Switzerland Confederation Day
July 29, 2011
Switzerland officially the Swiss Confederation is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe where it is bordered by Germany to the north, France to the west, Italy to the south, and Austria and Liechtenstein to the east.
Switzerland is a landlocked country geographically divided between the Alps, the Central Plateau and the Jura, spanning an area of 41,285 km2 (15,940 sq mi). While the Alps occupy the greater part of the territory, the Swiss population of approximately 7.9 million people concentrates mostly on the Plateau, where the largest cities are to be found. Among them are the two global cities and economic centres of Zurich and Geneva.
The Swiss Confederation has a long history of neutrality—it has not been in a state of war internationally since 1815—and did not join the United Nations until 2002. It pursues, however, an active foreign policy and is frequently involved in peace-building processes around the world. Switzerland is also the birthplace of the Red Cross and home to a large number of international organizations, including the second largest UN office. On the European level, it is a founding member of the European Free Trade Association and is part of the Schengen Area – although it is notably not a member of the European Union, nor the European Economic Area.
In nominal terms, Switzerland is one of the richest countries in the world by per capita gross domestic product, with a nominal per capita GDP of $69,838. In 2010, Switzerland had the highest wealth per adult of any country in the world (with $372,692 for each person. Switzerland also has one of the world's largest account balances as a percentage of GDP, only placing behind a few oil producing countries. Zurich and Geneva have respectively been ranked as the cities with the second and third highest quality of life in the world. In 2010 the World Economic Forum ranked Switzerland as the most competitive country in the world. while ranked by the European Union as Europe's most innovative country by far.
Switzerland comprises three main linguistic and cultural regions: German, French, and Italian, to which the Romansh-speaking valleys are added. The Swiss therefore do not form a nation in the sense of a common ethnic or linguistic identity. The strong sense of belonging to the country is founded on the common historical background, shared values (federalism, direct democracy, neutrality) and Alpine symbolism. The establishment of the Swiss Confederation is traditionally dated to 1 August 1291; Swiss National Day is celebrated on the anniversary.
Switzerland owes the high productivity of its economy to its liberal market system, political stability and close ties with foreign economies.
Switzerland is a multicultural and multilingual country. This is due, in no small part, to geography, as Switzerland shares its borders with three major European cultures - German-speaking Europe, France, and Italy.
The different cultures within Switzerland are strongly influenced by the countries which border them and whose language they share. Each of Switzerland’s four linguistic regions has its own radio programmes and newspapers.
More than 1.5 million foreigners live in Switzerland. Close to one quarter were born here, making them second or third generation immigrants. Compared to other countries, Switzerland has a relatively high share of foreign residents, which can be largely attributed to its strict naturalisation procedure. During the 20th century, the proportion of foreigners varied considerably, reflecting changes in the economy and the labour market. At the end of the 1960s, the first wave of seasonal workers arrived from Italy. They were followed by workers from Spain, Portugal and Yugoslavia.
In Switzerland, tourism is a key economic sector, generating 6% of its gross domestic product. The catering and hotel industry employs around 225,000 people in some 30,000 businesses. The Swiss hotel industry, which also includes sanatoria, recorded 37.3 million overnight stays in 2008.
Switzerland’s tourist infrastructure is extensive, making it a year-round destination. There are a great many winter and summer resorts to choose from, not to mention thermal baths and conference hotels. Yet, Switzerland’s most important tourist attractions are its untouched and diverse landscapes as well as its vibrant cultural life. The national tourist board Switzerland Tourism and regional tourist organisations work tirelessly to ensure that Switzerland remains an exciting and attractive tourist destination.