|Conf¨¦d¨¦ration suisse (French)Confederazione
||Swiss German, French, Italian and Romansh
|Form of government
||democratic, republican state
||UTC + 1 CETUTC + 2 CEST (March-October)
|Telephone area code
The Swiss Confederation is located in Central Europe
and, with an area of 41,290 km², is roughly the size
of the Netherlands. The country borders France to the
west, Germany to the north, Liechtenstein and Austria to
the east and Italy to the south . Switzerland is
characterized by mountains, more than half of the
country's surface is above 1,000 m. In the south the
Alps take up about 60% of the total area, in the
northwest the low mountain range of the Jura around 10%
and the midlands in between about 30%.
The Jura is a low mountain range of around 250 km
long and up to 1,700 m high, which extends in a wide arc
through western and northern Switzerland. The highest
mountain here is Monte Tendre in the northwest of
Lausanne at 1,679 m. The Swiss Alps can be divided into
the northern and southern central Alps: the northern
part essentially consists of the Bernese Alps with peaks
over 4,000 m (Finsteraarhorn 4,274 m, Aletschorn 4,295
m, Jungfrau 4,158 m), the southern central Alps includes
the Valais Alps with the highest elevation in
Switzerland, the Dufourspitze in the Monte Rosa massif
(4,637 m) and the Matterhorn 4,478 m, and the Ticino and
Around 1,500 lakes in Switzerland cover about 5% of
Switzerland's territory. The largest of them (located
entirely on Swiss territory) is Lake Neuchâtel (Lac
Neuchâtel) with 218 km², which lies on the eastern flank
of the Jura. Lake Geneva (Lac L¨¦man, 581 km²) partly
belongs to France, at Lake Constance (538 km²) the
countries Germany, Austria and Switzerland meet. The
border with Italy runs through Lake Maggiore (212 km²).
Numerous rivers arise in the Swiss Alps, which are part
of the European watershed: In Chur, the union of the
Vorderrhein and Hinterrhein creates the Rhine, which
over a certain distance forms the border with the
neighboring countries of Liechtenstein, Austria and
Germany. The rivers Rhône, Aare, Reuss and Ticino (Ticino)
originate in the mountains.
The Alps form a climate divide between Mediterranean
and temperate climates, so there are major climatic
differences in the smallest space: Visp in the Valais is
one of the driest regions in Switzerland with an annual
rainfall of around 520 mm, while the Mönchsberg (4 km
099 m) with over 4,000 mm is one of the areas with the
highest rainfall. The mountain valleys open to the south
(Ticino, Graub¨¹nden) are influenced by the
Mediterranean, Lugano has average annual temperatures of
around 11.8 ¡ã C, the average rainfall is 1 100 mm per
year. The Swiss plateau and the Alpine valleys open to
the north have a cool, temperate climate. The average
annual temperature in Zurich is 8.1 ¡ã C.The coldest
point in Switzerland - with temperatures sometimes below
-40 ¡ã C - lies northwest of Neuchâtel (Neuchâtel) in the
Jura. The snow line (above which there is snow even in
summer) runs at an altitude of approx. 2 900 m on the
south side of the Alps and at approx. 2,500 m on the
north side of the Alps.
At the northern edge of the Alps, especially in
spring and autumn, the so-called foehn can occur, a warm
fall wind that can lead to a rapid rise in temperature.
Flora and fauna
The vegetation in Switzerland is different, as is the
climate. Depending on the location north or south of the
Alps and depending on the altitude, there is a variety
of different plant species. Olive, fig, almond and
laurel trees and large chestnut forests grow in the
south. From a height of approx. 800 m there is mixed
deciduous forest, which can be found in the northern
part of the Alps from heights of 600 m. Large areas of
the mixed forest have given way to cultivated land.
Beech forests follow from heights of 1,200 m (or 1,500 m
in the south), the tree line is around 1,700 m in the
northern and 2,200 m in the southern Alps.Above the tree
line there are various grasses and shrubs and a
species-rich alpine flora (gentian, edelweiss), just
below the tree line are mountain pines, stone pine and
Chamois, Alpine hare, marmot, Ptarmigan and Alpine
chough are often found in the mountains of Switzerland.
After their extermination, the Alpine ibex and the lynx
were reintroduced. Capercaillie, black grouse, golden
eagle and bearded vulture are rare. Various types of
snakes and lizards live in the sunny valleys of the
In total, the population of Switzerland comprises
around 7.45 million people. There are four official
languages in Switzerland: German and Swiss German (an
Alemannic dialect whose written language is roughly
equivalent to High German), French, Italian and Romansh.
According to COUNTRYAAH, 65% of the total population belong to the German
language group, about 20% of the French (mostly in
western Switzerland) and about 6.5% of the Italian
(especially in Ticino). Less than 1% of the total
population speak Romansh, an ancient Romance language
that stands between French and Italian. In the canton of
Graub¨¹nden, the proportion of speakers who speak Romansh
is highest at 17%. Many Swiss speak two or more of the
The population is very unevenly distributed: the
mountainous cantons of Uri, Graub¨¹nden, Ticino and
Valais are very sparsely populated; the most densely
populated areas are in the midlands around the cities of
Geneva (Gen¨¨ve), Zurich, Aargau and Zug and Basel. The
country's largest city is Zurich with around 366,000
residents, followed by Basel (166,000) and Geneva
(178,000). The capital Bern has about 127,000 residents.
Population growth is around 0.5%. About half of this is
due to natural growth (excess birth), the rest is based
on immigration. Switzerland's formerly liberal
immigration policy has intensified, the number of
immigrants has been restricted, and the granting of
annual stays is the norm for employees.
Measured by the per capita income of the population,
Switzerland is one of the richest countries in the
world. The standard of living of the majority of the
population is high, social, educational and health
services are very well developed. Depending on the
canton, the schools are adapted to the language
peculiarities. The average life expectancy for women is
83 and for men 78 years.
The Swiss Confederation is a democratic and
republican federal state and is committed to permanent
neutrality. The structure is strongly federalistic. The
underlying federal constitution of 1874 was repeatedly
amended or supplemented, the current constitution is
from 2000. The executive branch lies with the Federal
Council, whose seven members are elected by the Federal
Assembly for four years. Within the Federal Council, one
of the members, who is also the head of government, is
appointed as president every year.
The legislature lies with the Federal Assembly, which
consists of two chambers: the Council of States with 46
seats (members of parliament are representatives of the
individual cantons; the term of office is four years)
and the National Council with 200 seats, the members of
which are partly based on proportional and partly on
majority voting be elected for four years. Swiss
citizens have the direct democratic right of an optional
and a mandatory referendum, which requires a referendum
on all constitutional changes.
Switzerland's four most important parties are the
Swiss People's Party (SVP), the Social Democratic Party
(SPS), the Free Democratic Party (FDP), the Christian
Democratic People's Party (CVP) and the Green Party
Switzerland is divided into 26 cantons. Each canton
has its own constitution and is responsible for the
administration of justice, health and education. Ä.
responsible. The highest legal authority nationwide is
the Federal Court in Lausanne.
All citizens aged 18 and over are entitled to vote.
Women have had the right to vote and vote at federal
level since 1971, and it was only in 1990 that this
could be enforced in all cantons.
Switzerland is one of the richest countries in the
world in terms of per capita income. Despite its inland
location, the lack of raw materials and a limited
domestic market, a highly developed industry with
globally recognized quality products was able to
develop. Switzerland is also home to numerous large
banks and an international financial center. The global
financial crisis in 2007/2008 particularly affected the
major banks UBS and Cr¨¦dit Suisse, as well as the
world's largest reinsurance company Swiss Re. The
unemployment rate was 3% in 2013.
Around a quarter of the country's area is used for
agriculture; the most important sector is dairy farming,
which is traditionally practiced in the Alpine regions
and nowadays increasingly also in the Swiss plateau.
Swiss cheese is an important export product. Grain,
potatoes and sugar beet are mainly cultivated, and
vegetables, fruit and wine are also grown in
climatically favorable areas. Forestry is also an
The country is poor in raw materials, and the need
for industry and energy has to be largely imported.
Nevertheless, an ultra-modern industry has developed in
Switzerland that is very diverse. The country holds a
leading position with its products in numerous
technology areas (including watches, textiles, machine
tool construction, metal processing, power electronics,
pharmaceuticals, medical technology).
The service sector accounts for almost three quarters
of the gross domestic product and is mainly based on
banking, international money transactions and tourism.
Tourism contributes around 8% to the gross domestic
product: Foreign guests ensured around 19 million
overnight stays in 2012.
A well-developed network of roads (around 71,000 km
of roads, including over 1,700 km of motorways) and rail
network is available.
Although Switzerland is not a member of the European
Economic Area (EEA), free trade agreements make the EU
countries the country's most important trading partners.
When it comes to exports, Germany leads the US and
France. The most important trading partner for imports
is also Germany, ahead of Italy, France and the
The currency is the Swiss franc (= 100 centimes).