen van Schaffhausen, Zürich en de beide halfkantons van Bazel. Overwegend Katholiek zijn de oerkantons in Centraal-Zwitserland, Fribourg, Ticino, Jura, Wallis en delen van Oost-Zwitserland. In Noord-Zwitserland is de Oud-katholieke kerk van betekenis. Daarnaast mag ook het Boeddhisme met 0,33% van de bevolking als aanhangers worden genoemd. Het aantal Boeddhisten in Centraal-Europa is het grootst in Zwitserland. [bewerk] Vervoer Alle snelwegen in Zwitserland zijn tolplichtig, daarnaast zijn er enige bergpassen waar tol wordt geheven. Ook voor de tunnel La Drossa tussen Zwitserland en Italië, en voor de Grote Sint Bernardtunnel moet tol betaald worden. De tolplicht voor snelwegen wordt geheven door de verkoop van autobaanvignetten, die anno 2006 40 Zwitserse franken kosten en 14 maanden geldig zijn, namelijk van december in jaar A, het gehele jaar B, en januari van jaar C. Zwitserland heeft een dicht en modern spoorwegnet. Naast de Schweizerische Bundesbahnen(SBB), de nationale spoorwegen, die eigendom van de staat zijn, zijn er nog tientallen particuliere spoorwegmaatschappijen. De trajecten van deze maatschappijen variëren van een paar kilometer, tot enkele honderden kilometers. De spoorlijnen in Zwitserland zijn voor bijna 98% geelectrificeerd. Een aanzienlijk deel is smalspoor; sommige lijnen maken gebruik van een tandradsysteem. Om auto's over de bergen te krijgen, wordt er veel gebruikgemaakt van autotreinen. Zie ook: Lijst van Zwitserse spoorwegmaatschappijen. Internationale luchthavens zijn er in: Zürich, Bern, Genève en Bazel. In de bergen zijn diverse kabelbanen om naar boven te gaan. Ze worden voornamelijk gebruikt in de winter om skigebieden te bereiken en in de zomer om te wandelen. Zie: Een overzicht van de bergpassen in Zwitserland Berner Oberland [bewerk] Klimaat Er zijn diverse soorten klimaten in Zwitserland van een poolklimaat in het hooggebergte tot een Mediteriaan klimaat in het zuiden. Over het algemeen is er een overgang van landklimaat naar zeeklimaat. [bewerk] Eten en drinken In Zwitserland zijn de gerechten vooral streekgebonden. Een bekend gerecht is rösti en kaas in bijvoorbeeld raclette of fondue. Zie ook: Zwitserse gerechten. [bewerk] Economie Zwitserland heeft een moderne economie. Zwaartepunten liggen bij de financiele dienstverlening, de chemische en farmaceutische industrie, de fabricage van machines en precisie-instrumenten, de levensmiddelenindustrie en het toerisme. Het land geldt als een aantrekkelijke vestigingsplaats voor buitenlandse ondernemingen, vanwege de hoge levenskwaliteit, het stabiele politieke klimaat en de relatief lage belastingen. De financiële dienstverlening is in sterke mate geconcentreerd in Zürich; Genève en Lugano zijn eveneens steden met een belangrijke financiële sector. De grootste banken zijn UBS en Crédit Suisse, maar er zijn ook veel kleinere (zaken)banken. De chemische, farmaceutische en biotechnologische industrie is voornamelijk gevestigd in en rond Bazel. Bekende namen zijn hier Novartis, Roche, Syngenta, maar deze sector wordt eveneens gekenmerkt door een groot aantal kleine en gespecialiseerde ondernemingen. Het Biozentrum in Bazel speelt een belangrijke rol in het fundamentele onderzoek. Het grootste voedingsmiddelenbedrijf in de wereld, Nestlé, is Zwitsers. Veel technologische ondernemingen zijn gevestigd in en rondom Zürich, maar ook op de Zwitserse Hoogvlakte zijn veel kleinere hoog-technologische bedrijven gevestigd. Een bijzondere vermelding verdient de Jura, waar de horloge-industrie en medische technologie belangrijke sectoren zijn. Swatch is een bekende en grote horloge-fabrikant in Biel, maar het westen van Zwitserland kent daarnaast vele kleine en exclusieve horloge-werkplaatsen. Het zomertoerisme en vooral de wintersport zijn belangrijke sectoren in de Zwitserse Alpen. [bewerk] Politiek Zie Politiek in Zwitserland voor het hoofdartikel over dit onderwerp. ZwitserlandHet land heeft een sterke traditie van politieke en militaire neutraliteit die wordt ondersteund door een sterke defensie. Zwitserland heeft een neutrale positie gehouden gedurende twee wereldoorlogen en koos pas op 10 september 2002 voor een volledige stem in de Verenigde Naties. In de jaren negentig van de 20e eeuw raakte het land in opspraak, toen bleek dat Zwitserland tijdens de Tweede Wereldoorlog minder neutraal was geweest dan steevast werd beweerd. Ook kwam het land negatief in het nieuws door conflicten over op Zwitserse banken gestalde tegoeden van met name Duitse joden die tijdens de Tweede Wereldoorlog door de nazi's waren vermoord. In Zwitserland is euthanasie, net als in Nederland en België, legaal. Het is zelfs het enige ter wereld waar mensen naar toe kunnen om hun leven te beëindigen. De in Bern zetelende volksvertegenwoordiging bestaat uit een grote en een kleine kamer: de Nationale Raad (200 leden) en de Kantonsraad (2 leden per kanton). De 4 grootste partijen zijn de Sociaal-Democratische Partij van Zwitserland, de Vrijzinnig Democratische Partij (liberalen), Zwitserse Volkspartij (burgerlijken) en Christen-Democratische Volkspartij. Veel wetsvoorstellen worden via een referendum ter goedkeuring aan de bevolking voorgelegd. De Zwitserse bondsregering (Bondsraad) bestaat uit 7 ministers afkomstig uit de 4 grootste partijen van het land. Het voorzitterschap rouleert op jaarlijkse basis; de voorzitter is tevens bondspresident (primus inter pares). De bondsregering bestaat momenteel uit de volgende personen: Bondspresident: Moritz Leuenberger (Verkeer), vicepresident: Micheline Calmy-Rey (Buitenlandse Zaken), Pascal Couchepin (Binnenlandse Zaken), Hans-Rudolf Merz (Financiën), Christoph Blocher (Justitie en Politie), Samuel Schmid (Defensie en Sport) en Doris Leuthard (Economische Zaken). [bewerk] Zwitserse overheid Zie Zwitserland (overheid) voor het hoofdartikel over dit onderwerp. [bewerk] Sport Favoriete sporten in Zwitserland zijn de wintersporten zoals skiën, ijshockey, langlaufen, rodelen en curling. Ook voetbal is in Zwitserland een veelbeoefende sport. In 1928 en 1948 werden de Olympische Winterspelen in Zwitserland gehouden. In 2008 zal Zwitserland, weliswaar samen met Oostenrijk, het gastland zijn voor de Europese Kampioenschap Voetbal. Zie ook: Olympische Winterspelen 1928 Olympische Winterspelen 1948

Swiss

[edit] Early history In 1291 representatives of the three forest cantons of Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden signed the Federal Charter. The charter united the involved parties in the struggle against the rule by the Habsburgs, the family then holding the Duchy of Austria in the Holy Roman Empire. At the Battle of Morgarten on 15 November 1315, the Swiss defeated the Habsburg army and secured existence of the Swiss Confederation within the Holy Roman Empire. By 1353, the three original cantons had been joined by the cantons of Glarus and Zug and the city states of Lucerne, Zürich and Berne, forming the "Old Federation" of eight states that persisted during much of the 15th century (although Zürich was expelled from the confederation during the 1440s due to a territorial conflict) and led to a significant increase of power and wealth of the federation, in particular due to the victories over Charles the Bold of Burgundy during the 1470s, and the success of the Swiss mercenaries. The traditional listing order of the cantons of Switzerland reflects this state, listing the eight "Old Cantons" first, with the city states preceding the founding cantons, followed by cantons that joined the federation after 1481, in historical order. The Swiss victory in the Swabian War against the Swabian League of emperor Maximilian I in 1499 amounted to de facto independence from the Holy Roman Empire. In 1506 Pope Julius II engaged the Swiss Guard that continues to serve the Vatican to the present day. The expansion of the federation, and the reputation of invincibility acquired during the earlier wars, suffered a first setback in 1515 with the Swiss defeat in the Battle of Marignano. The success of Zwingli's Reformation in some cantons led to inter-cantonal wars in 1529 and 1531 (Kappeler Kriege). The conflict between Catholic and Protestant cantons persisted, erupting in further violence at the battles of Villmergen in 1656 and 1712. Under the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, European countries recognised Switzerland's independence from the Holy Roman Empire and its neutrality (ancien régime). [edit] French invasion of 1798 In 1798, the armies of the French Revolution conquered Switzerland and imposed a new unified constitution. This centralised the government of the country and effectively abolished the cantons. The new regime was known as the Helvetic Republic and was highly unpopular. It had been imposed by a foreign invading army, and had destroyed centuries of tradition, including the right to worship. It had made Switzerland nothing more than a French satellite state. Uprisings were common and only the presence of French troops kept them from succeeding. The brutal French suppression of the Nidwalden revolt in September was especially infamous. When war broke out between France and other countries Switzerland found itself being invaded by other outside forces from Austria and Russia. The Swiss were divided mainly between "Republicans" who were in favour of a centralised government, and "Federalists" who wanted to restore autonomy to the cantons. In Paris in 1803, Napoleon Bonaparte organised a meeting of the leading Swiss politicians from both sides. The result was the Act of Mediation which largely restored Swiss autonomy and introduced a Confederation of 19 Cantons. From then on much of Swiss politics would be about balancing the cantons' tradition of self-rule with the need for a central government. The Congress of Vienna in 1815 fully re-established Swiss independence and the European powers agreed to permanently recognise the Swiss neutrality. At this time, Switzerland experienced its last increase in territory to date, with the admission of the cantons of Valais, Neuchâtel and Geneva. [edit] Constitution of 1848 In 1845, a civil war broke out between the Catholic and the Protestant cantons (Sonderbundskrieg). The Catholics disliked the moves towards a more united Switzerland which the Radical Party, then in government, was promoting. The Catholics therefore came up with a 'special treaty' (Sonderbund) which the Radicals objected to. The war lasted for less than a month, causing fewer than 100 casualties. Apart from small riots, this was the most recent armed conflict on Swiss territory. As a consequence of the civil war, Switzerland adopted the use of referenda and a federal constitution in 1849. This constitution provided for a central authority while leaving the cantons the right to self-government on local issues. The constitution was amended extensively in 1872 in order to take into account the rise in population, the Industrial Revolution and the settling of a single currency. It also established federal responsibility for defence, trade, and legal matters. In 1893, the constitution was revised with unusually strong elements of direct democracy, which remains unique even today. Since then, continued political, economic, and social improvement has characterised Swiss history. [edit] 20th century The Grossmünster of Zürich during Christmas SeasonIn 1920, Switzerland joined the League of Nations, and in 1963 the Council of Europe. Switzerland proclaimed neutrality in World War I and was not involved militarily in the conflict. Neutrality was again proclaimed in World War II, and although a German intervention was both planned and anticipated, it ultimately did not occur. The massive mobilisation of Swiss armed forces under the leadership of General Henri Guisan is often cited as a decisive factor that the German invasion was never initiated. These findings also imply that Switzerland's neutrality was compromised, as some Swiss citizens may have helped to launder the wealth allegedly stolen in the Holocaust.[4] On the other hand, during the war, Switzerland became a hub for spying activities against Germany and the Axis Powers, which helped to bring about their defeat. Women were granted the right to vote in the first cantons in 1959, at the federal level in 1971, and in the last canton, Appenzell Innerrhoden, in 1990. In 1979, parts of the canton of Bern attained independence, forming the new canton of Jura. On 18 April 1999 the Swiss population and the cantons voted in favour of a completely revised federal constitution. [edit] 21st century In 2002 Switzerland became a full member of the United Nations, leaving the Vatican as the last widely recognised State without full UN membership. Switzerland is a founding member of the EFTA, but is not a member of the European Economic Area. An application for membership in the European Union was sent in May 1992, but not advanced since the EEA was rejected in December 1992 when Switzerland was the only country to launch a referendum on the EEA. There have since been several referenda on the EU issue, but, as these are initiated by marginal groups within the country they have never been supported by the government. However, 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 bordered by the EU since Austria's membership in 1995. On 5 June 2005, Swiss voters agreed, by a 55% majority, to join the Schengen treaty, a result that was welcomed by EU commentators as a sign of goodwill by Switzerland, a country that is traditionally perceived as isolationist. [edit] Politics Federal Palace in BernMain articles on politics and government of Switzerland can be found at the Politics and government of Switzerland series. The bicameral Swiss parliament, the Federal Assembly, is the primary seat of power, apart from the Federal Council. Both houses, the Council of States and the National Council, have equal powers in all respects, including the right to introduce legislation. Under the 1999 constitution, cantons hold all powers not specifically delegated to the federation. The 46 members of the Council of States (two from each canton and one from former half cantons) are directly elected in each canton, whereas the 200 members of the National Council are elected directly under a system of proportional representation. Members of both houses serve for 4 years. Through referenda, citizens may challenge any law voted by federal parliament and through initiatives introduce amendments to the federal constitution, making Switzerland a direct democracy. The top executive body and collective Head of State is the Federal Council, a collegial body of seven members. Although the constitution provides that the Assembly elects and supervises the members of the Council, the latter (and its administration) has gradually assumed a pre-eminent role in directing the legislative process as well as executing federal laws. The President of the Confederation is elected from the seven to assume special representative functions for a one-year term. From 1959 to December 2003, the four major parties were represented in the Federal Council according to the "magic formula", proportional to their representation in federal parliament: 2 Christian Democrats (CVP/PDC), 2 from the Social Democrats (SPS/PSS), 2 Liberal Democrats (FDP/PRD), and 1 from the Swiss People's Party (SVP/UDC). This traditional distribution of seats, however, is not backed up by any law, and in the 2003 elections to the Federal Council the CVP/PDC lost their second seat to the SVP/UDC, which became the strongest party in Switzerland's legislative the same year. The function of the Federal Supreme Court is to hear appeals of cantonal courts or the administrative rulings of the federal administration. The judges are elected by the Federal Assembly for six-year terms. See also: International relations of Switzerland and Voting in Switzerland [edit] Direct democracy Since the entry into force of the 1848 federal constitution, Switzerland features a system of government not seen at the national level in any other place on Earth: direct democracy, sometimes called half-direct democracy since it is complemented by the more commonplace institutions of a parliamentary democracy. The instruments of Swiss direct democracy at the federal level are the constitutional initiative and the referendum, also called people's rights. These instruments also exist at the cantonal and municipal level, occasionally in an expanded or different form. By calling a federal referendum a group of citizens may challenge a law that has been passed by Parliament, if they can gather 50,000 signatures against the law within 100 days. If so, a national vote is scheduled where voters decide by a simple majority whether to accept or reject the law. Eight cantons together can also call a referendum on a federal law. Similarly, the federal constitutional initiative allows citizens to put a constitutional amendment to a national vote, if they can get 100,000 voters to sign the proposed amendment within 18 months.[5] Parliament can complement the proposed amendment with a counter-proposal, with voters having to indicate a preference on the ballot in case both proposals are accepted. Constitutional amendments, whether introduced by initiative or in Parliament, must be accepted by a double majority of both the national popular vote and a majority of the cantonal popular votes.[6] [edit] International institutions in Switzerland An unusual number of international institutions have their seats in Switzerland, in part due to its politics of neutrality. The Red Cross was founded there in 1863 and still has its institutional center in the country. It is not a member of the European Union; a major referendum proposing the Swiss people rejected membership in the early 1990s. Switzerland was one of the last countries to join the United Nations, in 2002. [edit] Energy politics The energy generated in Switzerland comprises around 40% nuclear power and 60% from hydroelectricity. On 18 May, 2003, a popular initiative named Moratorium Plus asked about an extension of an existing law forbidding the building of new nuclear power plants. Both were turned down: Moratorium Plus by a margin of 41.6% for and 58.4% opposed, and Electricity Without Nuclear by a margin of 33.7% for and 66.3% opposed. The former ten-year moratorium on the construction of new nuclear power plants was the result of a citizens' initiative voted on in 1990 which had passed with 54.5% Yes vs. 45.5% No votes (see Nuclear power phase-out in Switzerland for details). [edit] Cantons (states) ValaisTicinoGraubünden (Grisons)GenevaVaudNeuchâtelJuraBerneThurgauZurichAargauLucerneSolothurnBasel-LandSchaffhausenUriSchwyzGlarusSt. GallenAppenzell InnerrhodenAppenzell AusserrhodenObwaldenNidwaldenZugFribourgBasel-CityFranceItalyLiechensteinAustriaGermanyCantons of SwitzerlandMain article: Cantons of Switzerland The Swiss Confederation consists of 26 cantons: Aargau Appenzell Innerrhoden* Appenzell Ausserrhoden* Basel-Stadt* Basel-Landschaft* Bern Fribourg Geneva Glarus Graubünden Jura Lucerne Neuchâtel Nidwalden* Obwalden* Schaffhausen Schwyz Solothurn St. Gallen Thurgau Ticino Uri Valais Vaud Zug Zürich *These cantons are represented by only one councillor in the Council of States. Their populations vary between 15,000 (Appenzell Innerrhoden) and 1,253,500 (Zürich), and their area between 37 km² (Basel-Stadt) and 7,105 km² (Graubünden). The Cantons comprise a total of 2,889 municipalities. Within Switzerland there are two enclaves: Büsingen belongs to Germany, Campione d'Italia belongs to Italy. In a referendum held in the Austrian state of Vorarlberg on 11 May 1919 over 80% of those voting supported a proposal that the state should join the Swiss Confederation. However, this was prevented by the opposition of the Austrian Government, the Allies, Swiss liberals, the Swiss-Italians and the Swiss-French.[7] [edit] Geography Map of Switzerland (overview) Map of Switzerland (detailed) Wintertime view of Sent, in the eastern canton of GraubündenMain article: Geography of Switzerland With an area of 41,285 square kilometres (15,940 sq mi), Switzerland is a relatively small country. The population is about 7.4 million, resulting in a population density of 182 people per square kilometre (472/sq mi).[8] Switzerland comprises three basic topographical areas: the Swiss Alps, the Swiss plateau, and the Jura mountains. The Alps are a high mountain range running across the central-south of the country. Among the high peaks of the Swiss Alps, the highest of which is the Dufour Peak at 4,634 metres (15,203 ft), are found countless valleys, some with glaciers. From these the headwaters of several major European rivers such as the Rhine, the Rhône, the Inn, the Aare, and the Ticino flow down into lakes such as Lake Geneva, Lake Zürich, Lake Neuchâtel, and Lake Constance. The northern, more populous part of the country is more open, but can still be mountainous, for example, in the Jura Mountains, a smaller range in the northwest. The Swiss climate is generally temperate, but can vary greatly between the localities, from harsh conditions on the high mountains to the often pleasant Mediterranean climate at Switzerland's southern tip. Switzerland's eco-systems can be particularly vulnerable due to the many valleys separated by high mountains, often forming unique ecologies, and the mountainous regions themselves, with a rich range of plants not found at other altitudes. See also: Swisstopo topographical survey, List of lakes of Switzerland, List of rivers of Switzerland, List of mountain passes in Switzerland. [edit] Economy A view of Saas-Grund (right) and Saas-Fee (left) in southern SwitzerlandMain article: Economy of Switzerland Switzerland is a prosperous and stable modern market economy, with a nominal per capita GDP that is higher than those of the big western European economies, United States and Japan, though on a PPP basis, it ranks tenth. For much of the 20th century, Switzerland was the wealthiest country in Europe by a considerable margin. However, since the early 1990s it has suffered from slow growth and, in 2005, fell to fourth among European states with populations above one million in terms of nominal Gross Domestic Product per capita behind Ireland, Denmark and Norway and to the tenth position in terms of Gross Domestic Product per capita at purchasing power parity (also behind the European countries Austria and Iceland; (see list). Switzerland is a member of the European Free Trade Association. In recent years, the Swiss have brought their economic practices largely into conformity with those of the European Union, in an effort to enhance their international competitiveness, but this has not produced strong growth. Full EU membership is a long-term objective of the Swiss government, but there is considerable popular sentiment against this. To this end, it has established an Integration Office under the Department of Foreign and Economic Affairs. To minimise the negative consequences of Switzerland's isolation from the rest of Europe, Bern and Brussels signed seven agreements, called bilateral agreements, to further liberalise trade ties. These agreements were signed in 1999 and took effect in 2001. This first series of bilateral agreements included the free movement of persons. A second series covering nine areas was signed in 2004 and awaits ratification. The second series includes the Schengen treaty and the Dublin Convention. They continue to discuss further areas for cooperation. Preparatory discussions are being opened on four new areas: opening up the electricity market, participation in the European GPS system Galileo, cooperating with the European centre for disease prevention and recognising certificates of origin for food products. Switzerland voted against membership in the European Economic Area in December 1992 and has since maintained and developed its relationships with the European Union and European countries through bilateral agreements. A full report on the potential advantages and inconveniences of full EU membership is expected to be published in June 2006 by the Department of Foreign affairs. EU membership supporters hope this report could help reopen the internal debate, which has been dormant since March 2001, when the Swiss people refused in a popular vote to start accession negotiations with the EU. See also: List of Swiss companies, Swiss bank, and Merchant Marine of Switzerland [edit] Demographics Main languages in Switzerland[9]: German, French, Italian, RomanshMain articles: Swiss (people) and Demographics of Switzerland Switzerland lies at the crossroads of several major European cultures that have heavily influenced the country's languages and culture. Switzerland has four official languages: German (64%) in the north and centre; French (20.4%) to the west; Italian (6.5%) in the south; and Romansh (a Romance language), that is spoken locally by a small minority (< 1%) in the southeastern canton of Graubünden. (Some dialects of Franco-Provençal have speakers in rural communities in the region where French is spoken. This language has no legal status.) The federal government is obliged to communicate in the four official languages. In the federal parliament, German, French, Italian and Romansh are the official languages and simultaneous translation is provided. The German spoken in Switzerland is predominantly a group of dialects collectively known as Swiss German, but written communication and broadcasts typically use standard High German. Similarly, there are some dialects in the other speaking part of Switzerland, called Swiss French and Ticinese (a dialect of Italian). Also the official languages (German, French and Italian) borrow some terms not understood outside of Switzerland, i.e. terms from other languages (German Billette [10] from French), from similar term in another language (Italian azione used not as act but as discount from German Aktion). Learning one of the other national languages at school is obligatory for all Swiss, so most Swiss are supposed to be at least bilingual (in reality, many Swiss are more fluent in English than in their own country's other languages, particularly the German-speaking Swiss). Resident foreigners and temporary foreign workers make up about 21% of the population. Most of these are from European Union countries (Italians being the largest group, at 4%), with smaller numbers from the rest of the world, including refugees from the former Yugoslavia (5%) and Turks (1%). Further information: List of Swiss people The country has seen growth in the population of Hmong, Lao and Vietnamese people, and also immigrants from Mexico and South America. [edit] Religion Further information: Reformation in Switzerland Further information: Buddhism in Switzerland Further information: Islam in Switzerland Further information: History of the Jews in Switzerland A church in Fischenthal, a village in the canton of ZürichSwitzerland has no country-wide state religion, though most of the cantons (except for Geneva and Neuchâtel) financially support through taxation either the Roman Catholic Church, the Old Catholic Church, or the Swiss Reformed Church.[11] The most popular religion in Switzerland is the Roman Catholic Church (44% of the population). There are various Protestant denominations (38.5%), while immigration has brought Islam (4.3%) and Eastern Orthodoxy (1.8%) as sizeable minority religions.[12] The stability and prosperity of Switzerland, combined with a linguistically diverse population, has led some to describe the country as a consensus, or consociational state. The country is historically about evenly balanced between Catholic and Protestant, with a confusing patchwork of majorities over most of the country. Some cantons, such as Appenzell, are even officially divided into Catholic and Protestant sections, and many villages have the predominant religion posted on the signs leading into them, stating in effect "this is a Catholic/Protestant village". However, there are some overall patterns. Among the larger cities, the capital Bern, the banking centre Zürich, and Basel are predominately Protestant, whereas others such as Luzern are mostly Catholic. Geneva is famous as an early Calvinist centre, and a majority of Swiss French are Protestant, in contrast to French elsewhere in the world who are mainly Catholic. On the other hand, the founding core of Switzerland, the German-speaking cantons of Schwyz, Uri, and Unterwalden, are mainly Catholic, as is Italian-speaking Ticino. [edit] Culture Folkloric dance demonstration in LausanneMain article: Culture of Switzerland See also: Music of Switzerland, Swiss cuisine, and SRG SSR idée suisse The culture of Switzerland is influenced by its neighbours, but over the years a distinctive culture with strong regional differences has developed. In particular, French-speaking regions have tended to orient themselves on French culture, German-speaking on German culture, and Italian-speaking on Italian culture; thus, a region may be more strongly culturally connected to the neighboring country that shares its language than to the rest of its own land. The linguistically isolated Rhaeto-Romanic culture in the eastern mountains of Switzerland is also robust. This strong regionalism in Switzerland makes it difficult to speak of a homogeneous Swiss culture. A number of culturally active Swiss have chosen to move abroad, probably given the limited opportunities in their homeland. At the same time, the neutrality of Switzerland and the low taxes have attracted many creative people from all over the world. In war times the tradition of political asylum helped to attract artists, whilst recently low taxes seem predominant. [edit] International Rankings [edit] Political and economic rankings Switzerland is one of the least corrupt countries in the world, according to Transparency International.Political freedom ratings - Free; political rights and civil liberties both rated 1 (the highest score available) Press freedom - 8th equal freest in the world at 2.50 GDP per capita - 10th highest in the world at I$32,571 Human Development Index - 7th highest in world at 0.947 Income Equality - 37th most equal in world at 33.1 (Gini Index) Literacy Rate - Equal first with a ranking of 99.9% Unemployment rate - 22nd equal lowest in the world at 3.40% Corruption - 12th equal least corrupt in world at 8.4 on index Economic Freedom - 15th equal freest at 1.89 on index [edit] Health rankings Fertility rate- 155th most fertile in the world at 1.43 per woman Birth rate - 176th most births in the world at 9.71 per 1000 people Infant mortality - 213th most deaths in the world at 4.39 per 1000 live births Death rate - 93rd highest death rate in the world at 8.48 per 1000 people Life Expectancy - 6th highest in the world at 80.51 years Suicide Rate - 15th highest suicide rate in the world at 26.5 for males and 10.6 for females HIV/AIDS rate - 78th most cases in the world at 0.40% [edit] Other rankings CO2 emissions - 67th highest emissions in world at 5.6 tonnes per capita Electricity Consumption - 37th highest consumption of electricity in world at 55,860,000,000 kWh Broadband uptake - 5th highest uptake in OECD at 23.1% Beer consumption - 27th highest at 57.3 litres per capita Cheese consumption - 4th highest at 20.6 kg per capita Chocolate consumption - highest chocolate consumption at an average of 10 kg (22 pounds) per person [13] [edit] Notes ^ The motto is traditional; it is not officially defined by the Swiss constitution or Swiss law. See Unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno for more information. ^ http://www.oefre.unibe.ch/law/icl/sz00000_.html Switzerland Constitution], article 70, "Languages": (1) The official languages of the Federation are German, French, and Italian. Romansh is an official language for communicating with persons of Romansh language. (2) The Cantons designate their own official languages. In order to preserve harmony between linguistic communities, they respect the traditional territorial distribution of languages, and take into account the indigenous linguistic minorities. ^ http://www.bfs.admin.ch/bfs/portal/fr/index/themen/bevoelkerung/sprachen__religionen/blank/medienmitteilungen.Document.24786.html ^ [1] ^ Since 1999, an initiative can also be in the form of a general proposal to be elaborated by Parliament, but because it is considered less attractive for various reasons, this form of initiative has yet to find any use. ^ I.e., a majority of 23 cantonal votes, because the result of the popular vote in the six traditional half-cantons each counts as half the vote of one of the other cantons. ^ http://c2d.unige.ch/int/voteres.php?entit=10&vote=101&lang= ^ A zoomable map of Switzerland is available at either www.swissinfo-geo.org or www.swissgeo.ch; a zoomable satellite picture is at map.search.ch. ^ Swiss Federal Statistical Office, Federal Population Census 2000 ^ [2] ^ http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2004/35487.htm ^ CIA World Factbook section on Switzerland ^ Images Doc No 216, décembre (December) 2006 ISSN 0995-1121 Page 35, bottom right [edit] References Clive H. Church (2004). The Politics and Government of Switzerland. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-69277-2. Dieter Fahrni (2003). An Outline History of Switzerland. From the Origins to the Present Day. 8th enlarged edition. Pro Helvetia, Zürich. ISBN 3-908102-61-8 Swiss Statistics, official website of the Swiss Federal Statistical Office. CIA World Factbook - Switzerland [edit] See also Switzerland Portal 2004 in Switzerland, 2005 in Switzerland Communications in Switzerland Data codes for Switzerland Education in Switzerland Enlargement of the European Union - Switzerland Foreign relations of Switzerland List of cities in Switzerland List of Swiss people Military of Switzerland Public holidays in Switzerland Swiss citizenship Switzerland and the European Union Transportation in Switzerland List of Swiss companies List of Switzerland-related topics

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