|General 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.
Switzerland is active in many UN and international organizations,
but retains a strong commitment to neutrality.
Area comparative: Slightly less than twice the
size of New Jersey.
but varies with altitude; cold, cloudy, rainy/snowy
winters; cool to warm, cloudy, humid summers with occasional
Terrain: Mostly mountains (Alps
in south, Jura in northwest) with a central plateau
of rolling hills, plains, and large lakes
Population: 7,301,994 (July 2002 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)
Language: German (official) 63.7%, French
(official) 19.2%, Italian (official) 7.6%, Romansch
0.6%, other 8.9%
Government type: Federal republic
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,
Economic overview: Switzerland is a prosperous
and stable modern market economy with a per capita
GDP higher 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. Although
the Swiss are not pursuing full EU membership in the
near term, in 1999 Bern and Brussels signed agreements
to further liberalize trade ties. They continue to
discuss further areas for cooperation. 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. The GDP growth
rate dipped to 1.6% in 2001, and the government projects
that it will slow further to 1.3% in 2002.
Communication/Telephone system: Excellent domestic
and international services.
Places of interest: The Alps together with
pristine lakes and picturesque towns.