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Switzerland -Background:  
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

Location:
Central Europe, east of France, north of Italy  

border countries:
Austria 164 km, France 573 km, Italy 740 km, Liechtenstein 41 km, Germany 334 km  

Climate:  
temperate, but varies with altitude; cold, cloudy, rainy/snowy winters; cool to warm, cloudy, humid summers with occasional showers  

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  
commitment to neutrality.  

Population:    
7,489,370 (July 2005 est.)  
  
Ethnic groups:  
German 65%, French 18%, Italian 10%, Romansch 1%, other 6%  

Religions:  
Roman Catholic 46.1%, Protestant 40%, other 5%, none 8.9% (1990)  

Languages:  
German (official) 63.7%, French (official) 19.2%, Italian (official) 7.6%, Romansch (official) 0.6%, other 8.9%  

Government Switzerland
Country name:  
conventional long form: Swiss Confederation
conventional short form: Switzerland
local long form: Schweizerische Eidgenossenschaft (German), Confederation Suisse (French), Confederazione Svizzera (Italian)
local short form: Schweiz (German), Suisse (French), Svizzera (Italian)  
Government type:  
federal republic  

Capital:
Bern  

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  
Independence:  
1 August 1291 (founding of the Swiss Confederation)  
National holiday:  
Founding of the Swiss Confederation, 1 August (1291)  
Constitution:  
revision of Constitution of 1874 approved by the Federal Parliament 18 December 1998; adopted by referendum 18 April 1999; officially entered into force 1 January 2000  

Executive branch:  
chief of state: President Samuel SCHMID (since 1 January 2005); Vice President Moritz LEUENBERGER (since 1 January 2005); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Samuel SCHMID (since 1 January 2005); Vice President Moritz LEUENBERGER (since 1 January 2005); 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 8 December 2004 (next to be held December 2005)
election results: Samuel SCHMID elected president; percent of Federal Assembly vote - 70.7%; Moritz LEUENBERGER elected vice president; percent of legislative vote - 64.8%  
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 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  

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 is a peaceful, 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, with a small rise to 1.8% in 2004. Even so, unemployment has remained at less than half the EU average.  

Disputes - international:
none -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





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