Switzerland

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SWITZERLAND

LOCATION, SIZE, AND EXTENT
TOPOGRAPHY
CLIMATE
FLORA AND FAUNA
ENVIRONMENT
POPULATION
MIGRATION
ETHNIC GROUPS
LANGUAGES
RELIGIONS
TRANSPORTATION
HISTORY
GOVERNMENT
POLITICAL PARTIES
LOCAL GOVERNMENT
JUDICIAL SYSTEM
ARMED FORCES
INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION
ECONOMY
INCOME
LABOR
AGRICULTURE
ANIMAL HUSBANDRY
FISHING
FORESTRY
MINING
ENERGY AND POWER
INDUSTRY
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
DOMESTIC TRADE
FOREIGN TRADE
BALANCE OF PAYMENTS
BANKING AND SECURITIES
INSURANCE
PUBLIC FINANCE
TAXATION
CUSTOMS AND DUTIES
FOREIGN INVESTMENT
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
HEALTH
HOUSING
EDUCATION
LIBRARIES AND MUSEUMS
MEDIA
ORGANIZATIONS
TOURISM, TRAVEL, AND RECREATION
FAMOUS SWISS
DEPENDENCIES
BIBLIOGRAPHY

Swiss Confederation

[French] Suisse; (Confédération Suisse); [German] Schweiz; (Schweizerische
Eidgenossenschaft); [Italian] Svizzera; (Confederazione Svizzera);
[Romansch] Svizra (Confederaziun Helvetica)

CAPITAL: Bern

FLAG: The national flag consists of an equilateral white cross on a red background, each arm of the cross being one-sixth longer than its width.

ANTHEM: The Swiss Hymn begins "Trittst in Morgenrot daher, Seh' ich dich in Strahlenmeer" ("Radiant in the morning sky, Lord, I see that Thou art nigh").

MONETARY UNIT: The Swiss franc (SwFr) of 100 centimes, or rappen, is the national currency. There are coins of 1, 5, 10, 20, and 50 centimes and 1, 2, and 5 francs, and notes of 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, and 1,000 francs. SwFr 1 = $0.81301 (or $1 = SwFr 1.23) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the legal standard.

HOLIDAYS: New Year, 12 January; Labor Day, 1 May; Christmas, 2526 December. Movable religious holidays include Good Friday, Easter Monday, Ascension, and Whitmonday.

TIME: 1 pm = noon GMT.

LOCATION, SIZE, AND EXTENT

A landlocked country in central Europe, Switzerland has an area of 41,290 sq km (15,942 sq mi), extending 348 km (216 mi) ew and 220 km (137 mi) ns. Comparatively, the area occupied by Switzerland is slightly less than twice the size of New Jersey. Bounded on the n by Germany, on the e by Liechtenstein and Austria, on the se and s by Italy, and on the w and nw by France, Switzerland has a total boundary length of 1,852 km (1,151 mi).

Switzerland's capital city, Bern, is located in the western part of the country.

TOPOGRAPHY

Switzerland is divided into three natural topographical regions: (1) the Jura Mountains in the northwest, rising between Switzerland and eastern France; (2) the Alps in the south, covering three-fifths of the country's total area; and (3) the central Swiss plateau, or Mittelland, consisting of fertile plains and rolling hills that run between the Jura and the Alps. The Mittelland, with a mean altitude of 580 m (1,900 ft), covers about 30% of Switzerland and is the heartland of Swiss farming and industry; Zürich, Bern, Lausanne, and Geneva (Genève) are on the plateau. The central portion of the Alps, around the St. Gotthard Pass, is a major watershed and the source of the Rhine, which drains into the North Sea; of the Aare, a tributary of the Rhine; of the Rhône, which flows into the Mediterranean; and of the Ticino, a tributary of the Po, and of the Inn, a tributary of the Danube, which flow into the Adriatic and the Black seas, respectively.

The highest point in Switzerland is the Dufourspitze of Monte Rosa at 4,634 m (15,203 ft); the lowest is the shore of Lake Maggiore at less than 195 m (640 ft). The second-highest and most celebrated of the Swiss Alps is the Matterhorn (4,478 m/14,692 ft), long a challenge to mountaineers and first scaled in 1865.

Switzerland has 1,484 lakes, more than 12,900 smaller bodies of water, and many waterfalls. Lake Geneva (Léman), with an area of 581 sq km (224 sq mi), is considered the largest Swiss lake, though its southern shore is in France. Lake Neuchâtel, the largest lake totally within Switzerland, has an area of 218 sq km (84 sq mi). Switzerland also contains more than 1,000 glaciers, many the relics of Pleistocene glaciation. The largest area of permanent ice is in the Valais.

CLIMATE

The climate of Switzerland north of the Alps is temperate but varies with altitude, wind exposure, and other factors; the average annual temperature is 9°c (48°f). The average rainfall varies from 53 cm (21 in) in the Rhône Valley to 170 cm (67 in) in Lugano. Generally, the areas to the west and north of the Alps have a cool, rainy climate, with winter averages near or below freezing and summer temperatures seldom above 21°c (70°f). South of the Alps, the canton of Ticino has a warm, moist, Mediterranean climate, and frost is almost unknown. The climate of the Alps and of the Jura uplands is mostly raw, rainy, or snowy, with frost occurring above 1,830 m (6,000 ft).

FLORA AND FAUNA

Variation in climate and altitude produces a varied flora and fauna. In the lowest zone (below 550 m/1,800 ft), chestnut, walnut, cypress, and palm trees grow, as well as figs, oranges, and almonds; up to 1,200 m (3,940 ft), forests of beech, maple, and oak; around 1,680 m (5,500 ft), fir and pine; around 2,130 m (7,000 ft), rhododendron, larches, dwarf and cembra pine, and whortleberries; and above the snow line, more than 100 species of flowering plants, including the edelweiss. Wild animals include the chamois, boar, deer, otter, and fox. There are large birds of prey, as well as snipe, heath cock, and cuckoo. Lakes and rivers teem with fish. As of 2002, there were at least 75 species of mammals, 199 species of birds, and over 3,000 species of plants throughout the country.

ENVIRONMENT

The Swiss have long been aware of the need to protect their natural resources. Switzerland's federal forestry law of 1876 is among the world's earliest pieces of environmental legislation. Since 1953, provisions for environmental protection have been incorporated in the federal constitution. A measure creating a federal role in town and rural planning by allowing the central government to set the ground rules for the cantonal master plans took effect in January 1980.

Air pollution is a major environmental concern in Switzerland; automobiles and other transportation vehicles are the main contributors. In 2000, the total of carbon dioxide emissions was at 39.1 million metric tons. Strict standards for exhaust emissions were imposed on new passenger cars manufactured after October 1987. Water pollution is also a problem due to the presence of phosphates, fertilizers, and pesticides in the water supply. The nation has 40 cu km of renewable water resources, of which 73% of the annual withdrawal is used for industrial purposes. The country's cities have produced about 3.1 million tons of solid waste annually. On 1 November 1986, as a result of a fire in a chemical warehouse near Basel, in northern Switzerland, some 30 tons of toxic waste flowed into the Rhine River, killing an estimated 500,000 fish and eels. Despite a Swiss report in January 1987 that damage to the river had not been so great as was first thought, most environmentalists considered the chemical spill a major disaster.

Chemical contaminants and erosion damage the nation's soil and limit productivity. In 1986, the Swiss Federal Office of Forestry issued a report stating that 36% of the country's forests had been killed or damaged by acid rain and other types of air pollution.

Important environmental groups include the Swiss League for the Protection of Nature, founded in 1909; the Swiss Foundation for the Protection and Care of the Landscape, 1970; and the Swiss Society for the Protection of the Environment. The principal federal agency is the Department of Environment.

According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included 4 types of mammals, 8 species of birds, 1 species of amphibian, 4 species of fish, 30 species of invertebrate, and 2 species of plants. The northern bald ibis and the Italian spadefoot toad are extinct; the false ringlet butterfly, Italian agile frog, and marsh snail are threatened. The bear and wolf were exterminated by the end of the 19th century, but the lynx, once extinct in Switzerland, has been reestablished.

POPULATION

The population of Switzerland in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 7,446,000, which placed it at number 95 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 16% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 16% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 94 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 200510 was expected to be 0.2%, a rate the government viewed as too low. The projected population for the year 2025 was 7,401,000. The population density was 180 per sq km (467 per sq mi).

The UN estimated that 68% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that population in urban areas was declining at an annual rate of -0.06%. The capital city, Bern, had a population of 320,000 in that year. The largest metropolitan area is Zürich, with 984,000 residents in 2000. Other large cities and their estimated populations include Basel, 186,871; Geneva, 185,526; and Lausanne, 126,766.

MIGRATION

Foreign residents in Switzerland comprised about 20% of the total population in 1998. Nearly a third of all resident foreigners were of Italian nationality; the former Yugoslavia, Spain, Portugal, Germany and Turkey were the next-leading countries of origin. In April 1987, Swiss voters approved a government plan to tighten rules on immigration and political asylum.

From the beginning of the civil war in Bosnia, Switzerland took in some 27,000 Bosnian refugees by 1997, granting most only temporary protection. In 1997, 8,000 singles and couples without children returned to Bosnia; another 2,800 returned voluntarily. Nonetheless, as a result of the drastic increase in the number of asylum seekers, Switzerland suspended its resettlement policy in mid-1998.

As a result of the Kosovo conflict, Switzerland again faced a major increase in asylum seekers in 1999. The Swiss government offered temporary protection to about 65,000 Kosovars living in the country. In 2004, Switzerland hosted 47,678 refugees, 18,633 asylum seekers, and 25 stateless persons. Main countries of origin for refugees included Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, and Turkey. Asylum applications came from 19 countries of origin, the largest numbers from Bulgaria and Belarus. The net migration rate in 2005 was an estimated 3.58 migrants per 1,000 population. Worker remittances in 2002 were $146 million.

ETHNIC GROUPS

The four ethnolinguistic groups (Germanic, French, Italian, and Rhaeto-Romansch) that make up the native Swiss population have retained their specific characteristics. Originally, the country was inhabited by Celtic tribes in the west and south and by Rhaetians in the east. With the collapse of Roman rule, Germanic tribes poured in, among them the Alemanni and Burgundians. The Alemanni ultimately became the dominant group, and the present Alemannic vernacular (Schwyzertütsch, or Schweizerdeutsch) is spoken by nearly two-thirds of the total population as their principal language. About 65% of the population is German, 18% is French, 10% is Italian, 1% is Romansch, and 6% are of various other groups.

LANGUAGES

Switzerland is a multilingual state with four national languagesGerman, French, Italian, and Rhaeto-Romansch. About 63.7% of the resident population speaks German as their principal language, predominantly in northern, central, and western Switzerland; 19.2% speak French, mainly in the west and southwest; 7.6% Italian, primarily in the southern region closest to Italy; and 0.6% Rhaeto-Romansch, used widely only in the southeastern canton of Graubünden (Grisons). The remaining 8.9% speak various other languages. There are numerous local dialects.

RELIGIONS

Religious denominations as of a 2002 report stood at about 44% Roman Catholic, 47% Protestant, 4.5% Muslim, and about 1% Orthodox Christian. There are about 17,577 members of the Jewish community and about 11,748 Old Catholics. About 12% of the population claimed no religious affiliation.

There is no official state church and religious freedom is guaranteed. However, all of the cantons financially support at least one of three traditional denominationsRoman Catholic, Old Catholic, or Protestantwith money collected through taxes. In all cantons, individuals may also choose not to contribute to church taxes if they do not formally belong to a church. As a result, since the 1970s there has been a trend of individuals formally resigning their church membership in order to avoid church taxation. According to the latest statistics, about 41.8% of the population are Roman Catholic, 33% are Protestant, 4.3% are Muslim, and 1.8% are Orthodox Christians. Jews, Buddhists, Hindis, and other Christian churches each report membership of less than 1% of the population. About 11% have no church affiliation.

TRANSPORTATION

As of 2004, Switzerland's railway system consisted of 4,527 km (2,816 mi) of standard and narrow gauge track. Of that total, 3,232 km were standard gauge. Nearly all of the railway system (4,494 km/2,795 mi) was electrified. Because of its geographical position, Switzerland is an international railway center, with traffic moving from France, Germany, Austria, and northern Europe through the Simplon, Lötschberg, and St. Gotthard tunnels to Italy and southern Europe.

The Swiss road network covered 71,212 km (44,293 mi) in 2002, all of which was paved, and included 1,706 km (1,061 mi) of expressways. In 2003, there were 3,753,890 passenger cars, and 335,958 commercial vehicles. The longest road tunnel in the world, the 17-km (10.6-mi) St. Gotthard, in the Ticino, opened in September 1980.

Inland waterway (65 km/40 mi) traffic is an important component of Swiss transportation. Basel, the only river port, has direct connections to Strasbourg, the German Rhineland, the Ruhr, Rotterdam, and Antwerp. The Rhine-Rhône canal provides an alternative link between Basel and Strasbourg. There are 12 navigable lakes. During World War II, the Swiss organized a merchant marine to carry Swiss imports and exports on the high seas. In 2005, it consisted of 23 ships of 1,000 GRT or more, totaling 604,843 GRT. Switzerland's merchant fleet is larger than that of any other landlocked nation.

There were an estimated 65 airports in 2004. As of 2005, a total of 42 had paved runways and there were also two heliports. Swissair, partially owned by the federal and local governments, is the flag line of Switzerland. It has flights from the principal international airports at Zürich, Geneva (Cointrin), and Basel to major European cities, North and South America, the Middle East, Asia, and West Africa. In 2003, about 10.589 million passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international flights, and 1,248 million freight ton-km of service.

HISTORY

The Helvetii, a Celtic tribe conquered by Julius Caesar in 58 bc, were the first inhabitants of Switzerland (Helvetia) known by name. A Roman province for 200 years, Switzerland was a prosperous land with large cities (Avenches was the capital) and a flourishing trade. In ad 250, however, Switzerland was occupied by the Alemanni, a Germanic tribe, and in 433 by the Burgundians. The Franks, who defeated the Alemanni in 496 and the Burgundians about 534, incorporated the country into the Frankish Empire. Under Frankish rule, new cities were founded; others, such as Zürich and Lausanne, were rebuilt; and Christianity was introduced.

In 1032, some 200 years after the death of Charlemagne, king of the Franks, and the defeat of his weak successors, Switzerland became part of the Holy Roman Empire. In the 13th century, it was placed under the House of Habsburg. Harsh domination resulted in the rebellion of several cities and the formation on 1 August 1291 of the "eternal alliance" between the three forest cantons of Schwyz, Uri, and Unterwalden, the first step toward the Swiss Confederation. The Habsburgs invaded the three provinces, but with their defeat at Morgarten Pass on 15 November 1315, the Swiss secured their independence. By 1353, five other cantons, Luzern (1332), Zürich (1351), Glarus and Zug (1352), and Bern (1353), had joined the confederacy. All these allies were called Swiss (Schwyzer), after the largest canton. Four victories over Austria (1386, 1388, 1476, and 1499) confirmed the confederation. The Swiss also defeated Charles of Burgundy, whose ambitions threatened their independence until his death in 1477. Complete independence was secured by the Treaty of Basel (1499) with the Holy Roman Empire. Switzerland thereafter remained unmolested by foreign troops until the French Revolution of 1789. Such legendary or real heroes as William Tell, Arnold von Winkelried, and Nikolaus von der Flüe symbolized Swiss bravery and love of freedom. The Helvetian Confederation (Eidgenossenschaft) continued to grow with the inclusion of Aargau (1415), Thurgau (1460), Fribourg and Solothurn (1481), Basel and Schaffhausen (1501), and Appenzell (1513). As of 1513, there were 13 cantons and several affiliated cities and regions. Swiss sovereignty reached south of the crest of the Alps into the Ticino. The Swiss also controlled many of the vital mountain passes linking southern and northern Europe.

The power of the Confederation was, however, undermined by conflicts stemming from the Reformation, led by Ulrich Zwingli in Zürich and John Calvin in Geneva. Seven cantons resisted the Reformation, and a prolonged conflict resulted. In its first round, Zwingli was killed in action (1531). The Catholic cantons later allied with Savoy and Spain. The struggle with the Protestant cantons centered during the Thirty Years' War (161848) on control of the Valtelline pass. The Treaty of Westphalia ending that war granted the Swiss Confederation formal recognition of independence by all European powers.

In the following centuries, the Catholic-Protestant conflict continued with varying success for each side. Apart from this struggle, a number of abortive uprisings against oligarchic control occurred in such places as Geneva and the canton of Vaud. The oligarchs were still in power in most cantons when the French Revolution broke out. With the progress of the revolution, radical groups gained the upper hand in several cities. In 1798, the Helvetic Republic was proclaimed, under French tutelage, and during the Napoleonic imperial era Switzerland was governed as an appendage of France. Boundaries were partly redrawn, and six new cantons were added to the original 13.

In 1815, the Congress of Vienna reconstituted the independent Swiss Confederation with three additional cantons (for a total of 22) and recognized its perpetual neutrality. Switzerland, however, did not remain untouched by the great conflict between liberalism and conservatism that affected all of Europe in the first half of the 19th century. Many revolutionaries found temporary refuge in Switzerland and influenced some of its citizens. Under their goading, several cantons introduced more progressive governments and liberalized their old constitutions.

In 1848, a new federal constitution, quite similar to that of the United States, was promulgated. Meanwhile, the struggle between Protestants and Catholics had culminated in the Secession (Sonderbund) War of 1847, in which the Protestant cantons quickly overcame the secessionist movement of the seven Catholic cantons. As a result of the war, federal authority was greatly strengthened.

In 1874, the constitution was again revised to enlarge federal authority, especially in fiscal and military affairs. Since the last quarter of the 19th century, Switzerland has been concerned primarily with domestic matters, such as social legislation, communications, and industrialization. In foreign affairs, it remained rigidly neutral through both world wars, resolutely determined to protect its independence with its highly reputed militia. In 1978, Switzerland's 23rd sovereign canton, Jura, was established by nationwide vote. In 1991, Switzerland celebrated the 700th anniversary of Confederation.

Despite its neutrality, Switzerland has cooperated wholeheartedly in various international organizations, offering home and hospitality to such diverse bodies as the League of Nations, the Red Cross, and the UPU. Switzerland has long resisted joining the UN, however, partly on the grounds that imposition of sanctions, as entailed in various UN resolutions, is contrary to a policy of strict neutrality. In a March 1986 referendum, a proposal for UN membership, approved by the Federal Assembly, was rejected by Swiss voters. Switzerland is a member of most specialized UN agencies and is a party to the Statute of the International Court of Justice. Swiss attitudes toward UN membership changed at the beginning of the 21st century, as citizens decreasingly saw participation in the UN as jeopardizing the country's neutrality. In a referendum held on 3 March 2002, nearly 55% of Swiss voters approved of joining the UN, but approval by the country's 23 cantons received a narrower 12 to 11 vote. On 10 September 2002 Switzerland became a full member of the UN.

Foreign governments have targeted Switzerland's tight bank secrecy laws as providing a haven for tax evasion and money laundering. The EU maintains that if Switzerland were to join the body, such laws would have to be reformed. Switzerland suffered from the global economic downturn that began in 2001; it employs 220,000 people (out of a total population of some seven million) in financial services, of which more than half work in banking. The Swiss have also expressed ambivalence toward Europe. In December 1992, the Swiss rejected participation in the two major European organizationsthe European Economic Area (EEA) of the European Union (EU). Fearing adverse effects from nonparticipation, the Swiss government has taken steps to bring the country's laws and economy into harmony with the EEA. Because of the fact that all legislation can be subjected to referenda, however, the government is finding it difficult to alter certain protectionist policies and to lower certain barriers. Officially, the government is committed to eventually joining the EU, although in order to do so it will have to convince a majority of voters it is the correct path.

In a blow to Euro skeptics, in June 2005 voters, in a referendum endorsed by a 5545% majority, planned to join the other European Union members then in the Schengen passport-free travel zone. Voters also approved joining the EU's Dublin agreement on handling asylum seekers, and of participating in further coordination of policing and crime-fighting. In September 2005, a bilateral accord on the free movement of labor to the 10 newest EU member states was approved in a referendum.

In October 2003, the right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP) became the largest force in the National Council after winning 26.6% of the vote in general elections. That December, parliament decided to grant the SVP the second post in the seven-seat government at the expense of the Christian Democrats, altering the "magic formula" which had brought stability to Swiss politics since 1959.

GOVERNMENT

The Swiss Confederation is a federal union governed, until 2000, under the constitution of 1874, which vested supreme authority in the Federal Assembly, the legislative body, and executive power in the Federal Council. On 1 January 2000, a new federal constitution entered into force, replacing the 1874 constitution. The new constitution formally separates and codifies four pillars of Swiss constitutional law: democracy; the rule of law; social welfare; and federalism. Fundamental rights, such as freedom of speech and assembly, which had not been explicitly mentioned in the 1874 constitution, now received their formal expression.

The Federal Assembly consists of two chambers: the National Council (Nationalrat ) of 200 members, elected by direct ballot for four-year terms by citizens 18 years of age or older, and the Council of States (Ständerat ) of 46 members, two appointed by each of the 20 cantons, and one from each of the six half-cantons, and paid by the cantons; deputies are elected according to the laws of the cantons. Legislation must be approved by both houses.

The Federal Council of seven members is elected for four-year terms by joint session of the Federal Assembly. The president and vice president of the Federal Council and of the Confederation are elected by the assembly for one-year terms and cannot be reelected to the same office until after the expiration of another year. The seven members of the Federal Council, which has no veto power, are the respective heads of the main departments of the federal government. After general elections held in October 2003, the four-party power-sharing agreement known as the "magic formula"whereby the Free Democrats, Social Democrats, and Christian Democrats each held two seats, and the Swiss People's Party held one seatwas disturbed, as the SVP, which had campaigned on an antiforeigner and anti-EU platform, became the largest party in parliament. The Christian Democrats forfeited one seat to the SVP. After the 2004 election for president, the Federal Council elected Samuel Schmid. The Federal Council meets in secret and tries to appear congenial at all times. Moritz Luenberger won the 2005 election and took office 8 January 2006.

The cantons are sovereign in all matters not delegated to the federal government by the constitution and may force federal law to a plebiscite by the right of referendum. In addition, by popular initiative, 50,000 citizens may demand a direct popular vote on any legislation or regulation proposed by the federal government, and 100,000 citizens may demand a referendum on a constitutional revision. Any proposed amendments to the constitution must be submitted for public approval.

In 1971, Swiss women were granted the right to vote in federal elections. In November 1990, the Federal Court ruled in favor of female suffrage in the half-canton of Appenzell-Inner Rhoden, the last area with male-only suffrage.

POLITICAL PARTIES

Swiss politics are generally stable, and until 2003, the strengths of the chief political parties varied little over the past several decades. The conduct of national-level politics is generally calm and is marked by mutual esteem and cooperation. On the cantonal and municipal levels, however, the give-and-take of political life is more lively and unrestrained, as well as more partisan. The ruling Federal Council is made up of what the Swiss refer to as the "magic formula" coalition, an informal, but strictly adhered to, arrangement whereby the four largest political parties fill the seven positions on the Federal Council. The four strongest parties are now the Swiss People's Party, a right-wing, xenophobic and anti-EU party; the Social Democratic Party, similar to the Scandinavian Social Democrats, which advocates wider state participation in industry and strong social legislation; the Radical Free Democratic Party, a progressive middle-class party, which favors increased social welfare, strengthening of national defense, and a democratic federally structured government; and the Christian Democrats (formerly the Christian Social-Conservatives), a clerical federalist party, which opposes centralization of power. The Swiss People's Party was formed in 1971 by a union of the Farmers, Traders, and Citizens Party, which favored agrarian reform, protective tariffs, and a stronger national defense, and the Democratic Party, a leftist middle-class group. Other parties include the League of Independents, a progressive, middle-class consumers' group; the Communist-inclined Workers Party, with some strength in Zürich, Basel, and Geneva; the Liberal Party; and the Independent and Evangelical Party, which is Protestant, federalist, and conservative. In 1985, two small right-wing parties were formed: the National Socialist Party and the Conservative and Liberal Movement.

After the October 1991 elections the Radical Democratic Party held 44 seats, Social Democrats 42 seats, Christian Democrats 37 seats, Swiss People's Party 25 seats, Greens 14 seats, Liberals 10 seats, and minor parties, 28 seats.

In the Council of States, the 46 seats were distributed as follows in 1991: Radical Democratic Party 18 seats, Christian Democrats 16 seats, Social Democrats 4 seats, Liberals 3 seats, Independents 1 seat, and Ticino League 1 seat.

The 1995 elections for the National Council saw the Radical Democratic Party take 45 seats; the Social Democratic Party, 54; the Christian Democratic People's Party, 34; the Swiss People's Party, 30; the Greens, 8; the Liberal Party, 7; the Alliance of Independents Party, 6; the Swiss Democratic Party, 3; the Evangelical People's Party, 3; the Workers' Party, 2; and the Ticino League, 2.

In the Council of States, the 46 seats were distributed as follows: Radical Democrats, 17; Christian Democrats, 17; Swiss People's Party, 4; Social Democrats, 3; Liberals, 3; Independents, 1; Ticino League, 1.

Following the October 1999 elections, the Social Democratic Party took 51 seats; the Swiss People's Party took 44; the Radical Democratic Party, 43; Christian Democrats, 35; Greens, 9; Liberals, 6; Evangelical People's Party, 3; the xenophobic Swiss Democratic Party, 1; the conservative Federal Democratic Union, 1; the Workers' Party, 2; the Ticino League, 2; Independents, 1; the socialist party Solidarities, 1; and the progressive Christian Social Party, 1.

In the Council of States after the 1999 elections, the Radical Democratic Party held 18 seats; the Christian Democrats held 15; the Swiss People's Party had 7; and the Social Democrats held 6.

Following the 2003 elections, in the National Council the Swiss People's Party took 55 seats; the Social Democratic Party took 54; the Radical Free Democratic Party took 36; the Christian Democrats took 28; the Greens took 13; and other small parties held 14 seats. In the Council of States the Christian Democrats took 15 seats; the Radical Free Democrats took 14; the Swiss People's Party took 8; the Social Democrats took 6; and others held three seats. The next elections were scheduled to take place October 2007.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT

The Swiss Confederation consists of 23 sovereign cantons, three of which are divided into half-cantons (i.e., 20 cantons and six half-cantons). The most recent of these, Jura, was formed from six French-speaking districts in the German-speaking area of Bern Canton in 1978. In 1993, the German-speaking Laufental district of Beru joined the canton of Basel-Land. This was the first time a political unit in Switzerland left one canton to join another. Swiss cantons are highly autonomous and exercise wide administrative control, with the weak federal government controlling only foreign affairs, national security, customs, communications, and monetary policy. The cantons have their own constitutions and laws, and are responsible for their own public works, education, care of the poor, justice, and police forces. Local forms of government vary, but each canton has a legislative council (called Grand Conseil, Grosser Rat, Kantonsrat, or Gran Consiglio), which appoints a chief executive. In a few of the small cantons, the general assembly of all voting citizens, or Landesgemeinde, decides on major matters by voice vote; in the majority of the cantons, this ancient institution has been replaced by referendum. Communes, numbering over 3,000, are the basic units of local government. For the most part, Swiss districts (Bezirke), constituting a middle level of organization between the cantons and communes, are little more than judicial circuits.

JUDICIAL SYSTEM

The Federal Court of Justice in Lausanne is composed of 30 permanent members appointed for six-year terms by the Federal Assembly. Until 2000, the court had both original and final jurisdiction in the majority of cases where a canton or the federal government was involved, and was the highest appeals court for many types of cases. Judicial reforms carried out in 2000 reduced the caseload of the Federal Court, by creating a federal criminal court and federal administrative bodies with judicial competence. Now, the Federal Court exists as a pure appellate court.

Each canton has its own cantonal courts. District courts have three to five members and try lesser criminal and civil cases. Each canton has an appeals court and a court of cassation, the jurisdiction of which is limited to reviewing judicial procedures. Capital punishment was abolished in 1942. Minor cases are tried by a single judge, difficult cases by a panel of judges, and murder and other serious crimes by a public jury.

The judiciary is independent and free from interference by other branches of government. The trials are fair and the judicial process is efficient. The judicial system is based on civil law influenced by customary law. Switzerland accepts compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice.

ARMED FORCES

Switzerland's armed forces in 2005 were built around a core of 4,300 active military personnel and a well-trained force of 210,000 citizen-soldier reservists that can be mobilized within 48 hours. The country has universal compulsory military service for males at age 1920, followed by varied annual training requirements until age 42 (55 for officers), with exemption only for physical disability. Initial basic training of 15 weeks is followed by regular short training periods. In addition, there is also a paramilitary civil defense force of 105,000 members. When fully mobilized, Switzerland's land forces (Army) would have an estimated manpower of 153,200, with 355 main battle tanks, 446 reconnaissance vehicles, 127 armored infantry fighting vehicles, 1049 armored personnel carriers, and 1,008 artillery pieces. The land forces also have a marine arm that is outfitted with 10 patrol/coastal boats. The air force, when fully mobilized, had an estimated 32,900 personnel and has 90 combat capable aircraft, including 57 fighters and 33 fighter ground attack aircraft.

Swiss fighting men are world famous, and from the 16th to the 19th century some two million Swiss served as mercenaries in foreign armies. The modern Swiss citizen-soldier is trained only for territorial defense in prepared mountain positions, which is his only mission. A continuing legacy of Swiss mercenary service is the ceremonial Vatican Swiss Guard. Switzerland has military personnel deployed to eight countries or regions under UN, NATO, European Union or other auspices. The military budget in 2005 totaled $3.82 billion.

INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION

Although it was a member of and served as the site for the League of Nations, Switzerland was not a member of the United Nations until 10 September 2002, partly from a fear of compromising traditional Swiss neutrality. The country participates in ECE and in several nonregional specialized agencies, such as the FAO, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, the World Bank, ILO, IAEA, and the WHO. Switzerland has actively participated in the OSCE. The nation is also a member of the Asian Development Bank, the African Development Bank, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Council of Europe, the Paris Club, the Inter-American Development Bank, OSCE, EFTA, the WTO, and the OECD. Switzerland holds observer status in the OAS and the Latin American Integration Association (LAIA). The headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross is located in Geneva. Switzerland is also the repository of the Geneva Convention, governing treatment of civilians, prisoners, and the wounded in wartime.

Switzerland is part of the NATO Partnership for Peace and a guest of the Nonaligned Movement. The nation has supported UN missions and operations in Kosovo (est. 1999), Ethiopia and Eritrea (est. 2000), and the DROC (est. 1999). Switzerland is part of the Australia Group, the Zangger Committee, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), the Nuclear Suppliers Group (London Group), the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, and the Nuclear Energy Agency.

In environmental cooperation, Switzerland is part of the Antarctic Treaty; the Basel Convention; Conventions on Biological Diversity, Whaling, and Air Pollution; Ramsar; CITES; the London Convention; International Tropical Timber Agreements; the Kyoto Protocol; the Montréal Protocol; MARPOL; the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty; and the UN Conventions on Climate Change and Desertification.

ECONOMY

Because of the paucity of its minerals and other raw materials and its limited agricultural production, Switzerland depends upon imports of food and fodder and industrial raw materials, which it finances with exports of manufactured goods. Agriculture is important (in agriculture, Switzerland is about 60% self-sufficient) though limited by a scarcity of level and fertile land, but manufacturing engages more than five times as many workers as farming. Swiss manufacturers excel in quality of workmanship rather than quantity of output. Other important branches of the economy include international banking, insurance, tourism, and transportation. Switzerland ranks among leading countries in research and development (R&D), and is among the world's top five countries for R&D for biotech and nanotechnology.

Switzerland was less affected than most other nations by the worldwide recession of the early 1980s and experienced a strong recovery beginning in 1983. However, between 1986 and 1992, GNP grew by an annual average of only 0.7% and it fell in 1991, 1992, and 1993. From 199395, growth averaged barely 1% a year and decreased once again in 1996. In 1998, however, the economy grew by 2% and by 1.9% in 1999, before soaring, relatively speaking, to 3.4% in 2000. Switzerland's economy was in recession in 2002: the global international slowdown in 2001 and the appreciation of the Swiss franc brought small contractions in 2001 (-0.9%) and 2002 (-0.2%). The financial sector was particularly affected by the slowdown in the economy. However, by 2004, the economy was growing by 1.7%, thanks to eastern and Asian export markets. The GDP growth rate was forecast for 1.5% in 2006 and 2% in 2007.

From 1990 to 1992, the annual inflation rate averaged 5.1%. By 1994 inflation had plummeted to 0.9%; it was 1.8% in 1995, 0.8% in 1996, and 0% in 1998. From 1999 to 2002, average annual inflation was about 1%. In 2004, the inflation rate stood at 0.9% and at 1.1% in 2005. Despite high oil prices forecast for 2006, inflation was expected to remain low. Swiss unemployment has remained consistently low in comparison with other countries, although it reached an unusually high 4.5% in 1993. In 1994 unemployment was 3.8%, and 3.6% in 1998rates a fraction of France and Germany. Unemployment fell further, to an average annual rate of 2.3%, 1999 to 2002. The unemployment rate in 2004 had risen to 3.4%, and young workers (ages 1525) were particularly hard hit, as were restaurant and hotel industry workers. Meanwhile, the Swiss GDP per capitain 2004, $48,596 in market exchange rate terms and $34,160 in purchasing power parity (PPP) termscontinued to be among the highest in the world.

INCOME

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Switzerland's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $262.1 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $35,000. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 1.2%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 1.2%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 1.5% of GDP, industry 34%, and services 64.5%.

According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $1.709 billion or about $233 per capita and accounted for approximately 0.5% of GDP.

The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Switzerland totaled $167.22 billion or about $22,751 per capita based on a GDP of $320.1 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 1.3%. In 2001 it was estimated that approximately 19% of household consumption was spent on food, 9% on fuel, 3% on health care, and 18% on education.

LABOR

In 2005, the Swiss workforce numbered an estimated 3.8 million. As of 2003, the service sector employed 72% of the labor force, with 23.9% engaged in industry, and 4.1% in agriculture. Foreign workers account for about 30% of the country's workforce. In 2005, Switzerland's unemployment rate was estimated at 3.8%.

About 25% of the labor force was unionized in 2005. Swiss law provides for and regulates union organization and collective bargaining. Most labor disputes are settled on the basis of a so-called peace agreement existing since 1937 between the head organizations of employers and employees. Other collective disputes are dealt with by the various cantonal courts of conciliation. Strikes are rare and Switzerland generally records the lowest number of days lost to strikes in the OECD. Approximately 50% of the country's labor force in 2005 was covered by collective bargaining agreements.

The legally mandated maximum workweek is set at 45 hours for blue- and white-collar workers in the services, industrial and retail sectors. A 50-hour workweek covers the rest. Minors as young as 13 may perform light work for up to nine hours per week during the school year and 15 hours otherwise. There are severe restrictions on the hours and conditions of employment of workers until the age of 20. There is no government mandated minimum wage. The Federal Labor Act and the Code of Obligations mandate various other workplace requirements.

AGRICULTURE

Some 443,000 hectares (1,095,000 acres), or about 10.8% of the country's total land area, is under seasonal or permanent crops. Most of the cultivable land is in the Mittelland, or central plateau, and the cantons regularly producing the largest quantities of wheat are Bern, Vaud, Fribourg, Zürich, and Aargau. Soil quality is often poor, but yields have been increasing as a result of modern technology. In 2003, agriculture contributed 2% to GDP.

Agricultural production provides only about 60% of the nation's food needs. Although productivity per worker has been increasing steadily, the proportion of the total labor force engaged in agriculture has fallen from 30% in 1900 to about 4.2% in 2000. Between 1955 and 2003, the number of farm holdings fell from 205,997 to 65,866. Some principal crops, with their production figures for 2004, were as follows: potatoes, 484,000 tons; sugar beets, 1,340,000 tons; wheat, 456,000 tons; barley, 230,000 tons; maize, 220,000 tons; oats, 35,000 tons; and rye, 20,000 tons. In the same year, an estimated 11.6 million liters of wine were produced, and there were 15,000 hectares (37,000 acres) of vineyards.

Swiss agricultural policy is highly regulated, with fixed prices and quota restrictions maintained on several products. Domestic production is encouraged by the imposition of protective customs and duties on imported goods, and by restrictions on imports. The Federal Council has the authority to fix prices of bread grains, flour, milk, and other foodstuffs. Production costs in Switzerland, as well as international exchange rates favorable to the Swiss franc, make competition with foreign products difficult. This highly protectionist system has led to excess production and mounting costs associated with the management of surpluses. The Uruguay Round and subsequent Swiss implementation of its provisions in July 1995 (along with rising costs in the agricultural sector) has forced the government to begin reforming its agricultural support system.

ANIMAL HUSBANDRY

More than half of Switzerland's productive area is grassland exploited for hay production and/or grazing. Livestock production contributes about 2% to GDP. Dairying and cattle breeding are practiced, more or less intensively, in all but the barren parts of the country and, during the summer months, even at altitudes of more than 1,200 m (4,000 ft). In 2005 there were 1,540,000 head of cattle and 1,594,000 pigs, 443,000 sheep and 74,000 goats. Meat production in 2005 included (in tons): pork, 233,000; beef, 134,000; poultry, 58,000; mutton/lamb, 6,000; and horse meat, 1,000. Swiss cheeses are world famous; production was 178,000 tons in 2005. That year, 34,000 tons of eggs were produced.

While home production almost covers or exceeds the domestic requirements for milk and dairy products, substantial quantities of eggs and meat must be imported. New agricultural reforms for 200407 entail the progressive abolition of the milk quota system, and changes in import tariffs for meat. Selective cattle breeding, research, and improvement of production standards are promoted by the federal government and by farmers' cooperatives. Exports of milk, dairy products, and eggs amounted to $467.6 million in 2004.

FISHING

Fishing is relatively unimportant but is carried on in many Swiss rivers and on lakes Constance, Neuchâtel, and Geneva. The total catch was 2,950 tons in 2003. Rainbow trout, whitefish, and perch are the main species. Local fish supply about 12% of domestic needs.

FORESTRY

Forests occupied 1,199,000 hectares (2,962,000 acres) in 2000. About two-thirds of the forested land is owned by communes; most of the remainder is owned privately. Federal and cantonal governments account for about 8%. About 80% of the wood in Swiss forests is coniferous, primarily spruce; the remaining 20% is deciduous, predominantly red beech.

The timber cut yielded 4,713,000 cu m (166 million cu ft) of roundwood in 2004, with 21% used as fuel wood. The government estimates that the annual cut represents only two-thirds of potential. Forestry production in 2004 amounted to about 1,505,000 cu m (53 million cu ft) of sawnwood, 1,777,000 tons of paper and paperboard, and 271,000 tons of wood pulp. The trade deficit in forestry products amounted to $169 million in 2004.

MINING

Mining, exclusively of industrial minerals for construction, played a minor role in Switzerland's economy. Metal mining has ceased, reserves of the small deposits of iron, nickel-cobalt, gold, and silver were mostly depleted, and new mining activities were discouraged for environmental reasons. Industrial minerals produced in 2004 included hydraulic cement, common clay, gravel, gypsum, lime, nitrogen, salt, sand, stone, and sulfur (from petroleum refining). Metal processing, restricted to primary and secondary aluminum, secondary lead, and steel, depended on imported raw materials or scrap. Environmental concerns have led to a policy to curtail or gradually cease smelting activities. The production and export of chemicals were among the nation's leading industries. Steel was another leading export commodity. A large diamond center, Switzerland was actively involved in cutting and polishing diamonds, and played a big role in international trade activities.

ENERGY AND POWER

Switzerland is heavily dependent on imported oil, natural gas and coal to meet its hydrocarbon needs, although it does have the refining capacity to permit a modest amount of refined petroleum products to be exported.

In 2002, Switzerland's imports of all petroleum products averaged 277,350 barrels per day, of which 99,860 barrels per day were crude oil. Total refinery output in 2002 averaged 104,280 barrels per day. Demand for refined oil products in 2002 averaged 267,230 barrels per day, allowing Switzerland to export an average of 11,550 barrels per day of refined oil products.

In 2002, Switzerland's imports and consumption of natural gas each totaled 107.18 billion cu ft. Coal imports that year totaled 169,000 short tons, with demand at 221,000 short tons.

Switzerland's electric power plants had an installed capacity of 17.268 million kW in 2002, of which hydroelectric plants accounted for 13.240 million kW of capacity, followed by nuclear plants at 3.200 million kW, conventional thermal plants at 0.453 million kW and geothermal/other plants at 0.375 million kW. Electricity production in 2002 totaled 63.240 billion kWh, of which 1.6% was from fossil fuels, 55.1% from hydropower, 40.9% from nuclear power, and 2.3% from renewable sources.

INDUSTRY

Manufacturing industries contributed 34% of GDP in 2003. The industrial growth rate in 2004 was 4.7%. Swiss industries are chiefly engaged in the manufacture, from imported raw materials, of highly finished goods for domestic consumption and for export. Most of the industrial enterprises are located in the plains and the Swiss plateau, especially in the cantons of Zürich, Bern, Aargau, St. Gallen, Solothurn, Vaud, Basel (Baselstadt and Baselland), and Thurgau. Some industries are concentrated in certain regions: the watch and jewelry industry in the Jura Mountains; machinery in Zürich, Geneva, and Basel; chemical industries (dyes and pharmaceuticals) in Basel; and the textile industry in northeastern Switzerland. In 1993, the industrial sector was targeted for assistance by a government-initiated revitalization program; in 1995, the sector again benefited from government policy when the turnover tax was replaced by a value-added tax system, expected to relieve industry of SwFr12 billion per year in taxes. Switzerland, along with Germany and Japan, is at the forefront of the emerging industry of environmental technology.

The textile industry, using wool, cotton, silk, and synthetics, is the oldest Swiss industry and, despite foreign competition resulting from the elimination of textile quotas by the World Trade Organization in 2005, remains important. The machine industry, first among Swiss industries today, produces goods ranging from heavy arms and ammunition to fine precision and optical instruments. Switzerland is the world's largest exporter of watches and watch products (followed by Hong Kong and China), with exports worth $9 billion in 2004. For the first half of 2005, Swiss watch exports were up 11% over the same period in 2004 and exceeding forecasts. Chemicals, especially dyes and pharmaceuticals, also are important. As of 2003, Switzerland had a 4.3% share of the world export of chemical and pharmaceutical products, and ranked 9th among the largest export nations. Pharmaceutical exports as a percentage of total chemical industry exports increased from 40% in 1980 to 70.3% in 2003. Switzerland has also developed a major food industry, relying in part on the country's capacity for milk production. Condensed milk was first developed in Switzerland, as were two other important processed food products: chocolate and baby food. The Swiss company Nestlé S. A., headquartered in Vevey, is one of the world's largest food companies. In addition to Switzerland's major industries, such as textiles, nonmetallic minerals, and watch making and clock making, others, such as chemicals, plastics, and paper, have grown rapidly.

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

The major scientific learned societies, headquartered in Bern, are the Swiss Academy of Sciences, founded in 1815, and the Swiss Academy of Engineering Sciences, founded in 1981. About two-thirds of the funds for Swiss research and development (R&D), a high proportion by world standards, are supplied by industry and the rest by federal and cantonal governments. In 2000 (the latest year for which data was available), expenditures for R&D totaled $5,316.302 million, or 2.63% of GDP. Of that amount, the business sector accounted for 69.1%, followed by the government at 23.2%, foreign sources at 4.3%, higher education at 2.1% and private nonprofit organizations at 1.4%. For that same year, there were 3,594 scientists and 2,315 technicians per million people, that were engaged in R&D. The Swiss National Science Foundation was established in 1952 to finance noncommercial research for which funds would not otherwise be available. Most such spending is in the important chemicals sector. The Ministry of Public Economy, the center for federal agricultural research, has six research stations. In 2002, high-tech exports were valued at $17.077 billion and accounted for 21% of manufactured exports. In that same year, of all bachelor's degrees awarded, 25.7% were for the sciences (natural, mathematics and computers, engineering).

DOMESTIC TRADE

Zürich, the largest city, is the commercial, financial, and industrial center of Switzerland. Basel is the second most important commercial city, followed by Geneva and Lausanne. Most Swiss wholesale firms are importers as well, specializing in one commodity or a group of related commodities.

The trend in retail trade is moving from independent establishments to larger supermarkets, department stores, and discount chains. As such, many small retailers have joined together to form purchasing cooperatives. However, Switzerland is a challenging market for franchising, due to Switzerland's limited market size, high salaries, and high costs of services; also, consumer preference for high quality and authentic products or a new innovative idea over already existing products is another challenge facing potential franchisees. Companies sponsoring home shopping parties (Tupperware, Mary Kay, Body Shop, etc.) have become very popular. Some agricultural products, such as butter, grains, and edible fats and oils, are subject to import controls and price controls apply to many goods and services. The use of electronic debit cards for purchases is growing rapidly.

Advertising, mostly entrusted to firms of specialists, uses as media billboards, movie theaters, television, local transportation facilities, railroads, newspapers, and magazines.

Usual business hours are from 8 or 9 am to 5 or 6 pm. Shops are normally open from 9 am to 6:30 pm on weekdays but only to 5 pm on Saturdays; some shops close from 12 pm to 2 pm at lunchtime. In larger cities, shops generally extend their hours until 8 pm on one evening of the week, usually Thursday. Banks are open to the public from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm MondayFriday.

FOREIGN TRADE

Switzerland's export commodities are split into two categories: machinery sold to other manufacturers, and commodities used by consumers. The country exports a large number of the world's watches and clocks.

While Switzerland is not a member of the EU, it has been seeking ways to adopt some of the advantages of membership without relinquishing sovereignty. As of 2005, 62% of Swiss exports were destined for the EU market. As of 2004, Switzerland's main export partners, in order of importance, were Germany, the United States, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, and Spain. By that date, Switzerland's primary import partners were Germany, Italy, France, the United States, the Netherlands, and Austria.

BALANCE OF PAYMENTS

In the past, Switzerland typically had a foreign trade deficit. More recently, however, this imbalance was more than compensated for by income from services, investments, insurance, and tourism. Restructuring of enterprises in the 1990s, due to the strength of the Swiss franc, caused the export-oriented manufacturing sector to become highly successful. Exports of goods and services amounted to some 46% of GDP in 2000.

In 2004, merchandise exports totaled $138.2 billion, and merchandise imports $122.6 billion, for a trade surplus of $15.6 billion. The current account surplus amounted to $50.6 billion, equivalent to 14.2% of GDP, making Switzerland a net creditor nation.

BANKING AND SECURITIES

In 2000, Switzerland had two major banks, 24 cantonal banks, and numerous foreign-owned banks, savings banks, and other banks and finance companies. There were a total of 375 banks in the country in that year. The bank balance-sheet total per capita in Switzerland is higher than that of any other nation in the world. Total assets of the Swiss banking system amounted to $1.3 trillion at the end of 2000, while total securities deposits were $3.4 trillion. Moreover, registered banks and bank-like finance companies numbered 494 in 1995, offering the Swiss, on average, the greatest access to banking services of all the world's nations.

The government-supervised Swiss National Bank, incorporated in 1905 and the sole bank of issue, is a semiprivate institution owned by the cantons, by former banks of issue, and by the public. The National Bank acts as a central clearinghouse and participates in many foreign and domestic banking operations. The two big banks, (United Bank of Switzerland (UBS) and Credit Suisse Group) dominate the Swiss banking scene and are expanding aggressively overseas. They are universal banks, providing a full range of services to all types of customers.

Regional banks specialize in mortgage lending and credits for small businesses. Since 1994, most of the country's regional banks have been linked in a common holding company providing back-office operations and other services to members in a bid to cut costs.

Foreign banks make up about a third of banks active in Switzerland. In contrast to domestic banks, their numbers have risen over the last decade but their business is increasingly focused on asset management, mostly of funds from abroad. On 1 January 1995 a new banking law came into effect allowing for foreign banks to open subsidiaries, branches, or representative offices in the country without first getting approval of the Federal Banking Commission.

The transactions of private and foreign banks doing business in Switzerland traditionally play a significant role in both Swiss and

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 100,693.3 96,447.6 4,245.7
Germany 20,983.7 31,144.1 -10,160.4
United States 11,375.2 5,325.0 6,050.2
France-Monaco 8,806.4 10,395.6 -1,589.2
Italy-San Marino-Holy See 8,323.9 10,299.0 -1,975.1
United Kingdom 4,894.8 3,910.3 984.5
Japan 4,019.9 2,028.3 1,991.6
Spain 3,536.1 2,262.4 1,273.7
Austria 3,323.7 4,079.2 -755.5
Netherlands 3,273.6 4,813.4 -1,539.8
China, Hong Kong SAR 2,976.2 482.2 2,494.0
() data not available or not significant.
Current Account 43,292.0
   Balance on goods 6,961.0
      Imports -108,482.0
      Exports 115,443.0
   Balance on services 15,066.0
   Balance on income 26,429.0
   Current transfers -5,166.0
Capital Account -763.0
Financial Account -30,136.0
   Direct investment abroad -15,926.0
   Direct investment in Switzerland 12,603.0
   Portfolio investment assets -32,902.0
   Portfolio investment liabilities -1,662.0
   Financial derivatives
   Other investment assets -4,631.0
   Other investment liabilities 12,383.0
Net Errors and Omissions -8,988.0
Reserves and Related Items -3,405.0
() data not available or not significant.

foreign capital markets; however, precise accounting of assets and liabilities in this sector are not usually made available as public information. Switzerland's strong financial position and its tradition (protected by the penal code since 1934) of preserving the secrecy of individual bank depositors have made it a favorite depository with persons throughout the world. (However, Swiss secrecy provisions are not absolute and have been lifted to provide information in criminal investigations.) The Swiss Office for Compensation executes clearing traffic with foreign countries.

In 1997, Swiss banks came under heavy criticism for losing track of money, gold, and other valuables belonging to Jewish Holocaust victims and held by the banks during World War II. Records also showed the banks had closed thousands of victims' accounts without notice after the war. The banks claimed they had lost the old records, but a group of journalists found the records archived in Lausanne in April of that year.

Also in 1997, an embarrassed Swiss government selected four members to a panel empowered to run a fund for Holocaust victims. Nobel laureate, Elie Weisel, a concentration camp survivor, turned down an invitation to serve as one of the three foreign members on the board. The fund, intended to help impoverished Holocaust victims and their families, is supported by funds appropriated by Nazis from Jews sent to concentration camps. Much of the gold, jewels, bonds, and currency taken by the Nazis had been placed in Swiss banks. In March 1998, Switzerland's banks agreed to create a $1.25 billion fund designed to compensate Holocaust survivors and their families.

Swiss banks were also under fire in 1997 for possibly facilitating money laundering of drug money accrued by a former Mexican president's brother and for failing to adequately recover the billions of dollars supposedly plundered by former Zairian dictator Mobuto Sese Seko, who was overthrown that year. All the negative publicity has caused some to question the usefulness of Swiss banks' much-lauded secrecy.

The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $102.9 billion. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $326.3 billion. The money market rate, the rate at which financial institutions lend to one another in the short term, was 1.65%. The discount rate, the interest rate at which the central bank lends to financial institutions in the short term, was 1.59%.

Stock exchanges operate in Geneva (founded 1850), Basel (1875), and Zürich (1876). The Zürich exchange is the most important in the country. In terms of market capitalization, the Swiss stock exchanges rank seventh in the world, behind New York, Tokyo, Osaka, London, Frankfurt, and Paris, as of 1997. Overall, turnover, including shares, bonds, and options, amounted to SwFr1.2 trillion in 2002, a drop of 2.3% from the prior year. The open outcry stock exchanges in Zürich, Geneva, and Basel closed in 1994 when a national electronic stock exchange for all securities trading began operations in August. In 2004, a total of 282 companies were listed on the SWX Swiss Exchange, which had a market capitalization of $825.849 billion.

INSURANCE

The Swiss people are the most heavily insured in the world, although this reflects social insurance such as health insurance, as well as more commercial types of business. Nevertheless, Swiss insurers now rely on foreign business for two-thirds of their premium income. The insurance sector has been steadily deregulated during the 1990s. One of the last set of controls was scrapped in 1996 when the fixed tariff regime for third-party vehicle insurance was abolished. As of 1999, Swiss insurance companies numbered over 100.

Switzerland controls an estimated one-third of the world's reinsurance, and insurance income represents a major item in the Swiss balance of payments. Insurance investments are represented heavily in the Swiss capital market, and Swiss insurance firms have invested widely in foreign real estate. About half the domestic insurance business is in the hands of the state. The Swiss Reinsurance Co. in Zürich is the largest of its kind in the world. As of 1999, about 10% of all Swiss insurance companies dealt solely with reinsurance. There are several types of compulsory insurance in Switzerland, including workers' compensation, third-party automobile liability, fire, pension, hunters', aircraft, nuclear power station, old age, unemployment, and disability insurance. In 1999, the total income of the Swiss domestic insurance market was 48 million, making it the 12th largest insurance market globally. In 2003, the value of all direct insurance premiums written totaled $40.760 billion, of which life insurance premiums accounted for $24.713 billion. In that same year, Switzerland's top nonlife insurer was Winterthur, which had gross written nonlife premiums of $2.21 billion, while Winterthur Leben was the country's leading life insurer, with gross written life insurance premiums of $6.09 billion.

PUBLIC FINANCE

The Swiss government has been known historically for maintaining a relatively high degree of austerity in comparison to its European neighbors. In 1991, the federal government incurred a budget deficit of over SwFr1.5 billion, the first budget discrepancy in seven years. Cantonal budgets also were in deficit. These deficits continued throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s, prompting governments at all levels to take further cost-cutting steps. As an international creditor, debt management policies are not relevant to Switzerland, which participates in the Paris Club debt reschedulings and is an active member of the OECD.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Switzerland's central government took in revenues of approximately $138.1 billion and had expenditures of $143.6 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$5.5 billion. Public debt in 2005 amounted to 53.3% of GDP. Total external debt was $856 billion.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2001, the most recent year for which it had data, central government revenues were SwFr81,727 million and expenditures were SwFr80,498 million. The value of revenues was us$48,428 million and expenditures us$47,700 million, based on a market exchange rate for 2001 of us$1 = SwFr1.6876 as reported by the IMF. Government outlays by function were as follows: general public services, 18.1%; defense, 6.2%; public order and safety, 0.8%; economic

Revenue and Grants 81,727 100.0%
   Tax revenue 43,200 52.9%
   Social contributions 32,391 39.6%
   Grants 2,307 2.8%
   Other revenue 3,829 4.7%
Expenditures 80,498 100.0%
   General public services 14,566 18.1%
   Defense 4,956 6.2%
   Public order and safety 620 0.8%
   Economic affairs 11,749 14.6%
   Environmental protection
   Housing and community amenities 781 1.0%
   Health 215 0.3%
   Recreational, culture, and religion 482 0.6%
   Education 2,650 3.3%
   Social protection 44,479 55.3%
() data not available or not significant.

affairs, 14.6%; housing and community amenities, 1.0%; health, 0.3%; recreation, culture, and religion, 0.6%; education, 3.3%; and social protection, 55.3%.

TAXATION

The Swiss Confederation, the cantons, and the communes all levy taxes on income or profits. Periodic federal, cantonal, and communal taxes also are charged against capital values belonging to corporations and other corporate entities. The cantons all levy wealth taxes based on individual net assets, stamp duties, taxes on entertainment or admissions, and special charges for educational, social, and sanitary services. Most cantons also levy a tax surcharge on members of certain major churches for the support of those religions. Localities may impose taxes on land, rents, and entertainment, as well as a head tax and a dog tax.

Although corporate income taxes are taxed at a flat rate of 8.5%, the effective rate is actually between 8% and 25% when federal and cantonal taxes are taken into account. Generally, capital gains received by a company are taxed as ordinary business income at regular business rates. However, different rules may apply to gains received from real estate or to real estate companies at the cantonal/communal level. Generally, dividends distributed by Swiss companies are taxed as ordinary income, to which a withholding rate of 35% is applied. However, applicable participation exemption rules may lower the federal tax liability for the recipient. Interest income from banks, and publicly offered debentures, bonds and other debt instruments issued by a Swiss borrower are subject to a withholding rate of 35%. However, loans from a foreign parent company to Swiss subsidiaries and commercial loans, generally are exempt.

Federal tax is levied on personal income at rates up to 11.5%. However, cantonal rates can range from 10% to around 30%. Various deductions and personal allowances are granted according to circumstances. Those between the ages of 20 and 50 who do not fulfill their military obligation are liable for an additional tax. Cantonal and communal taxes are generally imposed at progressive rates.

In 1995 Switzerland replaced its old system of taxing turnover with a value-added tax (VAT) similar to those of its European neighbors. As of 2005, the VAT was 7.6% and was levied on all deliveries of goods and services, including investments, consumer goods, animals and plants, consulting and entertainment services, license fees, and the sale of rights. The VAT is also levied on imported goods and services. However, hotel and lodging services are subject to a lower rate of 3.6%, while items such as foodstuffs, medicines, newspapers, farming supplies and agricultural products were subject to a 2.4% rate. Exports were zero-rated. There are also miscellaneous federal taxes, such as stamp duties, payroll and excise taxes.

CUSTOMS AND DUTIES

Switzerland joined EFTA in 1960 and became a full member of the GATT group in 1966. In 1973, Switzerland entered into an industrial free trade agreement with the European Community (now the European Union). Duties on industrial imports from the European Community were eliminated by 1977. Although it generally favors free trade, Switzerland protects domestic agriculture for national defense reasons and its customs tariff, established in 1921, is primarily a revenue-raising instrument. Specific duties, low for raw materials, moderate for semi finished goods, and high for manufactured goods, are levied by weight of import. Import duties average 3.2% on industrial goods. Switzerland gives preferential treatment to imports from developing nations. Other import taxes include a 3% statistical tax, a standard 7.6% VAT, and an environmental tax. Specific luxuries like cigarettes and spirits are subject to an excise tax. Quotas regulate the importation of certain agricultural items such as white wine.

FOREIGN INVESTMENT

Switzerland is generally open to foreign investment and grants foreign investors national treatment. However, the government restricts investment in vacation real estate, utilities, and other sectors considered essential to national security (such as hydroelectric and nuclear power plants, operation of oil pipelines, operation of airlines and marine navigation, and the transportation of explosive materials). There are no restrictions on repatriation of profits. Federal grants are offered for investments in depressed areas. The cantonal governments offer tax and nontax incentives for new investments or extensions of existing investments on a case-by-case basis.

In 1997, total foreign direct investment (FDI) stock in Switzerland exceeded $56.58 billion (22% of GDP). US companies accounted for 23% of that total. By 1999, FDI stock had risen to over $83 billion (32% of GDP), and the United States share to 26.6%. FDI inflows were $6.6 billion in 1997, climbing to a peak of $16.3 billion in 2000, before falling back to about $10 billion in 2001. In 2003, FDI inflows amounted to $12.2 billion.

Stocks of Swiss FDI abroad totaled $170 billion (62.3% of GDP) in 1997 rising to $205.2 billion (79% of GDP) in 1999. In 1999, the largest holders of Swiss outward FDI were the United States (with $45 billion, 23%); the United Kingdom ($23.7 billion, 11.5%); Germany ($17.4 billion, 8.5%); the Netherlands ($12.5 billion, 6.1%); and France ($10.4 billion, 5%). FDI outflows in 2003 amounted to $10.9 billion.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Private enterprise is the basis of Swiss economic policy. Although government intervention has traditionally been kept to a minimum, the international monetary crises from late 1974 to mid-1975 led to imposition of various interim control measures; in 1982, with inflation rising, a constitutional amendment mandating permanent government price controls was approved by popular referendum. The Swiss National Bank has followed a general policy of limiting monetary growth. To further raise the standard of living, the government also grants subsidies for educational and research purposes, promotes professional training, and encourages exports. Although certain foreign transactions are regulated, there is free currency exchange and a guarantee to repatriate earnings of foreign corporations.

The cause of the remarkable stability of Switzerland's economy lies in the adaptability of its industries; in the soundness of its convertible currency, which is backed by gold to an extent unmatched in any other country; and in the fact that the particular pattern of Swiss democracy, where every law may be submitted to the popular vote, entails taking into account the wishes of all parties whose interests would be affected by a change in legislation.

Switzerland's development assistance program takes the form of technical cooperation, preferential customs treatment for certain third-world products, and a limited number of bilateral aid arrangements.

The question of future European Union (EU) membership remains a point of contention among the Swiss. The French-speaking minority overwhelmingly favors EU membership, while the German-speaking majority strongly opposes it. In a 2000 referendum, Swiss voters approved closer ties to the EU. Some of the key provisions of the deal included agreement to allow EU trucks transit rights through Switzerland, as well as granting Swiss freedom of movement in the EU. Full access to the Swiss market by the original 15 EU member countries was achieved in a June 2004 agreement, ending as a result the "national preference." Switzerland approved another pact, the Schengen-Dublin agreement with the EU, in June 2005, which allows for the free movement of peoples, although fears of cheap labor coming from new EU member nations remained. However, voters approved by a referendum held on 25 September 2005 a measure to extend the provision of free movement of peoples to the 10 predominantly eastern European nations which joined the EU in 2004.

A new ordinance covering the banking sector was enacted in 2002, to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism. Switzerland joined the UN in 2002.

SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

There is a social insurance system and mandatory occupational pension system financed by employer and employee contributions as well as governmental subsidies. Old-age pensions are paid at age 65 for men and 63 for women. Disability and survivorship pensions are also available to qualified recipients. Sickness and Maternity benefits were first implemented in 1911. Medical care is available to all persons living in Switzerland, and there is a voluntary insurance plan for all employees to provide cash benefits. Maternity benefits are payable up to 16 weeks. Work injury insurance is compulsory, with contribution rates varying according to risk. Unemployment and disability is also covered. Family allowances are provided by the cantons, but there is a federal program covering agricultural workers. Some cantons provide birth grants.

The law provides for equal pay and prohibits gender discrimination, but there is significant bias against women in the workplace. Women earn less than men, and are less likely to receive training. There are few women in managerial positions, and they are also promoted less than men. Sexual harassment in the workplace continues, although laws and advocacy groups work to eradicate the problem. The Federal Office for Equality Between Women and Men and the Federal Commission on Women are charged with eliminating all types of gender discrimination. Physical and sexual violence against women and domestic abuse persist.

Extremist organizations continue physical and verbal attacks on religious, racial, and ethnic minorities. The government is taking some action to curtail the activities of these groups. Human rights are generally respected in Switzerland.

HEALTH

Health standards and medical care are excellent. The pharmaceuticals industry ranks as one of the major producers of specialized pharmaceutical products. Managed-care systems are widely used, especially with a "gatekeeper" component to control costs. As of 2004, there were an estimated 352 physicians, 834 nurses, 48 dentists, and 62 pharmacists per 1,000 people. The ratio of doctors per population varies by region, with the highest proportions in Basle and Geneva and the lowest in Appenzell. Total health care expenditure was estimated at 10.4% of GDP.

As of 2002, the crude birth rate and overall mortality rate were estimated at, respectively, 9.8 and 8.8 per 1,000 people. About 71% of married women (ages 15 to 49) were using contraception. The fertility rate was 1.5 children per woman surviving her childbearing years in 2000. The infant mortality rate, which had been 70.3 per 1,000 live births in 1924, was 4.39 in 2005. The vaccination rates for DPT and measles were, respectively, 94% and 81%. In 2005, life expectancy was averaged at 80.39 years.

There were about nine cases of tuberculosis per 100,000 people reported in 1999. Cardiovascular disease-related deaths numbered nearly 30,000 in the mid-1990s. Tobacco consumption has dramatically decreased from 3.1 kg (6.8 lbs) per year per adult in 198486 to 2.4 kg (5.3 lbs) in 1995. In 1996, voters in Zurich approved a government plan to supply heroin addicts with free access to their drug.

The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 0.40 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 13,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 100 deaths from AIDS in 2003.

HOUSING

Although housing standards are comparatively high, there are shortages in certain areas. In the mid-1990s, less than 40,000 new dwellings per year were constructed in communities of 2,000 or more inhabitants, down from 44,228 in 1985. In 2000, there were about 3,115,399 private households and about 1,377,552 residential buildings. About 30% of all residential buildings were designed for two or more households. The total housing stock in 2001 was about 3,604,340 dwellings.

EDUCATION

Education at all levels is first and foremost the responsibility of the cantons. Thus, Switzerland has 26 different systems based on differing education laws and varied cultural and linguistic needs. The cantons decide on the types of schools, length of study, teaching materials, and teachers' salaries. Education is compulsory in most cantons for nine years, and in a few for eight. An optional 10th year has been introduced in several cantons. Church schools in some cantons are tax supported. After primary school, students complete the compulsory portion of their education in various types of secondary Grade I schools, which emphasize vocational or academic subjects to varying degrees. Secondary Grade II schools, which are not compulsory, include trade and vocational preparatory schools and gymnasiums, which prepare students for the university and lead to the matura, or higher school-leaving certificate.

Switzerland has a large number of private schools attracting primarily foreign students. These schools, most of them located in the French-speaking cantons, are known for their high-quality education, of either the academic or "finishing school" variety.

In 2001, about 97% of children between the ages of five and six were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 99% of age-eligible students. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 87% of age-eligible students. It is estimated that about 98.6% of all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 13:1 in 2000; the ratio for secondary school was about 10:1. In 2003, private schools accounted for about 3.7% of primary school enrollment and 7% of secondary enrollment.

Switzerland has 10 cantonal universities, including four in French-speaking areas and four in German-speaking ones. The universities' expenditures are largely financed by the cantons, with a 53% contribution from the Confederation. Approximately one-third of all higher-level educational funding goes to research and development. The largest universities are those of Zürich, Geneva, and Basel; others include those of Lausanne, Bern, Fribourg, and Neuchâtel. The Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich, the Economics College at St. Gallen, and the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne are also important. In 2003, it was estimated that about 49% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in tertiary education programs; 53% for men and 44% for women. The adult literacy rate has been estimated at about 99%.

As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 5.8% of GDP, or 15.1% of total government expenditures.

LIBRARIES AND MUSEUMS

The library of Basel University (3 million volumes) and the Swiss National Library in Bern (3.6 million volumes) are the largest in Switzerland. The University of Geneva has 1.8 million volumes; the University of Lausanne has about 1.7 million; and the University of Fribourg has two million. Switzerland has an extensive public library system with about 2,344 service points holding over 28 million volumes in total. The Library and Archives of the United Nations is located in Geneva, as is the library of the International Labor Organization (over 580,000 items).

The National Museum, a federal institution in Zürich, houses historic objects; other historical museums are located in Basel, Bern, and Geneva. Basel houses both the Museum of Ancient Art and the Basel Museum of Fine Arts, which has a fine collection of 15th- and 16th-century German masterworks, paintings by Dutch artists of the 17th and 18th centuries, and a survey from Corot to Picasso. The Museum of Fine Arts in Bern contains paintings by old masters and impressionists (Klee Foundation). The Zürich Art Museum houses modern Swiss paintings, as well as works by Dutch and Flemish masters of the 17th century. Geneva houses the Museum of the Voltaire Institute, the Museum of the Institute of Henri Dunant, founder of the International Red Cross, the Jean-Jacques Rousseau Museum, and the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, which opened in 1994. The League of Nations (United Nations) Museum is in Geneva. There are arts and crafts museums in most of the larger cities, and Neuchâtel has an ethnographic museum. Many fine examples of Romanesque, Gothic, and Baroque architecture are found in Switzerland.

MEDIA

The postal system and the telephone, telegraph, radio, and television systems are government owned and operated. The telephone system is completely automatic. International communications, air navigation services, and the new electronic media, including data transmission and electronic mail, are the province of Radio Suisse, a public corporation. In 2003, there were an estimated 744 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were approximately 843 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.

Broadcasting is controlled by the Swiss Broadcasting Corp. (SBC), an autonomous corporation under federal supervision. A number of independent local radio stations have been operating since 1983. Radio programs are broadcast in German, French, Italian, and Romansch. As of 1999, Switzerland had seven AM and 50 FM radio stations and 108 television stations. In 2003, there were an estimated 1,002 radios and 552 television sets for every 1,000 people. About 376.2 of every 1,000 people were cable subscribers. Also in 2003, there were 708.7 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 351 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. There were 2,821 secure Internet servers in the country in 2004.

A few papers, such as the Neue Zürcher Zeitung and the Tribune de Genève, are widely read even beyond the borders of Switzerland and have excellent international coverage. The Agence Télégraphique Suisse (Schweizerische Depeschenagentur), co-owned by some 40 newspaper publishers, is Switzerland's most important national news agency.

Among the largest dailies in 2005 were Blick (in Zürich, circulation 362,000), Tages-Anzeiger (Zürich, 231,000), and Neue Zürcher Zeitung (Zürich, 151,000). Tribune de Genève was the best-selling French daily in 2005 with a circulation of about 71,000. Corriere del Ticino is a best-selling Italian paper with a 2005 circulation of about 39,000. The Schweizer Illustrierte (circulation 195,894) is the most popular illustrated weekly, and the Nebelspalter (38,630) is the best-known satirical periodical.

The constitution provides for freedom of speech and a free press, and the government is said to uphold these freedoms in practice.

ORGANIZATIONS

Both agricultural and consumer cooperatives are numerous. The Swiss Office for Commercial Expansion is an important foreign trade promotion organization. The Swiss Federation of Commerce and Industry also promotes commerce, trade and industry. The Swiss Confederation of Trade Unions serves the interests of workers/employees. The International Labour Organization has a base office in Geneva. There are chambers of commerce in all the major cities. Trade unions and professional associations exist for most occupations.

Geneva serves as home to a variety of international organizations including the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Society, the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, The World Health Organization, and the World Scout Foundation. Several United Nation's committee offices are based here as well, the UN Economic Commission for Europe, UN Environment Programme, UN High Commission for Refugees, the UN Institute for Training and Research, and the UN Research Institute for Social Development. Other international organizations with national chapters include Amnesty International, Defence for Children International, Caritas, and Greenpeace.

There are numerous cultural and educational organizations. A few with national interest include the Swiss Academy of Humanities and Social Sciences, the Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences, and the Swiss Academy of Sciences. The European Center for Culture is a multinational organization promoting understanding and cooperation between cultures.

Active youth groups within the country include Junior Chamber, YMCA/YWCA, and the Swiss Guide and Scout Movement. There are a large number of sports associations nationwide, including several international organizations such as the International Baseball Federation, the International Basketball Federation, and the International Gymnastic Federation. The International Olympic Committee is based in Lausanne.

Several human rights, social justice, and social action organizations exist, including the Association of International Consultants on Human Rights, the Berne Declaration, Green Cross, The National Council of Women of Switzerland, and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. The International Alliance Women and the Women's World Summit Foundation both focus on health and equal rights for women. Soroptimist International of Europe is a multinational organization of business-women working toward the causes of peace, justice, health, and equal rights.

TOURISM, TRAVEL, AND RECREATION

Switzerland has long been one of the most famous tourist areas in the world, and Swiss hospitality and the Swiss hotel industry are justly renowned. Scenic attractions are manifold, and in the Swiss Alps and on the shores of the Swiss lakes there are features of interest for the skier, the swimmer, the hiker, the mountain climber, and the high alpinist. There are approximately 50,000 km (31,000 mi) of marked footpaths and 500 ski lifts. The hotels are among the best in the world; Switzerland pioneered in modern hotel management and in specialized training for hotel personnel. Central Switzerland and the Geneva region attract the largest number of foreign tourists. Passports and visas are required of all visitors except citizens of the Americas, Europe, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand who do not need visas for stays of up to 90 days.

In 2003, there were 6,530,108 visitors who arrived in Switzerland, almost 28% of whom were German. Tourism receipts totaled $11.3 billion, and hotel rooms numbered 139,969 with 258,726 beds and an occupancy rate of 38%. Visitors stayed an average of three nights.

In 2005, the US Department of State estimated the daily cost of staying in Geneva at $380; in Zürich, $295; in Basel, $379; and in Montreux at $394.

FAMOUS SWISS

World-famous Swiss scientists include the physician and alchemist Philippus Aureolus Paracelsus (Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, 1493?1541); the outstanding mathematicians Johann Bernoulli (16671748) and Leonhard Euler (170783); the geologist Louis Agassiz (Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz, 180773), who was active in the United States; the physiologist, pathologist, and surgeon Emil Theodor Kocher (18411917), who received the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1909; Charles Édouard Guillaume (18611938) and the German-born Albert Einstein (18791955, a naturalized Swiss citizen), Nobel Prize winners in physics in 1920 and 1921, respectively; and Paul Karrer (b.Russia, 18891971), authority on vitamins, who shared the 1937 Nobel Prize in chemistry. Other Nobel Prize winners in the sciences include Alfred Werner (18661919; chemistry, 1913); Yugoslav-born Leopold Ruzicka (18871976; chemistry, 1939); Yugoslav-born Vladimir Prelog (19061998; chemistry, 1975); Austrian-born Wolfgang Pauli (19001958; physics, 1945); Paul Hermann Müller (18991965), Walter Rudolf Hess (18811973), and Polish-born Tadeus Reichstein (18971996), Nobel laureates for medicine in 1948, 1949, and 1950, respectively; Werner Arber (b.1929; medicine, 1978); Heinrich Rohrer (b.1933; physics, 1986); and K. Alex Müller (b.1927) and German-born J. Georg Bednorz (b.1950), for physics in 1987.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (171278), a Geneva-born philosopher, musician, novelist, and diarist in France, was a great figure of the 18th century whose writings exerted a profound influence on education and political thought. Swiss-born Mme. Germaine de Staël (Anne Louise Germaine Necker, 17661817) was acclaimed the world over as defender of liberty against Napoleon. Other noted Swiss writers include Albrecht von Haller (170877), also an anatomist and physiologist; the novelists and short-story writers Johann Heinrich David Zschokke (17711848) and Jeremias Gotthelf (Albert Bitzius, 17971854), also a clergyman and poet; and the poets and novelists Gottfried Keller (181990), Conrad Ferdinand Meyer (182598), and Carl Spitteler (18451924), the last of whom won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1919. The diaries of the philosopher, poet, and essayist Henri-Frédéric Amiel (182181) are famous as the stirring confessions of a sensitive man's aspirations and failures. Charles Ferdinand Ramuz (18781947) is often regarded as the most powerful Swiss writer since Rousseau. The German-born novelist and poet Hermann Hesse (18771962) was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1946. Other recent and contemporary Swiss writers include Robert Walser (18781956), a highly individualistic author, and the novelists and playwrights Max Rudolf Frisch (191191) and Friedrich Dürrenmatt (1921 90), whose psychological dramas have been performed throughout Europe and the United States.

Ludwig Senfl (14901543) was an outstanding Renaissance composer. The Dodecachordon (1547) of Henricus Glareanus (Heinrich Loris, 14881563) was one of the most important music treatises of the Renaissance period. Swiss-born composers of more recent times include Ernest Bloch (18801959), Othmar Schoeck (18861957), Arthur Honegger (18921955), Frank Martin (18901974), Ernst Lévy (1895-1981), Conrad Beck (1901-89), and Paul Burkhard (191177). Ernest Ansermet (18831969) was a noted conductor. Renowned Swiss painters include Konrad Witz (14001447), Henry Fuseli (Johann Heinrich Füssli, 17411825), Arnold Böcklin (18271901), Ferdinand Hodler (18531918), and Paul Klee (18791940). In sculpture and painting, artist Alberto Giacometti (190166) won world acclaim for his hauntingly elongated figures. Le Corbusier (Charles Édouard Jeanneret, 18871965) was a leading 20th-century architect.

Swiss religious leaders include Ulrich Zwingli (14841531), French-born John Calvin (Jean Chauvin, 150964), and Karl Barth (18861968). Other famous Swiss are Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (17461827), an educational reformer who introduced new teaching methods; Ferdinand de Saussure (18571913), the founder of modern linguistics; Auguste Henri Forel (18481931), psychologist and entomologist; the noted art historians Jakob Burckhardt (181897) and Heinrich Wölffl in (18641945); the psychiatrists Eugen Bleuler (18571939), Carl Gustav Jung (18751961), and Hermann Rorschach (18841922); Jean Piaget (18961980), authority on child psychology; and the philosopher Karl Jaspers (18831969). Swiss winners of the Nobel Prize for peace are Henri Dunant (18281910) in 1901, founder of the Red Cross, and Elie Ducommun (18331906) and Charles Albert Gobat (18431914), both in 1902.

DEPENDENCIES

Switzerland has no territories or colonies.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Annesley, Claire (ed.). A Political and Economic Dictionary of Western Europe. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2005.

Diem, Aubrey. Switzerland: Land, People, Economy. Kitchener, Ont.: Media International, 1994.

Hilowitz, Janet Eve (ed.). Switzerland in Perspective. New York: Greenwood Press, 1990.

International Smoking Statistics: A Collection of Historical Data from 30 Economically Developed Countries. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Linder, Wolf. Swiss Democracy: Possible Solutions to Conflict in Multicultural Societies. Houndsmills, U.K.: Macmillan, 1994.

McElrath, Karen (ed.). HIV and AIDS: A Global View. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2002.

Meier, Heinz K. Switzerland. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Clio Press, 1990.

Sectoral Trends in the Swiss Economy. Zürich: Union Bank of Switzerland, Dept. of Economic Research. 1995.

Steinberg, Jonathan. Why Switzerland? 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Switzerland: An Inside View: Politics, Economy, Culture, Society, Nature. Zürich: Der Alltag/Scalo Verlag, 1992.

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SWITZERLAND

Swiss Confederation

Confédération Suisse

Schweizerische Eidgenossenschaft

COUNTRY OVERVIEW

LOCATION AND SIZE.

Located in west central Europe, bordered on the north by France and Germany, on the east by Austria and Liechtenstein, on the south by Italy, and on the west and south-west by France, this landlocked alpine country has an area of 41,290 square kilometers (15,942 square mi), making it slightly less than twice the size of New Jersey. The capital, Bern, is situated on the Aare River in the north-western part of the country; the largest city is Zürich in the north; other major cities include Geneva and Lausanne in the south-west, Basel in the north, and Lugano in the south.

POPULATION.

The population of Switzerland was estimated at 7,262,372 in July 2000; the population growth rate in that year was 0.3 percent, and the immigration rate was 1.38 per 1,000 population. Population density was among the highest in Europe, at about 176 persons per square kilometer (455 per square mile). The population is aging, and it has a high life expectancy79.6 years for the total population (76.73 for men, and 82.63 for women). Consequently, the median age increased to 42.6 years in 1999 from 37.2 five years earlier. Some 15.4 percent of the population are 14 years old and younger, and 16.7 percent are 65 and older.

The majority of the population, about 62 percent, lives in urban areas, and with the exception of Zürich, Geneva, Basel, and Lausanne, mostly in small towns. Most of Switzerland is mountainous and the population is unevenly distributed, concentrated in the valleys and the plains.

Switzerland's ethnic composition is complex and includes 3 major traditional language communities: German (about 64 percent of Swiss citizens), French (about 19 percent), and Italian (about 10 percent), along with the traditional Romansch (Rhaeto-Roman) language community (about 1 percent). Other ethnic groups include Spaniards, Portuguese, Turks, Albanians, former Yugoslavs, and others. Religious groups include Roman Catholics (46 percent), Protestants (40 percent), others (7 percent), and no religious faith is reported by 7 percent. The very slow population growth and the sizeable surplus of jobs in the economy (particularly in the services sector) have brought in many foreign guest workers from Italy, Spain, Portugal, the former Yugoslavia, and elsewhere. Guest workers are now estimated, with their families, to constitute nearly one-fifth of the entire population.

Switzerland has been the destination for many economic immigrants and asylum seekers, which has led to growing internal tensions. The fear of being overrun by foreigners has been a persistent Swiss topic in domestic political debate for decades. There have been many attempts to limit the number of foreigners by legislative means. In 2000, the Swiss electorate voted on a referendum to impose an 18 percent quota on the number of foreign workers in the country. They decided against the measure, although the supporters of the quota argued that the influx of foreigners in the 1990s was equal to the population of the 6 smallest (and politically most conservative) Swiss cantons (confederate units).

OVERVIEW OF ECONOMY

Switzerland, by all accounts one of the most prosperous and stable market economies in the world, has a gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of $27,100, roughly one-fifth higher than the average of the large Western European countries. Its per capita income remains the highest in Europe, even after a decade of comparative stagnation in the 1990s. Switzerland is traditionally considered a safe haven for foreign investors, because it has maintained political neutrality, an elaborate banking system with a high degree of bank secrecy, and it has maintained its currency's value through the instabilities of surrounding Europe's wars and crises. Switzerland is pursuing European Union (EU) membership only in the long runover a ten-year periodbecause of the widely-held suspicions of many Swiss that effective involvement with the rest of Europe could jeopardize their unique economic stability. Yet the EU is by far its largest trading partner and Switzerland has signed several agreements to liberalize trade ties with the union. Switzerland has also brought its economy largely into conformity with EU regulations to improve its international competitiveness.

Swiss industries, notably engineering and machinery, electronics, metals, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals, are renowned for their precision and quality and contribute to more than half of the country's export revenues. In agriculture, Switzerland is self-sufficient for almost two-thirds of its food and exports several world-famous delicacies, yet it also imports about $6 billion worth of agricultural commodities annually. Its mostly small-scale farmers are among the most highly protected and subsidized producers in the world. Tourism, banking, and insurance are traditionally leading sectors in the economy. Swiss trading companies have good expertise in many parts of the world, such as eastern Europe, the Far East, Africa, and the Middle East. Switzerland has a well-developed tourist infrastructure and the Swiss themselves are keen travelers. The country is the seat of many international inter-governmental and private organizations, from the United Nations (UN) and its associated organizations, to CERN, the European Laboratory for Particle Physics (which gave birth to the World Wide Web), to the International Red Cross, and is also host to numerous multinational corporations .

In the late 1990s, the Swiss economy emerged from several years without growth caused primarily by the strong Swiss franc, which made its exports too expensive abroad. The overall slowdown in Europe, which also hurt tourism, was another barrier to exports. Following the depreciation of the franc in 1997 and the stronger economic conditions in Europe since, Swiss growth reached 2.3 percent in 1998, fell off to 1.54 percent in 1999, and then hit 3.43 percent in 2000. Unemployment peaked at 5.2 percent in 1997 and was reduced to less than 2 percent by 2000. Domestic consumer spending is an important factor keeping the economy in good shape, and competitive pressures in the European markets are supporting extensive domestic capital spending.

After Swiss voters, doubtful of the benefits of more intimate ties with their neighbors, rejected the framework European Economic Area (EEA, providing for closer cooperation as a possible introduction to EU membership) in a referendum in 1992, the Swiss federal government started negotiating separate bilateral sectoral agreements with the EU. An agreement covering several sectors (including land and air transport and agriculture) was signed in 1998. The federal government has declared its commitment to EU membership as a long-term goal, although it is opposed by many citizens who fear such results as harm to heavily subsidized Swiss agriculture by letting in cheaper EU foods, increases in unemployment by flooding the country with more guest workers, and damage to the environment from heavier truck traffic through Swiss territory.

Yet a substantial majority of 67.2 percent in 2000 backed, in a referendum pushed through by anti-European nationalist groups, a new package of bilateral agreements with the EU. Only 2 of the 26 cantons, Ticino and Schwyz, voted against the package. The Italian-speaking Ticino was concerned about the influx of workers from neighboring Italy, and Schwyz, a German-speaking conservative stronghold, had stood in the way of every pro-European initiative. The agreements, which include the introduction of free movement of people between the EU and Switzerland and the removal of existing administrative barriers to EU trucking through Swiss territory, are designed to compensate for the country's non-member-ship in the EEA, with which it conducts over two-thirds of its trade. The prudent Swiss have negotiated a number of opt-out clauses in case the inflow of EU citizens and trucks gets higher than expected.

POLITICS, GOVERNMENT, AND TAXATION

Switzerland has developed a unique federal system with a weak collective federal government, local autonomy, and a strong, largely self-regulating civil society. Many powers are delegated to the 26 cantonal (confederate units) governments and the smaller communes (counties). For instance, it is the communes (and the population itself by referendums) that grant applying individuals Swiss citizenship.

The bicameral legislature, called the Federal Assembly, consists of a 46-member Council of States, or Standerat, whose members are elected in cantonal elections, and a 200-member National Council, or National-rat, whose members are elected by popular vote on the basis of proportional representation every 4 years. The members of the Federal Assembly select the 7 members of the Federal Council (cabinet), who lead the federal ministries for finance, foreign affairs, justice, economics, interior, transportation (with energy and environment), and defense (with sports). The mostly ceremonial position of president of the council (head of government) is rotated annually according to the seniority of the member councilors. Members sometimes exchange their responsibilities as new members are appointed, or new appointees may take over the portfolios of outgoing councilors. The council strives to present a collegial image and rule by consensus but its deliberations are private. Issues on which no consensus can be reached are determined by a secret cabinet vote and its results are not reported. The composition of the council parallels the traditional 4-party coalition that has ruled Switzerland since the late 1950s.

The 4 political groups, usually receiving 70-75 percent of the total popular vote at parliamentary elections, fill the seats on the council. These elections are held once every 4 years. These include the Free Democrats (FDP), the Christian People's Party (CVP), and the Swiss People's Party (SVP), all center-right parties, and the Social Democrats (SP), a left-of-center formation. The 3 largest parties by their popular vote, FDP, CVP, and SP, receive 2 seats each on the Federal Council; and the SVP gets one. In addition, there are at least 2 seats on the council reserved for French-speaking members from any party. This consensual combination of left and right wings and ethnic elements has allowed the coalition to maintain political, ethnic, and social peace, although it has been criticized by supporters of more radical moves.

Since the 1990s, the need for a more streamlined executive branch has led to the consideration of some revisions to the Swiss constitution that may eventually result in a strengthening of the president's powers. Any revision of the legislation, however, is slow and is subject to a referendum challenge before coming into force. Treaties and agreements approved by the 200-seat Nationalrat (parliament) are also subject to challenge by popular vote in the unique Swiss system of people's initiative and referendum. Virtually every major decision in the country may be put to vote by all the citizens. Only 100,000 signatures are required by law for a people's initiative (petition) to be put to a referendum. The system allows strong popular involvement in the federal and local government and keeps both branches under a close and constant civic scrutiny.

The approval of the bilateral agreements with the European Union (EU) and the rejection of the initiative to limit the proportion of foreigners at the 2 referendums in 2000 were welcomed with relief by the federal government. Given the fresh controversy over the treatment of Holocaust victims by Swiss banks during and after World War II (1939-45), a vote in favor of foreigners' restriction and against the EU agreements would have presented a serious embarrassment for the government and would gravely damage the country's reputation abroad.

European integration policy remains an important focus of political debates, as the government remains convinced that strategic national interests would be best protected by a complete integration into the EU. Switzerland is not economically disadvantaged by staying outside the EU. In the late 1990s, it has been doing better than EU leaders Germany or Italy, growing at a rate unseen since the 1980s, when Switzerland was regarded as Europe's economic model. It also has an uniquely massive balance of foreign payments surplus equal to more than 8 percent of its GDP.

Switzerland lies in the center of Europe, and almost two-thirds of its exports are shipped to EU members, and four-fifths of its imports come from the union. Consequently, Switzerland's future prosperity is definitely related to the development of the EU. Many Swiss feel that their country is becoming isolated in Europe. The fact that Switzerland submitted 16 proposals for negotiation to the EU headquarters in Brussels and had to be satisfied with finalizing only 7 of them might indicate that it needs the EU more than vice versa.

Some feel Switzerland is also losing its position in international financial circles. In 1983, the world's leading industrial countries invited Switzerland, as an exception, to share membership in the Group of Tenwith the world's largest economiesbut when the leading finance ministers decided in 1999 to form the Group of 20 of the "systemically most important countries," Switzer-land's name was missing. Thus the Swiss no longer have a reserved seat at the top table of the world's economic deliberations. Furthermore, Switzerland, along with small countries like the Vatican and Tuvalu, has so far refused to join the United Nations (UN), although it is a big financial contributor to the organization and hosts the UN office in Geneva plus many other international organizations. It also refuses to be drawn into peacekeeping and peacemaking operations on the grounds that this would jeopardize its neutrality. Still, Switzerland's influence in the world is far higher than its size and even its economic capacity might suggest.

Switzerland has long since developed a market economy based on free initiative, and government participation in the economy is rather moderate. Freedom of trade and industry are guaranteed by the federal and the cantonal constitutions; state intervention is limited, primarily aimed at providing a favorable economic framework, stable currency and prices, efficient infrastructures, and training the workers. In most areas, the federal government legislates and supervises, but the 26 cantonal governments implement the decisions and enforce the laws. The cantons enjoy a high degree of administrative authority, and their own constitutions and laws. The communes (counties), over 3,000 in number, also have independence, control over all local issues, and collect their own taxes. All levels of government have little involvement in manufacturing and services, but their role is considerable in agriculture protection and in trade regulation. Indirect involvement is particularly reflected in the large number of government regulations, especially at the local level. Rules concerning labor laws, business hours, zoning rules, building codes, environmental and noise codes, and administered prices may seem quite pervasive opposed to the United States or even the EU. Obligatory health insurance is another example of the local approach to state involvement in the economy: insurance and health care are provided privately, but the law requires employees to have the insurance. The government subsidizes those who cannot afford it. In the area of competition, unlike the United States and the EU, legislation is loose and cartels in Switzerland have been openly permitted and only broken up when the government has been able to prove that they are socially and economically harmful, which has seldom been the case. In 1996, a new law strengthened the government's antitrust position in mergers, shifting the burden of proof from the court to corporations engaged in anti-competitive activities. Even by EU standards, the new law was relatively weak.

Swiss tax revenues accounted for 35 percent of GDP in 1998, far below the EU average of 41.5 percent and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) average of 37.2 percent. The level of taxation has risen somewhat during the 1990s, reflecting higher social security and medical insurance costs, as well as a lack of economic growth. But the Swiss tax system is widely known in the world business circles for its fairness and is characterized by moderate local and foreign operating income taxation and tax exemption of holding-company income. For this reason, many foreign companies have set up holdings or mixed Swiss subsidiaries to conduct international operations from Switzerland in order to take advantage of lower taxes on their foreign income. Branches of foreign corporations are liberally taxed at the same rate as domestic corporations, unlike many other nations more protective of their national capital. Switzerland has undertaken to make itself even more fiscally attractive for corporate investors, and a corporate tax reform at the federal level removed the annual federal tax on capital in 1998, setting a fixed federal tax on profits at a rate of 8.5 percent.

INFRASTRUCTURE, POWER, AND COMMUNICATIONS

Switzerland has a dense and efficient rail network and an extensive high-class road system with many tunnels to compensate for the mountainous terrain. Overall there are 4,492 kilometers (2,791 miles) of rail lines and 71,059 kilometers (44,156 miles) of roadways. There are 2 large international airports (at Zürich and Geneva) and a few smaller airports with international connections. Landlocked Switzerland also has a modern marine network with some 30 ocean-going vessels based abroad, and carries out river cargo services with connections to the North Sea via the Rhine river. The port of Basel on the Rhine is a major trading hub with efficient connections between rail, road, and water routes. Switzerland is located on strategic crossroads connecting some of the fastest-growing areas of the EU in France, Germany, and Italy.

The agreements with the EU, approved by the referendum in 2000, included the areas of air transport (providing for improved access for Swiss carriers in Europe and similar rights for EU carriers in Switzerland) and road transport (in return for better access to the EU's road haulage market, Switzerland's 28-metric ton truck weight limit will be relaxed in 2001, with full access for the EU's larger 40-metric ton trucks by 2004). Under the new system of taxing heavy trucks by weight, distance traveled, and pollution caused, big trucks will be required to pay a toll of up to US$200 to cross the country. The opening to bigger trucks prompts Swiss authorities to reexamine road infrastructure, and they have started installing electronic devices on trucks to record the mileage traveled in the country, so that tolls could be calculated correctly. In 2001, a 34-metric ton truck meeting the environmental standards is expected to pay about US$95 to travel from Basel on the German border to Chiasso on the Italian border (in 1999, the toll was about US$24).

Airlines also benefited after Swiss voters approved closer economic ties with the EU in 2000. SAirGroup, the holding company of the Swissair airline, got the opportunity to buy a controlling stake in Sabena Belgian Airlines. That will expand its scope of cooperation with foreign partners like American Airlines and boost its presence in France, where it also bought a 49 percent stake in a US$1.4 billion umbrella company that included 3 smaller domestic carriers (Air Liberte, Air Littoral, and AOM) that will have a 30 percent share of the domestic market and will be able to challenge the local giant Air France.

Switzerland has large resources of hydroelectric power in the mighty alpine rivers flowing down from glaciers; they are almost fully exploited. In 1996, hydroelectric plants supplied 54 percent of the Swiss electricity production of 55.1 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh), the lowest proportion for decades, while the country's 5 modern nuclear power stations provided 43 percent. Conventional thermal plants, burning fossil fuels, contributed for only

Communications
Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Switzerland 337 1,000 535 352.7 235 29.2 421.8 371.37 1,427
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Germany 311 948 580 214.5 170 73.1 304.7 173.96 14,400
Sweden 445 932 531 221.4 464 50.9 361.4 581.47 3,666
aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
bData are from the Internet Software Consortium (http://www.isc.org) and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

3 percent of the electricity. Switzerland usually exports and sometimes imports some electricity when in need, mostly from French nuclear power plants across the border from Geneva. During the 1990s, energy consumption declined slightly, relative to the population. This was possibly because of newer energy saving technologies. The government's 1991 "Energy 2000" program aims to stabilize overall energy consumption, following a referendum in 1990 in which the Swiss voted for a ten-year moratorium on the construction of nuclear power plants, but against abandoning nuclear power altogether.

In 2000, the government proposed the liberalizing of the electricity market (allowing many competing utilities to sell power directly to businesses and households), after an earlier reform version had been disapproved. The new plan envisaged a gradual liberalization of the sector starting in 2001, with complete liberalization 6 years later, at a faster pace than required by the EU rules. In the first 3 years of the reform, only the 110 largest Swiss electricity users (all large companies) will have a free choice of supplier, followed by smaller enterprises, and finally by individual consumers. The government holds that a single company must run the national electricity grid. However, critics of the reform, more suspicious of energy liberalization after the California blackouts in early 2001, stress that the new proposals do not provide remedies for the amortization (pay back) of existing sizeable investments in plant and equipment that may be made unprofitable by liberalization. The revenues from a new energy tax, the introduction of which is under consideration and has not yet been approved by parliament, however, may fund some of the required investments. Others may be funded by a surcharge on electricity bills for domestic consumers who are unable to change their suppliers and will be required to pay for the right to remain with their providers. Swiss industry captains pushed for a quick transition. This would cut their electricity bills, which are the highest in Europe, by as much as 25 to 30 percent. The liberalization program, nevertheless, makes a referendum challenge likely, given the political clout of the liberalization critics. The country has some 1,200-electricity producers, most of which are likely to go out of business when liberalization occurs. Many are small companies owned by mountain communes and still enjoy considerable political influence. In anticipation of liberalization, the electricity sector is already undergoing restructuring . In 2000, 3 electricity companies in western Switzerland struck a strategic alliance aimed mainly at providing electricity services to customers, including buying electricity for them in the European markets.

The Swiss telecommunications market was fully liberalized in 1998, in line with the EU telecom regulations. The state-owned telecommunications company, Swiss-com, was split off from the postal service and partly privatized through stock market offerings in 1998. Private companies such as Diax and Sunrise compete with Swiss-com in the full range of telecom services, though in early 1998 they were still arguing over the very high charges demanded by Swisscom to allow them to use its network. Rival private operators are not allowed to build competing networks for connection to private homes, and therefore the interconnection rates charged by Swisscom are crucial for them. By cutting rates for international long-distance calls, Sunrise has already begun to attract customers from Swisscom, which faces additional competition from numerous mobile phone operators.

There is still a growing demand for telecom services, but they are subject to an already very competitive environment as more than 40 local and international carriers are competing in all areas of telecommunication services. Swisscom tries to keep its grip on the most profitable sectors of growth, such as mobile communications, voice transmission, closed user groups, and particularly large business accounts, value-added services, including private virtual networks, and design and operation (with its partners Cisco, Siemens, Alcatel, Ascom/Ericsson) of asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) computer networks. Foreign investment in the Swiss telecom sector is heavy, as many international carriers, such as the American MCI/Worldcom and Sprint-Global One, have established themselves locally, followed by other large players like British Telecom, France Telecom, and Tele Denmark. Vodafone, the British wireless giant, is expected to invest about 5 billion euros in Swiss mobile phone operators. Vodafone has agreed to acquire a 25 percent stake in Swisscom's mobile division but is waiting for final approval from the government, which still has a 65.5 percent stake in the company; the deal will be worth up to 4 billion euros. France Telecom has increased its stake in the Swiss operator Orange Communications by buying (for approximately 1 billion euros) 42.5 percent of Orange's stock from Eon, a German energy group. Massive foreign investment is not only beneficial for customers, but also helps Swiss companies keep up with the latest trends in the market. The introduction of telephone cards by AT&T, MCI, and Sprint-Global One, for example, prompted Swiss companies to introduce their own telecom cards to Swiss subscribers and international travelers.

The International Telecommunication Union, based in Geneva, is an important facilitator in world telecommunications, issuing standard recommendations and organizing important conferences and trade events, such as the quadrennial Telecom exhibition, which is a forum for multinational debates.

Switzerland has high computer usage rates and a large percentage of the population uses computers on a regular basis. 57 percent of the Swiss households owned personal computers and 38 percent had access to the Internet by 2000. This was less than Sweden's 53.5 percent but more than Germany, France, or Italy, where only around 18.1 percent of the population had Internet access. There are more than 150 Internet service providers (ISPs) in Switzerland. Some of the major firms include Blue Window, Iprolink, Infomaniak, Compuserve, and AOL Switzerland. There are also many smaller free services. E-commerce is also increasing rapidly, but the cautious and conservative approach of European consumers has meant that growth will be slower than in the United States in 1998-1999, particularly after the U.S. and European dotcom meltdown in late 2000.

ECONOMIC SECTORS

As a country deprived of large natural resources but abounding in skilled labor, Switzerland has concentrated on the financial services sector and on research-intensive engineering, world-famous for precision and quality. Both sectors together account for more than half of export revenues. In agriculture, Switzerland is about 65 percent self-sufficient and imports about US$6 billion of agricultural products annually. Swiss farmers, since World War II among the most heavily subsidized groups of producers in the world, are challenged as EU pressure mounts on Switzerland to liberalize food imports. Tourism is also a traditionally major economic power-house. International trade is a large contributor to the economy. In 1995, 2.8 percent of GDP was created in agriculture, 31.1 percent in industry, and 66.1 percent in services.

AGRICULTURE

The Swiss soils, terrain, and climate do not favor agriculture particularly and farms are usually family enterprises, mostly small in size. They produce cereals such as wheat and barley, root crops such as sugar beets and potatoes, and fruits such as apples and grapes. About 124 million liters (33 million gallons) of wine, at subsidized prices, are produced annually. Dairy products, such as cow's milk and world-renowned Swiss cheeses, make up a significant portion of the agricultural revenue. Livestock include cattle, pigs, sheep, horses, and poultry. After World War II, agriculture has lost its relative weight in the economy (though not its traditional clout in society or politics), and its preservation as a sector has been due largely to governmental intervention and support. To protect farmers and serve the national security goal to remain largely self-sufficient in food, the federal government has developed a complex system of protections effectively restricting imports of agricultural products, notably dairy and grains. High import tariffs and tariff rate quotas (limiting the merchandise quantities that can be imported from a certain country or generally) are maintained for most products which are domestically produced. Producers, particularly those in alpine and other difficult zones, are especially actively supported. Approximately 80 percent of gross farm income can be attributed to government intervention. Milk price supports are one of the principal staples of protectionism and that product's prices remain significantly higher than in the EU markets.

Since 1993, the Swiss system for protecting farmers has slowly begun a fundamental reform, due to the need to reduce costs for the budget and to the pressure from consumers and trading partners. Trade liberalization agreements require Switzerland to eliminate import barriers, reduce export subsidies , revise agricultural tariffs, and cut domestic support. Consequently, the Swiss agricultural sector will become less protected and more open to market forces and increasingly accessible to foreign goods. The government's position is that Swiss agricultural policy and regulations will be adjusted to be more in line with EU policies leading to reductions in administered prices. The process of agricultural policy reform started in 1993 when the prices of the politically sensitive dairy sector were first slightly reduced. The reform culminated in 1998, when the Parliament approved a new package of agricultural policy measures. According to the package, administrated prices will continue to decline and direct payments to farms will be gradually linked to their of use environmental production methods such as organic agriculture. On the other hand, trade agreements with the EU that lowered tariffs and other barriers to trade in agricultural goods will boost both exports of Swiss cheese and other delicacies and the imports of a range of EU-produced fruit, vegetables, and beverages into Switzerland.

INDUSTRY

Although raw materials are very limited in Switzerland, the country has a world-class manufacturing economy fabricating raw material imports into high-value added exports. The engineering industry, together with metals and electronics, employs about 9 percent of the country's workforce and contributes around 40 percent to Swiss export revenues. Leading areas in the sector include precision engineering, in particular the world-renowned Swiss clocks and watches (accounting for 8 percent of export revenues in the early 1990s); scientific instruments; heavy engineering and machine building, including specialized, custom-built equipment such as generators and turbines; food products, particularly specialized luxury goods such as chocolate and cheese; textiles; chemicals; quality pharmaceuticals; and fine handicrafts.

Moderate GDP growth, both domestically and in Europe, has been keeping manufacturing growth down over much of the early and mid-1990s, but restructuring efforts carried out over the late 1990s have left the sector in a better and more competitive position. The strong tradition for creativity and innovation demonstrated by the Swiss industry in the past continues to thrive, particularly in new materials technology, micromechanics, and microelectronics, and other research and development-based products. Environmental technologies are expected to have a very good growth potential. The entering into force of multilateral trade liberalization accords signed in the 1990s (under the former General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which was succeeded by the World Trade Organization, and also with the EU) will be very important for the Swiss machinery sector. Export-oriented engineering manufacturers will benefit from lower tariffs and the liberalization of public procurement procedures within the EU. They will also improve conditions for Swiss direct investments abroad, and bring better protection for Swiss patents and technical know-how in the international markets.

The chemical industry (including the valued Swiss pharmaceuticals) was one of the sectors in the Swiss economy that performed very well in spite of the 1991-1997 recession . As with the engineering sector, chemicals will also benefit from liberalization; the positive effects may be of even greater magnitude. Within the chemical branch, pharmaceuticals offer the biggest growth potential and they will benefit most from better patent protection abroad. Agreements with the EU on the elimination of technical obstacles to trade by mutual recognition of trademarks, technical regulations, other rules and procedures for the testing and certification of industrial goods, will also boost Swiss trade with the union.

SERVICES

FINANCE.

Long regarded as the country of the bankers, Switzerland has a robust finance services sector and its most vibrant components are banking and insurance. Within the banking sector, commercial and private banks have the largest influence and growth potential. Swiss banks have been historically renowned for their stability, strictly enforced secrecy policies, privacy, personalized service, and reliability. The increase in world trade and industrial activity after World War II brought more business to commercial banks, particularly to their global operations. With the merger of the Union Bank of Switzerland and Swiss Bank Corporation in 1998, the new United Bank of Switzerland (UBS) is now Europe's second largest bank by total assets. Mutual funds and institutional investors have also vastly gained in importance, and represent very good growth prospects for commercial and private banks. The insurance industry is equally important for Switzerland, and the Swiss are by all measures the most heavily insured people in the world. There are over 100 insurance companies, approximately 10 percent of which specialize solely in the reinsurance business; of the latter, Rueckversicherung is the world's second-largest reinsurance company. Swiss insurance companies have been consistently very strong performers with steadily growing earnings.

TOURISM.

A country of scenic landscapes and enterprising people, Switzerland has one of the most robust tourist industries in the world, with extensive facilities and centuries-old traditions, a sector that is one of the leading sources of foreign exchange and employment in the economy. Although the country is a humming crossroads between some of the fastest-growing regions in the EU, foreign visitors usually enjoy lengthy stays instead of simply transiting through. Foreign tourists spent US$11.355 billion in 1998 and over 69 million overnight stays were recorded in the sector offering slightly more than 1 million hotel, chalet, campsite, and youth hostel beds. Foreign tourist positive credit balance reached US$1.046 billion in 1998, and revenue from domestic tourists exceeded US$9 billion. Expenditures in the foreign tourist sector, including investments, surpassed US$10 billion. The country attracted the widest possible range of guests, from affluent elderly people visiting the spas to low-budget young backpackers trekking or "canyoneering" across its numerous mountains. Switzerland has a long list of world-renowned alpine (skiing and hiking) and lakeside tourist resorts, spas, and casinos; world-class cultural events; and many important international organizations and conferences, drawing huge numbers of participants, activists, and observers.

RETAIL.

The structure of retail trade in Switzerland has been changing since the 1980s. Independent retailers are decreasing in number, giving way to self-service and discount stores and supermarkets, and a tendency toward specialization in food distribution has been particularly noticeable. Department and chain stores, consumer cooperatives, discount stores, and supermarkets account for a large part of local trade. The tendency in those companies is to deal in a wide range of products and services. Their centralized buying gives them a competitive advantage over independent retailers (they are given a discount by suppliers due to the vast scale of their purchases). Retail traders continue to streamline their operations in order to counter their stiff competition. Scanner cash registers for bar-coded articles are ubiquitous, and the use of electronic cards to ease payment transactions is growing (cards are issued, among others, by the Swiss Post, where numerous Swiss have bank accounts, and are becoming increasingly popular). In 1987, Swiss retail groups united to form an Electronic Payment System Association.

Yet, faced with the competition of large retail establishments with nationwide coverage, individual retailers also set up organizations to provide wholesale purchasing, importing, and other services. Functioning as cooperatives, most of these small retailers' buying groups and associations operate in the foodstuffs business but also in textiles, leather goods, sports articles, pharmaceuticals, toys, and hardware. Home shopping, or the direct sale from a private location, is becoming increasingly popular and has recorded enormous growth. The turnover for direct sales companies has doubled after 1995. The home-shopping boom has reached a record high and products sold range from Tupperware to lingerie to new recipes and cleansing agents. More than 5,700 salespeople are members of the Swiss Association of Direct Marketing Companies (VDF), mail order companies not included. They can count more than 1 million client-contacts yearly, generating a turnover of US$195 million (in 1998). Most of the products sold at "Home Shopping Parties" are top quality and innovative and cannot be found at retail stores. The advantages of home shopping are the advice offered by the sales persons, the relaxed and friendly atmosphere of the private location, the combined shopping and meeting friends experience, and the possibility of testing the products on the spot.

INTERNATIONAL TRADE

International trade has long been the key to prosperity in Switzerland. Traditionally, its merchandise trade deficit has been generously compensated by a surplus trade in services. This surplus amounted in 1999 to US$18.7 billion or 7.5 percent of GDP. The country is heavily dependent on export markets to maintain its large export sector, supply raw materials for the domestic manufacturers, and diversify the array of goods and services available locally. Switzerland has traditionally very liberal trade and investment policies, its commercial law and legal system are highly developed, and foreign investments are protected by solid domestic policies. The Swiss franc is one of the strongest currencies in the world and the country is known for the soundness of its banking industry, so it has all the major factors benefiting international trade.

Chief Swiss exports include machinery, chemicals, metals, watches, textiles, agricultural products, and imports include raw materials, machinery, chemicals, vehicles, metals, agricultural products, and textiles. Principal economic partners in 1998 included the EU, 80 percent (Germany, 33 percent; France, 12 percent; Italy, 10 percent; the Netherlands, 5 percent; Britain, 5 percent); the United States, 6 percent; and Japan, 3 percent. Trade with the EU in 2000 fell below average by 9.9 percent, while exports to the U.S. went up by 15.9 percent and to Japan by 16.4 percent. Export growth was also impressive to the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS, the former USSR), South Korea, China, and Turkey, each

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Switzerland
Exports Imports
1975 12.958 13.305
1980 29.632 36.341
1985 27.433 30.696
1990 63.784 69.681
1995 78.040 76.985
1998 75.431 73.877
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.

with growth of more than 40 percent, although from a low base in 1999. Irrespective of the fluctuations, the EU remained the crucial economic partner for Switzerland. The strong and flexible Swiss economy reacts to international market fluctuations with an elaborate precision, keeping itself competitive.

Contrary to its traditionally positive foreign trade balance, Switzerland accumulated a trade deficit of nearly US$554 million in the first 9 months of 2000, compared to more than a US$1 billion surplus for the same period of 1998. Such negative trade balance is typical, however, in periods of strong economic growthlike the one Switzerland went through between 1998 and 2000 when higher local incomes boost domestic consumption and imports consequently outgrow exports. The 2000 imbalance, however, was caused by foreign price changes rather than by the strong domestic demand. It is almost certain that if international crude oil prices had remained unchanged over that period, the Swiss trade balance would have accumulated probably a surplus of more than US$500 million. Import growth during the same period was 13.2 percent and the value of imports of energy rose by 87 percent also largely due to increasing oil prices. Export growth was driven by the expansion of the EU and other foreign markets, and strong export growth product categories included precision instruments, watches, and metals. The traditional Swiss watch industry in late 1990s was very successful in exporting mostly watch parts, while exports of ready-made watches were somewhat shrinking. Exports of food (notably cheese and chocolate) were rather weak, as were the international sales of the troubled Swiss textile industry.

MONEY

The Swiss National Bank, the central bank and the institution which issues currency, has been successful in maintaining the arguably most stable currency in the world but also very skeptical of the benefits of integrating Switzerland with the EU or with its euro currency. With its private banks and insurance companies active globally and rated among the world's best, the Swiss financial services industry is traditionally one of the largest employers and an important export revenue source. Swiss banks, with their firm reputation for financial solidity and respect for privacy, are leaders in global asset management. More than one-half of the US$1.76 trillion in assets managed by Swiss banks are thought to be of foreign origin (according to the Swiss National Bank).

The local banking scene, however, has undergone some serious structural changes in the 1990s, following global consolidation trends. Many small local banks closed or merged and many large ones streamlined their Swiss retail networks while expanding their overseas operations.

Exchange rates: Switzerland
Swiss francs, franken, or franchi (SwFR) per US$1
Jan 2001 1.6303
2000 1.6888
1999 1.5022
1998 1.4498
1997 1.4513
1996 1.2360
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

The total number of banks dropped from 495 in 1990 to 403 in 1996 and the number of regional banks was cut by more than one-third. In 1990, the Swiss banks had also, under pressure from the federal government, to abandon a series of price-fixing arrangements they were indulging in, increasing competition for customers and funds. The domestic recession between 1991 and 1997 and the cuts in spending and borrowing it initiated helped send out of business a number of regional banks with limited deposit bases relying heavily on mortgage lending and loans for local businesses. All these developments have increased the concentration of the Swiss banking sector where the 4 largest banks, including the merged Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS) and Swiss Bank Corporation (SBC), account for half the total combined balance sheet. Nevertheless, Switzerland maintains a high bank density, with 1 branch for every 1,400 inhabitants (compared with 2,000 in Germany or 4,700 in the United States), although bank employment decreased from 127,626 in 1990 to 119,771 in 1996. In the long run, the Swiss Bankers' Association fears, up to one-third of the 1996 bank employment could be lost due to consolidation and the use of new technologies in the sector.

Zürich has traditionally been a major international banking center and its equivalent to the New York's Wall Street is the renowned Bahnhofstrasse where the headquarters of the UBS and the Credit Suisse, 2 of Europe's leading banks, as well as many smaller private banks, are located. Although the majority of the UBS staff is based in Switzerland, almost one-third of it is located internationally throughout the world; its global investment banking operations are in London, and its fund management head office is based in Chicago. Credit Suisse has an equally strong presence in both the United States and Europe. But the robust growth and restructuring of Zürich's 2 big banks has generated new opportunities for smaller competitors as well. For example, seasoned bankers that were laid off in the UBS's 1998 merger with SBC have helped the management teams of smaller banks build up their skills. Furthermore, Zuercher Kantonalbank (ZKB), the third-biggest bank in Zürich that subscribed 75,000 new customers in 1999, holds that over 30 percent of those new customers were due to the effects of the merger. And many of the even smaller banks have performed at an even better rate. Julius Baer, for instance, the biggest independent private bank in Zürich, attracted the same amount of new funds in 1998 as did UBS, more than 16 times larger. Vontobel, Zürich's second-largest private bank, increased its profits almost 2 times in 1999 and its return on equity was over 30 percent. The numbers of bank employees, previously decreasing, have stabilized, the leading banks have enlarged their international market share, and a large number of small fund management and corporate finance boutique firms have flourished.

But, in the longer term, there still may be serious threats as Switzerland's big banks and insurance companies have long since outgrown the size of their country, and Zürich's relative importance as an international financial center has decreased as business has moved to major international centers like London, Frankfurt, and New York. A united Europe, with the emergence of the single European currency, the euro, also contributes to the country's increasing financial isolation. But it is still the world's top offshore banking center for private customers, attracting many offshore affiliates of major international firms that use Switzerland as a tax haven . Its success, however, receives the attention of European officials who believe that Switzerland's bank secrecy laws and loose tax rules give it an unfair competitive advantage in attracting offshore capital and also that it is harboring major tax evaders from other countries.

Money laundering allegations and related banking scandals have disturbed the Swiss public opinion throughout the 1990s. To combat transnational organized crime, abusing the liberal Swiss banking system, and partly responding to international pressures, Switzerland gradually relaxed its banking secrecy policies and allowed foreign investigators access to bank records in cases where illegal acquisition or use of funds were suspected. In 1998, new strict money laundering laws were introduced and a significant number of high-profile international money laundering cases were investigated by magistrates in many cantons, particularly in Geneva. In the late 1990s, Swiss prosecutors investigated some serious allegations of money laundering by former top Russian officials through the Swiss company Mabetex. In January 2001, Pavel Borodin, former head of Russian President Boris Yeltsin's administration, was detained by U.S. authorities in New York on request of the prosecution and may be turned over to the Swiss judiciary. Following the Mabetex scandal, the Swiss government launched a political campaign abroad over Switzerland's reputation as a financial center, defending banking secrecy yet emphasizing its willingness to join international efforts to fight transnational organized crime. The government has even quietly encouraged the new government of Nigeria to take legal action in Switzerland to recover national assets allegedly siphoned off by the previous government. It is not certain, however, how the Swiss government will react to pressures from the EU to fight tax evasion that is not a criminal offence in Switzerland. Although unwilling to change its tax and secrecy laws, it is reassuring to many that Swiss laws on fraud and money laundering are so extensive that they effectively cover cases of major tax evasion as well.

In the mid-1990s, the Swiss Banking Association, under pressure from world Jewish organizations, agreed to search its vaults for unclaimed bank deposits allegedly containing assets belonging to Jewish victims of the Holocaust during the World War II. In 1997, the Swiss government endorsed a proposal by several leading banks and businesses to establish a memorial fund for compensating Holocaust survivors and their descendants, although many individuals and groups claimed Switzerland was not doing enough to aid the victims and their descendants. In 1998, class action suits and potential U.S. sanctions against Swiss banks prompted 3 large private banks to agree to participate in a global settlement of all claims and suits against them. The banks agreed to a settlement of US$1.25 billion, allowing Holocaust survivors and their descendants to receive compensation.

The Swiss Exchange was 1 of the 8 European exchanges to sign a memorandum of understanding, formally confirming a commitment to work towards a pan-European equity market with one single electronic trading platform for blue-chip stocks (of large and creditworthy companies renowned for the quality and wide acceptance of their products or services, and for their ability to make money), with common rules and regulations. In addition, the exchange is strengthening ties to London, Europe's leading financial center. In 1999, the exchange granted remote membership for the first time to an institution based in Britain. From its London office, the American securities firm Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette (DLJ) International Securities became a remote member that can participate in trading on the Swiss electronic exchange from outside the country. DLJ's remote membership followed the admission of Germany's Mees Pierson and Hull Trading. The exchange is trying to make its membership more attractive and to promote the country as a trading area, lowering its admission fee for new members to SwFr25,000 (from SwFr350,000) as the old fee was prohibitive for many brokers. The high fees were intended to pay off the expenses for installing an electronic exchange system in the 1990s.

The Swiss government sees eventual membership into the EU as a core foreign policy target over the next 10 years. However, the SNB has been skeptical of the rewards of integrating with the euro currency. Many Swiss believe that such a move would result in Switzerland

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Switzerland 36,154 39,841 41,718 45,951 44,908
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Germany N/A N/A N/A N/A 31,141
Luxembourg 21,650 23,926 26,914 35,347 46,591
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.

importing the risk of instability associated with the eastward enlargement of the EU. Others hold that linking the Swiss franc to the euro would be risky. If the Swiss franc remained independent, they suggest, it would gain in importance as a diversification currency for international investors.

POVERTY AND WEALTH

The Swiss traditionally enjoy one of the highest living standards in the world although they also have an exceptionally high cost of living. Although there are many large private fortunes of local and foreign persons, Switzerland's Gini index score (which measures economic equality, with 0 standing for perfect equality and 100 for perfect inequality) of 33.1 is quite a bit lower than that of the United States (40.8) or the United Kingdom (36.1). The structure of consumption and the quality of life are also among the world's most advanced, according to UN studies. Switzerland's government is working hard to improve its environmental policies and to fight organized crime, reducing the impact of these 2 threats to modern life everywhere in the world.

But there is also some growing sense of insecurity in Switzerland, manifesting itself in a rising concern about immigration, unemployment, and the higher levels of foreign ownership of Swiss property and firms, although such concerns are largely overstated. An in other

Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage Share: Switzerland
Lowest 10% 2.6
Lowest 20% 6.9
Second 20% 12.7
Third 20% 17.3
Fourth 20% 22.9
Highest 20% 40.3
Highest 10% 25.2
Survey year: 1992
Note: This information refers to income shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita income.
SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].

affluent countries in which unemployment is very low (less than 2 percent), the perception of job insecurity is much greater than unemployment itself. The average period employees remain in a job hasn't changed since 1980, and moreover, labor shortages, rather than high unemployment, are likely to be more prevalent in Switzerland, at least over the next 5 years. Likewise, the concern about the influx of refugees is grossly exaggerated. Eastern European countries remain the main source of potential refugees, but as they narrow the GDP per head gap with western Europe, the already quite low levels of migration are likely to be decreased further. The political processes in the former Yugoslavia after the toppling of Slobodan Milosevic in late 2000 may also contribute to a more stable condition and less immigrants from the Balkans region.

Recent takeovers of Swiss firms by large foreign companies have also led to misplaced concerns. As firms denationalize, becoming increasingly international and global in character, the competitiveness of the business environment as a location for firms becomes more important. With Switzerland's highly educated workforce and other positive assets, the result may rather be a long period of high value industrial development and there is little reason to believe that foreign ownership will lead

Household Consumption in PPP Terms
Country All Food Clothing and footwear Fuel and power a Health care b Education b Transport & Communications Other
Switzerland 19 6 9 3 18 8 36
United States 13 9 9 4 6 8 51
Germany 14 6 7 2 10 7 53
Luxembourg 17 8 9 3 7 5 52
Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.
aExcludes energy used for transport.
bIncludes government and private expenditures.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

to money flight from the country. If feelings of economic insecurity grow, there may be further calls for protection for Swiss industry in order to preserve domestic employment. Also, there may almost certainly be further tightening of legislation to curb immigration, with the potential for a backlash against government's plans to integrate the Swiss and EU labor markets.

WORKING CONDITIONS

The educated and skilled Swiss workforce, the elaborated laws promoting labor flexibility and safety, and the agreements between the influential trade unions and employers' associations have protected Switzerland from significant labor unrest. The unemployment rate dropped to 1.7 percent in September 2000 and the rate is likely to stabilize, as the principal component of unemployment was caused by the disparity between the required and offered qualifications and mostly unskilled workers continued to have problems in finding jobs. This rate of unemployment was the lowest one since December 1991 and substantially below levels prevalent in EU countries (the most favored of which, Luxembourg, had a rate of 2.2 percent in July 2000, while the preliminary EU rate for August was 8.3 percent).

The economic stagnation from 1991 to 1997 had a major impact on the labor market. Over this period, 255,000 jobs (in full-time job equivalents) were lost. Surprisingly, however, the unemployment situation improved dramatically from a rate of 5.7 percent in February 1997 (the highest in decades) to the low level found in 2000. Indeed, statistics tend to underestimate the real level of unemployment, and if the number of persons in active labor market programs, retraining schemes, and temporary jobs are added, that would raise the underlying rate of unemployment by probably 1 percentage point. Rising employment has also enabled the government to almost halve the number of publicly sponsored jobs, to 7,106 in August 2000 from 13,095 just a year earlier. The ratio of long-term unemployed among all unemployed remained relatively high at 20.9 percent in August 2000, and this number did not include those who fell out of the statistics after reaching the end of the benefit entitlement period (a total of 1,078 persons).

Mutual recognition of academic degrees, diplomas, professional certifications, and social security entitlements was an important element of the recent agreements with the EU aimed at increasing labor mobility . The government envisages the scrapping, over a 6-year period, of the Swiss quota system for work permits for EU and European Free-Trade Association (EFTA) citizens, although limits may be introduced again if inflows of immigrants are stronger than expected. After 7 years, Switzerland can opt out of the pact or continue with it for another 7 years. At this point, freedom of movement for EU and EFTA citizens will become permanent.

COUNTRY HISTORY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

4TH CENTURY A.D. Germanic tribes conquer ancient Roman Helvetia, the site of present-day Switzerland.

9TH CENTURY. Most of Switzerland joins the Duchy of Alemannia (Swabia), one of the feudal units of the German kingdom; the southwestern part of the area is taken over by the feudal kingdom of Transjurane Bourgogne.

1033. The Bourguignon part of Switzerland is taken over by Emperor Conrad II and becomes a part of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, consisting of small feudal states ruled by lords, bishops, and abbots, and many independent city-states, which later become cantonal commonwealths.

1276. Emperor Rudolf I Habsburg of the Holy Roman Empire attempts to assert his feudal rights in a threat to the traditional liberties of the Swiss. Three forest cantonsSchwyz, Uri, and Unterwaldenbased around the Lake of Lucerne form a league for mutual defense in 1291. During the 14th century, the cantons of Zürich, Glarus, Bern, Lucerne, and Zug join the league, and in the 15th century Fribourg and Solothurn follow suit.

1474. The Habsburgs, unable to tame the militant Swiss mountaineers, abandon their attempts to acquire their territory, and their confederation becomes directly dependent on the empire.

1499. Emperor Maximilian I attempts to abrogate various Swiss rights; he is later defeated, and, by the Treaty of Basel of the same year, recognizes the virtual independence of the Swiss.

1513. The cantons of Appenzell, Schaffhausen, and Basel enter the confederation and send 2 delegates each to the federal assembly. Swiss mercenaries gradually become famous throughout Europe (and still constitute the papal guard in the Vatican City). Swiss troops annex Italian towns that now form the canton of Ticino in the south of Switzerland. In 1536, Bernese Swiss take Lausanne on the Lake Geneva and various other territories from the duchy of Savoy.

1515. Swiss troops are defeated by the French in 1515 and Switzerland's neutrality policy is then adopted.

1648. Swiss cantons preserve their neutrality in the Thirty Years' War of 1618 to 1648 and achieve formal recognition as a completely independent state by the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. The union of the cantons is still quite weak, but a modern market economy develops as Swiss craftsmen win reputation across Europe for quality and skill, and financial services develop.

1798. French-backed revolutionaries occupy Swiss territory. Napoleon Bonaparte, the future emperor of France, unifies the country under the name Helvetic Republic and imposes a written constitution, which, like the French military occupation, is bitterly resented by most of the Swiss.

1803. Napoleon withdraws French troops and by the Act of Mediation grants a new constitution with Swiss approval.

1815. The Congress at Vienna recognizes the perpetual neutrality of Switzerland, and Swiss territory is expanded to include 22 cantons (Geneva is ceded by France), acquiring its modern form.

1847. Political struggles between autocratic and democratic elements and between Roman Catholic and Protestant areas culminate in a civil war between the Sonderbund, a Catholic league, and the federal government, which takes the upper hand. The new constitution of 1848 greatly increases federal power.

1874. A new constitution is passed, which, with modifications, is still in force; it completes the development of Switzerland from a group of cantons to a unified federal state.

1940s-1950s. Switzerland develops its powerful modern economy and, although maintaining its neutrality, becomes a member of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the international trade organization replaced in 1995 by the World Trade Organization (WTO), headquartered in Geneva. Also joins the Organization for European Economic Cooperation (1948), the European Free Trade Association (1959), and the Council of Europe (1963).

1971. Switzerland grants women the right to vote in federal elections and to hold federal office.

1992. Switzerland joins the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (World Bank) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). However, Swiss voters reject joining the European Economic Area, a free-trade zone linking many Western European countries.

1994. A referendum declares racial discrimination, racist propaganda, and denial of the Nazi Holocaust illegal.

1995. Under international pressures, Switzerland begins to relax its banking secrecy policies to help fight organized transnational crime.

1997. The Swiss government endorses a proposal to establish a memorial fund to compensate Holocaust survivors and their relatives for funds allegedly retained by Swiss banks.

1998. In December, the parliament elects Social Democrat and former labor union leader Ruth Dreifuss as Switzerland's first woman and first Jewish president.

2000. The Swiss voters approve by referendum a bilateral agreement with the EU and turn down a proposal to limit the quota of foreigners allowed in the country to 18 percent.

FUTURE TRENDS

By all accounts, Switzerland is likely to maintain and develop its stable and prosperous economy in the foreseeable future but its role in the changing world is likely to be strongly dependent on its gradual integration with the EU. The debates between Euro-skeptics and Euro-enthusiasts will most likely dominate domestic policies, along with the foreign workers controversy. The Swiss economy and society will be trying hard to reformulate their unique identity in the globalizing world.

EU integration will benefit the leading Swiss industries, particularly in manufacturing, but offshore banking and agricultural firms may suffer, which, given their strong political clout, may further disturb the integration process. The participation of the Swiss in the European political process may generate new domestic controversies over time. But in the long run, the benefits of the single European market of goods, capitals, persons, and ideas will outweigh the drawbacks for Switzerland.

The Swiss financial industry will overcome the scandals that have been plaguing in throughout the 1990s, and although a radical change in the tax laws is not likely, will cooperate with the EU and other countries in combating organized transnational crime and tax evasion. The Swiss will preserve their unique system of self-governing and their high standard of living with rising level of employment but the fear of unemployment and of being "overrun" by foreigners will continue to influence the domestic political debate and will often raise the issue of solidarity with the people of less fortunate countries.

DEPENDENCIES

Switzerland has no territories or colonies.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Confoederatio Helvetica. <http://www.admin.ch/ch/index.en.html>. Accessed August 2001.

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Switzerland. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2001.

Embassy of Switzerland in the United States. <http://www.swissemb.org>. Accessed August 2001.

Enright, Michael J., and Rolf Weder, editors. Studies in Swiss Competitive Advantage. Bern and New York: P. Lang, 1995.

New, Mitya. Switzerland Unwrapped: Exposing the Myths. London and New York: I.B. Tauris, 1997.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2000. <http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbook/index.html>. Accessed August 2001.

U.S. Department of State. FY 2000 Country Commercial Guide: Switzerland. <http://www.state.gov/www/about_state/business/com_guides/index.html>. Accessed January 2001.

Valentin Hadjiyski

CAPITAL:

Bern.

MONETARY UNIT:

Swiss franc (SwFr). One Swiss franc equals 100 centimes, or rappen. There are coins of 1, 5, 10, 20, and 50 centimes and 1, 2, and 5 francs, and notes of 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, and 1,000 francs.

CHIEF EXPORTS:

Machinery, electronics, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, metals, watches agricultural products, textiles, and handicrafts.

CHIEF IMPORTS:

Raw materials, machinery, chemicals, vehicles, metals, agricultural products, textiles.

GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT:

US$197 billion (1999 est.).

BALANCE OF TRADE:

Exports: US$98.5 billion (1999 est.). Imports: US$99 billion (1999 est.).

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SWITZERLAND

Swiss Confederation

Major Cities:
Bern, Geneva, Zurich, Basel, Lausanne, Winterthur

Other Cities:
Aarau, Arosa, Biel, Chur, Fribourg, Gstaad, Locarno, Lucerne, Lugano, Montreux, Neuchâtel, Saint Gall, Schaffhausen, St. Moritz, Thun, Zug

EDITOR'S NOTE

This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report dated December 1996. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at http://travel.state.gov/ for the most recent information available on travel to this country.

INTRODUCTION

SWITZERLAND is all the travel brochures say it is and more. The country's natural beauty, the courtesy of its people, and the stability of the Swiss way of life make living here interesting and relaxing.

Rugged mountains dotted with ski resorts, lakes set in rolling farmlands, and arcaded towns crisscrossed by narrow cobblestone streets are some of the sights that you will be pleased to discover. Swiss cities, while retaining the charm of their age, offer a wide range of modern facilities and cultural opportunities. The Swiss people are proud of their national identity, yet they represent a stimulating variety of cultural and linguistic backgrounds. The nation itself, while traditionally neutral, is active on the international scene.

If you are interested in getting to know Switzerland and the rest of Europe, you will find ample opportunity. A visit here is a pleasant and rewarding experience.

MAJOR CITIES

Bern

Bern is a charming city built around a bend in the Aare River. Its "Old Europe" atmosphere is evident in arcaded walks along cobblestone streets, towering cathedrals, fountains, clock towers, and bustling open markets. Yet at the same time Bern offers modern shopping facilities and ever-expanding suburbs with new apartment buildings.

The city lies in west-central Switzerland, with the Alps to the south and the Jura Mountains to the northwest. Bern has a population of about 123,000 (December 2000 estimate) and is the seat of the executive and legislative branches of the Swiss Government. There are approximately 30,000 Americans living in Switzerland, mostly concentrated in the major cities of Zurich, Geneva, and Basel.

Food

Shopping facilities are very good, although much more expensive than in the U.S. Markets and specialty shops, such as bakeries, milk/cheese shops, grocery stores, and butcher shops are entirely satisfactory. Several supermarkets exist, and a shopping center (mall) can be reached in about 15 minutes by car from Bern. However, shopping hours are not as convenient as in the U.S., with stores closing at 6 or 6:30 pm except for one weekday evening when the stores in downtown Bern are open until 9 pm. On Saturdays shops stay open until 1 or 4 pm depending on each individual store or town.

Fresh fruits and vegetables, chocolates, dairy products, breads and pastries, dried soups and sauces, and jams and preserves are excellent. Butter and meat are of good quality, although some meat cuts differ from those in the U.S. Many varieties of canned goods are sold locally. Frozen foods are available in an increasingly wide selection. In general, Swiss prices are about 60% higher than in the U.S. Some foods are only available in the few stores that feature imports, for example, maple and other flavorings, Knox gelatin, baking soda, molasses, and syrup. Good baby food products are available.

Clothing

Bring clothes suitable for a temperate U.S. climate. It is advisable to bring complete winter clothing, good foot gear for hiking, and good raingear for changeable weather.

For social occasions, Swiss dress informally, though still conservatively. Younger Swiss are much more casual than older Swiss. Women's styles can range from jeans, slacks, and pant suits to dresses; while men range from jeans and sweaters to jackets.

Good-quality men's, women's, and children's clothing can be purchased in Switzerland, but prices are much higher than in the U.S. Men's tailoring is excellent but dressmakers are hard to find. Shoes are of excellent quality; however, individuals with narrow or extra-wide feet should bring a good supply because these widths are extremely hard to find. Made-to-measure shoes are available.

Both English-speaking schools require smaller children to wear slippers indoors and white-soled gym shoes in gym. The International School of Berne (ISB) requires black gym shorts and red shirts.

Supplies and Services

The usual consumer goods, toiletries, cosmetics, and household supplies are sold in Switzerland but prices are much higher than in the U.S. One should bring highly specialized drugs, as it is sometimes difficult to find the exact equivalent.

Community services are good. Laundry, dry cleaning, shoe repair, equipment repair, and beauty and barber services are all available and good, but the cost for these services is much higher than in the U.S.

Religious Activities

Bern has many Protestant denominations, the dominant one being Reformed Church. Other groups include a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a Christian Science church, a Seventh-Day Adventist church, and others. The city also has several Roman Catholic churches, a Jewish synagogue, an Islamic center, and a Russian Orthodox church. Most services are conducted in German. One of the Catholic churches, however, has one Sunday Mass in English. In addition, a small Anglican church near the U.S. Embassy serves as the parish church for the U.S., British, and Canadian Protestant communities. All of its services are in English.

Education

Most American children attend either the International School of Berne (ISB) or The British School of Bern. The British School goes from preschool to grade 6 and the ISB from preschool through grade 12.

English-speaking teachers staff ISB and the British School. Both schools are modern with adequately sized rooms, a library, and an outside play area. ISB also has a gym, computer lab, science lab, and an arts center. Both schools provide bus services at parental cost to many areas of Bern. Letter system grades, teacher comments, and parent conferences are used at both schools, and standards of achievement compare favorably with those in the U.S. The British School uses a trimester system, with 2-week holidays at Christmas and Easter, a 1-week fall vacation, and the traditional Swiss 1-week "ski holiday" in February. Summer vacation is from the last week of June to the last week of August. The ISB has a quarterly calendar, and its holidays are about the same as those of the British School. But holiday calendars are not synchronized, so that students at one school may be on holiday when the other school is in session.

The ISB is a nonprofit, coeducational private school run by a Board of Directors of up to nine persons elected by the Parents Association. It is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and the European Council of Independent Schools and successfully completed its 10-year re-accreditation in l994. Its 180 to 210 students come from the diplomatic corps and multinational business and industry, with over 30 nations represented.

The curriculum is international in nature. At the high school level, students may pursue the International Baccalaureate program. This is broader and deeper than most U.S. high school curricula. Instruction is in English, but French and German are offered as foreign languages in grades 1 to 12. English as a Second Language instruction is available for students whose mother tongue is not English. The school has a comprehensive special education program for learning disabled students and for highly gifted students. It is an optimal Match school working very closely with the Center for Talented Youth at Johns Hopkins University.

The school's testing program includes the International Baccalaureate, the College Board SAT and Achievement Tests and standardized Educational Records Bureau testing. The school is supported by a grant from the Office of Overseas Schools of the Department of State. More specific information may be obtained from that office.

Founded in 1988, the British School is an independent, nonprofit day school located in Muri, a suburb of Bern. The school provides a modern British curriculum. The teaching allows each child to develop to his/her particular need through both same-age and cross-age groupings. Present enrollment is approximately 45 students in pre-kindergarten through grade 6. American parents with children at the school have, on the whole, been very satisfied with their involvement and the care and attention given to their students.

The English Speaking Play-group takes children from 3 to 5 years old who speak English or, in limited numbers, who wish to learn English. Activities include singing, art, music and movement, stories, and poems as well as supervised games and play. The groups have a maximum of 12 children. There is also an English Montessori School in Bern for children 3 to 6 years old. The L'École Française de Berne also provides a preschool for ages 2-1/2 to 5 years old.

Occasionally it is possible to enroll in a Swiss neighborhood nursery school; classes are conducted in Swiss German.

Special Educational Opportunities

The University in Bern, one of the largest in Switzerland, offers courses in seven areas of study to undergraduate and graduate students. English literature classes are given in English, all others in German. Specific information on this and other universities may be obtained from each institution or from the Central Office of the Swiss Universities, Sonneggstrasse 26, 8006 Zurich.

The American College of Switzerland at Leysin (a campus of Schiller International University), is about 1-1/2 hours away from Bern by car. It is a fully accredited (by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools) 4-year college in Switzerland. It offers five programs leading to a B.A., B.S., or M.B.A. degree. More information may be obtained from the Office of Admission, 1854 Leysin, Switzerland.

The Zurich Campus of City University of Bellevue, Washington, is 1 to 1 1/2 hours from Bern by car, and slightly closer by train. It is an accredited English-speaking college and offers both undergraduate and master's programs in business administration. More information can be obtained from the college at the Educational Programs of City University, AG, Raemi Str. 71, 8006 Zurich.

Webster University of St. Louis in Geneva, 1-3/4 hours from Bern by car, offers both undergraduate and master's of arts programs. Further information can be obtained from the college at the Center for International Reform John Knox, 27 Chemin des Crets de Pregny, 1218 Grand-Saconnex/Geneva.

Franklin College in Lugano, 5 hours from Bern, is an accredited English-speaking college offering A.A., B.A., and M.B.A. degrees. More information can be obtained from the college, 6902 Lugano, Switzerland.

There are also several campuses of the European University specializing in a B.A. or M.A. in business with instruction in English. Information can be obtained at Route de Fontanivent CH-1817, Fontanivent-Montreux, Switzerland.

There are also several noted hotel schools, including one run by Schiller University. For information, write Hotel Europe, CH-6390, Ergelverg, Switzerland.

Night classes in Bern are offered in a wide variety of subjects including business skills, hobbies and crafts, sports, home economics, and the arts. All classes are in German. Several language schools have group lessons taught in German, but private lessons with English-speaking instructors are available. The International School of Bern offers beginning and intermediate courses in German and French; and the English-speaking social clubs have ongoing conversational classes in both languages. Music lessons are offered at the Bern Conservatory, as well as by private teachers.

Sports

Many opportunities are available for individual sports. Tennis, hot-air ballooning, windsurfing, sailing, rafting, hang gliding, golf, riding, skiing, skating, boating, fishing, hunting, swimming, climbing, and hiking can all be enjoyed in or near Bern. Lessons are given in many of these sports. Although no public tennis courts exist, there are several private clubs where lessons are offered by licensed instructors, some of whom are English speaking. Several riding stables in and around Bern offer indoor instruction to groups and individuals. Sailing lessons are given on nearby Lake Thun, and mountaineering is taught by the Swiss Alpine Club. The lessons are nearly always in German and/or French.

Skiing is Switzerland's major sport. There are many ski areas near Bern, and all have English-speaking ski instructors. Both group and private lessons are cheaper than in the U.S.

The nearest golf club is a 25-minute drive from Bern. A number of excellent golf courses can be found throughout Switzerland.

Hunting is an expensive sport, and a difficult annual examination must be passed to obtain a license. The Swiss are avid shooters, and rifle and pistol ranges are widespread. Stream fishing for trout, graylings, and pike is popular and fishing equipment is available, but a license must be obtained and strict rules adhered to.

A public outdoor swimming pool near the U.S. Embassy is converted into an ice-skating rink during winter. Occasional ice hockey matches are held there. Other public swimming pools are located throughout Bern and the surroundings.

The most popular spectator sports are ice hockey, soccer, track and field events, and ski competitions. Horse shows and bicycle and motorcycle races and rallies also take place in or near Bern.

Sports equipment is generally more expensive than in the U.S. Good used equipment is also available at the beginning of each ski season.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

Bern is centrally located for travel to all parts of Switzerland by car or train. The city is within a few hours' driving distance of France, Italy, Germany, and Austria. Magnificent scenery and charming restaurants and hotels add to the local color.

Countless opportunities exist for camping and hiking near Bern and all over Switzerland. The city is surrounded by wooded areas that are perfect for picnics. Bern itself boasts a botanical garden, a rose garden overlooking the old town, an outdoor zoo with play areas for children, the famous bear pits, and a local children's amusement park.

Bern has several museums and a number of small art galleries, plus occasional exhibitions and fairs. Outstanding museums are also found in other Swiss cities.

No restrictions are placed on photography except where posted, such as in military areas.

Entertainment

The variety of entertainment in Bern is impressive though little cosmopolitan night life exists.

About 20 film theaters show American, French, German, and Italian movies. Many American movies are shown in Bern in English (subtitles are in German and French). The City Theater offers operas, plays, ballets, and operettas, while smaller theaters offer plays and cabarets. Guest performances by Swiss and international classical and jazz musicians are common. An excellent international jazz festival takes place every spring. Lectures, travelogues, etc., are given frequently. Most of the performances are presented in German, although some nightclub acts are in French. Bern has four nightclubs, several bars, and many restaurants featuring Swiss specialties. In general, Swiss law prohibits young children from attending film theaters at night.

The principal local festivities are Swiss National Day (August 1), the Onion Market, held on the last Monday in November, and Sammi Klaus Day (December 5). The Onion Market features hundreds of market stalls selling onions and handicrafts. The Fasnacht (Carnival) celebration is held in late winter at the beginning of the Lenten season.

Social Activities

English speaking clubs in Bern are The American Women's Club, The International Club of Bern, and The Swiss-American Society. The International Club of Bern includes men and women from the international community. It sponsors a yearly ball, dinners, lectures, and some food preparation classes. Clubs often have programs specifically for children as well as events for families. The International Teens of Bern, a club for teens 14 years and older, has been active in recent years. Boy Scout and Cub Scout units are also available, but often depend on family member involvement.

Geneva

Geneva (Genève in French, Genf in German) is a part, but a somewhat atypical one, of Switzerland. With its metropolitan population of 409,000 (175,000 in the city proper) and its teeming international organizations, it is the center of more intergovernmental activity per capita than any other city in the world. The diplomatic community (members of national missions and inter-governmental organizations and their families) exceeds 22,000; international governmental and nongovernmental agencies with headquarters or major offices in Geneva total 100; and approximately the same number of nations maintain permanent missions in the city.

The main focus of international activity is the Palais des Nationsonce the home of the League of Nations and now the seat of the United Nations' European Office. The close to 5,000 annual meetings which take place at the Palais make it the world's busiest international conference center.

Geneva is often a front-page dateline during a summit conference or a high-level political meeting. But even when Geneva diplomacy is not making headlines, it is still working steadily to improve international relations.

Major activities in Geneva include the development of programs for combating disease; for expanding trade; for helping refugees and migrants seeking lives free of tyranny, strife, and hunger; for training people in industry and agriculture; and for utilizing weather and communications satellites to the fullest. Representatives of the U.S. and the Soviet Union meet in Geneva for the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT). Arms control and disarmament is another major part of continuing Geneva diplomacy; the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament (CCD)the world's main multilateral disarmament negotiating forumholds annual sessions in Geneva and considers treaties on all matters of weaponry.

The following are among the major intergovernmental organizations headquartered here: International Labor Organization (ILO); World Health Organization (WHO); International Telecommunications Union (ITU); World Meteorological Organization (WMO); World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO); U.N. Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD); U.N. Economic Commission for Europe (ECE); General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT); U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); and Intergovernmental Committee for Migration (ICM).

The major nongovernmental organizations in Geneva include: International Committee of the Red Cross and the League of Red Cross Societies; World Council of Churches; World Jewish Congress; International Commission of Jurists; World Scout Bureau; European Broadcasting Union; Pan-African Institute for Development; and International Organization for Standardization.

United States Mission

The U.S. Permanent Mission to International Organizations is headed by a permanent representative with the rank of ambassador. U.S. delegations are staffed by mission officers, by delegates from the Department of State and other U.S. Government departments and agencies, and from the private sector.

The principal objectives of the U.S. Mission include promoting U.S. policies in international organizations and developing contacts with other foreign missions; serving as a channel of communication between international organizations and U.S. Government departments and agencies with similar interests; providing substantive and administrative support to U.S. delegations; reporting Geneva developments and making policy recommendations to the U.S. Government; assisting the media in staying informed on U.S. policies.

The City

Geneva is located on the Rhone (Rhône) River where it emerges from Lake Geneva (Lac Léman) in the extreme southwest corner of Switzerland. The Canton of Geneva is surrounded on three sides by France, and is connected to the rest of Switzerland by a narrow strip of land that runs along the west side of the lake. Lying on gently rolling hills along both banks of the Rhone at an altitude of 1,200 feet, Geneva is dominated on the northwest by the Jura Mountains and on the south by the Salève, a long, low mountain that forms a distinctive landmark. Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Europe, is visible on clear days. The other ranges of the Alpsthe Haute Savoie in France and the Swiss Alps on the Valaisrise steeply at the opposite end of Lake Geneva, 50 miles away.

Geneva's temperate climate is variable because of the city's location. The weather is generally pleasant from April to December. Winters are often damp with overcast skies, but are never severe. Although nearby mountains are snow-covered throughout the winter, Geneva itself gets little snow. Temperatures rarely drop below freezing during the day. Summers are generally mild and pleasant with a few hot spells. Frequent rains fall in spring and early summer; temperatures are cool and crisp in both spring and autumn. The normal seasonal weather is affected from time to time by two winds characteristic of many parts of Switzerland: the bise, a north wind that blows from Lake Geneva and brings a chilling cold in winter and clear skies and pleasant temperatures in summer; and the föhn, a south wind that is often oppressively warm and humid.

The bridge to understanding the real spirit of Geneva is the realization that it is an international city. It is not only a geographical crossroads of Europe, but also a crossroads of international minds. Much of its population is comprised of diplomats and international civil servants who come to Geneva for a few years' assignment and frequently end up staying forever. It is a peaceful city and its name is symbolic of peace.

Geneva, more than any other city of its size, is polyglot. French is the language of everyday dealings, but German, Italian, Spanish, English, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, and Arabic are also spoken commonly in its streets. Probably every language can be heard sooner or later in the corridors of the Palais.

Geneva's History

Historically, Geneva is of great interest. Founded in the first century B.C. by a Celtic tribe, it became an outpost of the Roman Empire and an important episcopal see. After the empire collapsed, Geneva served as a pawn in dynastic and church politics of the feudal period until the 14th century, when it achieved independence. Its first official links with the Swiss Confederation were in the form of alliances in the 16th century with Fribourg and Bern, undertaken to protect the city's independence. Shortly thereafter, the Protestant Reformation spread to Geneva and, after the arrival of John Calvin in 1536, the city was governed by a Calvinist theocracy. It became the chief center of Reformation doctrine on the continent and a haven for Protestant refugees from all over Europe. The Reformation and the period of Calvinist rule have had deep and lasting effects on the city's political, cultural, and economic life. French Protestant refugees, incidentally, introduced watchmaking into Geneva, thus establishing Switzerland's highly important export industry.

Another significant phase in Geneva's history was its association with the French liberal movement in the 18th century. Before the French Revolution, Rousseau and Voltaire lived in and near Geneva for long periods. Through their contacts and writings, they propagated liberal ideas that had profound repercussions throughout the Western world and on Geneva's own political development. In 1814, the city joined the Swiss Confederation, thus completing the territorial area of present-day Switzerland. During the past century, Geneva has progressed into a prosperous and flourishing center of commerce, tourism, and international politics.

Geneva's general appearance belies its long and distinguished history. While the Old City, a section on the left bank of the Rhone, is composed largely of buildings dating from the 16th to the 18th centuries, Geneva is mostly a modern city, reflecting growth in population and expansion in commerce and other affairs of the past century. It seems smaller than it is. From the center of town one can walk to most of its important landmarks within 10 minutes.

From the Old City and its maze of picturesque, narrow streets crowded with antique shops, visitors can stroll along a lakeside promenade for a view of Mont Blanc or the Jet d'Eau, an incredible "fountain" created in 1886 by an engineer in charge of Geneva's water supply. The water rushes from the base of the fountain at a speed of 125 miles per hour, with an output of 110 gallons per second.

More than 100,000 American tourists and other temporary visitors pass through the city annually. In most years, at least 1,000 American delegates participate in conferences held in Geneva. About 200 American business firms are represented in Geneva; many use the city as a center for their European and worldwide operations.

Education

Geneva has numerous private kindergartens with instruction in either English or French. Children of elementary and high school age can attend French-language public and denominational schools that compare with the best American institutions. Private international schools most frequently used by U.S. Government personnel include: the International School (with branches on both the Left and Right Bank); College du Léman (Right Bank) in nearby Versoix; and the Lycée des Nations (Right Bank). Students include children of international civil servants, international business staffs, and Genevans. The school year follows the U.S. pattern, beginning in September and ending in June.

These schools offer music lessons at extra cost and have active athletic programs, including ski workshops and trips. Their libraries and laboratory facilities are adequate.

Both undergraduate and master of arts programs are taught in English at Webster College. Webster also offers limited, but varied, courses in history, economics, and political science. Further information can be obtained from the Center for International Reform John Knox, at 27, Chemin des Crets de Pregny, 1218 Grand-Saconnex/Genève.

Superior higher-education facilities for those fluent in French are available at the University of Geneva and the Institute des Hautes Études Internationales. Entering students must have a college degree and proficiency in French. Fluency is tested before final registration. A seminar in French language, history, and literature is offered to foreign students who attend as auditors, or who can obtain certificates if they have a working knowledge of French. About 150 American students are enrolled at the university, and 40 attend the institute each academic year.

Good private French classes are available. Two of the better known courses are Migros and Cours Commerciaux de Genève. The U.N. offers courses in French and in many other languages.

Recreation

Geneva is ideally located for convenient travel to other important cities and places of interest in Switzerland and its neighboring countries. Bern, the capital, is 98 miles away. Zurich, Switzerland's largest city, is 168 miles away. Most places in Switzerland are within a few hours' travel by train, or a day's drive by car. One-day boat excursions to Lausanne, Montreux, and other Swiss cities along Lac Léman, or one-day auto trips to Évian, Annecy, and Chamonix in France are popular. Almost every important city in Western Europe is within a two-day drive.

The Service des Loisirs sponsors 16 leisure centers in Geneva. These offer activities from alpinism (mountain climbing) and spelunking (cave exploring) to cooking, languages, and sports. Private centers also are engaged in activities that range from guitar lessons to the study of tropical fish.

Geneva boasts beautiful parks which often contain play equipment for children. Among the many children's amusements are excellent circuses, a delightful puppet theater, and frequent small fairs with amusement rides. Organized activities for children include special skiing trips, class trips to other countries, ice skating, scouting (both American and Swiss), ballet and modern dance, musical instruction, judo, soccer, and Little League and Pony League baseball. Summer day camps and athletic clubs are also available.

Spectator sports include ice hockey, soccer, boxing, squash, basketball, bicycle racing, horse racing, ski competition, rugby, and sailing.

Geneva is a skier's paradise, with good slopes just 40 minutes away. Cross-country skiing is popular and can be enjoyed in the city's immediate environs. Other recreational opportunities include boating, tennis, squash, hiking, swimming, mountain climbing, fishing, cycling, horseback riding, bowling, ice skating, and basketball. Expensive public golf courses are located in Divonne and Évian in France, and Geneva has a private club. Several private tennis clubs are available, but obtaining membership may be difficult.

Of the excellent swimming pools around the city, two are open year round. The U.N. health club has a small, private beach on Lac Léman, where guests are often welcome. However, the lake is polluted in some places and is cold even for summer swimming.

Entertainment

Most entertainment available in the U.S. also is available in Geneva. The city has many movie theaters, and American and British films often are shown in their original versions. Children under 16 can attend only specially designated films.

Local stage productions are in French, except for plays presented by the Geneva English Drama Society and the Players Theatre (international). Good entertainment is offered at the Grand Theatre, but tickets are sometimes difficult to obtain, as they are sold by subscription. Other excellent programs include concerts, symphonies, soloists in recital, opera, ballet, and jazz. For the art lover, fine exhibitions are shown at the many small galleries throughout the city. Geneva has good archives, including the Museum of Art and History, and museums with natural history and ethnographic collections.

Fine restaurants abound. Most serve French or international cuisine; others feature native Swiss cooking or foreign specialties. Restaurant prices vary widely, but generally are high. Nearby France has many fine dining establishments in all price ranges. There are a number of expensive nightclubs in Geneva, mainly for after-dinner entertainment.

Most collections in Geneva's many libraries are in French. English books are available in city libraries, the library at the Palais des Nations, and at the American Library in the American Community House. The latter has a large current collection of books in English, a small basic reference room, and a fine collection of children's material. Books in English are expensive here. English-language paperbacks are available at most book shops and large department stores.

Geneva's annual Escalade is held over a weekend in mid-December. It commemorates the Duke of Savoy's ill-fated attempt to scale the walls of Geneva on the night of December 11, 1602. The city celebrates the Duke's failure with parades, torch-light marches, country markets, folk music, and brigades on horseback in period costume.

Americans are eligible for membership in several clubs, notably the Geneva English Speaking Club, the American Women's Club, and the American International Club of Geneva. The U.N. Women's Guild is another club that meets and works with women of all nationalities. Teenagers find less organized social life in Geneva for their age group than is often found elsewhere. Age limits on films are strictly enforced.

Newcomers to the city will benefit from the informative Guide to the English Speaking Community in Geneva. It can be obtained by sending a stamped, self-addressed envelope to Philippe Reverdin, Boulevard des Promenades 21, 1227 Carouge, Geneva. Also, the American Women's Club offers a course called Geneva for Beginners.

Geneva affords many opportunities to meet other nationals, but meeting the Swiss is more difficult. Joining a special interest group is a good way of making acquaintances, although there does not seem to be a unifying aspect to life in Geneva. Varying international organizations, the natural reticence of the Swiss, and the constant flow of visitors make any strong sense of community spirit elusive.

Zurich

Zurich (in German, Zürich), is located at the north end of Lake Zurich, and is surrounded by verdant hills, with residential areas extending along the lake on either side. To the south, the snow-capped Glarus Alps can be seen on clear days. The city is situated in the Swiss central plateau which stretches from the Alps to the German border.

Zurich, with a metropolitan population of 1.2 million, is Switzerland's largest city. It is the center of finance, commerce, and industry in the German-speaking section of Switzerland, and also the hub of the country's printing and publishing industry. The population of the city proper is 338,000.

The old part of town reflects a long historical past. Occupied as early as the Neolithic period, Zurich became a free imperial city in 1219, and joined the Swiss Federation in 1351. The city was a center of the Swiss Reformation, and the residence of Ulrich (Huldreich) Zwingli, the 16th-century religious reformer. A huge bronze statue of Zwingli is erected below the Grossmünster cathedral near the center of the city. The great Irish novelist, James Joyce (1882-1941), who wrote a major part of Ulysses in Zurich, is buried here.

Zurich is the site of the famous Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (founded in 1860), and of the country's largest university (founded in 1833). There are also several excellent museums.

About 7,500 Americans reside in Zurich's U.S. consular district, which covers an area with a total population of 3.3 million.

Education

Zurich has three private, nonprofit schools which are attended by English-speaking children. The Inter-Community School, based on British and American systems, but geared toward an international enrollment, has been in operation since 1960. Its new and modern facilities were opened in 1972 at Strubenacher 3, 8126 Zumikon (a Zurich suburb), and include a fine library and an auditorium/gymnasium, in addition to its 38 classrooms and science laboratories.

Inter-Community School's strong academic program is enhanced by extracurricular activities and special provisions for those with learning disabilities. The study of German is required. The current enrollment is about 500. There are no boarding facilities.

American International School of Zurich, a coeducational, secondary day school, provides university preparation for students from the international community. It is located in the suburb of Kilchberg, and is easily reached by car or public transportation. The school building is a large converted villa, surrounded by open land overlooking the lake, and with a view of the Alps. The enrollment of 190 is predominantly American. Specific information is available by writing to the director at Nidelbadstrasse 49, 8802 Kilchberg, Switzerland.

The International Primary School, also in Kilchberg, is a small school with classes from nursery level through grade seven. The student body numbers 150. German is a required subject at all levels. The school's address is: Seestrasse 169, 8802 Kilchberg ZH, Switzerland.

Recreation and Entertainment

Boating and sailing are available on Lake Zurich, and golf and other sports can be played in various spots throughout the metropolitan area. The city is centrally located for travel and within weekend driving distance of France, Italy, Germany, and Austria. Magnificent scenery and charming hotels add to the color.

Zurich has an opera company, a symphony orchestra, a number of chamber groups, and a famous German theater, the Schauspielhaus. Local groups occasionally produce plays in English, and first-run movies, often in English, are shown. The numerous cabarets in the city and near the Quai Bridge are popular with those who have some understanding of the German language.

Zurich has an abundance of hotels and restaurants, from deluxe to quite inexpensive. There also are nightclubs and jazz spots, attracting both local clientele and tourists. One of the city's interesting festivals is the Sechseläuten, a spring event which features a parade by members of the various professional guilds in traditional dress.

Shopping facilities are varied and of the highest quality. The city's most elegant area of shops is concentrated in the area around the Bahnhofstrasse, which spreads south from the railway station (Hauptbahnhof). A tourist bureau is located in the rail terminal.

Basel

Basel (in French, Bâle) is situated in northwest Switzerland astride the Rhine. It is a charming blend of old and new, and a city with a special atmosphere of friendliness that is rarely found to such a degree anywhere else in the country.

The Rhine splits the two sections of the cityGreater Basel on the left bank, which is the commercial and academic section, and Lesser Basel on the right, the industrial area. Chemicals, silk making, and publishing are the major industries in this German-speaking, Protestant city of 166,000 (metropolitan area, 428,000). An older version of the city's name, still seen occasionally, is Basle.

Founded by the Romans as Basilia, Basel became a free imperial city in the 11th century. It was the site of the celebrated (Roman Catholic) Council of Basel (1431-49), which fell into heresy. The city joined the Swiss Confederation in 1501, and accepted the Reformation two decades later. Basel is one of Europe's oldest intellectual centers; its university was founded in 1459. Desiderius Erasmus, the Dutch philosopher, is numbered among its famous scholars, and he is buried in the city's 11th-century Münster (cathedral).

Among Basel's museums is one of the finest in Europe, the Kunstmuseum, which houses the works of distinguished artists such as Hans Holbein, Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Henri Matisse, and others. One of its galleries has a notable collection of modern works. Basel has a magnificent zoosome 4,000 animals and 600 different species live in a beautiful park in the center of the city.

Basel is a tourist center also, with fine hotels and restaurants, good theater and music, excellent shopping (watches, in particular), and opportunities for travel in the surrounding countryside, which is replete with woodlands, orchards, resorts, and quaint villages. River-boat excursions are popular during summer.

Switzerland enjoys a fine reputation in the field of education, and many excellent international schools are in operation in the various cantons. In Basel, the International School on the Schulstrasse provides an Anglo-American education for children from nursery level through the ninth grade. Languages are stressed from an early age, and German is a required subject for all students.

Lausanne

Lausanne, on the northern shore of Lac Léman (Lake Geneva), has been the capital of Vaud Canton since 1803. Rising on steep hills from the lakeshore, it is a noted resort and the business center of western Switzerland. Precision instruments and metalworking, and the production of beer and fine chocolate are among the local industries.

Though it bills itself as "Switzerland's city of the future," Lausanne is an old city. Originally a Celtic settlement called Lausonium, the area has been inhabited since at least the fourth century. Modern growth actually began in 1906, when the Simplon Tunnel opened, putting Lausanne on the critical Paris-to-Milan route. The resident population is about 115,000, a number swelled during the long tourist season.

Lausanne has a beautiful, restored Gothic cathedral, the Cathédrale de Notre-Dame. It was consecrated by Pope Gregory X in 1275. The Swiss regard the cathedral's rose window as a national treasure. A late-17th-century city hall and castle are also noteworthy. Lausanne is the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and site of the Federal Palace of Justice.

At the village of Ouchy, Lausanne's port, elegant old hotels and homes overlook the lake, where boat excursions are offered throughout the summer months. Nearby Montreux is the home of a renowned international jazz festival. Several prominent Europeans have made this region their home; Rousseau, Voltaire, Victor Hugo, Charles Dickens, and Edward Gibbon are a few. Ouchy was the temporary residence of Lord Byron and Shelley in 1816.

Lausanne's tourist office is located at 60 avenue d'Ouchy, two blocks from Lake Geneva.

Education

Brillantmont International School, a coeducational school (boarding, for girls) for grades nine through 12, was established in 1882. It offers American, British, and International Baccalaureate certification, and its U.S. accreditation is by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

Brillantmont's total enrollment of 160 is one-quarter American; four members of the teaching staff of 32 also are American. Although English is the primary language of instruction, French, Spanish, German, and Italian are also taught. Special programs include English as a second language and instruction for those students who have dyslexia. There are a variety of extracurricular activities and sports offered.

Brillantmont is located five minutes from the center of Lausanne on a four-acre campus that features 14 buildings, science and language laboratories, and double or triple boarding rooms. Brillantmont's address is: Avenue Secretan 16, 1005 Lausanne, Switzerland.

Institut Chateau Mont-Choisi, founded in 1885, is a girls' boarding school for grades eight through 12. The school uses a U.S. curriculum with classes in English and French, and offers German, Spanish, and Italian as foreign languages. Extracurricular activities include gymnastics, dance, and sports such as riding and swimming.

Institut Chateau's current enrollment in the American section is 41; 10 are American. The teaching staff consists of 20 full-time and 10 part-time instructors, four of whom are American. All students are boarders and participate in a planned, seven-day program.

Institut Chateau is located less than two miles from the center of Lausanne in a suburban area. The three-acre campus includes six buildings, 16 classrooms, science laboratory, tennis court, swimming pool, and a 2,000-volume library. The school's address is: Boulevard de la Forêt/Chemin des Ramiers 16, 1009 Pully/Lausanne, Switzerland.

The Commonwealth-American School was founded in 1962 and offers instruction for pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. Enrollment numbers 180; 32 are American. The school is located in a suburb of Lausanne and the facilities include two buildings, 13 classrooms, and science and computer labs. The library holds 6,500 volumes. For more information contact the director at 73 Avenue C.F. Ramuz, 1009 Pully, Switzerland.

Lausanne rivals Geneva as the intellectual and cultural center of French Switzerland. Its university, founded in 1891, originated as a theological academy in 1537.

It is possible to enroll in university classes in Lausanne if French fluency has been accomplished; only English literature classes are conducted in English.

Winterthur

Winterthur is an important cultural and industrial center, about 10 miles northeast of Zurich. Switzerland's main technological school, Technikum, is located here, as are a renowned art gallery (Reinhart Gallery) and symphony orchestra. Winterthur is also home to a music festival. The city dates to the late 10th century, when it was founded by the counts of Kyburg. It passed to the Hapsburgs in 1264, became an imperial city in 1415, reverted to the Hapsburgs in 1442, and became part of Zurich in 1467.

Winterthur is a major railroad junction and base for the leading Sultzer Brothers engineering company. Diesel engines, locomotives, cotton textiles, and clothes are manufactured here. Noteworthy buildings in the city include the Town Church of St. Laurenz (1264-1515), the town hall (1781-83), and the relatively modern Assembly Hall (1865-69). Winterthur's estimated population is about 88,000. It is surrounded by garden suburbs.

OTHER CITIES

The manufacturing city of Aarau lies on the Aarau River, 23 miles west of Zurich. With about 16,000 residents, this is the capital of Aargau Canton, and a major bell production center. Other manufactured goods include textiles and scientific instruments. Aarau dates to the 11th century. It recognizes its heritage with the medieval castle, a fine library containing much on the nation's history, and several museums. Aarau has been part of the Swiss Confederation since 1805.

The small village of AROSA lies deep in the eastern Alps, 75 miles southwest of Zurich. The spectacular mountain scenery provides the setting and the livelihood for its people, as this is a main tourist destination and health resort. Known for its over 40 wanderwegs, or walking paths, Arosa is also popular in winter for skiing. The lower lake, with public swimming, the main street's shopping area, and the outskirts (curiously called Inner Arosa) with their peaceful meadows, are all considered picturesque. The village is located at the end of roads and railways. It so prides itself in its quiet atmosphere that driving has been banned during the night. Nearby Hornli Mountain lures climbers, as do other smaller peaks in this mile-high region. Area hotels provide somewhat costly accommodations; more popular are chalet, room, and apartment rentals. Arosa's population is about 2,400.

BIEL (in French, Bienne), 17 miles northwest of Bern on Lake Biel, is Switzerland's only officially bilingual city. The majority of its 49,000 people speak German, while one-third use French; Biel is located on the country's language border. It has been inhabited since the Roman era, with a charter from 1275. Its allegiance shifted from Basel to Bern until it joined Bern Canton in 1815. Still standing from medieval times are the Church of St. Benedict, noted for its stained glass, and the town hall, built in 1534. Iron Age artifacts can be viewed at the Museum Schwab. Biel's industry is based on machinery and watchmaking.

Probably Switzerland's oldest town, CHUR is the capital of Graubünden Canton. Located in eastern Switzerland about 15 miles from the Austrian border, Chur is surrounded by mountains. A guardian of Alpine routes since 15 B.C., the city was first mentioned as an episcopal see in 600. It became an imperial city in the 15th century and the capital of the canton in 1820. Medieval relics and Roman towers remain in central Chur. The city offers direct connections to the major ski resorts in the area. A train excursion passes through the picturesque village of Filisur, crossing a high bridge over Landwasser River. Greifenstein Castle and La Chanzla, a huge rock with a 33-foot painting of the devil, are located near Filisur. Chur's current population is about 33,000.

FRIBOURG (in German, Freiburg), the nucleus of Swiss Catholicism, is situated 18 miles southwest of Bern on the Saane River. The seat of a bishopric and a Catholic university, this city houses hundreds of art works in its many churches, chapels, and monasteries. Fribourg's oldest section, called the Bourg, towers over the riverside; Gothic houses combine with remnants of towers and gateways to lend a medieval air to the surroundings. St. Nicholas Cathedral's famous organ, the Franciscan Church, the former Augustinian Church of St. Maurice, as well as several convents, are among the city's treasures. Fribourg was founded in 1157 by Berthold IV, duke of Zähringen, and was accepted into full membership in the Swiss Confederation in 1481. Reconstitution of the Confederation by Napoleon in 1803 made Fribourg the capital of a canton of the same name. Heavily dependent on industry, Fribourg has a foundry, electrical equipment factories, breweries, and chocolate plants. The Musée d'Art et d'Histoire houses various art pieces. This city of 33,000 is situated on important railway lines and is also a bus center.

The typically Swiss town of GSTAAD , surrounded by glaciers, lakes, forests, and mountains, is situated in the Saane Valley, 33 miles east of Lausanne and 32 miles south of Bern. One of Switzerland's premier winter resorts, Gstaad offers skiing in both winter and summer. There are opportunities here for other sports activities, including ice skating, curling, and horseback riding; there is also an indoor swimming pool. Gstaad, at an altitude of nearly 3,500 feet, has a population of close to 2,500.

LOCARNO is a small city of 15,000 in Ticino Canton. The Germans call it Luggarus, but most of the residents are Italian-speaking, and the German name is seldom heard. Locarno, tucked into the northern shore of Lake Maggiore, has a warm climate which has made it famous as a winter and health resort. The town's administrative buildings once were the castles of the dukes of Milan, who took possession of the area in 1342. Locarno has been part of the Swiss Confederation since early in the 16th century.

LUCERNE (in German, Luzern), is central Switzerland's beautiful "old world" city and summer resort. It lies on the northwest end of Lake Lucerne, the Vierwaldstättersee (Lake of the Four Forest Cantons ). The fine hotels of Lucerne are filled to capacity throughout the summer season, as tourists flock from all parts of Europe to enjoy the scenery, the historic places, and the superb, although expensive, shopping. Among Lucerne's main attractions are its famous covered bridges, the 14th-century Kapellbrücke, and the 15th-century Mühlenbrücke; the Glacier Gardens, with the stone Lion of Lucerne; the eighth-century Hofkirche; the exquisite Jesuit church; and the interesting museums. Lucerne, which joined the Swiss Confederation in 1332, was a stronghold of Catholicism during the Reformation. Its current population is 58,000.

LUGANO is situated in southern Switzerland in Ticino Canton. A commercial center in the Middle Ages, it was taken in 1512 from the duke of Milan by the Swiss Confederation. Italian in character, and in spoken tongue, it has become a popular resort on Lake Lugano, between Switzerland and Italy, and has been called the "Rio de Janeiro of the old continent." It is the site of the lovely Roman Catholic cathedral of San Lorenzo, and a 15th-century monastery, Santa Maria degli Angeli. Lugano's population is approximately 26,000.

The well-known resort of MONTREUX is located in western Switzerland on the east end of Lake Geneva, 15 miles southeast of Lausanne. A lively, cosmopolitan city of 22,000, Montreux offers a temperate climate. As an artistic and intellectual center, the city has an extensive program of plays, concerts, and balls, climaxed in September by an internationally acclaimed music festival. Excursions are possible to nearby Glion, a winter sports center and resort, and to the winter resort of Caux. St. George's School, a girls' boarding facility for grades five through 13, is located in the resort village of Clarens. Founded in 1927, it offers an American and British education; current enrollment is close to 120. St. George's mailing address is: 1815 Clarens, Switzerland. Also near Montreux, in Chesieres, is Aiglon College, a coeducational boarding school for grades six through 13. Founded in 1949, and with a current enrollment of 250, the school provides a British curriculum. Aiglon College's address is: 1885 Chesieres, Switzerland.

NEUCHÂTEL is a city of 40,000 residents in western Switzerland, about 25 miles west of Bern. It is situated in the Jura Mountains, on the shore of Lake Neuchâtel, the largest lake entirely within Swiss boundaries. A university was established here in 1272, and today the city is the administrative center of the canton of Neuchâtel as well as a commercial center (watches, jewelry, appliances), set amid forests and vineyards, and surrounded by interesting little villages. Archaeologists have found remains of ancient Celtic lake dwellings here.

SAINT GALL (Sankt Gallen, in German) is located 39 miles east of Zurich in northwest Switzerland. This city of 70,000 developed in 621 around a Benedictine monastery founded by the Irish monk Gallus. Known for its textile trade and the headquarters of the Swiss embroidery trade, Saint Gall is a leading industrial center that also produces glass and metal goods. Situated between Lake Constance and the Säntis mountain range, Saint Gall is a natural gateway to Austria and Germany as well as a garden city with a long history as a cultural center. The city's greatest treasures are its many historic buildings, including the baroque cathedral and the churches of St. Laurenz and St. Mangen. New structures here include the new market district, the municipal theater, and the city hall. There are numerous parks, and the library contains many notable manuscripts. Festivals and trade fairs are held annually in Saint Gall from spring through fall. The Swiss Agricultural and Dairy Fair draws over 400,000 visitors to the city every year.

SCHAFFHAUSEN is the capital of Schaffhausen Canton, 23 miles north of Zurich in the far north of Switzerland. The Rhine River flows by this city of 33,000, providing critical hydroelectric power for economic development. Nearby Schaffhausen Falls, on the Rhine, cascade from a height of 65 feet, drawing tourists from all over Europe. The Protestant Münster, or cathedral, is thought to have inspired the great German poet Friedrich von Schiller (1759-1805) to write his "Das Lied von der Glocke" ("The Song of the Bell"). The people of Schaffhausen today are predominantly German-speaking.

Protestants, employed in manufacturing or in local hydroelectric plants. The area was first known as Villa Scafhusun in 1045, but development actually began after Count Eberhard III established the Benedictine Monastery of All Saints here a few years later. Although Schaffhausen had been nominally a free imperial city since the early 11th century, it endured domination by the Hapsburgs from about 1330 until it purchased its freedom 85 years later. In 1501, the Swiss Confederation admitted Schaffhausen as a full member. Many centuries-old buildings remain here. The huge Munot Fort (1564-85), the parish church, two town halls, and the Haus zum RitterKnight's Houseare foremost among landmarks. The Knight's House, erected in 1485, is decorated with frescoes by Tobias Stimmer.

ST. MORITZ is the noted winter resort and playground of international society. It is situated in the Canton of the Grisons in eastern Switzerland, at an altitude of 6,000 feet. Centuries before it gained fame as a fashionable resort, it was renowned for its thermal baths. St. Moritz has a population of nearly 6,000.

THUN (in French, Thoune) is a city of about 40,000 people on the Aare River, 15 miles southeast of Bern in the central region. This is the hub of the Bernese Oberland, producing machinery, cheese, pottery, and watches. Tourism also plays an important economic role in Thun. The 12th-century Scherzligen Church, the town hall, and a medieval castle number among tourist favorites. The Zähringen-Kyburg castle here contains a tower and living area, and is now a museum. Thun, founded in the 10th century, was part of the Burgundy kingdom until 1190, when it passed to various dukes and counts, and finally to Bern in 1384.

ZUG , population 23,000, is the capital city of one of the smaller Swiss cantons and is located 18 miles south of Zurich. Zug is a city of contrasts. Its policy of low taxations has made it an attractive place of business for international financiers and for such companies as Nutrasweet and Lego. The modern buildings and new shopping mall are located near the train station. Five minutes from this corporate area is the old town, with its Post-platz, timber-framed houses, octagonal stone fountain, Zytturm (Time Tower), and late-Gothic church, St. Oswald's. Lake Zug is located nearby and provides opportunity for water sports and hiking. The restaurants in the area serve fish caught fresh from the lake.

COUNTRY PROFILE

Geography and Climate

Switzerland covers an area of 15,944 square miles, which is approximately twice the size of New Jersey. A quarter of the country consists of glaciers, mountains, and lakes; another quarter is covered by forests. Because of the varied topography (from an altitude of 633 feet above sea level in the Ticino canton to 15,203 feetthe Monte Rosa peakin the Alps), climate and vegetation vary from Mediterranean to arctic. Bern does not have great extremes of hot or cold weather. Rain is common in summer as well as winter, with snowfalls in Bern occurring with more regularity in recent years. Humidity is high during spring and fall. Winter brings some warm spells, and all-day fog and cloudy weather are common. Often a 30-minute drive will get you out of the clouds and into sunshine. The Föhn, a dry south wind that passes over the Alps changing the air pressure, has an enervating and otherwise unpleasant effect on some people. Sinus problems are often aggravated by the dampness. The average high temperature in July is 30°C (88°F), and the average low for that month is 6.1°C (45°F). In February, the thermometer reaches 5.4°C (42°F) and dips to about-10°C (12°F).

Population

Switzerland's population is approximately 7.2 million (December 2000 estimate). More than three-fourths of the people live in the central plain, which stretches between the Alps and the Jura Mountains from Geneva to the Rhine.

Switzerland has three official languages: German, French, and Italian. Romansch, based on Latin, is principally spoken by a small portion of the people in the Graubunden canton. The Swiss version of German is spoken by about 70% of the population. Spoken Swiss German differs substantially the German spoken in Germany and Austria. It frequently varies from canton to canton, even from town to town. High German is the written language and is also used in most TV and radio shows, on the stage, and in university lectures. French is the first language in the cantons of Fribourg, Jura, Vaud, Valais, Neuchatel, and Geneva. Italian is the first language of the Ticino canton and in some areas of the Graubunden canton. English is a common foreign language for most educated Swiss.

The percentage of Protestants to Catholics among the Swiss is about equal. Confessional differences run across linguistic linesthere are both German-and French-speaking cantons that are predominately Protestant or Catholic. The Italian-speaking Ticino canton is Catholic.

Switzerland's cantons differ in history, customs, and culture, as well as in size and natural setting. As a national group, the Swiss are generally serious-minded, forthright, and conscientious. Living patterns are similar to those in the U.S., although the Swiss are more formal and conservative than Americans. Their practicality is reflected in their architecture, furnishings, clothing, and food.

Public Institutions

Switzerland has a federal government structure with a bicameral legislature. Members of the National Council, the lower house, are directly elected in districts apportioned by population. Voting is by a complex proportional representation system. The upper house, the Council of States, is composed of 46 members, 2 members from each canton (three are divided into "half-cantons" with 1 member each), who are elected by methods individually determined by the cantons. Executive power rests in the seven-member Federal Council, a unique Swiss political institution. Members of the Council are elected individually by both houses of the legislature for 4-year terms, though in practice Councilors are reelected as long as they wish to serve. The President of the Federal Council is also the President of the Swiss Confederation. The office is filled by the Council members in rotation for 1-year terms. Each Federal Councilor heads one of the seven executive departments.

The four major political parties are the Free Democratic Party, the Social Democratic Party, the Christian Democratic Party, and the Swiss People's Party. There are over a dozen other significant national or regional parties.

Switzerland's cantons historically precede the Confederation, which was established when three cantons joined together against the Hapsburgs in 1291. Within the Federal system, each canton has its own constitution and active political life. Cantonal governments have primary responsibility for law and order, health and sanitation, education, and public works and are almost exclusively responsible for the implementation of Federal law. The Federal executive branch ensures internal and external security, upholds the cantonal constitutions, and maintains diplomatic relations with foreign nations.

Under the Swiss judicial system, a single national code exists for civil, commercial, and criminal law. The only Federal court is the Federal Tribunal, which has final appellate jurisdiction. All courts of first instance, and all prosecutors, are cantonal.

Military service is compulsory for physically able male adults and includes basic training and decreasing mandatory annual service until age 42 (longer for officers). Switzerland can rapidly mobilize approximately 400,000 soldiers. After delivery of the 34 recently purchased F/A-18 fighter aircraft, Switzerland will have approximately 360 aircraft in its inventory. A December 2001 referendum allowed citizens to vote on whether or not to decrease spending and manpower for the army (which is one of the largest in Europe), considering that the country has not been involved in battle since the 1798 invasion of Napoleon and has maintained neutral status since 1515. An overwhelming majority voted to maintain the force as a key factor in protection of the nation's neutralilty.

Despite its prized neutrality status, Switzerland voted in March 2002 to accept UN membership. Membership in the European Union, however, has been rejected by Swiss voters.

Geneva is the seat of many international organizations, including the European Office of the U.N., several of its specialized agencies, and nongovernmental organizations such as the International Red Cross. Bern serves as host city to the Universal Postal Union.

Arts, Science, and Education

Switzerland is well endowed with cultural institutions. The opera and theater play an important part in the life of the urban elite. In Bern, most stage performances are in German, some in Swiss dialect, and some in French. Operas are usually in the original language. English-language amateur and professional stage productions are to be found occasionally in the larger cities.

Music education is important and standards are high. Many musical groups perform in Switzerland, and the Geneva-based Orchestre de la Suisse Romande is world famous. Many cities, including Bern, have orchestras. Bern also has a Conservatory of Music with frequent concerts by students, which are open to the public.

Switzerland has a high literacy rate. Two Federal technical institutes and eight cantonal universities produce exceptionally qualified professionals in all fields. A highly developed system of apprenticeship training develops an unusually qualified labor force of technicians and craftsmen.

Commerce and Industry

The Swiss economy is a highly developed free enterprise system, heavily export-oriented, and characterized by a skilled labor force. About 40% of the Gross National Product is earned abroad, of which 80% is from the sale of export products. Principal industries include machinery and metal working, chemical and pharmaceutical products, watches, and textiles. Other important business activities include tourism, international banking, and insurance.

The worldwide economic recession of the early 1990s has pushed Switzerland's traditionally insignificant unemployment rates up, but they remain well below average West European levels. About 20% of the Swiss labor force is made up of foreign workers. There are well-developed trade union organizations in most industries and trades, but strikes are very rare due to a unique peace agreement concluded decades ago between labor and management.

Swiss attitudes toward property ownership and investment are stricter than those in the U.S. Real estate purchase by a nonresident or a company not incorporated in Switzerland is subject to individual review by cantonal authorities and is permitted in only certain specifiedusually recreationalareas.

Although a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), Switzerland trades mostly with the European Union (its largest single trading partner is the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG)). It has had a free trade agreement in industrial products with the European Union (EU) since l973. In 1992 Switzerland voted against membership in the European Economic Area (EEA). Membership in the EEA or EU is unlikely for the foreseeable future because of requirements that would demand changes in Switzerland's constitutional order, their procedures for direct democracy, and their autonomy in international actions.

Transportation

Local

The Swiss Federal Railway system is entirely electric and connects the main cities and towns. Trains are clean and run on schedule; fares are reasonable, with special round-trip and holiday rates. It is possible to buy a yearlong pass on the entire Swiss railroad network including the public transportation systems of all major cities. Porters are infrequent, charge a minimum of two Swiss francs and expect a small tip for handling baggage. Self-service luggage carts are available at all major train stations as well as airports.

Bern has excellent train and highway connections with all points in Europe.

Most points not accessible by train can be reached by passenger buses operated by the postal system. There are over 100 mountain funiculars and aerial tramways in Switzerland, and regular steamer services operate on major lakes in spring and summer.

Local transportation systemstrams, buses, trolley buses, and taxisare convenient and efficient. Taxi fares are comparable to those in Washington; all taxis have meters, and drivers expect a 10-15% tip.

Fire engines are red, police cars white or black, ambulances white with blue lights, and official postal vehicles gold and black.

Swiss roads are good though often narrow and winding. A network of freeways exists, with additions and expansions in progress. Many mountain passes are closed by snow in winter, but road tunnels and railway car ferries operate through the St. Gotthard and Lotschberg passes. Road directional signs are excellent and all traffic moves on the right. An annual SwF 40 autobahn sticker is required.

Regional

Geneva and Zurich are major European flight centers. Daily flights to the U.S. are available from both cities on American carriers. Bern has a small airport in the suburb of Belp with service in Switzerland to Basel and Lugano and in Europe to Amsterdam, Brussels, Elba, Frankfurt, London, Munich, Paris, and Vienna.

A direct train between Bern and the Kloten (Zurich) International Airport takes 1-1/2 hours; Bern-Geneva by rail is about 1-2/3 hours. Airport railroad stations are integrated into both Zurich and Geneva air terminals; luggage carts may be taken by escalator to trainside or airline check-in.

Communications

Telephone and Telegraph

Telecommunications systems are excellent. Direct dialing is possible to all parts of Switzerland, Western Europe, the U.S., and Canada. Major U.S. phone companies' cards are also available and offer U.S. rates. Callback services are available and competitive.

Radio and TV

Swiss radio broadcasts in the three principal Swiss languages with a few programs in Romansch. Programming is of good quality with more talk programs than in the U.S. Broadcasts from other European countriessuch as AFN Stuttgart, VOA, Radio Luxembourg, and BBCare available through cable radio in many areas.

Cable television is available with transmissions from two British channels as well as from Germany, France, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, and CNN. The modest monthly charges are sometimes included in leases for apartments or houses. Satellite programming is available with the proper equipment.

As in most of Europe, radio and TV in Switzerland are run by a public corporation. Children's programs are broadcast every day and special programs are sometimes relayed from the U.S. by satellite. News and sports coverage on both radio and TV are good.

Newspapers and Magazines

Newspapers are available in the three national languages. There are over 100 dailies and periodicals in Switzerland. They represent differing political viewpoints and come from various areas of the country. Several weekly and monthly Swiss magazines cover news, women's fashion, television programs, and various hobbies. French, German, and Italian periodicals are also available at local newsstands.

The International Herald Tribune, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and international editions of Time, Life, and Newsweek are available at local newsstands or by subscription. Prices are much higher than in the U.S. or the U.K. Several bookstores have English-language departments.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities

Swiss medical facilities are excellent. Dental work is expensive, so travelers may want to have major dental work done before arriving in Switzerland.

Community Health

Swiss public services are similar to those in other highly developed countries.

The Swiss place a strong emphasis on environmental responsibility and recycling. In most jurisdictions, a fee is charged by volume for garbage collection. Trash is placed in bags purchased in grocery or hardware stores and must carry a surcharge sticker, also available in grocery and hardware stores. Paper and metal are collected periodically, with the schedule distributed in the newspaper at the beginning of the new year. Bins for the recycling of glass bottles, plastics, and aluminum are located at stores and other convenient locations.

The manufacture and sale of adulterated food and beverages are prohibited. Official cantonal inspectors enforce controls. They inspect water, milk, and meat on a regular basis, as well as other foods and containers on a random basis. Sterilization of food containers is good.

Preventive Measures

Switzerland has no endemic contagious diseases. Special measures to treat water or food are not necessary, and no special medical or therapeutical treatment needs be taken before arrival.

LOCAL HOLIDAYS

Jan. 1New Year's Day

Jan. 2St. Berchtold's Day

Jan. 6 Epiphany

Feb. 2Candlemas

Feb. 14St. Valentine's Day

Feb.Mardi Gras*

Mar/Apr.Good Friday*

Mar/Apr.Easter*

Mar/Apr.Easter Monday*

Mar. 17St. Patrick's Day

Mar. 19St. Joseph's Day

Apr. 1April Fool's Day

May/JuneAscension Day*

May/JunePentecost*

May/JuneWhitmonday*

Aug. 1Confederation Day

Sept. 5 Jeune Genevois (Geneva)

Oct. 25UN Day

Oct. 31Halloween

Nov. 1All Saint's Day

Nov. 2 All Soul's Day

Nov. 5Guy Fawkes Day

Nov. 11Armistice Day

Dec. 25Christmas Day

Dec. 8Immaculate Conception

Dec. 26Stephanstag (St. Stephen's Day)

Dec. 31Restoration Day (Geneva)

*variable

NOTES FOR TRAVELERS

Passage, Customs & Duties

If traveling to Switzerland by car, one must have international third-party liability insurance and the green insurance card (Carte Internationale d'Assurance). Without this card, one must buy insurance at each European border crossing.

A passport is required for travel to Switzerland. A visa is not required for U.S. citizens for stays of up to 90 days in either country. For more information on entry requirements for both countries, travelers may contact the Embassy of Switzerland at 2900 Cathedral Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 745-7900, or the nearest Swiss Consulate General in Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, or San Francisco. Additional information for both countries is available at http://www.swissemb.org.

U.S. citizens may register and obtain updated information on travel and security within Switzerland at the locations below:

The U.S. Embassy in Bern is located at Jubilaeumstrasse 93, Telephone (41)(31) 357-7011, FAX (41)(31) 357-7280.

The 24 hours emergency telephone number is (41)(31) 357-7218. The U.S. Embassy website at http://www.us-embassy.ch answers many questions of interest to Americans visiting and residing in Switzerland.

The U.S. Consular Agency in Zurich is located at the American Center of Zurich, Dufourstrasse 101, 8008 Zurich, telephone (41)(1) 422-2566, FAX (41) (1) 383-9814.

The U.S. Consular Agency in Geneva is located at the American Center Geneva, 7 Rue Versonnex, 1207 Geneva, telephone (41)(22) 840-5160, fax (41)(22) 840-5162.

U.S. Consular Agencies offer limited consular services to U.S. citizens.

Pets

Dogs and cats may be brought to Switzerland with a veterinary certificate of good health and rabies vaccination. The vaccination must be given no less than 30 days and no more than 1 year prior to date of entry.

Currency, Banking and Weights and Measures

One does not need to bring Swiss money. Airports and railway stations all have exchange offices and all hotels will change American money and travelers checks.

Money, travelers checks, and other money instruments may be imported and exported freely.

The Swiss franc (ChF), divided into 100 rappen or centimes, is the basic unit of currency. The abbreviated notation ChF precedes the amount. The Swiss National Bank issues the currency, supervises its circulation, and handles discount and clearing operations for commercial banks. No currency restrictions exist in Switzerland. Exchange is US$1=ChF1.57 (May 2002).

U.S. dollars and travelers checks may be imported and exported freely, and international currencies can be bought or sold at free market rates in local banks. All Swiss banks accept U.S. Treasury checks, travelers checks, cashier checks on U.S. banks, and dollars.

RECOMMENDED READING

These titles are provided as a general guide to material currently available on Switzerland.

General

All About Switzerland. Swiss National Tourist Office.

Christensen, Benedicte V. Switzerland's Role As an International Financial Center. Washington, DC: International Monetary Fund, 1986.

Dicks, Diane, ed. Ticking Along Too, Stories About Switzerland, Bergli Books Ltd.: 1990.

Fodor's Switzerland. New York: David McKay, latest edition.

Hilowitz, Janet E., ed. Switzerland in Perspective. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1991.

Kane, Robert S., Switzerland at its Best, Passport Books: 1989.

Off the Beaten Track: Switzerland, Out of the Way Places to Tour and Explore. New York: Harper Collins, 1990.

Switzerland Country Guide. New York: Berlitz, latest edition.

SwitzerlandA Phaidon Cultural Guide, with over 600 color illustrations and 34 pages of maps. Prentice-Hall, Inc.: 1985.

History, Politics, Cultural History

Hughes, Christopher. Baedecker. Guide to Switzerland: 1981.

McPhee, John. Place de La Concorde Suisse, Farrar Straus Giroux, New York: l983.

Milivojevic, Marko & Pierre Maurer, eds. Swiss Neutrality and Security, Armed Forces, National Defense and Foreign Policy, Berg Publishers: 1990.

Sauter, Marc R. Switzerland from Earliest Times to the Roman Conquest. Thames & Hudson Ltd.: 1976.

Treichler, Hans Peter. L'Aventure Suisse, Migros Press.

Vuilleumier, Marc. Immigrants and Refugees in Switzerland. Pro Helvetia Arts Council of Switzerland: 1987.

The following listed "Pro Helvetia" brochures may be obtained from the Swiss Embassy in Washington, D.C.:

Alfred Wyler: Dialect and High German in German-Speaking Switzerland.

Bernhard Wenger: The Four Literatures of Switzerland.

Craig, Gordon, A. The Triumph of Liberalism. New York: MacMillan, 1989

Dieter Fahrni: An Outline History of Switzerland. From the Origins to the Present Day.

Dominique Rosset: Music in Switzerland.

Jean-Pierre Pastori: Dance and Ballet in Switzerland.

Marc Vuilleumier: Immigrants and Refugees in Switzerland. An Outline History.

Oswald Sigg: Switzerland's Political Institutions.

Piere Dominice, Matthias Finger: Adult Education in Switzerland.

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Switzerland

PROFILE
PEOPLE
HISTORY
GOVERNMENT
POLITICAL CONDITIONS
ECONOMY
DEFENSE
FOREIGN RELATIONS
U.S.-SWISS RELATIONS
TRAVEL

Compiled from the October 2007 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:

Swiss Confederation

PROFILE

Geography

Area: 41,285 sq. km. (15,941 sq. mi.); about the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined.

Cities: Capital—Bern (population about 123,000). Other cities—Zurich (341,000), Geneva (176,000), Basel (165,000), Lausanne (116,000).

Terrain: 60% mountains, the remainder hills and plateau. Switzerland straddles the central ranges of the Alps.

Climate: Temperate, varying with altitude and season.

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—Swiss (singular and plural).

Population: (2006) 7,507,300.

Annual growth rate: 3.2%.

Ethnic groups: Mixed European.

Religions: Roman Catholic 42%, Protestant 33%, Muslim 4.3%, others 5.4%, no religion 11%.

Languages: German 63.7%, French20.4%, Italian 6.5%, Romansch 0.5%other 9.4%.

Education: Years compulsory—9. Attendance—100%. Literacy—100%.

Health: Infant mortality rate—3.9/ 1,000. Life expectancy—men 78.7 yrs., women 83.9 yrs.

Work force: (3.96 million) Agriculture and forestry—4.2%. Industry and business—25.6%. Services and government—70.2%.

Government

Type: Federal state.

Independence: The first Swiss Confederation was founded in August 1291 as a defensive alliance among three cantons. The Swiss Confederation established independence from the Holy Roman Empire in 1499.

Constitution: 1848; extensively amended in 1874; fully revised in 2000

Government branches: Executive—Federal Council, a collegium of seven members, headed by a rotating one-year presidency. Legislative—Federal Assembly (bicameral: Council of States, 46 members; National Council, 200 members). Judicial—Federal Tribunal.

Political subdivisions: 26 cantons (states) with considerable autonomy.

Political parties: Swiss People's Party (SVP), Social Democratic Party (SP), Free Democratic Party (FDP), Christian Democratic Party (CVP), and several smaller parties representing localities or views from extreme left to extreme right.

Suffrage: In federal matters, universal over 18.

Economy

GDP: (2006) $398 billion (474 billion Swiss francs [SFr]).

Government expenses: (in GDP%) 29.1% (federal, cantonal, and local).

Annual growth rate: (2007) 3.2% (2006: 2.79%).

Unemployment: (September 2007) 2.7%.

Per capita income: $53,142 (63,198 Swiss francs).

Avg. inflation rate: (June 2007) 0.6%.

Natural resources: Water power, timber, salt.

Agriculture: (1% of GDP) Products—dairy (24%), livestock (26%), grains (4%), fruit and vegetables, potatoes, wine (15%). Arable land (1999) 26%.

Industry: (est. 29% of GDP) Types-machinery, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, time pieces, precision instruments, textiles and clothing, pigment, transportation equipment.

Services: (70% of GDP).

Trade: (2006) Exports—$145.5 billion (177.2 billion Swiss francs) Food, beverages, and tobacco (20.5%); metal and chemical industries (14.5%); precision instruments (12%); watches (11%); machinery and electronics (10%); clothing (7.5%). Major markets—EU, United States, Canada, CIS, India, Brazil, Japan. Imports—$136 billion (165.5 billion Swiss francs) Consumer goods (8%); equipment (10%); energy (25%); raw materials (12%). Major suppliers—EU, U.S., Canada, CIS, South Africa.

PEOPLE

Switzerland sits at the crossroads of several major European cultures, which have heavily influenced the country's languages and cultural practices. Switzerland has four official languages—German, French, Italian, and Romansch (based on Latin and spoken by a small minority in the Canton Graubunden). The German spoken is predominantly a Swiss dialect, but newspapers and some broadcasts use High German. Many Swiss speak more than one language. English is widely known, especially among professionals.

More than 75% of the population lives in the central plain, which stretches between the Alps and the Jura Mountains and from Geneva in the southwest to the Rhine River and Lake Constance in the northeast. Resident foreigners and temporary foreign workers make up about 20% of the population.

According to the Swiss Federal Office of Statistics, the population in Switzerland increased to 7,507,300 in 2006. Three-quarters of this growth was attributed to migration. Switzerland naturalized 22% more people in 2006 compared to 2005, totaling 46,700 persons. By the end of 2006, there were 850,000 foreigners working legally in Switzerland. The number of German immigrants, as confirmed in earlier reports, increased by 10.6% (+10,000). Portuguese workers also increased by 7.4% (+7000). On the other hand, the number of the Italians continued to drop by 3.2% (-5,000).

Almost all Swiss are literate. Switzerland's 13 university institutes enrolled 111,100 students in the academic year of 2004-05. About 25% of the adult population holds a diploma of higher learning.

The Constitution guarantees freedom of worship, and the different religious communities co-exist peacefully.

Switzerland consistently ranks high on quality of life indices, including highest per capita income, one of the highest concentrations of computer and Internet usage per capita, highest insurance coverage per individual, and high health care rates. For these and many other reasons, it serves as an excellent test market for businesses hoping to introduce new products into Europe.

HISTORY

Originally inhabited by the Helvetians, or Helvetic Celts, the territory comprising modern Switzerland came under Roman rule during the Gallic wars in the 1st century BC and remained a Roman province until the 4th century AD. Under Roman influence, the population reached a high level of civilization and enjoyed a flourishing commerce. Important cities, such as Geneva, Basel, and Zurich, were linked by military roads that also served as trade arteries between Rome and the northern tribes.

After the decline of the Roman Empire, Switzerland was invaded by Germanic tribes from the north and west. Some tribes, such as the Ale-manni in central and northeastern Switzerland, and the Burgundians, who ruled western Switzerland, settled there. In 800, the country became part of Charlemagne's empire. It later passed under the dominion of the Holy Roman emperors in the form of small ecclesiastic and temporal holdings subject to imperial sovereignty.

With the opening of a new important north-south trade route across the Alps in the early 13th century, the Empire's rulers began to attach more importance to the remote Swiss mountain valleys, which were granted some degree of autonomy under direct imperial rule. Fearful of the popular disturbances flaring up following the death of the Holy Roman Emperor in 1291, the ruling families from Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden signed a charter to keep public peace and pledging mutual support in upholding autonomous administrative and judicial rule. The anniversary of the charter's signature (August 1, 1291) today is celebrated as Switzerland's National Day. Between 1315 and 1388 the Swiss Confederates inflicted three crushing defeats on the Habsburgs, whose aspiration to regional dominion clashed with Swiss self-determination. During that period, five other localities (cantons in modern-day parlance) joined the original three in the Swiss Confederation. Buoyed by their feats, the Swiss Confederates continuously expanded their borders by military means and gained formal independence from the Holy Roman Empire in 1499. Routed by the French and Venetians near Milan in 1515, they renounced expansionist policies. By then the Swiss Confederation had become a union of 13 localities with a regularly convening diet administering the subject territories. Swiss mercenaries continued for centuries to serve in other armies; the Swiss Guard of the Pope is a vestige of this tradition.

The Reformation led to a division between the Protestant followers of Zwingli and Calvin in the German and French parts of the country respectively, and the Catholics. Despite two centuries of civil strife, the common interest in the joint subject territories kept the Swiss Confederation from falling apart. The traffic in mercenaries as well as the alienation between the predominantly Protestant Swiss and their Catholic neighbors kept the Swiss Confederation out of the wars of the European powers, which formally recognized Swiss neutrality in the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. The Swiss remained neutral during the War of the First Coalition against revolutionary France, but Napoleon, nonetheless, invaded and annexed much of the country in 1797-98, replacing the loose confederation with a centrally governed unitary state.

The Congress of Vienna in 1815 reestablished the old confederation of sovereign states and enshrined Switzerland's status of permanent armed neutrality in international law. In 1848, after a brief civil war between Protestant liberals seeking a centralized national state and Catholic conservatives clinging on to the old order,

the majority of Swiss Cantons opted for a Federal State, modeled in part on the U.S. Constitution. The Swiss Constitution established a range of civic liberties and made far-reaching provisions to maintain cantonal autonomy to placate the vanquished Catholic minority. The Swiss amended their Constitution extensively in 1874, establishing federal responsibility for defense, trade, and legal matters, as well as introducing direct democracy by popular referendum. To this day, cantonal autonomy and referendum democracy remain trademarks of the Swiss polity.

Switzerland industrialized rapidly during the 19th century and by 1850 had become the second most industrialized country in Europe after Great Britain. During World War I serious tension developed between the German, French, and Italian-speaking parts of the country, and Switzerland came close to violating its neutrality but managed to stay out of hostilities. Labor unrest culminating in a general strike in 1918 marked the interwar period, but in 1937 employers and the largest trade union concluded a formal agreement to settle disputes peacefully, which governs workplace relations to the present day. During World War II, Switzerland came under heavy pressure from the fascist powers, which after the fall of France in 1940 completely surrounded the country. Some political and economic leaders displayed a mood of appeasement, but a combination of tactical accommodation and demonstrative readiness to defend the country helped Switzerland survive unscathed.

The Cold War enhanced the role of neutral Switzerland and offered the country a way out of its diplomatic isolation after World War II. Economically, Switzerland integrated itself into the American-led Western postwar order, but it remained reluctant to enter supranational bodies. Switzerland did not join the United Nations, even though Geneva became host to the UN's European headquarters, and the country played an active role in many of the UN's specialized agencies. Switzerland also remained aloof in the face of European integration efforts, waiting until 1963 to join the Council of Europe. It still remains outside the European Union. Instead, Switzerland in 1960 helped form the European Free Trade Area, which did not strive for political union. Following the Cold War, Switzerland joined the Bretton Woods institutions in 1992 and finally became a member of the United Nations in 2002.

GOVERNMENT

Switzerland is a federal state composed of 26 cantons (20 are “full” cantons and six “half” cantons for purposes of representation in the federal legislature) that retain attributes of sovereignty, such as fiscal autonomy and the right to manage internal cantonal affairs. Under the 2000 Constitution, cantons hold all powers not specifically delegated to the federation. Switzerland's federal institutions are:

  • A bicameral legislature—the Federal Assembly;
  • A collegial executive of seven members—the Federal Council; and
  • A judiciary consisting of a regular court in Lausanne—the Federal Tribunal—and special military and administrative courts. The Federal Insurance Tribunal is an independent division of the Federal Tribunal that handles social security questions; its seat is in Lucerne. The Federal Criminal Court, located in Bellinzona, is the court of first instance for all criminal cases under federal jurisdiction.

The Constitution provides for separation of the three branches of government.

The Federal Assembly is the primary seat of power, although in practice the executive branch has been increasing its power at the expense of the legislative branch. The Federal Assembly has two houses— the Council of States and the National Council. These two houses have equal powers in all respects, including the right to introduce legislation. Legislation cannot be vetoed by the executive nor reviewed for constitutionality by the judiciary, but all laws (except the budget) can be reviewed by popular referendum before taking effect. The 46 members of the Council of States (two from each canton and one from each half canton) are directly elected in each canton by majority voting. The 200 members of the National Council are directly elected in each canton under a system of proportional representation. Members of both houses serve for 4 years.

The Federal Assembly meets quarterly for 3-week plenary sessions. The parliamentary committees of the two houses, which are often key in shaping legislation, meet behind closed doors, but both majority and minority positions are presented during the plenary sessions. The Federal Assembly is a militia parliament, and members commonly retain their traditional professions. Individual members of parliament have no personal staff.

The Assembly can be legally dissolved only after the adoption of a popular initiative calling for a complete revision of the Constitution. All citizens 18 or older have the right to vote and run for office in national, cantonal, and communal elections unless individually disqualified by the relevant legislature.

A strong emphasis on ballot votes arises out of the traditional Swiss belief that the will of the people is the final national authority. Every constitutional amendment adopted by parliament is automatically brought to the ballot and has to carry a double majority of votes and states in order to become effective. The voters themselves may actively seek changes to the Constitution by means of the popular initiative: 100,000 voters may with their signatures request a national vote on a proposed constitutional amendment. New federal legislation also is subject to popular review, under the so-called referendum: 50,000 signatures suffice to call a ballot vote on any federal law adopted by parliament. The Assembly can declare an act to be too urgent to allow time for popular consideration, but this is rare. At any rate, an act passed urgently must have a time limit and is later subject to the same constitutional provisions on popular review as other legislation.

The top executive body is the seven-member cabinet called the Federal Council. The Federal Assembly individually elects the seven Federal Councilors in a joint session of both houses at the opening of a new legislature. Federal Councilors are elected for 4-year terms; there are no term limits and no provision to recall the cabinet or individual members during the legislature. Each year, the Federal Assembly elects from among the seven Federal Councilors a president and vice president, following the principle of seniority. The member who is vice president one year traditionally is elected president the next. Although the Constitution provides that the Federal Assembly chooses and supervises the cabinet, the latter has gradually assumed a preeminent role in directing the legislative process as well as executing federal laws.

Under an arrangement between the four major parties called the “magic formula” which was introduced in 1959 but ended in December 2003, two Federal Councilors (ministers) were elected each from the Christian Democrats, the Social Democrats, and the Free Democrats and one from the Swiss People's Party. Under the new magic formula starting January 1, 2004, the new party composition of the cabinet changed to the following composition: 1 Christian Democrat, 2 Social Democrats, 2 Free Democrats, and 2 representatives of the Swiss People's Party.

The Constitution requires that Federal Councilors act collectively in all matters, not as individual ministers or as representatives of their parties. Each Councilor heads one of seven federal departments and is responsible for preparing legislation pertaining to matters under its jurisdiction. The president, who remains responsible for the department he heads, has limited prerogatives and is first among equals (there is no formal prime minister).

The administration of justice is primarily a cantonal function. The Federal Tribunal is limited in its jurisdiction. Its principal function is to hear appeals of civil and criminal cases. It also hears complaints of violations of the constitutional rights of citizens and has authority to review cantonal court decisions involving federal law as well as certain administrative rulings of federal departments. However, it has no power to review federal legislation for constitutionality. The Tribunals 30 fulltime and 30 part-time judges are elected by the Federal Assembly for 6-year terms. The Federal Criminal Court is the court of first instance for criminal cases involving organized and white-collar crime, money laundering, and corruption, which are under federal jurisdiction. The Courts 11 judges are elected by the Federal Assembly for 6-year terms.

The cantons regulate local government. The basic unit of local government, which administers a village, town, or city, is the commune or municipality. Citizenship is derived from membership in a commune and can be conferred on non-Swiss by a commune. Cantons are subordinate to federal authority but keep autonomy in implementing federal law.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 2/1/2008

President: Micheline CALMY-REY

Vice President: Pascal COUCHEPIN

Chief, Federal Dept. of Defense, Civil Protection, & Sports: Samuel SCHMID

Chief, Federal Dept. of Economic Affairs: Doris LEUTHARD

Chief, Federal Dept. of Finance: Hans-Rudolf MERZ

Chief, Federal Dept. of Foreign Affairs: Micheline CALMY-REY

Chief, Federal Dept. of Home Affairs: Pascal COUCHEPIN

Chief, Federal Dept. of Justice & Police: Christoph BLOCHER

Chief, Federal Dept. of Transportation, Communications, & Energy: Moritz LEUENBERGER

Federal Chancellor: Annemarie HUBER-HOTZ

Chmn., Swiss National Bank: Jean-Pierre ROTH

Ambassador to the US: Urs ZISWILER

Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Peter MAURER

Switzerland maintains an embassy in the United States at 2900 Cathedral Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008. Consulates General are in Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco. Swiss national tourist offices are in Chicago, New York, and San Francisco.

POLITICAL CONDITIONS

Switzerland has a stable government and a diverse society. Quadrennial national elections typically produce only marginal changes in party representation. In recent years, Switzerland has seen a gradual shift in the party landscape. The rightist Swiss People's Party (SVP), traditionally the junior partner in the four-party coalition government, has almost tripled its share of the popular vote from 11% in 1987 to 22.5% in 1999, to 26.6% in 2003, and finally to 29% in October 2007, thus overtaking its three major rivals. In the 2007 parliamentary elections, the SVP picked up an additional seven seats in the 200-seat National Council (lower house). This brings the SVP to 62 seats total—a level reached only by the Free Democratic Party (FDP) in past elections. The Greens gained more than 2% points and seven seats in the National Council, bringing their total shares to 9.6% and 20 respectively. They also for the first time gained at least one seat in the Council of States (upper house). The Christian Democratic Party (CVP) booked modest gains of 0.2% and three seats, for a total of 14.6% and 31 seats in the National Council. This halted a downward trend that had cost the CVP a seat on the Federal Council to the SVP in 2003. The FDP lost 1.7% and five seats in the National Council, dropping to 15.6% of the votership and 31 seats in the National Council. Total voter turnout was 48%, a gain of 2.8% over the 2003 elections. Additional run-off elections for a dozen seats in the Council of States are to be completed by November 25, 2007.

On December 10, 2003, Christoph Blocher—a self-made industrialist and main figure of the right-populist Swiss People's Party known for his strong opinions on asylum and migration and law and order issues—was elected to the cabinet by parliament, replacing the incumbent Christian Democrat Justice and Police Minister Ruth Metzler.

The parliament also elected the Free Democrat Hans-Rudolf Merz to replace retiring Finance Minister Kaspar Villiger. Both Blocher and Merz are strong advocates of drastic public spending cuts in order to reduce the country's mounting $102 billion francs state deficit and are staunch opponents to Switzerland's entering the European Union. On June 14, 2006, the Federal Council elected Doris Leuthard of the Christian Democratic Party. Leuthard replaced the retiring Joseph Deiss and has assumed the Economics and Trade portfolio that Deiss managed. Leuthard's election and Deiss' resignation do not change the dynamics of the Federal Council.

The current makeup of the government remains fiscally conservative and against further integration with the European Union. The new parliament is scheduled to meet on December 12, 2007 to re-elect the Federal Council (cabinet).

The Constitution limits federal influence in the formulation of domestic policy and emphasizes the roles of private enterprise and cantonal government. However, the Confederation has been compelled to enlarge its policymaking powers in recent years to cope with national problems such as education, agriculture, energy, environment, organized crime, and narcotics.

ECONOMY

Despite a dearth of natural resources, the Swiss economy is among the world's most advanced and prosperous. Per capita income is virtually the highest in the world, as are wages. Trade has been the key to prosperity in Switzerland. The country is dependent upon export markets to generate income while dependent upon imports for raw materials and to expand the range of goods and services available in the country. Switzerland has liberal investment and trade policies, notwithstanding agriculture, and a conservative fiscal policy. The Swiss legal system is highly developed, commercial law is well defined, and solid laws and policies protect investments. The Swiss franc is one of the world's soundest currencies, and the country is known for its high standard of banking and financial services. Switzerland is a member of a number of international economic organizations, including the World Trade Organization (WTO), the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The Swiss economy expanded by 3% during the first half of 2007, the fastest rate in six years, thus confirming sustained growth over the last four years. GDP growth was primarily due to the positive evolution of private consumption and expansion of investment in fixed assets and software. For once, all export industries benefited from increased demand from foreign markets. With a surplus of $9.6 billion (SFr 11.7 billion), the Swiss trade balance reached unprecedented lev-els. On the inflation side, import prices increased more rapidly than exports. Switzerland was ranked as the most competitive economy in the World Economic Forum's 2006 Global Competitiveness Report for the first time, reflecting the country's sound institutional environment, excellent infrastructure, efficient markets, competent macroeconomic management, world-class educational attainment, and high levels of technological innovation, which boost Switzerland's competitiveness in the global economy. The country has a well-developed infrastructure for scientific research, companies spend generously on research and development, and intellectual property protection is strong. Business activity benefits from a well-developed institutional framework, characterized by the rule of law, an efficient judicial system, and high levels of transparency and accountability within public institutions. Higher education and training are rapidly growing in importance as engines of productivity growth.

Being a nation that depends upon exports for economic growth, and due to the fact that it is so closely linked to the economies of Western Europe and the United States, Switzerland was not able to escape recent slowdowns experienced in these countries. During most of the 1990s, the Swiss economy was Western Europe's weakest, with annual GDP growth averaging 0% between 1991 and 1997. Beginning in late 1997, the economy steadily gained momentum until peaking in 2000 with 3% growth in real terms. The economy returned to lackluster growth during 2001-2003, but has been growing at or above potential since 2004-2.5% per annum. The Swiss Economic Ministry reports that strong global demand, particularly in the U.S. and Asia, and better Euro zone growth has helped Switzerland's economic recovery. Long-run economic growth, however, is predicated on structural reforms. In order to maximize its economic potential, Switzerland will need to push through difficult agrarian and competition policy reforms. These are essential if the government is to reduce its budget deficits and meet its 3% growth target.

In 2005, the dollar/Swiss franc exchange rate continued to be shaped by geopolitical tensions. The dollar depreciated further against the Swiss franc from SFr 1.49 in October 2002 to SFr 1.31 in 2003, to 1.28 in 2005 to 1.23 in July 2006, and 1.16 in October 2007. The strengthening of the Euro, however, helped Switzerland to minimize the pressure from a weakening dollar. The Swiss National Bank raised interest rates on June 15, 2006 to 1.5%, the third increase since January 2006. The Swiss National Bank also said it expected economic growth to be a robust 2.5% in 2006 and 2007.

The number of bankruptcies in Switzerland had been on the rise for the past four years, reaching alarming levels in 2005 (10,800), and increased again by 7.7% in the first half of 2007. Compared to other European countries, Switzerland's bankruptcy rates ranks fourth (1.35%) among the hardest hit countries, after Luxemburg (2.39%), Austria (1.9%) and France (1.49%).

The recent economic upswing had some positive impact on the labor market. Unemployment decreased from 4.1% in December 2003 to 2.7% in September 2007. Swiss in the 15-25 age bracket continue to fight unemployment numbers with a rate of 5.4%, and hotel and restaurant industry workers with 10.4%. One-fourth of the country's full-time workers are unionized. In general, labor/ management relations are good, mostly characterized by a willingness on both sides to settle disputes by negotiations rather than by labor action. About 600 collective bargaining agreements exist today in Switzerland and are regularly renewed without major problems. However, the mood is changing. The massive layoffs that resulted from both the global economic slowdown and major management scandals have strained the traditional Swiss “labor peace.” Swiss trade unions encouraged strikes against several companies, including the national airline SWISS, Coca-Cola, and Orange (the French telecom operator), but total days lost to strikes remain among the lowest in the OECD. Uncertainties concerning the proper management of pension funds, and the prospect of a potential hike in the retirement age from 65 to 67 have stirred heated political debate.

2006 federal statistics show that the working category aged 25-40 is the most severely affected by long-term unemployment in Switzerland. The unemployment rate for foreign workers is on average 6.1%, higher than the 2.5% Swiss workers average, partly as a result of education and training differences. The long-term unemployment rate is estimated at 26% in French-and Italian-speaking regions (border cantons), while only 16% in German-speaking cantons. Other statistics show that precarious labor conditions still prevail in the temporary sector. About 17% of all workers have a salary below SFr 4,000. Wages have increased by a mere 4% between 1995 and 2006, below higher OECD rates. In addition, the reduction of employment benefits from 520 to 400 days has led many workers to fall into the cantonal social services statistics, which are not taken into account by the Economic Ministry (SECO) when computing the unemployment rate.

Switzerland's machinery, metals, electronics, and chemicals sectors are world-renowned for precision and quality. Together they account for well over half of Swiss export revenues. In agriculture, Switzerland is about 60% self-sufficient. Only 7.5% of the remaining imports originated from the U.S. Swiss farmers are one of the most highly protected and subsidized producer group in the world. OECD estimates show that Switzerland is subsidizing more than 70% of its agriculture, compared to 35% in the EU. The parliament agreed in 2007 to reduce the level of subsidies from SFr 14.1 billion (U.S. $11.6 billion) to SFr 13.6 billion (U.S. $10.5 billion) from 2008-2011, approved VAT exemptions for local biofuel production, and accepted international parallel imports for fertilizers and tractors—Swiss farmers will be allowed to import tractors produced in China or India and sold in the EU, and could save up to $41 million (SFr 50 million) annually. German fertilizer imports could save another $20 million (SFr 25 million). A more general bill legalizing a more limited number of parallel imports will be presented by the Justice Ministry to parliament by the end of 2007. The parliament also rejected the government's proposal to reduce the subsidized price for cheese production, and decided to keep the price at 15 centimes per liter.

Tourism, banking, engineering, and insurance are significant sectors of the economy and heavily influence the country's economic policies. Swiss trading companies have unique marketing expertise in many parts of the world, including Eastern Europe, the Far East, Africa, and the Middle East. Not only does Switzerland have a highly developed tourism infrastructure (making it a good market for tourism-related equipment and services), the Swiss also are intrepid travelers. Per capita, more Swiss visit the United States every year than from any other country. Tourism is the most important U.S. export to Switzerland (earning almost $1.5 billion). In 2004, more than 285,000 Swiss came to the United States as tourists.

The Swiss economy earns roughly half of its corporate earnings from the export industry, and 62% of Swiss exports are destined for the EU market. The EU is Switzerland's largest trading partner, and economic and trade barriers between them are minimal. In the wake of the Swiss voters' rejection of the European Economic Area Agreement in 1992, the Swiss Government set its sights on negotiating bilateral sectoral agreements with the EU. After more than 4 years of negotiations, an agreement covering seven sectors (research, public procurement, technical barriers to trade, agriculture, civil aviation, land transport, and the free movement of persons) was achieved at the end of 1998. Parliament officially endorsed the so-called “Bilaterals I” in 1999, and the Swiss people approved them in a referendum in May 2000. The agreements, which had to be ratified by the European Parliament as well as legislatures in all 15 EU member states, entered into force on June 1, 2002. Switzerland has so far attempted to mitigate possible adverse effects of non-membership by conforming many of its regulations, standards, and practices to EU directives and norms. Full access to the Swiss market for the original 15 EU member states entered into force in June 2004, ending as a result the “national preference”. The Swiss agreed to extend these preferences to the 10 new EU members on September 25, 2005 but restrictions will remain until 2011. A facultative referendum against the Bilaterals I (and in particular against the free movement of persons) is possible until mid-2009. A political campaign aimed at collecting the required 50,000 signatures to call for the referendum is likely to start in 2008.

The Swiss Government embarked in July 2001 on a second round of bilateral negotiations with the EU known as “Bilaterals II”. Talks focused on customs fraud, environment, statistics, trade in processed agricultural goods, media, the taxation of savings, and police/judicial cooperation (dubbed the Schengen-Dublin accords). Amid a fierce political debate over the essence of Swiss-EU relations and populist warnings against EU workers and criminals entering Switzerland, the Schengen-Dublin package was approved on June 5, 2005 by 54.6% of Swiss voters. Fears of cheap labor coming from new EU member states have prompted the government to provide for tripartite surveillance committees to ensure that decent wages are enforced.

Nevertheless, cantonal work inspections are still very much understaffed, thus preventing a real coverage of the services sectors affected by the Swiss-EU agreements. The illegal employment of foreign workers at very low rates is also a problem in the tourism and construction sector. But domestic wages in other services sectors are also under pressure in Swiss border cantons. Penalties for labor law infringement are not being enforced completely. In practice, EU workers or services providers can avoid can-tonal registration and controls if they stay less than 90 days in the country. This 90-day legal vacuum provides the opportunity for many fake independent contractors to bypass and undermine the legal accompanying measures on worker protection.

As part of the bilateral agreement on the taxation of savings signed in June 2003, Swiss banks will levy a withholding tax on EU citizens' savings income. The tax, which started on July 1, 2005, will increase gradually to 35% by 2011, with 75% of the funds being transferred to the EU. The EU has still to ratify the extension of Schengen to Switzerland, and implement the bilateral agreements on R&D and Media cooperation.

On November 26, 2006, the Swiss electorate approved a government bill to contribute 1 billion Swiss francs (about $800 million) to the 10 new EU member states. In a nationwide referendum, 53.4% of voters accepted the “Eastern Europe Cooperation Act,”which entitles the government to spend 1 billion Swiss francs on projects in primarily Central European states over the next 10 years. Switzerland had pledged this contribution to share the burden of the EU's eastern expansion in order to facilitate the conclusion of the second set of bilateral negotiations with the EU. The right-populist Swiss People's Party (SVP), which prompted the referendum, was disappointed, but pleased that it mobilized a 47% opposition. The Eastern Europe Cooperation Act gives a new legal basis for Swiss aid to countries in Eastern Europe. The act has a 10-year term and replaces the former federal Law on Aid to Eastern Europe, which came into force in 1995. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, Switzerland has spent SFr 3.5 billion on about 1,000 aid projects in Central and Eastern Europe to help countries in the region transform into market economies. Sixty percent of the SFr 1 billion is to come from the budget of the departments of foreign and economic affairs, mainly from cuts in aid programs to other parts of the world. The remaining 40% will be taken from the regular budget of the federal administration. The funds are to be used on projects chosen by Switzerland and focused on education, trade promotion, environment, and internal security. The money is paid directly to the projects and does not go the EU cohesion fund in Brussels. Switzerland has no formal agreement with the European Union concerning these contributions. Instead, there is a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that sets out the general conditions of the Swiss commitment to the ten new EU member states. Under the MOU, almost half of the funding will go to Poland. Hungary's benefit will be SFr 131 million, while the Czech Republic will receive SFr 110 million.

The Swiss federal government remains deeply divided over EU membership as its long-term goal, and in a March 2001 referendum more than 70% of Swiss voters rejected rapid steps toward EU membership. The issue of EU membership is likely to be shelved for several years, if not a decade. In May 2005, the government said it could sign a framework agreement with the European Union, as an alternative to joining the organization, to encourage dialogue and create a platform for closer cooperation.

Switzerland nevertheless expressed interest in reaching a third layer of bilateral agreements that would involve energy, the Galileo satellite navigation system, health, and agriculture. But recent harsh criticism by the European Commission against preferential cantonal tax treatment for foreign holdings cooled the political climate surrounding the EU. Unilateral trade retaliation—as threatened by the EU if the Swiss cantons do not change their cantonal tax regimes—has not occurred, but the political damage is done, including greater anti-EU feelings among the population. The pressure to negotiate with the EU could turn sour as the EU has already asked Switzerland to pay another SFr 300-350 million ($240-280 million, on top of the SFr 1 billion cohesion fund) to provide further financial aid to Romania and Bulgaria, which joined the EU on January 1, 2007. Unlike the November 2006 referendum, the newly enacted Eastern Europe Cooperation Act does not provide for an automatic referendum on further payments. The parliament will decide on the additional aid request.

The government also decided in November 2006 to once more consider adoption of the EU “Cassis-de-Dijon” principle for trade after a first setback in 2004. If adopted, EU products could be imported in Switzerland without having to go through the burdensome Swiss certification and Swiss language requirement process. Currently, Swiss retail prices are on average 20-40% higher than in the EU. If parallel imports are allowed under adoption of the Cassis-de-Dijon principle, prices could drop by 10%. Possible exceptions have been reduced from 129 products to 40, but hurdles remain on the labeling of alcohol contained in Alcopops, the Swiss ban of phosphates in washing machine powders, the real origin of “EU meat”, and on the stringent Swiss generic food production requirements. The “Cassis de Dijon principle” will not apply to the many farming and industrial products already covered by mutual recognition agreements (MRAs) under the EU-Swiss Bilaterals I and II; nor will it apply to other products such as pesticides, motor engines, and weapons that require an authorization. The impact, as a result, may not be as large as expected. Another issue is that Swiss and EU MRAs concluded with third countries may also benefit from adoption of the Cassis-de-Dijon principle (these goods would also have to receive WTO most favored nation status).

The government has reaffirmed its wish to strengthen ties with other non-EU trading partners in Asia and America. Exploratory talks on a Free Trade Agreement between the U.S. and Switzerland failed to result in negotiations, due to Swiss problems with free trade in agriculture, but the two sides did agree to a new framework for economic, trade, and investment discussions. This new agreement is the Swiss-U.S. Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum (the “Forum”) and is currently assessing areas where the two governments could facilitate greater trade and investment flows.

Switzerland ranks 17th among the main trading partners of the U.S. worldwide. The United States is the second-largest importer (11.5%) of Swiss goods after Germany (20%). The U.S. exports more to Switzerland each year than to all the countries of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe combined, and Switzerland imports more U.S. products and services than does Spain. In addition, the United States is the largest foreign investor in Switzerland, and conversely, the primary destination of Swiss foreign investment. It is estimated that 200,000 American jobs depend on Swiss foreign investments. Total U.S.-Swiss bilateral trade increased from $15.33 billion during 2003 to $16 billion in 2004.

DEFENSE

On May 18, 2003, Swiss voters approved the military reform project “Army XXI” that will drastically reduce the size of the Swiss Army. In January 2004, the 524,000-strong militia started paring down to 220,000 conscripts, including 80,000 reservists. The defense budget of currently SFr 4.3 billion ($3.1 billion) will be trimmed by SFr 300 million, and some 2,000 jobs are expected to be shed between 2004 and 2011. The mandatory time of service will be curtailed from 300 to 260 days. All able-bodied Swiss males aged 20 to 30 must serve. Thereafter, most personnel are assigned to civil protection duties until the age of 37.

A new category of soldiers called “single-term conscripts” will discharge the total time of service of about 300 days of active duty in one go. Recruiting is on a voluntary basis and should not exceed 20% of a year's draft. The armed forces have a small nucleus of about 3,600 professional staff, half of whom are either instructors or staff officers, with the remainder mostly being fortification guards. The army has virtually no full-time active combat units but is capable of full mobilization within 72 hours. Women may volunteer to serve in the armed forces and may now join all units, including combat troops. About 2,000 women already serve in the army but, so far, have not been allowed to use weapons for purposes other than self-defense. The armed forces are organized in four army corps and an air force and are equipped with modern, sophisticated, and well-maintained gear. In 1993, the Swiss Government procured 34 FA-18s from the United States.

FOREIGN RELATIONS

On September 10, 2002, Switzerland became a full member of the United Nations. Switzerland had previously been involved as party to the Statute of the International Court of Justice and member of most UN specialized agencies, as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency. Switzerland has long participated in many UN activities, including the Economic Commission for Europe, UN Environment Program, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UN Conference for Trade and Development, UN Industrial Development Organization, and the Universal Postal Union (UPU). Prior to its formal accession, Switzerland had maintained a permanent observer mission at UN Headquarters since 1948.

Switzerland also is a member of the following international organizations: World Trade Organization, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, European Free Trade Association, Bank for International Settlements, Council of Europe, and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). In 1992, Swiss voters approved membership in the Bretton Woods organizations but later that year rejected the European Economic Area agreement, which the government viewed as a first step toward EU membership.

The Swiss Constitution declares the preservation of Switzerland's independence and welfare as the supreme objective of Swiss foreign policy. Below this overarching goal, the Constitution sets five specific foreign policy objectives: further the peaceful coexistence of nations; promote respect for human rights, democracy, and the rule of the law; promote Swiss economic interests abroad, alleviate need and poverty in the world; and the preservation of natural resources.

Traditionally, Switzerland has avoided alliances that might entail military, political, or direct economic action, but in recent years the Swiss have broadened the scope of activities in which they feel able to participate without compromising their neutrality. Swiss voters first rejected UN membership by a 3-to-1 margin in 1986 but in March 2002 adopted it, albeit in a very close election, making Switzerland the first country to join the UN based on a popular referendum decision. In similar fashion, the electorate rejected a government proposition to deploy Swiss troops as UN peacekeepers (Blue Helmets) in 1994, but Switzerland joined NATO's Partnership for Peace and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council in 1996 and 1997, respectively, and deployed Yellow Berets to support the OSCE in Bosnia. In June 2001, Swiss voters approved new legislation providing for the deployment of armed Swiss troops for international peacekeeping missions under UN or OSCE auspices as well as closer international cooperation in military training.

Switzerland maintains diplomatic relations with almost all countries and historically has served as a neutral intermediary and host to major international treaty conferences. The country has no major dispute in its bilateral relations. Since 1980, Switzerland has represented U.S. interests in Iran. Switzerland played a key role in brokering a truce agreement between the Sudanese Government and Sudan's Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) for the Nuba Mountain region, signed after a week's negotiations taking place near Lucerne in January 2002.

The Swiss feel a moral obligation to undertake social, economic, and humanitarian activities that contribute to world peace and prosperity. This is manifested by Swiss bilateral and multilateral diplomatic activity, assistance to developing countries, and support for the extension of international law, particularly humanitarian law. Switzerland (mainly Geneva) is home to many international governmental and non-governmental organizations, including the International Committee of the Red Cross (whose flag is essentially the Swiss flag with colors reversed—the Red Cross historically being a Swiss organization). One of the first international organizations, the Universal Postal Union, is located in Bern.

The Swiss Government on June 25, 2003, eased most of the sanctions against the Republic of Iraq in accord with UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1483. The government lifted the trade embargo, flight restrictions, and financial sanctions in place since August 1990. The weapons embargo and the asset freeze, the scope of which was extended, remain in force, and restrictions on the trade in Iraqi cultural goods were newly imposed. Though not a member at the time, Switzerland had joined UN sanctions against Iraq after the invasion of Kuwait. Switzerland in recent years joined UN and EU economic sanctions imposed on Sierra Leone, UNITA (Angola), Liberia, Serbia and Montenegro, Burma, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Cote d'Ivoire. On October 15, 2003, the Federal Council ended the import restrictions on raw diamonds from Sierra Leone and lifted sanctions against Libya.

Switzerland in October 2000 implemented an ordinance to enforce UN sanctions against the Taliban (UNSCR 1267), which it subsequently amended in April 2001 in accord with tighter UN regulations (UNSCR 1333). On May 2, 2002, the Swiss Government eased the sanctions regime in accord with UNSCR 1388 and 1390, lifting the ban on the sale of acetic acid (used in drug production), Afghani Airlines, and Afghani diplomatic representations. The weapons embargo, travel restrictions, and financial sanctions remain in force. The Swiss Government in November 2001 issued an ordinance declaring illegal the terrorist organization al Qaeda as well as possible successor or supporting organizations. More than 200 individuals or companies linked to international terrorism have been blacklisted to have their assets frozen. Thus far, Swiss authorities have blocked about 72 accounts totaling 34 million francs.

Switzerland has furnished military observers and medical teams to several UN operations. Switzerland is an active participant in the OSCE, its foreign minister serving as Chairman-in-Office for 1996. Switzerland also is an active participant in the major nonproliferation and export control regimes.

Under a series of treaties concluded after World War I, Switzerland assumed responsibility for the diplomatic and consular representation of Liechtenstein, the protection of its borders, and the regulation of its customs.

U.S.-SWISS RELATIONS

Switzerland is a democratic country subscribing to most of the ideals with which the United States is identified. The country is politically stable with a fundamentally strong economy. It occupies an important strategic position within Europe and possesses a strong military capability. It has played an increasingly important role in supporting the spread of democratic institutions and values worldwide, as well as providing humanitarian relief and economic development assistance. U.S. policy toward Switzerland takes these factors into account and endeavors to cooperate with Switzerland to the extent consistent with Swiss neutrality.

The first 4 years of cooperation under the U.S.-Swiss Joint Economic Commission (JEC) invigorated bilateral ties by recording achievements in a number of areas, including consultations on anti-money laundering efforts, counter-terrorism, and pharmaceutical regulatory cooperation; an e-government conference; and the re-establishment of the Fulbright student/cultural exchange program.

The United States and Switzerland signed three new agreements in 2006 that will complement the JEC and will deepen our cooperation and improve our relationship. The first of the new agreements is the Enhanced Political Framework and was signed by Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns and Swiss State Secretary Michael Ambahl. The second agreement is the Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum and was signed by then-U.S. Trade Representative Robert Portman and then-Economics and Trade Minister Joseph Deiss. The last agreement is the revised Operative Working Arrangement on Law Enforcement Cooperation on Counterterrorism and was signed by U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez and Swiss Justice Minister Christoph Blocher.

The first official U.S.-Swiss consular relations were established in the late 1820s. Diplomatic relations were established in 1853. The U.S. ambassador to Switzerland also is accredited to the Principality of Liechtenstein.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

Last Updated: 2/19/2008

BERN (E) Jubilaumsstr. 93, 3005 Bern, APO/FPO No APO, 41-31-357 -7011, Fax 41-31-357-7344, Workweek: Mon.-Fri., 8:30-5:30, Website: http://bern.usembassy.gov.

DCM OMS:Rebecca Eggert
AMB OMS:Emily Dirk
DHS/ICE:Joe Catanzarite
ECO:Bill Duff
FCS:Julie Snyder
FM:Gary David Edwards
MGT:Jonathan Schools
POL ECO:Vacant
AMB:Peter R. Coneway
CG:Doria Rosen
DCM:Leigh Carter
PAO:Lisbeth Keefe
GSO:John Schuch
RSO:Brian Murphy
CLO:Roman Riedmueller
DAO:Dorothea Cypher-Erickson
DEA:Joe Kipp
IMO:Stephen McCain
IRS:Kathy Beck (Paris)
ISO:Novaro Casci
ISSO:Leo Ruiz
LEGATT:Daniel Boyd
POL:Christopher Buck
State ICASS:Lisbeth Keefe

GENEVA (M) 11 Rte de Pregny, 1292 Chambesy, Geneva, Switzerland, 41-22-749-4111, Fax 41-22-749-4892, INMARSAT Tel 764114496/9, Workweek: M-F 8:30-5:30, Website: http://geneva.usmission.gov.

DCM OMS:Nancy Doe
AMB OMS:Abigail Erickson
ECO:Lisa Carle
HHS:David E. Hohman
MGT:Fred File
AMB:Warren W. Tichenor
DCM:Mark Storella
PAO:David Gilmour
GSO:Anne Coughlin
RSO:Mark G. Bandik
AID:David Reimer (Rma)
CLO:Hanna Ashley
EST:Chuck Ashley
FMO:Louis Nelli
ICASS:Chair Brooks Robinson
IMO:Loren (Fred) File
IPO:Miller, Ritchie
IRS:Kathy J. Beck
ISO:Don Greer
ISSO:Doug Wells
LAB:John Chamberlin
LEGATT:Jeffrey D. Kovar
POL:Michael Klecheski
State ICASS:Chuck Ashley

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

August 23, 2007

Country Description: Switzerland is a highly developed democracy. Liechtenstein is a democratically run constitutional monarchy.

Entry Requirements: A passport is required for travel to both Switzerland and Liechtenstein. A visa is not required for stays up to 90 days in either country. For more information on entry requirements for both countries, travelers may contact the Embassy of Switzerland at 2900 Cathedral Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20008, telephone (202) 745-7900, or the nearest Swiss Consulate General in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, or San Francisco. Visit the Embassy of Switzerland's web site at http://www.swissemb.org for the most current visa information.

Safety and Security: Although there have been no recent terrorist attacks in Switzerland, violence by anti-globalization, anti-Semitic, and anti-establishment (anarchist) groups does occur from time to time. This violence is typically in the form of property damage and clashes between these groups and the police. The potential for specific threats of violence involving American citizens in Switzerland is remote. The Consular Agencies in Zurich and Geneva may close periodically to assess their security situation.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, including the Worldwide Caution Travel Alert, can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444.

Crime: Switzerland has a low rate of violent crime. However, pick-pocketing and purse snatching do occur in the vicinity of train and bus stations, airports, and some public parks, especially during peak tourist periods (such as Summer and Christmas) and when conferences, shows, or exhibits are scheduled in major cities. Liechtenstein has a low crime rate. Travelers may wish to exercise caution on trains, especially on overnight trains to neighboring countries. Thieves, who steal from passengers while they sleep, can enter even locked sleeping compartments.

Information for Victims of Crime: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends, and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed. Switzerland, through its 26 cantons (states), has programs to assist victims of crime and their immediate relatives. Medical, psychological, social, financial, and legal assistance are available throughout the country. These programs also protect the rights of the victim during criminal proceedings. The victim may receive compensation for some damages, if requested during the criminal procedure. Information is available at the Swiss Department of Justice located on Bundesrain 20, 3003 Bern, telephone: 41-31-322-4750, as well as on the Internet at http://www.bj.admin.ch/bj/en/home.html.

Medical Facilities and Health Information: Good medical care is widely available. Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's Internet site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Switzerland is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Although many roads are mountainous and winding, road safety standards are high. In some mountain areas, vehicle snow chains are required in winter. Road travel can be more dangerous during summer, winter holidays, the Easter break, and Whitsunday weekend (late spring) because of increased traffic. Travel on expressways (indicated by green signs with a white expressway symbol) requires purchase of a sticker or “vignette,” which must be affixed to the car's windshield. Vignettes can be purchased at most border crossings points, gas stations and at Swiss post offices. Drivers using the highway system without a vignette are subject to hefty fines levied on the spot. Public transportation in Switzerland and Liechtenstein is excellent.

Visit the website of Switzerland's national tourist office at http://www.myswitzerland.com/en.cfm/home.

Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Switzerland's Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Switzerland's air carrier operations. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's web site at http://www.faa.gov.

Special Circumstances: Costs of search and rescue operations are the responsibility of the victim, thus, travelers who plan to participate in mountain activities (summer and winter) are strongly encouraged to buy mountain search and rescue insurance. Search and rescue insurance is available inexpensively in Switzerland and may be purchased at many Swiss post offices. Information can be obtained from the Swiss National Tourist Office, at http://www.myswitzerland.com, at most tourist information offices or with the Swiss Air Rescue Organization at http://www/rega.ch. Such insurance has proved useful as uninsured rescues can easily cost $25,000.

Switzerland's customs authorities encourage the use of an ATA (Admission Temporaire/Admission) Carnet for the temporary admission of professional equipment, commercial samples, and/or goods for exhibitions and fair purposes. ATA Carnet Headquarters located at the U.S. Council for International Business, 1212 Avenue of the Americas, New York, N.Y. 10036, and issues and guarantees the ATA Carnet in the United States. For additional information call (212) 354-4480, send an email to [email protected], or visit www.uscib.org for details.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Switzerland's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Switzerland are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Registration and Embassy Locations: Americans living or traveling in Switzerland are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy in Bern, with the Consular Agencies in Geneva or Zurich, or through the State Department's travel registration web site, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy, Consulate, or Consular Agent to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at Jubilaeum-strasse 93, 3005 Bern; Tel. (41)(31) 357-7011, fax (41)(31) 357-7280. The Embassy's email address is [email protected] The U.S. Embassy web site at http://bern.usembassy.gov answers many questions of interest to Americans visiting and residing in Switzerland.

The U.S. Consular Agency in Zurich is located at the American Center of Zurich, Dufourstrasse 101, 8008 Zurich; Tel: (41)(43) 499-2960, fax (41)(43) 499-2961.

The U.S. Consular Agency in Geneva is located at rue Versonnex 7, CH-1207 Geneva, Tel: 022-840-51 60; fax 022-840-51 62.

There is no U.S. Embassy or Consulate in Liechtenstein. For assistance and information on travel and security in Liechtenstein, U.S. citizens may contact or register at the U.S. Embassy in Bern at the address above.

International Adoption

May 2007

The information in this section has been edited from a report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Adoption section of this book and review current reports online at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Disclaimer: The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is based on public sources and current understanding. Questions involving foreign and U.S. immigration laws and legal interpretation should be addressed respectively to qualified foreign or U.S. legal counsel.

Please Note: There are very few children eligible for intercountry adoption from Switzerland, with a long waiting list of Swiss prospective adoptive parents. While legally possible, intercountry adoption of a Swiss orphan by foreigners is unlikely. Most Swiss go overseas to adopt. Switzerland should be regarded as a receiving State only.

Patterns of Immigration:

Recent U.S. immigrant visa statistics show that no Swiss orphans have been adopted by American citizens in the last five years.

Adoption Authority: The Government office responsible for adoptions in Switzerland is the Municipality (Gemeinde) and/or the local Guardianship Board, depending on where the adopting prospective adoptive parent(s) resides. Each of the 26 Cantons in Switzerland now has a Central Authority. The prospective adopting parents should contact the Cantonal Central Authority (CCA). A list of approved agencies is available from the Embassy or on the Internet at www.bj.admin.ch.

Eligibility Requirements for Adoptive Parents: Both spouses must be 35 years of age or older. If a couple has not met the age requirement, they have to have been married for at least 5 years. Single people must be 35 years of age or older.

Medical ineligibilities are decided on a case-by-case basis case taking the surrounding circumstances into consideration. Switzerland does not, for example, disqualify prospective adoptive parents who are HIV positive. During the obligatory medical examination, the health and medical status of the adopting couple or individual will be analyzed and taken into consideration together with the pre-adoption home study report.

Residency Requirements: Adoptive parents are required to have their habitual residency in Switzerland. The prospective adoptive parents need to be generally involved in the Swiss way of life, such as social activities, friends, and interests. Prospective adoptive parents will be asked to attend a pre-adoption interview with the Cantonal Central Authority (CCA) where the adoption procedure and criteria will be discussed. The home study will also be organized by the CCA with the CCA's appointed social worker.

The above speaks of the prospective adoptive parents who are seeking to adopt from other countries (not Swiss orphans) although the same would also apply to Swiss prospective adoptive parents seeking to adopt Swiss orphans).

Time Frame: Adoption procedures take a minimum of six months to complete. Prospective adoptive parents are expected to remain in Switzerland the entire time. The time frame also depends very much upon the country of origin of the adoptive child. A social inquiry can take up to two years to complete, although two years is generally the maximum amount of time required.

Adoption Agencies and Attorneys: Adoption agencies must be licensed or accredited by the Swiss Government. Please review current reports online at http://travel.state.gov/family for a list of agencies.

Adoption Fees: Fees vary from Canton to Canton. One can expect to pay an average of 1,000-2,500 Swiss Francs (or approximately USD 830-2,060 according to the exchange rate). There are also private agency fees to take into consideration.

Adoption Procedures: Adoption procedures (a child coming from abroad to Switzerland) are very complicated and depend upon the requirements of the child's country of origin. The Swiss procedure is for the prospective adoptive parents to go to the Cantonal Authority to apply for an adoption procedure and attend a session on adoption protocol, organized by the Cantonal Central Authority (CCA). The concept of the adoption procedure in general is to convey to the prospective adoptive parents the intricacy involved in an adoption procedure. Information is given on the various countries where the child or children originate from, legal formalities (in Switzerland), costs involved, home study information, and a chance for the prospective adoptive parents to ask about the adoption procedure. Thereafter, if the adoptive parents still wish to adopt a child, they must submit a formal application at the Cantonal Central Authority, and, if the application is accepted by the CCA, the Cantonal Authority will issue a formal decision and the procedure will go ahead with:

  • Medical examination;
  • Psychologist's opinion (if required by the country of origin);
  • Request for a criminal record (if prospective parents are U.S. citizens, a criminal record from the United States);
  • Salary and tax report, and;
  • Any other formalities requested by the country of origin (if the country is already chosen).

A home study will be completed by a social worker in accordance with the CCA. (This could also be an appointed official of the CCA. Social workers sometimes work within the CCA but they are always under the responsibility of the CAA.)

Switzerland is a member of the Convention of 29 May 1993 on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Convention). With regards to pitfalls, it is advisable to adopt a child from a country that is party to this Convention. This will ensure that certain procedures are followed in respect to the child's best interest and protection against abuses like trafficking, prostitution etc. Furthermore, if an adoption is proclaimed/ accepted by the authorities of the country of origin which is a Contracting State to the Hague Convention, the adoption will automatically be recognized by Switzerland according to Article 23 of the Convention.

If the country is not party to the Hague Convention, the country of origin will apply their own specific procedure, meaning there is less chance of a guarantee. The country of origin will issue a judgment allowing the prospective adoptive parents to adopt.

Required Documents: The requirements of the child's country of origin have to be taken into consideration, including psychological analysis, medical report that may need to include certain tests such as HIV, sterility tests, and any other medical tests required by the country of origin.

  • Home Study Report carried out by a social worker;
  • Certificate that the applicants are qualified to adopt and that the child to be adopted is permitted to enter the Switzerland (i.e., the adoption has to be authorized by the Canton);
  • Salary statement, proving a regular income;
  • Tax report;
  • Criminal record;
  • Marriage certificate (for a couple).

Recognition of an adoption finalized in a non-Hague state in favor of an American couple living in Switzerland is quite complicated and may vary according to personal status (nationalities of both parents, place of residence, Swiss or American eligibility to adopt, etc.). Prospective adoptive parents should contact legal counsel or the CCA to get proper information before they start an adoption procedure.

Non-Hague adoptions are not recognized by the Swiss Government. In such cases the child will not arrive in Switzerland as an adopted child. The child will arrive as “Plegekind” or Foster Child.

Embassy of Switzerland 2900 Cathedral Avenue, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20008 Tel: (202) 745-7900 Fax: (202) 387-2564 Internet: www.Swissemb.org Switzerland also has consulates in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco.

U.S. Immigration Requirements: Prospective adoptive parents are strongly encouraged to consult USCIS publication M-249, The Immigration of Adopted and Prospective Adoptive Children, as well as the Department of State publication, International Adoptions. Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at http://travel.state.gov/family.

U.S. Embassy
Jubilaumsstrasse 93-95
3005 Bern
Internet: http://bern.usembassy.gov

Additional Information: Specific questions about adoption in Switzerland may be addressed to the U.S. Embassy in Bern. General questions regarding intercountry adoption may be addressed to the Office of Children's Issues, U.S. Department of State, CA/OCS/CI, SA-29, 4th Floor, 2201 C Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20520-4818, toll-free Tel: 1-888-407-4747.

International Parental Child Abduction

Febraury 2008

The information in this section has been edited from a report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Parental Child Abduction section of this book and review current reports online at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Disclaimer: The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is provided for general information only. Questions involving interpretation of specific foreign laws should be addressed to foreign legal counsel. The Swiss Central Authority of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction has informed the Department of State of the following general information concerning the operation of the Convention in Switzerland.

Judicial Procedure: Upon receipt of a Hague application, the Swiss Central Authority usually tries to get in touch with the abducting parent in order to find out if a mediated solution can be achieved. If this is not the case, or if the applicant requests to commence the judicial procedure immediately in view of obtaining a court order under the Hague Convention, the applicant is sent a list of attorneys from the respective canton who are willing to take Hague cases. The applicant can also let the Central Authority choose the attorney for him/her. It is up to the attorney to commence the judicial procedure, to file the application of legal aid (if applicable) and to take the necessary steps in view of obtaining an enforcement of the final judgment.

Switzerland has no unified civil procedure law and no uniform court system, and the designation of the courts, rules of procedure and conditions for appeals vary considerably. A judgment rendered by the court of first instance (often called the District Court) can normally be reviewed by the court of second instance (called Superior Court, Court of Appeals, etc.). Finally, it is possible to file a further appeal with the Federal (Supreme) Court in Lausanne, Switzerland's highest judicial authority. No writ of certiorari must be obtained in order to get access to the Federal Court, but the complaints that can be raised in this stage of the lawsuit are normally limited to the violation of constitutional rights (including a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights). A final decision should usually not be expected in less than six months.

Attorneys: The applicant can choose an attorney from a list that will be provided by the Swiss Central Attorney, or he/she can let the Central Authority choose the attorney for him/her. There is a large number of attorneys who speak and write English fluently. The attorney must be paid only if the applicant is not entitled to legal aid. The attorney fees are ruled by cantonal law and differ widely. The fee normally can be negotiated between attorney and client, but no contingent fee is allowed.

Legal Aid: Switzerland has established a system of legal aid that is governed (in accordance with Article 42 of the Hague Convention) by cantonal law, although a minimal standard and guidelines are set by the case law of the Federal Court. Pursuant to this case law, an applicant is entitled to legal aid if he or she is indigent (unable to pay a living for him/herself and his/her family in addition to the legal fees) and if the chances of winning the case are greater than the chances of losing it. Legal aid covers both the court costs (which are considerably higher than those in the U.S.) as well as the attorney's fees.

It is up to the attorney to file the request for legal aid with the court or the competent authority before commencing the Hague procedure. There are no application forms available. In general, documents indicating the monthly or annual income and expenses as well as assets and debts are required. The quicker these documents are conveyed to the attorney, the quicker a preliminary decision regarding legal aid can be obtained.

Rights of Access: The Swiss Central Authority tries to help parents exercise their rights of access pursuant to Article 21 of the Hague Convention. This obligation normally is fulfilled through intermediaries, mostly local guardianship authorities or juvenile services. This includes proceedings in view of negotiating mediated solutions and organizing locations and supervision in order to permit the meeting of a child with the parent. The Central Authority furthermore helps to find an attorney if no mediated solution can be found and a court must resolve the dispute. If the child's habitual residence is in Switzerland, the conditions and requirements of such a decision are set forth Swiss law. If the conditions of rights of access have already been determined in a decision rendered by a U.S. court in the habitual residence of the child, then the Swiss court organizes the protection of the rights of access pursuant to Article 21 of the Hague Convention.

Translation of Documents: The Swiss Central Authority accepts all documents in English. Translation into German, French or Italian, as the language of the court might be, will be required if the document must be presented to a court, but the translation need not be sent with the Hague application.

For further information on international parental child abduction, contact the Office of Children's Issues, U.S. Department of State at 1-888-407-4747 or visit its web site on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov/family. You may also direct inquiries to: Office of Children' Issues, U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC 20520-4811; Phone: (202) 736-9090; Fax: (202) 312-9743.

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Switzerland

Basic Data
Official Country Name: Swiss Confederation
Region: Europe
Population: 7,262,372
Language(s): German, French, Italian, Romansch
Literacy Rate: 99%
Compulsory Schooling: 9 years
Public Expenditure on Education: 5.4%
Foreign Students in National Universities: 24,093
Libraries: 2,344
Educational Enrollment: Primary: 477,643
  Secondary: 559,924
  Higher: 148,024
Educational Enrollment Rate: Higher: 33%
Female Enrollment Rate: Higher: 25%

History & Background

Switzerland, located in the heart of Europe, is among the small nations of the world. It is 41,300 square kilometers and shares its borders and its three main languages with Germany, France, Italy, Austria, and Liechtenstein. The Helvetic Confederation, the Latin name for Switzerland, can be divided into three natural regions: the Jura mountains in the northwest, the central lowlands between the Lake of Constance and Lake of Geneva, and the Alps in the south and east. Although the Alps and the Jura Mountains cover more than half of Switzerland, most of the Swiss people live between the two mountain ranges. The estimated population in 1998 was 7,374,000, including foreign workers, who made up almost 19 percent of the population. In the central lowlands are most of Switzerland's industries and its richest farmlands. Switzerland's capital city, Bern, and its largest city, Zurich, are located in this area. The population, with a density of 179 people per square kilometer is 68 percent urban and 32 percent rural.

The population is divided between three major and one minor language groups. According to the 1990 census of the resident population, 63.7 percent spoke German, 19.2 percent French, 7.6 percent Italian, 0.6 percent Romansch, and 8.9 percent other languages. German, French, and Italian are deemed official languages, whereas Romansch, which is spoken by less than 1 percent of the population in the Grisons, is considered a national language. With regard to religion, in 1990 some 46.1 percent of the population were Roman Catholics, 40 percent were Protestants, 5 percent belonged to other denominations, and 8.9 percent were "nonreligious."

Switzerland has limited natural resources, but it is a very affluent industrial nation. Using imported raw materials, the Swiss manufacture high-quality goods including electrical equipment, machine tools, and watches. They also produce chemicals, drugs, chocolate, cheese, and other diary products.

The Swiss have a long tradition of freedom. The Swiss Confederation was created over 700 years ago in what is now central Switzerland. The original defensive alliance formed in 1291 of the three mountain cantons of Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden, gradually increased to 13 by 1513. Similar to other parts of central Europe, education started in church schools, which were primarily dedicated to training the clergy. It was not until the late Middle Ages that schools for reading and writing for more practical purposes were established in some towns. During the Reformation and Counter-Reformation era education was largely the privilege of the upper classes of society. As part of the new democratic system, elementary schools were established at the end of the eighteenth century. These schools provided education for a much broader cross-section of the population.

Education has played a very important role in the Swiss Confederation. The Swiss Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746-1827) developed many of the basic pedagogical approaches and teacher training principles that are used in many western countries of the world. Pestalozzi's ideas spread as far as the United States by the 1860s, and his theories influenced Friedrich Froebel, the German founder of the first kindergartens, as well as many other educators and philosophers. A report on Popular Education in France from 1861 that also analyzed Popular Education in Switzerland commented on the quality of Swiss schools.

The principle of direct democracy is an important part of Swiss democracy and firmly rooted in the federal constitution. The electorate frequently votes, either to elect representatives or to vote on initiatives or referendums. Decentralization and direct democracy are also an important part of the education system. Education has remained primarily the responsibility of the cantons (states) and municipalities. Switzerland is made up of 26 cantons, which enjoy a considerable degree of autonomy. The cantons are further divided into communes or municipalities, approximately 3,000 in all.


Constitutional & Legal Foundations

Two essential hallmarks of the Swiss education system are federalism and pragmatism. Federalism delegates most education responsibilities to the cantons and municipalities. Except for narrow areas the cantons are responsible for compulsory education. The constitution stipulates that the cantons shall exercise all rights, which are not expressly delegated to the federal government. The responsibility for "adequate" primary education is delegated to the cantons. The constitution mandates for state education to be available to children of all creeds without any restrictions with respect to freedom of conscience or belief. Attendance at primary school is compulsory and free of charge. Each canton has its own legislation concerning education. The definitions of the goals of education are, therefore, not the same throughout Switzerland.

Pragmatism takes the form of various agreements for educational cooperation and coordination. An important legal instrument for coordinating the education system is the "Agreement on the Coordination of Education" known as the Concordat, which was drawn up by the cantons in 1970. Its mission is to harmonize cantonal legislation on education. Twenty-five cantons have signed this agreement in order to coordinate their legislation on education with respect to compulsory schooling, duration of compulsory school attendance, and the school calendar. Because of the extremely fragmented Swiss educational system and the system of direct democracy in Switzerland it has taken over 15 years to adopt the existing system. In addition, important agreements have been signed between the cantons concerning intercantonal recognition of qualifications, university funding, admission to educational institutions in other cantons, and funding for communal institutions.

The 1970 Concordat and subsequent agreements have set out the following requirements for compulsory education: (1) the age for entry to compulsory education at six, (2) the duration of compulsory education for at least nine years, and (3) the period of schooling between the start of education and sitting for the matura, or school-leaving certificate (which allows a student to enter the university) at least 12 years.

Responsibility for compulsory and higher education is relatively complex in Switzerland because of the federal system and distribution of power between the federal government and the cantons. Although there is no federal or national Ministry of Education, the Federal government has a limited, but important role in harmonizing education in Switzerland. The Confederation is responsible for supervising "a sufficient level of primary education," which is compulsory, free and for which the cantons are responsible. A second responsibility is to provide legislation concerning vocational training for industry, trade, commerce, agriculture, and domestic service. The federation also regulates the teaching of physical education. In the area of higher education, the central government controls the Federal Institutes of Technology in Zurich and Lausanne, the Swiss Pedagogical Institutes for vocational training (Berne, Lausanne, Lugano) and the Federal College of Physical Education in Macolin. It also regulates admission to medical studies and to the Federal Institutes of Technology. Through these regulations the Confederation legitimizes the requirements for the matura.

In addition, the central government subsidizes the cantonal universities, and scientific research. Grants from the federal government help support the poorer cantons and provide grants for Swiss schools abroad. Through legislation the federal government also promotes the education and integration of handicapped children and adolescents.

In special circumstances the Swiss parliament may temporarily delegate responsibility to the Confederation in order to fulfill important tasks of national importance such as programs for nonuniversity higher education, university exchanges, or Swiss participation in European research and training programs. In most cases where legislative powers are held by the Confederation, the Federal Assembly passes the necessary laws and delegates the corresponding executive powers to the cantons or, in rare cases, to private bodies. The cantons usually delegate the responsibility for setting up and maintaining certain types of schools, including kindergartens and compulsory schools to the municipalities.

The cantonal government and its Department of Education, along with the Education Council in certain cantons, are responsible for organizing and running the cantonal education system. The "cantonal minister," who is the head of the education department, is elected by the people and is reelected every four or five years. Almost all cantons set up education services, including cantonal offices for statistics, research, and documentation during the 1960s. Their goal is to ensure the proper functioning of compulsory education and to help in technical matters, including school improvement and curriculum planning.

One of the major problems with the Swiss educational system is its lack of coherence. Until World War II, the cantonal education systems were very fragmented, in spite of the fact that as early as 1897 the heads of the cantonal departments of education set up a Conference with the aim of exchanging information and coordinating the education system at a national level. From the 1960s onward the need for more coordinated educational policy produced new and restructured organizations, often in collaboration with the Confederation.

The Swiss Conference of Cantonal Directors of Education (EDK/CDIP) was restructured and provided with a secretariat and four regional organizations. These four regional Conferences included French-speaking Switzerland and the Ticino, northwest Switzerland, central Switzerland, and eastern Switzerland. Language, geography, and history have played an important part in these regional Conferences. Each region coordinates the publication of common curricula, educational material, and joint running of educational institutions, as well as agreements on recognition of qualifications and admission to schools and colleges.

The fragmented nature of the Swiss educational system makes it difficult to evaluate. In reality there are 26 slightly different educational systems in this small country. The responsibilities of the Confederation in education are as follows:

  • It supervises the cantons, which are responsible for providing "a sufficient level of primary education" that is compulsory and free.
  • It is responsible for legislation with respect to vocational training for industry, trade, commerce, and agriculture.
  • It regulates the teaching of physical science.
  • It is responsible for the Federal Institutes of Technology in Zurich and Lausanne, the Swiss Pedagogical Institutes in Berne, Lausanne, and Lugano, and the Federal College of Physical Education in Macolin.
  • It regulates admission to medical school as well as the Institutes of Technology and through regulations specifies the requirements for admission to higher education (by specifying requirements for the school-leaving diploma).
  • It subsidizes the cantonal universities, scientific research, and Swiss schools abroad.
  • It promotes the education and integration of exceptional children and adolescents through legislation with respect to disability insurance.

Globalization and the need to be part of a common Europe have produced significant changes in the Swiss education system, particularly at the higher secondary and nonuniversity levels of higher education. Although Switzerland is not a member of the European Community, in order to compete in a global society the confederation coordinated many changes at the end of the twentieth century and beginning of the new millennium in order to bring its educational system in line with most European countries. Many of these changes are still in the process of implementation at the beginning of the twenty-first century.


Educational SystemOverview

The structure of the educational system starts with preschool education. It is called kindergarten in German-speaking Switzerland, école enfantine in the French-speaking area, and scuola dell'infanzia in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino. Preschool was first introduced in the first half of the nineteenth century in a few large cities, in Geneva in 1826 and Zurich in 1845. Since that time it has spread to all the cantons.

Preschool is followed by compulsory education, comprising the primary and first level of secondary school. These differ widely in structure throughout Switzerland, although there are moves toward intercantonal coordination. In general the Swiss educational system reflects the continental system. The period of primary education varies by canton. In general it lasts six years, but in some cases only four years (like the Grundschule in Germany), or five (like the scola elementare in Italy). This shorter period in primary school is offset by a longer period at the next stage of secondary school. For example, in Ticino, the Italian-speaking canton, primary education lasts five years and is followed by a single scola media lasting four years. In French-speaking Valais, on the other hand, primary school lasts six years and secondary education, considered as an orientation cycle, is only three years.

There is a single teacher per class, not only in primary schools, but also in some first cycle secondary schools. However, in practice other teachers are involved, particularly for various types of remedial reading and optional arts and technology subjects. There is a particularly marked differentiation of methods in the case of children with learning difficultiesroughly five percent of a particular age groupwho are taught in smaller classes.

During compulsory education, children are taught in their mother tongue, French, Italian, or German, depending upon the canton. In bilingual cantons, schools follow the predominant language of the municipality or commune. In German-speaking Switzerland, this presents a special problem because dialect rather than Standard German is spoken. In Switzerland, dialect usage is prevalent in all parts of German Switzerland. The widely used term Schwyzertütch, or Swiss German, represents not a single language but a wide range of local and regional dialects. Although quite different in the various Swiss German regions, most of the dialects are mutually comprehensible without difficulty. Unlike the Swiss German majority, French and Italian Swiss are not dialect-speakers.

Virtually all German Swiss children must learn High German in school, starting in the early primary grades. Most German Swiss become bilingual between dialect and standard German during the first few years of elementary schooling. School is the institution where more High German is spoken than anywhere else. It is the responsibility of the schools to teach High German to children who have only a very vague and passive knowledge of Standard German when they start school. During the first year at school, nothing but dialect is spoken. In the second year, the teacher changes gradually from High German for certain subjects, whereas the texts for reading are in High German from the very beginning. This imposes high demands upon German-speaking Swiss children, for they have to learn to read, write, and use a relatively unknown language all at once. Later on, the language spoken during the actual lessons is mainly High German.

There is a need to learn additional languages because Switzerland is a multilingual society and a small country in the heart of Europe. The requirement that a second language be taught from the fourth grade onwards (usually German in the French-speaking cantons and French in Ticino and the German-speaking cantons) makes additional demands on primary schools. In the canton of Zurich, at the end of 2000, the education director, responding to the pressure from pupils and their parents, changed the first foreign language to English with French only learned in later grades. The movement toward English as the first foreign tongue to be learned in the schools in German-speaking cantons has generated concern in French Switzerland, which encompasses less than one-fifth of the Swiss population.

Most cantons provide several types of education at the lower secondary level, with several different sections with two or three different categories of requirements. Other cantons provide more crossover points from one track to another. The first level of secondary school has resulted in a complex and varied system among the cantons, which is, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, undergoing attempts toward more standardization between cantons.

The postsecondary or upper secondary level consists of Maturitätsschulen, or general education schools, which are attended by 17-20 percent of a student group. Teacher training colleges are attended by less than three percent of the appropriate age group. Schools offering a technical diploma enroll about four percent of students. The dual system of schooling and apprenticeship enrolls almost 70 percent of the 16-19 year olds. The remainder of the group attends technical high schools or other programs.

One of the most marked features of postsecondary education in Switzerland is the contrast between two highly specific tracks. The larger of these is the system of apprenticeship known as the dual system. Students go to a vocational school for approximately two days a week, with the rest of the time spent in on-the-job training. This cycle of upper secondary education is usually started at the age or 16 or 17. Approximately 70 percent of students opt for the apprenticeship system and over 90 percent of them are awarded a certificate of proficiency.

The federal law on vocational training applies to 260 professions in industry, trades, and commerce. A separate law covers the fields of agriculture and forestry. Apprenticeships tend to last for three or four years, depending on the field. The less academically oriented students may go into elementary vocational training, which lasts only one or two years. Only one percent of the apprentices choose this option. At the end of elementary vocational education successful students are awarded an official certificate instead of the federal diploma (CFC).

The gymnasium provides an academic general education for those students who plan to attend university. It is an elite and selective publicly funded school. The number of those taking the matura or maturité exam has increased in recent years. Between 1986 and 1998 the percentage awarded this certificate almost doubled to 19 percent.

A third track is also emerging in Switzerland between the gymnasium and apprenticeship dual education system. A series of full-time vocational training programs provide education for social workers, primary school teachers, and for a large number of middle-ranking business and technical careers. Usually these schools provide an intermediate diploma rather than the maturité certificate. They comprised about 11 percent of the 1998 graduates.

The tertiary level of education is comprised of university, teacher training schools for postprimary students, and higher vocational schools and apprenticeship programs. There are 11 traditional university level institutions in Switzerland. Four cantonal universities (in Basle, Zurich, Berne, and St. Gallen), the Swiss Institute for Further Training in Upper Secondary Education in Lucerne, and the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich are in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. German Switzerland encompasses three-quarters of the population and 20 cantons. The other cantonal universities (Lausanne, Geneva, Neuchâtel, and Fribourg, the latter offering courses in French and German) and the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne are located in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, which encompasses around 19 percent of the population. Ticino, the only Italian-speaking canton that comprises eight percent of the Swiss population, also has its own university. It is the newest of the Swiss universities only coming into existence in the mid-1990s. The distribution of universities illustrates the ability of the Swiss to accommodate, and over-represent the minority language groups at the university level.

In addition to universities, there are also local specialized institutions of higher learning that do not require the federal matura certificate for entrance. These applied institutions include the areas of engineering, administration and commerce, the hotel trade and tourism, health care, counseling and applied psychology, social work, media, communications and information technology, and arts and design. In order to enter these schools one must have a Berufsmatura, which is earned with a year of intensive study after the apprenticeship or appropriate upper secondary school.

The Fachhochschulen, or nonuniversity institutes of higher learning, stress a high level of applied skills. They are a relatively new part of the higher education system in Switzerland. Fachhochschulen are meant to fill the gap in the new postindustrial society for highly skilled individuals without a university education. Most of the institutions are cantonal or regional in nature. Fachhochschulen are distributed throughout Swiss society. By the beginning of the twenty-first century there were 20 in French-speaking Switzerland, and five in the Ticino. In German-speaking Switzerland, where they predominate, five were located in central Switzerland, nine in eastern Switzerland, and five in northwest Switzerland. More than 20 were located in the two most populous German-speaking cantons of Zurich and Bern. Nonuniversity higher education is a very important part of the Swiss education system. For example, the cantonal institutes of technology produce three times more engineers than the two Federal Institutes of Technology.

Preprimary & Primary Education

In all cantons children have the right to a preschool education for at least one year. In some cantons two years of preschool education are financed. Preschool education is not compulsory; however, it is almost universally attended. An average of 99 percent of all children throughout Switzerland receive preprimary education during the year before they start compulsory education, and 63 percent attend for two years. In Switzerland the cantons and/or municipalities are responsible for organizing and funding preprimary education. Kindergarten is generally housed in a separate building from the primary grades.

In preprimary education, although the cantons follow slightly different curriculums, the aim is to promote social skills and to acquire the skills needed for primary school. Another important goal is to integrate foreign mother-tongue children and handicapped children into the school system and to identify children with learning problems. In Geneva, for example, almost half of the children do not speak French. In German Switzerland where dialect is spoken, non-German dialect speakers receive special instruction in the Swiss dialect. In the 1994/95 academic school year 23 percent of those attending kindergarten were of foreign mother tongue. A new curriculum came into effect during the 1994/95 school year for preprimary teachers in all the French-speaking cantons. In the German-speaking cantons, kindergarten teachers tend to follow the curriculum set by their professional associations.

In the German-speaking part of Switzerland, children attend kindergarten for approximately two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon. They return home for lunch between the two sessions. In the Ticino, however, kindergarten usually stays open from 8:45 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. The organization of the school year is the same as primary education.

Kindergarten classes have between 17 and 19 children. In German- and Italian-speaking Switzerland, children stay in the same group for the duration of their preschool education. In contrast, in some of the French-speaking cantons, the teacher changes from year to year.

According to the Agreement on the Coordination of Education, children who have reached the age of six by June 30th are eligible for compulsory education. Each canton has its own laws regarding education, which defines the way in which compulsory education is organized. In 20 Swiss cantons primary education lasts six years, in four cantons for five years, and in two cantons for four years.

Cantonal authorities fix the curriculum. While a few regions have established common curricula, ultimately the canton is responsible for what is taught in separate subjects. With the exception of mathematics, foreign languages and some aspects of mother-tongue language classes, the teachers enjoy considerable freedom in deciding the content of the syllabus that governs the various subjects. There is little specialization in primary school and generally the teachers teach all the subjects. The only exception is specialized teachers in some schools in physical education and art.

The primary school curriculum stresses the teaching of the mother tongue as well as the fundamentals of science and mathematics. A second language is also introduced, usually in the fourth grade. In French-speaking Switzerland, German is generally learned and in German-speaking Switzerland, French or in some cantons English. Virtually all Swiss children attend primary school. In Switzerland in the 1994/95 school year there were 6,400 primary schools that enrolled 437,400 pupils. Of these pupils 18.7 percent were of foreign mother tongue.

The average class size in primary schools in 1994/95 was between 15 and 20. Most schools include children only at one level, but in remote areas one class may include different grades in one class. In general, children are not put in different tracks in primary school. Pupils receive a report card two or three times a year in which grades are given for each subject. The average grades at the end of the school year are used to determine whether the pupil should go into a higher class. Many cantons do not grade students in the first few years of primary school, but rather depend on assessment meetings and periodic reports. In all cantons there are regulations allowing for pupils to repeat a year. If after repeating a year, a student still experiences difficulty, parents in collaboration with the teacher and other school authorities decide whether to transfer the child to a special class. The trend is to integrate slower children into normal classes during primary school.

Throughout Switzerland, the first year at primary school comprises on the average approximately four hours of teaching per day. This increases to slightly over five hours per day in the final year at primary school. School is held in the morning and afternoon. Some cantons have school on Saturday mornings and one afternoon during the week free. Usually the children go home for lunch, however, there has been a trend towards children staying at school for the lunch pause, especially in urban areas. Depending on the canton, the school year comprises between 35.5 and 40 weeks.

Secondary Education


Swiss secondary education is divided into a lower secondary and an upper secondary branch. Lower secondary education is defined as the part of compulsory education immediately following primary schooling, usually grades seven to nine. Depending on the length of primary education (four, five, or six years), lower secondary education consists of three to five years of schooling.

Most cantons provide several types of education at the lower secondary level. There are often two or three different sections with very different requirements. Lower secondary school is compulsory and free. The sections with basic requirements, which have various names throughout Switzerland, prepare the pupils for basic vocational training. About one-third of the pupils in the same age group will be in these sections, with more boys then girls.

The sections with higher requirements contain about two-thirds of the pupils in lower secondary education. In most cantons these are divided into two types: Sekundarschule with general requirements and Progymnasium with advanced requirements. Lower secondary school lasts three, four, or five years depending on the canton. Although there has been some experimentation with comprehensive schools, they have not survived the experimental phrase with the exception of the prespecialization classes in the canton of Geneva, the Ticino, and Valais. Some cantons have managed to develop some characteristics of comprehensive schools by improving the ability to change tracks and by reducing the number of tracks. The concept of a unified system of compulsory education, such as in the United States, has not been accepted in the Swiss school system.

Elementary tracks (known as practical, modern, or prevocational) prepare pupils for entry into vocational education. Tracks with broader requirements (general, science, modern languages, classics) prepare for Progymnasium, or more advanced training and school-leaving certificate schools. In some cantons, the lower division in school-leaving certificate schools is integrated into lower secondary education as a distinct track.

The mother-tongue language is taught in all sections of general secondary education, along with mathematics, a second national language, natural science, geography, history, civics, history, art, and physical education. In the sections with basic requirements, emphasis is also placed on mechanical and industrial arts; in the sections with higher requirements, there might be a third language (mainly English), bookkeeping, computer skills, or technical drawing. In the Progymnasium section more advanced subjects are introduced. The number of hours of school varies from one canton to another, but pupils generally have between 30 and 35 lessons per week. In principle, the choice of the school curriculum and choice of materials is fixed at the cantonal level, but the schools and teaching staff have a certain degree of freedom of choice in these matters.

Continuous assessment throughout the year is basically the responsibility of the teacher. Switzerland does not have a general examination at the end of lower secondary school. In some cantons pupils can take a written and oral examination in their main subjects in order to get a certificate; in other cantons this is not the case.

The private schools that include the compulsory period and enroll Swiss students, follow the same basic curriculum and use of teaching materials of the canton in which they are located. Others that primarily enroll non-Swiss, have complete freedom in establishing their curriculum. About 9 percent of all students below the university level are enrolled in private schools. About twothirds of these schools receive some public funds.

Public schools, being both compulsory and yet offering guidance for educational and occupational choices, are faced with conflicting aims. On the one hand, teachers in a democratic society need to allow pupils to make choices, which may be changed several years later; on the other hand, their task is to prepare them for upper secondary education, primarily for the dual system of education. This continues to be a challenge for secondary education in Switzerland.


Academic High Schools: In Switzerland, upper secondary school, which prepares students for university level work, takes place in separate schools called gymnasium. The gymnasium lasts between four and five years. At the end of the gymnasium, one must pass the matura, or school-leaving certificate in order to enter university or the two Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology. The Swiss maturity diplomas are officially recognized both by the Confederation and the cantons, thus setting a comparable standard for the access to universities. This is the reason that there has thus far been no need for additional entrance examinations to the universities and the two federal institutes of technology.

The Swiss Maturity regulations were revised in 1995. They are regulated both by the Confederation at the federal level and the cantons. The 1995 regulations abolished the previous system of five predetermined types of gymnasium education or tracks recognized in Switzerland. Previously there were five types of school-leaving certificates: type A: classics (Latin and Greek), type B: modern languages and Latin, type C: mathematics and natural sciences, type D: modern languages, and type E: economics. The 1995 regulation allowed for more flexibility and a greater range of subjects. There is also an increased emphasis on economy and law and Italian as a third national language. In addition to examinations in nine subjects, the students must write a comprehensive Baccalaureate paper or maturity thesis. This is similar to the requirement set by the International Baccalaureate, which is offered in some high schools in the United States. The first updated maturity diplomas were awarded in 1999. These new regulations have made the Swiss system comparable to most other European forms of school leaving-certificates.

According to the new law the basic subjects are: first language; a second national language; a third language, which can be either English or a classical language; mathematics, science, including as compulsory subjects biology, chemistry, and physics; humanities, including as compulsory subjects history and geography, as well as elementary economics and law; visual arts and/or music. The specific option is chosen out of eight subjects and the additional option out of 13. For the basic subjects the proportion of teaching allocated to each area is as follows: languages 30-40 percent; mathematics and science 20-30 percent; humanities 10-20 percent; arts 5-10 percent; and 15-25 percent to other optional subjects.

Pupils' work is subject to continual assessment and students are promoted into a higher class on the basis of the results they obtain throughout the year. At the end of the gymnasium, the Federal School-leaving certificate Matura Commission supervises examinations. Special federal examinations are held for young people and adults who have studied for their certificates at private schools, at evening classes, or through correspondence courses. For the subjects in which an examination is taken, a grade is awarded on the basis of results obtained during the final year and results obtained in the examination, each factor being of equal weight. For the other subjects, the final grade is awarded on the basis of the results obtained during the final school year, which is based on examinations both written and oral. Under the new law, all students must learn basic English as part of their gymnasium studies.

Gymnasium education in Switzerland continues to carry a great deal of prestige. It is an elite and selective publicly funded preparatory school. In 1998, about 18 percent of all 19-year-olds passed the maturity diploma. Slightly more women (18.7 percent) than men (16.5 percent) successfully completed the matura. There has been a significant increase in the percentage of young women obtaining the school-leaving certificate, from 30.6 percent in 1970 to 48.6 percent in 1980 to over half in 1998.

Between 1980 and 1998, the percentage of students awarded the school-leaving diploma increased from 11 percent to 18. In French and Italian-speaking Switzerland the percentage completing the matura is higher (almost 24 percent) than in German-speaking Switzerland (15 percent). This is related to earlier school reforms and a more equalitarian school system in French and Italian Switzerland. The urban German-speaking cantons of Basel, Zurich, and Schaffhausen are also above the Swiss average. Rural, Catholic inner Switzerland, on the other hand, has the lowest percentage (approximately 12 percent) of students awarded the maturity diploma.

Gymnasiums have a long tradition going back to the Middle Ages. The recent 1995 change in standards and objectives of these schools are still based on nineteenth century humanist and scientific ideals, which have been partially brought up to date by the demands of modern society. Gymnasiums have very high standards and hold almost a complete monopoly on access to the university. Although all cantons have gymnasiums, only eight cantons have a university. Cantons, without universities have a particular interest in maintaining national matura standards in order to ensure that their students can gain access to higher education.


Technical High Schools: Before and immediately after the Second World War some cantons and municipalities established upper secondary schools, which offered a general education but whose requirements were lower than the gymnasium. They were called technical high schools, general high schools, paramedical schools, and schools of tourism. Their successful students went to work in health care, kindergartens, tourism, transport and social service jobs. At the time there was no uniformity between these schools with regard to curriculum, structure, or length of courses after compulsory education. In 1987, after more than 15 years of discussion, an agreement was reached between the cantons concerning curriculum and other requirements. Two proposals: "Guidelines for the recognition of diplomas" and "curriculum framework for technical high schools," were adopted in 1987 by the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Directors of Education. The high school courses of two or three year's duration are recognized by all the cantons as long as the technical high schools adopt the approved curriculum and framework developed by the Commission for Technical High Schools.

The technical high schools have helped to bridge the gap that existed in the type of education offered at the upper secondary level. These schools offer an opportunity to a broader spectrum of the student population to complete their general education at a higher level and an opportunity to learn about future professional activities. Students can do this without committing themselves to an apprenticeship program. Technical high schools require their students to acquire a general training and education, which will enable them to go on to higher, nonuniversity training in fields such as teaching, health care, social work, administration, and the arts.

The curriculum at technical high schools encompasses a common core of general subjects and a choice of technical subjects. The general studies include mother-tongue language, other languages including at least one other national language, mathematics, science, humanities, art, and movement. The technical options depend on the field of study and include, for example, paramedical studies, social work, or business administration. The guidelines set forth by the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Directors of Education apply to all Swiss cantons. The regulations concerning assessment of pupils in lower secondary education also apply to technical high schools. Under the terms of the new law issued in 1995, a written examination, which may be accompanied by an oral examination, must be taken in five out of six subjects. In addition there are examinations in their technical subjects. If students fulfill all the requirements for the diploma for the technical high schools, they are recognized by all the cantons.


Teacher-Training Colleges: Most Swiss cantons carry out the training of preschool teachers in upper secondary school. Cantons offer two types of training for primary school teachers: teacher training colleges (upper secondary level) and university after secondary education in a gymnasium. Basic training for gymnasium teachers is given at the universities and the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. In some cantons, reforms since the 1980s have resulted in changing from teachers' training colleges to studies at universities following the matura examination, although most cantons still prefer the teachers' training system.

The training takes five years, or three years following the matura. The primary school teachers' examination provides access to the teaching profession or (with certain limitations) to studies at the university. Teacher candidates for lower secondary levels attend a university or university institute for seven or eight semesters. The training corresponds to language regions (French, German, or Italian), and there is a trend toward a mutual recognition of the diplomas. The teacher candidates specialize in either mathematics and natural sciences or languages and history. Teachers at the upper secondary level receive specialized training at a university as well as specialized professional education.

There are currently 100 institutions that train teachers for compulsory education, technical high schools, and other colleges of further education. In Switzerland teacher training of primary teachers has been the subject of serious discussion in almost all cantons.

Teachers of vocational education have different qualifications from those teaching compulsory education and the gymnasium. The majority of teachers at technical colleges are employed by the cantons. The teaching staff of technical colleges is generally trained at the Swiss Pedagogical Institute for Vocational Training, which is a federal institution. Those teaching general subjects must already possess a teaching diploma for primary or secondary education. The teachers of technical subjects must possess an engineering diploma or a higher technical diploma. For teaching at commercial colleges, a university degree is required. In the workplace, individuals must have several years of experience in their trade and have taken a special course for training apprentices, organized by the professional associations or the cantons, in order to supervise apprentices.


Vocational Training: The comparatively low level of youth unemployment in Switzerland has been attributed to the dual apprenticeship system. The dual system has existed in Switzerland for over a century and is well developed as a cooperative effort between the cantons, federal authorities, and professional organizations. The majority of Swiss youth (approximately 70 percent) continue their education after compulsory schooling in vocational education. The dual system of vocational education is comprised of a practical course in a private or public company and parallel attendance at a vocational training school, which provides basic theoretical knowledge, general subjects, and physical education. Students go to school for one to one and a half days per week and engage in an apprenticeship for the rest of the week. The vocational school education complements the practical vocational experience gained on the job. In addition, basic skills are taught by supplementary introductory courses, which are organized by the professional association. Therefore, vocational education is in reality a threefold system.

The trainee signs a contract with a company, which must be approved by the cantonal vocational training authorities. The scope of vocational training courses, the subjects taught, and number of lessons is fixed for each profession in close collaboration with the corresponding professional association within the framework of a program drawn up by the Federal Office for Industry and Labor (BIGA/OFIAMT). The federal law on vocational training applies to about 260 professions in industry, trades, commerce, and domestic service.

Young people who go into basic vocational training do not pay any college fees. Apprentices who are trained within the framework of the dual system are paid a monthly salary, which ranges from a few hundred Swiss francs to over a thousand (roughly $150-$700 a month), depending on the branch they are in, the size of the firm, and how many years of training they have already completed.

After two to four years, the apprentices take a final examination. If they are successful, they are awarded a federal diploma (CFC), which is recognized all over the country. The final examinations comprise a practical part and a theoretical part. The examinations are normally organized by the cantonal authorities and carried out in collaboration with consultants from industry. As far as possible the examinations are standardized for an entire linguistic region (French, German, or Italian). An upper secondary vocational diploma does not normally qualify students for admission to university, but it does allow them to enter further vocational training in the nonacademic branch of tertiary education.


Higher Education


University Education: Swiss higher education before 1800 developed along much the same lines as that of Central Europe. Education was the task of the monasteries. The first university in Switzerland was founded in Basle in 1460. Since that time there has seen a steady increase in universities and university education in Switzerland. There are 12 state-run university institutions in Switzerland. Switzerland ranks among the countries having the highest university density, with one university for every 600,000 inhabitants. The cantonal universities are situated in Basle, Zurich, Berne, St. Gallen, Lucerne, Lausanne, Geneva, Neuchâtel, and Fribourg. In 1996 the canton of Ticino, with only four percent of the population and the only Italian-speaking canton, opened a university of its own. Universities are disproportionately distributed in the language minority cantons. In addition to the 12 universities, there are two federal institutes of technology in Zurich and Lausanne.

Although each university has its own characteristics, they are basically similar in structure. They are divided into departments or faculties, including law, economics and social science, art, natural science, and medicine. Two of the smaller universities, Fribourg and Lausanne, offer only the basic courses in medicine. St. Gallen specializes in economics, social science, and law. Lucerne, located in a Catholic canton, offers Catholic theology and philosophy, as well as law and the arts. The Italian-speaking university offers courses in architecture, social science, and arts. The two Federal Institutes of Technology produce highly qualified engineers, architects, and natural scientists. Unlike the United States, there are no private universities in the Swiss Confederation.

Each university is administered under the cantonal Department of Education. A considerable amount of autonomy is allowed under cantonal law. The two institutes of technology are exclusively maintained by the Confederation, with their autonomy assured by the Federal Act of 1993. In order to aid the cantonal universities, the "Federal Act concerning the financial aid to the universities" was implemented in 1968, amended several times and completely revised in 1999. The Federal Act of 1999, which extends until 2008, constitutes the legal basis for the federal subsidies to university cantons.

In order to offset the high costs associated with maintaining a university, the Intercantonal Agreement of 1981 initiated an agreement for all cantons, both those responsible for university and nonuniversity cantons to share costs proportionally to the number of their own students in the cantonal universities. In return for this intercantonal equalization of the financial burdens, the cantonal universities grant equal access to students from all contributing cantons. The partnership between cantons and the Confederation is a hallmark of Swiss federalism and education policy.

Individuals who want to enroll at a Swiss university must earn a state-recognized Swiss matriculation certificate (matura) or a foreign school-leaving certificate of equivalent value. All Swiss university level institutions have the same basic requirements. The Swiss maturity diplomas are officially recognized both by the Confederation and the cantons, thereby setting a comparable standard for access to Swiss universities.

Studies at Swiss universities grant basic and postgraduate degrees. Some differences exist between the various universities with respect to the length of study, the structure of the courses, and the required subjects. Since 1990 there have been several interdepartmental agreements to harmonize the study courses in specific subjects (such as law, engineering, sociology, German literature, etc.). At this writing in 2001, the Swiss universities are in the process of introducing the European credit transfer system (ECTS). The basic classes, which are of four years duration (eight semesters) lead to a first academic degree, a licentiate, which is roughly equivalent to a master's degree (M.A. or M.S.) or diploma. The completion of this degree allows further specialization and research in the chosen field leading up to a doctorate or to other specializations in professional schools or other postgraduate studies. Swiss universities do not grant Bachelor's degrees. At the beginning of the new millennium, changes toward a universal degree program are under discussion in order to comply with the American and British traditions and the Declarations of Sorbonne and of Bologna of 1998/99.

In the last decades of the twentieth century the two Federal Institutes of Technology set up continuing education departments that organize postgraduate courses. In Switzerland, continuing education is aimed at working university graduates. The courses range from a few days to a few semesters duration. Private institutions also offer continuing education, primarily in the area of business administration.

There has been a marked increase in the number of students studying at Swiss universities since the 1980s. From 1980-2000 there has been a 62 percent increase in student numbers, reaching almost 96,000 in the 1999-2000 academic year. About one-fifth of the corresponding age group of 20- to 24-year-olds attends university. By 2003 the university student body is expected to rise by 20 percent. Switzerland has a particularly high percentage of foreign students, amounting to almost one-fifth of the student population. Female students account for 45 percent of the total enrollment. There is a higher percentage of both foreigners and females at the Italian and the French-speaking universities than at German-speaking universities in Switzerland.

During 1990-2000 the number of students studying humanities, social sciences, and engineering increased. With the growing numbers of students, the institutions are becoming increasingly crowded. Medical students and students from other faculties such as psychology have to take a national aptitude test and may have to accept transfers to a Swiss university other than their first choice. So far all applicants who have complied with university entrance requirements have been granted entry to a university. If numbers continue to increase at their present rate, this situation may change in the future. The teaching staff has generally not kept up with increasing student numbers, which poses another problem at Swiss universities.


Fachhochschulen/Hautes Écoles Spécialisées (Technical Colleges): In order to face new challenges related to an increasingly technological society, Switzerland created the Fachhochschulen (FH)/Hautes écoles spécialisées (HES) (Universities of Applied Sciences) in the mid-1990s. The new FH/HES system shares a similar level with the traditional scientific universities; however, it is more applied and accepts individuals who have completed a higher vocational education. The curriculum and research are oriented toward practical application rather than pure research. Under limited conditions students may transfer from the Swiss Universities of Applied Sciences to traditional university studies.

The new FH/HES-Universities have grown out of the former Colleges of Higher Education in engineering and business administration, agriculture and sports, fine arts, design, music, health care, social work, and teachertraining. Some of these came under federal auspices while others were cantonal in nature. They still tend to service regional rather than national labor markets. There are seven regional centers of Universities of Applied Sciences. It is still unclear whether a FH/HES education will have the same status and job mobility as that provided at the traditional universities.

The Fachhochschulen offer alternatives to the academic university education at the tertiary level. The degree courses are slightly shorter in length than the traditional universities. The first FH/HES degrees were awarded in 2000. They qualify professionals to work independently by providing them with both the necessary theoretical and academic job background with a practical training of the necessary skills. Admission to the FH/HES is granted to those holding a Berufsmatura, maturité professionnelle (Federal Vocational Maturity Certificate). The degree was introduced in 1993 jointly by the Confederation and the cantons. It is achieved after three years of apprenticeship followed by a one-year, full-time general education course. Admission is also available through a federal matura and at least one year's practical experience in industry. The diplomas from the FH/HES have been developed to be approximately equivalent to the Bachelor Degree. For example, the first degree in economics is equivalent to a Bachelor of Business Administration (in comparison with the first degree at the traditional universities which is comparable to a Master's degree or M.B.A.).

The Federal Act for the Universities of Applied Sciences was adopted by the Federal Parliament in 1995, and revised in 1999. The first stage, which lasts until 2003, concentrates on the fields that are supervised by the federal authorities: engineering, economics and management, and design. By the end of 2003 the four subjects listed above are expected to enroll approximately 20,000 students. In the 1999/2000 academic year slightly under 17,000 students were enrolled.

Administration, Finance, & Educational Research

Neither the Confederation nor the cantons has a unique educational administrative ministry that covers the entire educational system. At the federal level responsibility for education is shared by two different ministries: the Federal Department of the Interior and the Federal Department of Economics. The Federal Department of the Interior oversees the two Federal Institutes of Technology, subsidies for universities, grants, science and research, and physical education. Responsibility within the Interior ministry is assumed by the Science Agency (GWF/GRS) and the Federal Office for Education and Science (SHK/CUS). The Federal Department of Economics is in charge of vocational education. Within the Economics department is the Federal Office for Industry and Labor (BIGA/OFIAMT), which governs the vocational training sector. The Federal Office for Agriculture, also under the Federal Department of Economics is in charge of training in the field of agriculture.

The cantonal government and its Department of Education, along with the Education Council in some of the cantons, are responsible for organizing and running the cantonal education system. The cantonal minister, who is the head of the education department, is a popularly elected official who must run for office every four or five years. The size of the Department of Education is dependent on the size of the canton.

Funding for education is mostly a cantonal responsibility. Municipalities generally are responsible for buildings, equipment, teaching materials, and part of the staff salaries. The cantons are responsible for the major part of teacher's salaries. The source of funding for upper secondary schools and the universities comes primarily from the cantons. The Confederation is totally responsible for the two Federal Institutes of Technology including some research costs, and subsidizes the cantonal universities. The Confederation, cantons, and professional associations share the cost of vocational training.

In 1993 expenditures for the various levels of education were divided up as follows: municipalities 35 percent, cantons 53 percent, and the Confederation 12 percent. Resources are allocated on the basis of precise budgets rather than block or global grants. In 1997, almost 21.5 million SFr (approximately 14.5 million U.S. dollars) were spent on all levels of education by the Confederation, cantons, and municipalities. This equaled 18.3 percent of the national domestic budget. The Swiss education system is one of the best funded in the world, exceeded in 1999 only by those of the United States, Norway, and Denmark.

Although educational research has been carried out in Geneva since the late nineteenth century, the establishment of educational research in a systematic way throughout Switzerland did not take place until the mid-1960s. Because of the highly decentralized nature of Swiss education, most educational research takes place in a large number of decentralized institutions. Switzerland does not have a national educational research institute. As a consequence there are many microlevel studies, primarily in the fields of educational psychology and didactical studies during compulsory education. The cantons are the largest source of funding for educational research (47 percent of the total). The Confederation contributes 44 percent, primarily through the Swiss National Scientific Research Fund. The municipalities or communes (three percent) and the private sector (about six percent) play a less significant role.


Nonformal Education


In 2001 there does not yet exist a Swiss academic institution of distance learning or an Open University. However, a limited number of technology and distant learning classes were inaugurated in summer 2000. These are subsidized by the Confederation. Because of the small size of the country, the great density of universities, and the multilinguistic nature of Switzerland, it is unlikely that a distance learning university will become a reality in the near future. Switzerland is characterized by great diversity. It contains 26 cantons, each responsible for its own educational system and three major languages. There are, however, contacts to Open Universities of other European countries, which have led to the establishment of study centers, including the German Fern University Hagen in Brigue and the British Open University in Geneva.

In addition there are also a number of activities on the Internet that are related to education. The Center for Continuing Education at the Swiss Institute of Technology (ETH) provides up-to-date information about all the opportunities in continuing education. "EduETH," the education server of the ETH Zurich, provides a platform to exchange subject matter and information for secondary students. Most elementary and secondary schools in Switzerland have access to computers and the Internet.

Nonuniversity continuing education plays a very important role in Switzerland. Approximately 28,000 individuals were enrolled in a nonuniversity course in 1992/93, which is about a quarter of the population of the relevant age group. Many of these courses are offered at the FH/HES. Adult education is recognized as an integral part of the educational system in Switzerland and is promoted by the Confederation, the cantons, and the municipalities. However, it is financed and run mainly by private educational organizations. Public facilities such as courses for parents, adult education classes, and advanced education are supplemented by the services provided by club schools and groups allied to churches, trade unions, or political parties. The Swiss Association for Adult Education comprises approximately 30 coordinating and individual organizations. Because adult education is not a university subject, there is little research available on this topic. Available statistics indicate that approximately 40 percent of the working population is engaged in specialized professional adult education.


Teaching Profession

Swiss teachers are very well paid and hold a generally high status in the community. Teacher training and pay depend upon the level taught, with higher grades requiring longer periods of education and higher salaries.

Training for kindergarten teachers varies among the various cantons. In the majority of cantons, kindergarten teachers are trained for three or four years at teacher training institutions. In most cantons, primary school teachers also receive their training in teacher-training colleges. They are able to enroll after passing an entrance examination, as soon as they have completed compulsory education. In some cantons it is common for teachers to be trained at an institution attached to a university. In nonuniversity cantons, teachers are usually educated in separate teacher-training colleges. The diploma for primary school teachers is a specialized one and not the same as a university diploma. The teacher-training course normally lasts five years. Prospective teachers are assessed on their moral, psychological, and intellectual character as well as their knowledge and professional qualities.

There are basically two types of teachers in secondary school. Those who teach in the sections with basic requirements are, as a rule, primary school teachers who have had specific additional training. They are not specialized in any subjects. Those who teach in sections with higher requirements are specialized in one to three subjects. These teachers often possess a university education. This is reflected in the profile of gymnasium teachers who are specialists in one subject and university educated.


Summary

Switzerland's educational system is experiencing a period of rapid change at the beginning of the new millennium. Both internal and external factors have influenced educational reform. Globalization and a unified European Community, even though Switzerland is not a formal member, have put significant pressures on the educational system. In order to meet the growing demand for qualified workers and to work towards international recognition of Swiss diplomas, the nonuniversity higher education sector has been modified and reclassified as technical colleges. These include most teacher colleges. The dual system of higher education is comparable to similar institutions in Germany, Austria, and Holland, which include university level institutions and technical colleges. In Switzerland the different schools comprising the technical college level are still very fragmented. Transferability between the two sectors of higher education still remains problematic, with few clear paths between the FH/HES and the universities and Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology.

The number of students attending the gymnasium has increased significantly in the last 20 years. In the last decade women have made significant progress in completing the gymnasium and continuing to university studies. The ratio of maturity graduates is considerably higher in the areas of the Suisse romande (French and Italian Switzerland), where children are tracked later than in German-speaking Switzerland. In contrast, children of foreign workers and those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are less likely to complete higher secondary educations or to go on to higher education. There is also significant disparity between the educational systems of the mountain regions and those of urbanized Switzerland. Future educational reform needs to be directed toward questions of equity in the educational system.

Education in Switzerland continues to be very decentralized and fragmented, although important strides have been taken toward reducing the disparities between the cantonal educational systems. Coordination measures, such as the introduction of standards for middle schools or maturity certificates, and the development of less elitist forms of higher education, take years to institute. As a whole, Switzerland has a very good educational system; however, free transfer from canton to canton is impeded by the 26 different cantonal educational systems and the lack of common educational standards.


Bibliography

Arnold, Matthew. Popular Education of France (with notices of that of Holland and Switzerland). London: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts, 1861.

Bierhoff, Helvia and S. J. Prais, From School to Productive Work. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

Educational Research and Development in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. Paris: Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, 1995.

Garke, Esther. Swiss Higher Education. Federal Office for Education and Science. May 2000. Available from http://www.shk.ch.

Hanhart, Siegried and Sandra Bossio. "Costs and Benefits of Dual Apprenticeship: Lessons from the Swiss System." International Labour Review 137. (1998): 483-500.

Heidenheimer, Arnold J. Disparate Ladders: Why School and University Policies Differ in Germany, Japan and Switzerland. New Bruinswick, NJ: Transaction Press, 1997.

Helga, Gunther. Consensus Democracy? Swiss Education Policy between Federalism and Subsidiarity. New York: Peter Lang, 1999.

Sauthier, Rodger. Secondary Education in Switzerland. Strasbourg: Council of Europe Press, 1995.

Steiner, Jürg, Hochschulen im Wettbewerb: USASchweiz. Zurich: Vontobel-Stiftung, 2000 (to be published in English in 2002).

Swiss Conference of Cantonal Education Ministers, Bern. "Swiss Education." March 21, 1997. Available from http://edkwww.unibe.ch.

Swiss Embassy, Washington, DC. "Culture and Education." Available from http://www.swissemb.org. January 3, 2001.


Carol L. Schmid

views updated

Switzerland

Compiled from the August 2006 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Swiss Confederation

PROFILE

PEOPLE

HISTORY

GOVERNMENT

POLITICAL CONDITIONS

ECONOMY

DEFENSE

FOREIGN RELATIONS

U.S.-SWISS RELATIONS

TRAVEL

PROFILE

Geography

Area: 41,285 sq. km. (15,941 sq. mi.); about the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined.

Cities: Capital—Bern (population about 123,000). Other cities—Zurich (341,000), Geneva (176,000), Basel (165,000), Lausanne (116,000).

Terrain: 60% mountains, the remainder hills and plateau. Switzerland straddles the central ranges of the Alps.

Climate: Temperate, varying with altitude and season.

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—Swiss (singular and plural).

Population: (2002) 7.46 million.

Annual growth rate: 0.6%.

Ethnic groups: Mixed European.

Religions: Roman Catholic 42%, Protestant 33%, Muslim 4.3%, others 5.4%, no religion 11%.

Languages: German 63.7%, French 20.4%, Italian 6.5%, Romansch 0.5%, other 9.4%.

Education: Years compulsory—9. Attendance—100%. Literacy—100%.

Health: Infant mortality rate—4.8/1,000. Life expectancy—men 76.5 yrs., women 82.5 yrs.

Work force: (3.96 million) Agriculture and forestry—4.2%. Industry and business—25.6%. Services and government—70.2%.

Government

Type: Federal state.

Independence: The first Swiss Confederation was founded in August 1291 as a defensive alliance among three cantons. The Swiss Confederation established independence from the Holy Roman Empire in 1499.

Constitution: 1848; extensively amended in 1874; fully revised in 2000

Government branches: Executive—Federal Council, a collegium of seven members, headed by a rotating one-year presidency. Legislative—Federal Assembly (bicameral: Council of States, 46 members; National Council, 200 members). Judicial—Federal Tribunal.

Political subdivisions: 26 cantons (states) with considerable autonomy.

Political parties: Swiss People’s Party (SVP), Social Democratic Party (SP), Free Democratic Party (FDP), Christian Democratic Party (CVP), and several smaller parties representing localities or views from extreme left to extreme right.

Suffrage: In federal matters, universal over 18.

Economy

GDP: (2004) $369.6 billion (456.5 billion Swiss francs).

Annual growth rate: (2005) 2.8% in real terms.

Per capita income: (2001) $30,522 (37,695 Swiss francs).

Inflation rate: (2005) 1.1%.

Natural resources: Water power, timber, salt.

Agriculture: (est. 1.8% of GDP in 2004) Products—dairy, livestock, grains, fruit and vegetables, potatoes, wine.

Arable land: (1999) 26%.

Industry: (est. 28.2% of GDP in 2004) Types—machinery, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, time pieces, precision instruments, textiles and clothing, pigment, transportation equipment.

Services: (70% of GDP in 2005).

Trade: (2002) Exports—$148.6. billion (183.5 billion Swiss francs) machinery and electronics; chemicals and pharmaceuticals; instruments and timepieces. Major markets—Germany, United States, France, Italy, U.K., Japan. Imports—$135 billion (166.7 billion Swiss francs) machinery and electronics; chemicals; vehicles. Major suppliers—Germany, Italy, France, Netherlands, U.S., U.K., Japan.

PEOPLE

Switzerland sits at the crossroads of several major European cultures, which have heavily influenced the country’s languages and cultural practices. Switzerland has four official languages—German, French, Italian, and Romansch (based on Latin and spoken by a small minority in the Canton Graubunden). The German spoken is predominantly a Swiss dialect, but newspapers and some broadcasts use High German. Many Swiss speak more than one language. English is widely known, especially among professionals.

More than 75% of the population lives in the central plain, which stretches between the Alps and the Jura Mountains and from Geneva in the southwest to the Rhine River and Lake Constance in the northeast. Resident foreigners and temporary foreign workers make up about 20% of the population.

Almost all Swiss are literate. Switzerland’s 13 university institutes enrolled 111,100 students in the academic year of 2004-05. About 25% of the adult population holds a diploma of higher learning. The Constitution guarantees freedom of worship, and the different religious communities co-exist peacefully.

Switzerland consistently ranks high on quality of life indices, including highest per capita income, one of the highest concentrations of computer and Internet usage per capita, highest insurance coverage per individual, and high health care rates. For these and many other reasons, it serves as an excellent test market for businesses hoping to introduce new products into Europe.

HISTORY

Originally inhabited by the Helvetians, or Helvetic Celts, the territory comprising modern Switzerland came under Roman rule during the Gallic wars in the 1st century BC and remained a Roman province until the 4th century AD. Under Roman influence, the population reached a high level of civilization and enjoyed a flourishing commerce. Important cities, such as Geneva, Basel, and Zurich, were linked by military roads that also served as trade arteries between Rome and the northern tribes.

After the decline of the Roman Empire, Switzerland was invaded by Germanic tribes from the north and west. Some tribes, such as the Alemanni in central and northeastern Switzerland, and the Burgundians, who ruled western Switzerland, settled there. In 800, the country became part of Charlemagne’s empire. It later passed under the dominion of the Holy Roman emperors in the form of small ecclesiastic and temporal holdings subject to imperial sovereignty.

With the opening of a new important north-south trade route across the Alps in the early 13th century, the Empire’s rulers began to attach more importance to the remote Swiss mountain valleys, which were granted some degree of autonomy under direct imperial rule. Fearful of the popular disturbances flaring up following the death of the Holy Roman Emperor in 1291, the ruling families from Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden signed a charter to keep public peace and pledging mutual support in upholding autonomous administrative and judicial rule. The anniversary of the charter’s signature (August 1, 1291) today is celebrated as Switzerland’s National Day.

Between 1315 and 1388 the Swiss Confederates inflicted three crushing defeats on the Habsburgs, whose aspiration to regional dominion clashed with Swiss self-determination. During that period, five other localities (cantons in modern-day parlance) joined the original three in the Swiss Confederation. Buoyed by their feats, the Swiss Confederates continuously expanded their borders by military means and gained formal independence from the Holy Roman Empire in 1499. Routed by the French and Venetians near Milan in 1515, they renounced expansionist policies. By then the Swiss Confederation had become a union of 13 localities with a regularly convening diet administering the subject territories. Swiss mercenaries continued for centuries to serve in other armies; the Swiss Guard of the Pope is a vestige of this tradition.

The Reformation led to a division between the Protestant followers of Zwingli and Calvin in the German and French parts of the country respectively, and the Catholics. Despite two centuries of civil strife, the common interest in the joint subject territories kept the Swiss Confederation from falling apart. The traffic in mercenaries as well as the alienation between the predominantly Protestant Swiss and their Catholic neighbors kept the Swiss Confederation out of the wars of the European powers, which formally recognized Swiss neutrality in the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. The Swiss remained neutral during the War of the First Coalition against revolutionary France, but Napoleon, nonetheless, invaded and annexed much of the country in 1797-98, replacing the loose confederation with a centrally governed unitary state.

The Congress of Vienna in 1815 reestablished the old confederation of sovereign states and enshrined Switzerland’s status of permanent armed neutrality in international law. In 1848, after a brief civil war between Protestant liberals seeking a centralized national state and Catholic conservatives clinging on to the old order, the majority of Swiss Cantons opted for a Federal State, modeled in part on the U.S. Constitution. The Swiss Constitution established a range of civic liberties and made far-reaching provisions to maintain cantonal autonomy to placate the vanquished Catholic minority. The Swiss amended their Constitution extensively in 1874, establishing federal responsibility for defense, trade, and legal matters, as well as introducing direct democracy by popular referendum. To this day, cantonal autonomy and referendum democracy remain trademarks of the Swiss polity.

Switzerland industrialized rapidly during the 19th century and by 1850 had become the second most industrialized country in Europe after Great Britain. During World War I serious tension developed between the German, French, and Italian-speaking parts of the country, and Switzerland came close to violating its neutrality but managed to stay out of hostilities. Labor unrest culminating in a general strike in 1918 marked the inter-war period, but in 1937 employers and the largest trade union concluded a formal agreement to settle disputes peacefully, which governs workplace relations to the present day. During World War II, Switzerland came under heavy pressure from the fascist powers, which after the fall of France in 1940 completely surrounded the country. Some political and economic leaders displayed a mood of appeasement, but a combination of tactical accommodation and demonstrative readiness to defend the country helped Switzerland survive unscathed.

The Cold War enhanced the role of neutral Switzerland and offered the country a way out of its diplomatic isolation after World War II. Economically, Switzerland integrated itself into the American-led Western postwar order, but it remained reluctant to enter supranational bodies. Switzerland did not join the United Nations, even though Geneva became host to the UN’s European headquarters, and the country played an active role in many of the UN’s specialized agencies. Switzerland also remained aloof in the face of European integration efforts, waiting until 1963 to join the Council of Europe. It still remains outside the European Union. Instead, Switzerland in 1960 helped form the European Free Trade Area, which did not strive for political union. Following the Cold War, Switzerland joined the Bretton Woods institutions in 1992 and finally became a member of the United Nations in 2002.

GOVERNMENT

Switzerland is a federal state composed of 26 cantons (20 are “full” cantons and six “half” cantons for purposes of representation in the federal legislature) that retain attributes of sovereignty, such as fiscal autonomy and the right to manage internal cantonal affairs. Under the 2000 Constitution, cantons hold all powers not specifically delegated to the federation. Switzerland’s federal institutions are:

  • A bicameral legislature—the Federal Assembly;
  • A collegial executive of seven members—the Federal Council; and
  • A judiciary consisting of a regular court in Lausanne—the Federal Tribunal—and special military and administrative courts. The Federal Insurance Tribunal is an independent division of the Federal Tribunal that handles social security questions; its seat is in Lucerne. The Federal Criminal Court, located in Bellinzona, is the court of first instance for all criminal cases under federal jurisdiction.

The Constitution provides for separation of the three branches of government. The Federal Assembly is the primary seat of power, although in practice the executive branch has been increasing its power at the expense of the legislative branch. The Federal Assembly has two houses—the Council of States and the National Council. These two houses have equal powers in all respects, including the right to introduce legislation. Legislation cannot be vetoed by the executive nor reviewed for constitutionality by the judiciary, but all laws (except the budget) can be reviewed by popular referendum before taking effect. The 46 members of the Council of States (two from each canton and one from each half canton) are directly elected in each canton by majority voting. The 200 members of the National Council are directly elected in each canton under a system of proportional representation. Members of both houses serve for 4 years.

The Federal Assembly meets quarterly for 3-week plenary sessions. The parliamentary committees of the two houses, which are often key in shaping legislation, meet behind closed doors, but both majority and minority positions are presented during the plenary sessions. The Federal Assembly is a militia parliament, and members commonly retain their traditional professions. Individual members of parliament have no personal staff.

The Assembly can be legally dissolved only after the adoption of a popular initiative calling for a complete revision of the Constitution. All citizens 18 or older have the right to vote and run for office in national, cantonal, and communal elections unless individually disqualified by the relevant legislature.

A strong emphasis on ballot votes arises out of the traditional Swiss belief that the will of the people is the final national authority. Every constitutional amendment adopted by parliament is automatically brought to the ballot and has to carry a double majority of votes and states in order to become effective. The voters themselves may actively seek changes to the Constitution by means of the popular initiative: 100,000 voters may with their signatures request a national vote on a proposed constitutional amendment. New federal legislation also is subject to popular review, under the so-called referendum: 50,000 signatures suffice to call a ballot vote on any federal law adopted by parliament. The Assembly can declare an act to be too urgent to allow time for popular consideration, but this is rare. At any rate, an act passed urgently must have a time limit and is later subject to the same constitutional provisions on popular review as other legislation.

The top executive body is the seven-member cabinet called the Federal Council. The Federal Assembly individually elects the seven Federal Councilors in a joint session of both houses at the opening of a new legislature. Federal Councilors are elected for 4-year terms; there are no term limits and no provision to recall the cabinet or individual members during the legislature. Each year, the Federal Assembly elects from among the seven Federal Councilors a president and vice president, following the principle of seniority. The member who is vice president one year traditionally is elected president the next. Although the Constitution provides that the Federal Assembly chooses and supervises the cabinet, the latter has gradually assumed a preeminent role in directing the legislative process as well as executing federal laws.

Under an arrangement between the four major parties called the “magic formula” which was introduced in 1959 but ended in December 2003, two Federal Councilors (ministers) were elected each from the Christian Democrats, the Social Democrats, and the Free Democrats and one from the Swiss People’s Party. Under the new magic formula starting January 1, 2004, the new party composition of the cabinet changed to the following composition: 1 Christian Democrat, 2 Social Democrats, 2 Free Democrats, and 2 representatives of the Swiss People’s Party.

The Constitution requires that Federal Councilors act collectively in all matters, not as individual ministers or as representatives of their parties. Each Councilor heads one of seven federal departments and is responsible for preparing legislation pertaining to matters under its jurisdiction. The president, who remains responsible for the department he heads, has limited prerogatives and is first among equals (there is no formal prime minister).

The administration of justice is primarily a cantonal function. The Federal Tribunal is limited in its jurisdiction. Its principal function is to hear appeals of civil and criminal cases. It also hears complaints of violations of the constitutional rights of citizens and has authority to review cantonal court decisions involving federal law as well as certain administrative rulings of federal departments. However, it has no power to review federal legislation for constitutionality. The Tribunal’s 30 full-time and 30 part-time judges are elected by the Federal Assembly for 6-year terms. The Federal Criminal Court is the court of first instance for criminal cases involving organized and white-collar crime, money laundering, and corruption, which are under federal jurisdiction. The Court’s 11 judges are elected by the Federal Assembly for 6-year terms.

The cantons regulate local government. The basic unit of local government, which administers a village, town, or city, is the commune or municipality. Citizenship is derived from membership in a commune and can be conferred on non-Swiss by a commune. Cantons are subordinate to federal authority but keep autonomy in implementing federal law.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 1/4/2007

President: Micheline CALMY-REY

Vice President: Pascal COUCHEPIN

Chief, Federal Dept. of Defense, Civil Protection, & Sports: Samuel SCHMID

Chief, Federal Dept. of Economic Affairs: Doris LEUTHARD

Chief, Federal Dept. of Finance: Hans-Rudolf MERZ

Chief, Federal Dept. of Foreign Affairs: Micheline CALMY-REY

Chief, Federal Dept. of Home Affairs: Pascal COUCHEPIN

Chief, Federal Dept. of Justice & Police: Christoph BLOCHER

Chief, Federal Dept. of Transportation, Communications, & Energy: Moritz LEUENBERGER

Federal Chancellor: Annemarie HUBER-HOTZ

Chmn., Swiss National Bank: Jean-Pierre ROTH

Ambassador to the US: Urs ZISWILER

Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Peter MAURER

Switzerland maintains an embassy in the United States at 2900 Cathedral Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008. Consulates General are in Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco. Swiss national tourist offices are in Chicago, New York, and San Francisco.

POLITICAL CONDITIONS

Although it has a diverse society, Switzerland has a stable government. Most voters support the government in the armed neutrality underlying its foreign and defense policies. Domestic policy poses no major problems, but the changing international environment has generated a significant reexamination of Swiss policy in key areas such as defense, neutrality, and immigration. Quadrennial national elections typically produce only marginal changes in party representation.

In recent years, Switzerland has seen a gradual shift in the party landscape. The rightist Swiss People’s Party (SVP), traditionally the junior partner in the four-party coalition government, more than doubled its voting share from 11% in 1987 to 22.5% in 1999, and finally to 26.6% in 2003, thus overtaking its three coalition partners. This shift in voting shares ended the 44-year old “magic formula,” the power-broking agreement of the four coalition parties, and gave a second seat in the 7-person Swiss cabinet to the Swiss People’s Party at the expense of the Christian Democrats, now the weakest party with 14.4% of the votes. For the first time in Swiss history, the SVP has two seats in the government, reflecting its new status as Switzerland’s most popular party.

On December 10, 2003, Christoph Blocher—a self-made industrialist and main figure of the right-populist Swiss People’s Party known for his strong opinions on asylum and migration and law and order issues—was elected to the cabinet by parliament, replacing the incumbent Christian Democrat Justice and Police Minister Ruth Metzler. The parliament also elected the Free Democrat Hans-Rudolf Merz to replace retiring Finance Minister Kaspar Villiger. Both Blocher and Merz are strong advocates of drastic public spending cuts in order to reduce the country’s mounting $102 billion francs state deficit and are staunch opponents to Switzerland’s entering the European Union. On June 14, 2006, the Federal Council elected Doris Leuthard of the Christian Democratic Party. Leuthard replaced the retiring Joseph Deiss and has assumed the Economics and Trade portfolio that Deiss managed. Leuthard’s election and Deiss’ resignation do not change the dynamics of the Federal Council. The current makeup of the government remains fiscally conservative and against further integration with the European Union.

The Constitution limits federal influence in the formulation of domestic policy and emphasizes the roles of private enterprise and cantonal government. However, the Confederation has been compelled to enlarge its policymaking powers in recent years to cope with national problems such as education, agriculture, energy, environment, organized crime, and narcotics.

ECONOMY

Despite a dearth of natural resources, the Swiss economy is among the world’s most advanced and prosperous. Per capita income is virtually the highest in the world, as are wages. Trade has been the key to prosperity in Switzerland. The country is dependent upon export markets to generate income while dependent upon imports for raw materials and to expand the range of goods and services available in the country. Switzerland has liberal investment and trade policies, notwithstanding agriculture, and a conservative fiscal policy. The Swiss legal system is highly developed, commercial law is well defined, and solid laws and policies protect investments. The Swiss franc is one of the world’s soundest currencies, and the country is known for its high standard of banking and financial services. Switzerland is a member of a number of international economic organizations, including the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Being a nation that depends upon exports for economic growth, and due to the fact that it is so closely linked to the economies of Western Europe and the United States, Switzerland has not been able to escape recent slowdowns experienced in these countries. During most of the 1990s, the Swiss economy was Western Europe’s weakest, with annual GDP growth averaging 0% between 1991 and 1997. Beginning in late 1997, the economy steadily gained momentum until peaking in 2000 with 3% growth in real terms. The economy returned to lackluster growth during 2001-2003, but has been growing at or above potential since 2004—2.5% per annum. The Swiss Economic Ministry reports that strong global demand, particularly in the U.S. and Asia, and better Euro zone growth has helped Switzerland’s economic recovery. Long-run economic growth, however, is predicated on structural reforms. In order to maximize its economic potential, Switzerland will need to push through difficult agrarian and competition policy reforms. These are essential if the government is to reduce its budget deficits and meet its 3% growth target.

In 2005, the dollar/Swiss franc exchange rate continued to be shaped by geopolitical tensions. The dollar depreciated further against the Swiss franc from SF 1.49 in October 2002 to SF 1.31 in 2003, to 1.28 in 2005, and to 1.23 in July 2006. The strengthening of the Euro, however, helped Switzerland to minimize the pressure from a weakening dollar. The Swiss National Bank raised interest rates on June 15, 2006 to 1.5%, the third increase since January 2006. The Swiss National Bank also said it expected economic growth to be a robust 2.5% in 2006 and 2007.

The number of bankruptcies in Switzerland during 2005 reached new heights—10,800, up 3% from 2004. Bankruptcies have been on the rise for the past four years, but associated financial losses actually fell 5.2%. Five cantons recorded an increase in bankruptcies, with Bern, Thurgau, and Vaud being hardest hit. The Federal Statistics Office’s analysis suggests that the increase in bankruptcies is due in part to restructuring and believes the numbers will continue to increase.

The recent economic upswing has had a small impact on the labor market. Unemployment decreased from 4.1% in December 2003 to 3.6% in July 2006. Swiss in the 15-25 age bracket continue to fight unemployment numbers with a rate of 5.4%, and hotel and restaurant industry workers with 10.4%. One-fourth of the country’s full-time workers are unionized. In general, labor/management relations are good, mostly characterized by a willingness on both sides to settle disputes by negotiations rather than by labor action. About 600 collective bargaining agreements exist today in Switzerland and are regularly renewed without major problems. However, the mood is changing. The massive layoffs that resulted from both the global economic slowdown and major management scandals have strained the traditional Swiss “labor peace.” Swiss trade unions encouraged strikes against several companies, including the national airline SWISS, Coca-Cola, and Orange (the French telecom operator), but total days lost to strikes remain among the lowest in the OECD. Uncertainties concerning under-funded pension funds, and the prospect of a potential hike in the retirement age have stirred further street protests.

Switzerland’s machinery, metals, electronics, and chemicals sectors are world-renowned for precision and quality. Together they account for well over half of Swiss export revenues. In agriculture, Switzerland is about 60% self-sufficient. Only 7.5% of the remaining imports originated from the U.S. Swiss farmers are one of the most highly protected and subsidized producer group in the world. OECD estimates show that Switzerland is subsidizing more than 70% of its agriculture, compared to 35% in the EU. According to the draft “2011 Agricultural Program”, Switzerland intends to reduce its subsidies by SF 638 million to SF 13.4 billion (U.S. $10.5 billion) beginning in 2008.

Tourism, banking, engineering, and insurance are significant sectors of the economy and heavily influence the country’s economic policies. Swiss trading companies have unique marketing expertise in many parts of the world, including Eastern Europe, the Far East, Africa, and the Middle East. Not only does Switzerland have a highly developed tourism infrastructure (making it a good market for tourism-related equipment and services), the Swiss also are intrepid travelers. Per capita, more Swiss visit the United States every year than from any other country. Tourism is the most important U.S. export to Switzerland (earning almost $1.5 billion). In 2004, more than 285,000 Swiss came to the United States as tourists.

The Swiss economy earns roughly half of its corporate earnings from the export industry, and 62% of Swiss exports are destined for the EU market. The EU is Switzerland’s largest trading partner, and economic and trade barriers between them are minimal. In the wake of the Swiss voters’ rejection of the European Economic Area Agreement in 1992, the Swiss Government set its sights on negotiating bilateral sectoral agreements with the EU. After more than 4 years of negotiations, an agreement covering seven sectors (research, public procurement, technical barriers to trade, agriculture, civil aviation, land transport, and the free movement of persons) was achieved at the end of 1998. Parliament officially endorsed the so-called “Bilaterals I” in 1999, and the Swiss people approved them in a referendum in May 2000. The agreements, which had to be ratified by the European Parliament as well as legislatures in all 15 EU member states, entered into force on June 1, 2002. Switzerland has so far attempted to mitigate possible adverse effects of nonmembership by conforming many of its regulations, standards, and practices to EU directives and norms. Full access to the Swiss market for the original 15 EU member states entered into force in June 2004, ending as a result the “national preference.” The Swiss agreed to extend these preferences to the 10 new EU members on September 25, 2005.

The Swiss Government embarked in July 2001 on a second round of bilateral negotiations with the EU known as “Bilaterals II.” Talks focused on customs fraud, environment, statistics, trade in processed agricultural goods, media, the taxation of savings, and police/judicial cooperation (dubbed the Schengen-Dublin accords). Amid a fierce political debate over the essence of Swiss-EU relations and populist warnings against EU workers and criminals entering Switzerland, the Schengen-Dublin package was approved on June 5, 2005 by a referendum of 54.6%. Fears of cheap labor coming from new EU member states have prompted the government to provide for tripartite surveillance committees to ensure that decent wages are enforced.

As part of the bilateral agreement on the taxation of savings signed in June 2003, Swiss banks will levy a withholding tax on EU citizens’ savings income. The tax, which started on July 1, 2005, will increase gradually to 35% by 2011, with 75% of the funds being transferred to the EU.

The Swiss federal government remains deeply divided over EU membership as its long-term goal, and in a March 2001 referendum more than 70% of the voters rejected rapid steps toward EU membership. The issue of EU membership is, therefore, likely to be shelved for several years, if not a decade. In May 2005, the government said it could sign a framework agreement with the European Union, as an alternative to joining the organization, to encourage dialogue and create a platform for closer cooperation. But in parallel, the cabinet reaffirmed its wish to strengthen ties with other non-EU trading partners in Asia and America. Exploratory talks on a Free Trade Agreement between the U.S. and Switzerland failed to result in negotiations, due to Swiss problems with free trade in agriculture, but the two sides did agree to a new framework for economic, trade, and investment discussions. This new agreement is the Swiss-U.S. Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum (the “Forum”) and is currently assessing areas where the two governments could facilitate greater trade and investment flows.

Switzerland ranks 17th among the main trading partners of the U.S. worldwide. The United States is the second-largest importer (11.5%) of Swiss goods after Germany (20%). The U.S. exports more to Switzerland each year than to all the countries of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe combined, and Switzerland imports more U.S. products and services than does Spain. In addition, the United States is the largest foreign investor in Switzerland, and conversely, the primary destination of Swiss foreign investment. It is estimated that 200,000 American jobs depend on Swiss foreign investments. Total U.S.-Swiss bilateral trade increased from $15.33 billion during 2003 to $16 billion in 2004.

DEFENSE

On May 18, 2003, Swiss voters approved the military reform project “Army XXI” that will drastically reduce the size of the Swiss Army. In January 2004, the 524,000-strong militia started paring down to 220,000 conscripts, including 80,000 reservists. The defense budget of currently SF 4.3 billion ($3.1 billion) will be trimmed by SF 300 million, and some 2,000 jobs are expected to be shed between 2004 and 2011. The mandatory time of service will be curtailed from 300 to 260 days. All able-bodied Swiss males aged 20 to 30 must serve. Thereafter, most personnel are assigned to civil protection duties until the age of 37.

A new category of soldiers called “single-term conscripts” will discharge the total time of service of about 300 days of active duty in one go. Recruiting is on a voluntary basis and should not exceed 20% of a year’s draft. The armed forces have a small nucleus of about 3,600 professional staff, half of whom are either instructors or staff officers, with the remainder mostly being fortification guards. The army has virtually no full-time active combat units but is capable of full mobilization within 72 hours. Women may volunteer to serve in the armed forces and may now join all units, including combat troops. About 2,000 women already serve in the army but, so far, have not been allowed to use weapons for purposes other than self-defense.

The armed forces are organized in four army corps and an air force and are equipped with modern, sophisticated, and well-maintained gear. In 1993, the Swiss Government procured 34 FA-18s from the United States.

FOREIGN RELATIONS

On September 10, 2002, Switzerland became a full member of the United Nations. Switzerland had previously been involved as party to the Statute of the International Court of Justice and member of most UN specialized agencies, as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency. Switzerland has long participated in many UN activities, including the Economic Commission for Europe, UN Environment Program, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UN Conference for Trade and Development, UN Industrial Development Organization, and the Universal Postal Union (UPU). Prior to its formal accession, Switzerland had maintained a permanent observer mission at UN Headquarters since 1948.

Switzerland also is a member of the following international organizations: World Trade Organization, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, European Free Trade Association, Bank for International Settlements, Council of Europe, and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). In 1992, Swiss voters approved membership in the Bretton Woods organizations but later that year rejected the European Economic Area agreement, which the government viewed as a first step toward EU membership.

The Swiss Constitution declares the preservation of Switzerland’s independence and welfare as the supreme objective of Swiss foreign policy. Below this overarching goal, the Constitution sets five specific foreign policy objectives: further the peaceful coexistence of nations; promote respect for human rights, democracy, and the rule of the law; promote Swiss economic interests abroad, alleviate need and poverty in the world; and the preservation of natural resources.

Traditionally, Switzerland has avoided alliances that might entail military, political, or direct economic action, but in recent years the Swiss have broadened the scope of activities in which they feel able to participate without compromising their neutrality. Swiss voters first rejected UN membership by a 3-to-1 margin in 1986 but in March 2002 adopted it, albeit in a very close election, making Switzerland the first country to join the UN based on a popular referendum decision. In similar fashion, the electorate rejected a government proposition to deploy Swiss troops as UN peacekeepers (Blue Helmets) in 1994, but Switzerland joined NATO’s Partnership for Peace and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council in 1996 and 1997, respectively, and deployed Yellow Berets to support the OSCE in Bosnia. In June 2001, Swiss voters approved new legislation providing for the deployment of armed Swiss troops for international peacekeeping missions under UN or OSCE auspices as well as closer international cooperation in military training.

Switzerland maintains diplomatic relations with almost all countries and historically has served as a neutral intermediary and host to major international treaty conferences. The country has no major dispute in its bilateral relations. Since 1980, Switzerland has represented U.S. interests in Iran. Switzerland played a key role in brokering a truce agreement between the Sudanese Government and Sudan’s Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) for the Nuba Mountain region, signed after a week’s negotiations taking place near Lucerne in January 2002.

The Swiss feel a moral obligation to undertake social, economic, and humanitarian activities that contribute to world peace and prosperity. This is manifested by Swiss bilateral and multilateral diplomatic activity, assistance to developing countries, and support for the extension of international law, particularly humanitarian law. Switzerland (mainly Geneva) is home to many international governmental and nongovernmental organizations, including the International Committee of the Red Cross (whose flag is essentially the Swiss flag with colors reversed—the Red Cross historically being a Swiss organization). One of the first international organizations, the Universal Postal Union, is located in Bern.

The Swiss Government on June 25, 2003, eased most of the sanctions against the Republic of Iraq in accord with UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1483. The government lifted the trade embargo, flight restrictions, and financial sanctions in place since August 1990. The weapons embargo and the asset freeze, the scope of which was extended, remain in force, and restrictions on the trade in Iraqi cultural goods were newly imposed. Though not a member at the time, Switzerland had joined UN sanctions against Iraq after the invasion of Kuwait. Switzerland in recent years joined UN and EU economic sanctions imposed on Sierra Leone, UNITA (Angola), Liberia, Serbia and Montenegro, Burma, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Cote d’Ivoire. On October 15, 2003, the Federal Council ended the import restrictions on raw diamonds from Sierra Leone and lifted sanctions against Libya.

Switzerland in October 2000 implemented an ordinance to enforce UN sanctions against the Taliban (UNSCR 1267), which it subsequently amended in April 2001 in accord with tighter UN regulations (UNSCR 1333). On May 2, 2002, the Swiss Government eased the sanctions regime in accord with UNSCR 1388 and 1390, lifting the ban on the sale of acetic acid (used in drug production), Afghani Airlines, and Afghani diplomatic representations. The weapons embargo, travel restrictions, and financial sanctions remain in force. The Swiss Government in November 2001 issued an ordinance declaring illegal the terrorist organization al Qaeda as well as possible successor or supporting organizations. More than 200 individuals or companies linked to international terrorism have been blacklisted to have their assets frozen. Thus far, Swiss authorities have blocked about 72 accounts totaling 34 million francs.

Switzerland has furnished military observers and medical teams to several UN operations. Switzerland is an active participant in the OSCE, its foreign minister serving as Chairman-in-Office for 1996. Switzerland also is an active participant in the major nonproliferation and export control regimes. Under a series of treaties concluded after World War I, Switzerland assumed responsibility for the diplomatic and consular representation of Liechtenstein, the protection of its borders, and the regulation of its customs.

U.S.-SWISS RELATIONS

Switzerland is a democratic country subscribing to most of the ideals with which the United States is identified. The country is politically stable with a fundamentally strong economy. It occupies an important strategic position within Europe and possesses a strong military capability. It has played an increasingly important role in supporting the spread of democratic institutions and values worldwide, as well as providing humanitarian relief and economic development assistance. U.S. policy toward Switzerland takes these factors into account and endeavors to cooperate with Switzerland to the extent consistent with Swiss neutrality. The first 4 years of cooperation under the U.S.-Swiss Joint Economic Commission (JEC) invigorated bilateral ties by recording achievements in a number of areas, including consultations on anti-money laundering efforts, counter-terrorism, and pharmaceutical regulatory cooperation; an e-government conference; and the re-establishment of the Fulbright student/cultural exchange program. The United States and Switzerland signed three new agreements in 2006 that will complement the JEC and will deepen our cooperation and improve our relationship. The first of the new agreements is the Enhanced Political Framework and was signed by Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns and Swiss State Secretary Michael Ambühl. The second agreement is the Trade and Investment Cooperation Forum and was signed by then-U.S. Trade Representative Robert Portman and then-Economics and Trade Minister Joseph Deiss. The last agreement is the revised Operative Working Agreement on Law Enforcement Cooperation on Counterterrorism and was signed by U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez and Swiss Justice Minister Christoph Blocher. The first official U.S.-Swiss consular relations were established in the late 1820s. Diplomatic relations were established in 1853. The U.S. ambassador to Switzerland also is accredited to the Principality of Liechtenstein.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

BERN (E) Address: Jubilaeumsstr. 93, 3005 Bern; APO/FPO: No APO; Phone: 41-31-357-7011; Fax: 41–31– 357-7344; Workweek: Mon.–Fri., 8:30–5:30; Website: http://www.usembassy.ch.

AMB:Peter R. Coneway
AMB OMS:Emily Wittbrodt
DCM:Carol Urban
DCM OMS:Kathryn Chelsen
CG:Doria Rosen
POL/ECO:Stanley Otto
MGT:Stephen Dodson
CLO:Kate Griffin
CUS:David Marwell
DAO:Dorothea Cypher-Erickson
DEA:Joe Kipp
FCS:Julie Snyder
GSO:John Schuch
IPO:Stephen McCain
IRS:Kathy Beck (Paris)
ISO:Novaro Casci
ISSO:Leo Ruiz
LEGATT:Daniel Boyd
PAO:Daniel Wendell
RSO:Kerry Crockett
State ICASS:William Duff

Last Updated: 1/26/2007

GENEVA (M) Address: 11 Rte de Pregny, 1292 Chambesy, Geneva, Switzerland; Phone: 41-22-749-4111; Fax: 41-22-749-4892; INMARSAT Tel: 764114496/9; Workweek: M-F 8:30-5:30; Website: usmission.ch.

AMB:Warren W. Tichenor
AMB OMS:Abigail Erickson
DCM:Judith Chammas
DCM OMS:Nancy Doe
POL:Velia M. DePirro
MGT:Robert T. Yamate
AID:Nance Kyloh (RMA)
CLO:Silje Grimstad
ECO:Lisa Carle
EST:Chuck Ashley
FMO:Thomas Lyman
GSO:Gerald Hanisch
HHS:David E. Hohman
ICASS Chair:Brooks Robinson
IMO:Loren (Fred) File
IPO:Janice Metzger
IRS:Kathy J. Beck
ISO:Don Greer
ISSO:Jose Rivera
LAB:John Chamberlin
LEGATT:Jeffrey D. Kovar
PAO:Brooks Robinson
RSO:Mark G. Bandik
State ICASS:Chuck Ashley

Last Updated: 1/25/2007

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet : February 7, 2007

Country Description: Switzerland is a highly developed democracy. Liechtenstein is a democratically run constitutional monarchy.

Exit/Entry Requirements: A passport is required for travel to both Switzerland and Liechtenstein. A visa is not required for stays up to 90 days in either country. For more information on entry requirements for both countries, travelers may contact the Embassy of Switzerland at 2900 Cathedral Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 745-7900, or the nearest Swiss Consulate General in Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, or San Francisco. Visit the Embassy of Switzerland’s website at http://www.swissemb.org for the most current visa information.

Safety and Security: Although there have been no recent terrorist attacks in Switzerland, violence by anti-globalization, anti-Semitic, and anti-establishment (anarchist) groups occurs from time to time. This violence is typically in the form of property damage and clashes between these groups and the police. The potential for specific threats of violence involving American citizens in Switzerland is remote. The Consular Agencies in Zurich and Geneva may close periodically to assess their security situation.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s Internet website where the current Travel Warnings and Public Announcements, including the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

Crime: Switzerland has a low rate of violent crime. However, pick-pocketing and purse snatching does occur in the vicinity of train and bus stations, airports, and some public parks, especially during peak tourist periods (such as Summer and Christmas) and when conferences, shows, or exhibits are scheduled in major cities. Liechtenstein has a low crime rate. Travelers may wish to exercise caution on trains, especially on overnight trains to neighboring countries. Thieves, who steal from passengers while they sleep, can enter even locked sleeping compartments.

Information for Victims of Crime: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends, and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Switzerland, through the 26 cantons, has programs to assist victims of crime and their immediate relatives. Medical, psychological, social, financial, and legal assistance are available throughout the country. This program also protects the rights of the victim during the criminal proceedings. The victim may receive compensation for some damages, if requested during the criminal procedure. Information is available at the Swiss Department of Justice located on Bundesrain 20, 3003 Bern, telephone: 41-31-322-4750, as well as on the Internet at http://www.bj.admin.ch/bj/en/home.html.

Medical Facilities and Health Information: Good medical care is widely available. Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.nt/ith.

Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Switzerland is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance. Although many roads are mountainous and winding, road safety standards are high. In some mountain areas, vehicle snow chains are required in winter. Road travel can be more dangerous during summer, winter holidays, the Easter break, and Whitsunday weekend (late spring) because of increased traffic. Travel on expressways (indicated by green signs with a white expressway symbol) requires purchase of a sticker or “vignette,” which must be affixed to the car’s windshield. Vignettes can be purchased a most border crossings points, gas stations and at Swiss post offices. Drivers using the highway system without a vignette are subject to hefty fines levied on the spot. Public transportation in Switzerland and Liechtenstein is excellent. Visit the website of Switzerland’s national tourist office at http://www.myswitzerland.com/en.cfm/home.

Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Switzerland’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Switzerland’s air carrier operations. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s website at http://www.faa.gov.

Special Circumstances: Costs of search and rescue operations are the responsibility of the victim, thus, travelers who plan to participate in mountain activities (summer and winter) are strongly encouraged to buy mountain search and rescue insurance. Search and rescue insurances is available inexpensively in Switzerland and may be purchased at many Swiss post offices. Information can be obtained form the Swiss National Tourist Office, at http://www.myswitzerland.com, at most tourists information offices or with the Swiss Air Rescue Organization at http://www.rega.ch. Such insurance has proved useful as uninsured rescues can easily cost $25,000.

Switzerland’s customs authorities encourage the use of an ATA (Admission Temporaire/Admission) Carnet for the temporary admission of professional equipment, commercial samples, and/or goods for exhibitions and fair purposes. ATA Carnet Headquarters located at the U.S. Council for International Business, 1212 Avenue of the Americas, New York, N.Y. 10036, and issues and guarantees the ATA Carnet in the United States. For additional information call (212) 354-4480, send an email to [email protected] uscib.org, or visit http://www.uscib.org for details.

Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country’s laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Switzerland’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Switzerland are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Children’s Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children’s Issues website at http://travel.state.gov/family.

Registration/Embassy Locations: Americans living or traveling in Switzerland are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy in Bern, with the Consular Agencies in Geneva or Zurich or through the State Depart-ment’s travel registration website, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy, Consulate, or Consular Agent to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at Jubilaeumstrasse 93, 3005 Bern; Tel. (41)(31) 357-7011, fax (41)(31) 357-7280. The Embassy’s after hour’s emergency telephone number is (41) (79) 354-7248. If the Duty Officer cannot be reached, please call Marine Post One at (41) (31) 357-7777.

The Embassy’s email address is [email protected] The U.S. Embassy website at http://bern.usembassy.gov answers many questions of interest to Americans visiting and residing in Switzerland.

The U.S. Consular Agency in Zurich is located at the American Center of Zurich, Dufourstrasse 101, 8008 Zurich; Tel: (41)(43) 499-2960, Fax: (41)(43) 499-2961.

The U.S. Consular Agency in Geneva is located at rue Versonnex 7, CH-1207 Geneva, Tel: 022-840-51 60 Fax: 022-840-51 62.

There is no U.S. Embassy or Consulate in Liechtenstein. For assistance and information on travel and security in Liechtenstein, U.S. may contact or register at the U.S. Embassy in Bern at the address above.

International Adoption : February 2007

The information below has been edited from a report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Adoption section of this book and review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family.

Disclaimer: The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is based on public sources and current understanding. Questions involving foreign and U.S. immigration laws and legal interpretation should be addressed respectively to qualified foreign or U.S. legal counsel.

Availability of Children for Adoption: Switzerland is not considered a source country for parents seeking orphaned children to adopt, so there are very few Swiss children available for adoption. In the past ten years, the U.S. Embassy in Bern has not issued immigrant visas to Swiss orphans or for children adopted from other countries.

Swiss Adoption Authorities: Prospective U.S. citizen adoptive parents resident in Switzerland should contact the Cantonal Central Authority (CCA) in the canton where they are domiciled. The CCA can provide complete information on adoption law, policy and procedures. Please review current reports online at travel.state.gov/family for a list of agencies.

Age and Civil Status Requirements: Parents wishing to adopt a child in Switzerland must be at least 16 years older than the child they plan to adopt. Married couples wishing to adopt must both be at least 35 years old or married for 5 years and in most circumstances must jointly adopt the child. Single persons may adopt if they are at least 35 years old. If a parent wishes to adopt the child of a spouse, the couple must have been married for at least 5 years.

Adoption Agencies and Attornies: A complete list of adoption agencies approved by the cantons is available at www.ofj.admin.ch/e/index.html. Prospective adoptive parents should verify that the adoption agency with which they work has been approved by the Office of Child Protection in the Swiss Federal Office of Justice (www.bj.admin.ch).

The U.S. Embassy in Bern maintains a list of local English-speaking attorneys, some of whom practice family law. Visit the Embassy’s website at www.usembassy.ch.

Documentary Requirements: The applicable law and procedures for U.S. citizens domiciled in Switzerland therefore depends on the country of origin of the child to be adopted

Child’s Origin in a Contracting State of the Hague Adoption Convention: The prospective adopting persons should contact the CCA of the canton in which they are domiciled. The CAA will advise them about adoption law and procedures as well as documentary requirements such as immigration papers, social and medical reports which are necessary to adopt a child from a Hague Convention Country.

Child’s Origin in a Non-Contracting State of the Hague Adoption Convention: The prospective adopting persons must work with the local CCA to obtain permission to bring the child to Switzerland in advance of a planned adoption. The CCA can also provide information on adoption law and procedures as well as documentary requirements such as immigration papers, social and medical reports.

After a child to be adopted arrives in Switzerland, there is a probationary period of at least one year during which the child will be under the supervision of the local guardianship authority. At the end of this period the guardianship authority will order a home study. The adoption will then be finalized unless it has been established that adoption would be against the child’s interest and well-being. There is no probationary period or supervision if the adoption has already been finalized outside Switzerland and at least one of the adopting parents shares the nationality of the child’s country of origin.

Precise documentary requirements vary depending on the requirements of the child’s country of origin and whether the Hague Convention on intercountry adoption is applicable. For detailed information please contact the CAA or a specialized adoption agency.

Embassy and Consulate in the United States: Switzerland has Consulates in Atlanta, GA; Chicago, IL; Houston, TX; Los Angeles, CA; New York, NY; and San Francisco, CA; as well as an Embassy in Washington, DC which maintains a Web site at www.swissemb.org.

U.S. Immigration Requirements: U.S. citizen adoptive parents who wish to bring their child to the United States for permanent residence should contact the U.S. Embassy in Bern to discuss their options. General information about immigration requirements for adopted children can be found on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service website at uscis.gov.

Embassy of the United States of America:
93 Jubilaeumstrasse
3005 Bern
Switzerland
Telephone no. (41)(31) 357-7011

Additional Information: Prospective adoptive parents are strongly encouraged to consult USCIS publication M-249, The Immigration of Adopted and Prospective Adoptive Children, as well as the Department of State publication, International Adoptions. Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family.

Questions: Specific questions regarding adoption in Switzerland may be addressed to the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services or the Immigrant Visa Unit at the U.S. Embassy in Switzerland. Parents may also contact the Office of Children’s Issues, U.S. Department of State, CA/OCS/CI, 2201 C Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20520-4818, toll-free Tel: 1-888-407-4747 with specific questions.

International Parental Child Abduction : February 2007

The information below has been edited from the report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Child Abduction section of this book and review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov.

Disclaimer: The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is provided for general information only. Questions involving interpretation of specific foreign laws should be addressed to foreign legal counsel.

The Swiss Central Authority of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction has informed the Department of State of the following general information concerning the operation of the Convention in Switzerland.

Judicial Procedure: Upon receipt of a Hague application, the Swiss Central Authority usually tries to get in touch with the abducting parent in order to find out if a mediated solution can be achieved. If this is not the case, or if the applicant requests to commence the judicial procedure immediately in view of obtaining a court order under the Hague Convention, the applicant is sent a list of attorneys from the respective canton who are willing to take Hague cases. The applicant can also let the Central Authority choose the attorney for him/her. It is up to the attorney to commence the judicial procedure, to file the application of legal aid (if applicable) and to take the necessary steps in view of obtaining an enforcement of the final judgment.

Switzerland has no unified civil procedure law and no uniform court system, and the designation of the courts, rules of procedure and conditions for appeals vary considerably. A judgment rendered by the court of first instance (often called the District Court) can normally be reviewed by the court of second instance (called Superior Court, Court of Appeals, etc.). Finally, it is possible to file a further appeal with the Federal (Supreme) Court in Lausanne, Switzerland’s highest judicial authority. No writ of certiorari must be obtained in order to get access to the Federal Court, but the complaints that can be raised in this stage of the lawsuit are normally limited to the violation of constitutional rights (including a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights). A final decision should usually not be expected in less than six months.

Attorneys: The applicant can choose an attorney from a list that will be provided by the Swiss Central Attorney, or he/she can let the Central Authority choose the attorney for him/her. There is a large number of attorneys who speak and write English fluently. The attorney must be paid only if the applicant is not entitled to legal aid. The attorney fees are ruled by cantonal law and differ widely. The fee normally can be negotiated between attorney and client, but no contingent fee is allowed.

Legal Aid: Switzerland has established a system of legal aid that is governed (in accordance with Article 42 of the Hague Convention) by cantonal law, although a minimal standard and guidelines are set by the case law of the Federal Court. Pursuant to this case law, an applicant is entitled to legal aid if he or she is indigent (unable to pay a living for him/herself and his/her family in addition to the legal fees) and if the chances of winning the case are greater than the chances of losing it. Legal aid covers both the court costs (which are considerably higher than those in the U.S.) as well as the attorney’s fees.

It is up to the attorney to file the request for legal aid with the court or the competent authority before commencing the Hague procedure. There are no application forms available. In general, documents indicating the monthly or annual income and expenses as well as assets and debts are required. The quicker these documents are conveyed to the attorney, the quicker a preliminary decision regarding legal aid can be obtained.

Rights of Access: The Swiss Central Authority tries to help parents exercise their rights of access pursuant to Article 21 of the Hague Convention. This obligation normally is fulfilled through intermediaries, mostly local guardianship authorities or juvenile services. This includes proceedings in view of negotiating mediated solutions and organizing locations and supervision in order to permit the meeting of a child with the parent. The Central Authority furthermore helps to find an attorney if no mediated solution can be found and a court must resolve the dispute. If the child’s habitual residence is in Switzerland, the conditions and requirements of such a decision are set forth by Swiss law. If the conditions of rights of access have already been determined in a decision rendered by a U.S. court in the habitual residence of the child, then the Swiss court organizes the protection of the rights of access pursuant to Article 21 of the Hague Convention.

Article 28 Authorization: No authorization as foreseen in Article 28 is required when the Hague application is filed with the Swiss Central Authority. A power of attorney must normally be completed, signed and sent to the attorney when the judicial procedure commences.

Translation of Documents: The Swiss Central Authority accepts all documents in English. Translation into German, French or Italian, as the language of the court might be, will be required if the document must be presented to a court, but the translation need not be sent with the Hague application.

views updated

SWITZERLAND

Compiled from the November 2004 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Swiss Confederation


PROFILE

Geography

Area: 41,285 sq. km. (15,941 sq. mi.); about the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined.

Cities: Capital—Bern (population about 123,000). Other cities—Zurich (341,000), Geneva (176,000), Basel (165,000), Lausanne (116,000).

Terrain: 60% mountains, the remainder hills and plateau. Switzerland straddles the central ranges of the Alps.

Climate: Temperate, varying with altitude and season.

People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—Swiss (singular and plural).

Population: (2002) 7.3 million.

Annual growth rate: 0.8%.

Ethnic groups: Mixed European.

Religions: Roman Catholic 42%, Protestant 33%, Muslim 4.3%, others 5.4%, no religion 11%.

Languages: German 63.7%, French 20.4%, Italian 6.5%, Romansch 0.5%, other 9.4%.

Education: Years compulsory—9. Attendance—100%. Literacy—100%.

Health: Infant mortality rate—4.8/1,000. Life expectancy—men 76.5 yrs., women 82.5 yrs.

Work force: (3.96 million) Agriculture and forestry—4.2%. Industry and business—25.6%. Services and government—70.2%.

Government

Type: Federal state.

Independence: The first Swiss Confederation was founded in August 1291 as a defensive alliance among three cantons. The Swiss Confederation established independence from the Holy Roman Empire in 1499.

Constitution: 1848; extensively amended in 1874; fully revised in 2000

Branches: Executive—Federal Council, collegium of seven members, headed by a rotating one-year presidency. Legislative—Federal Assembly (bicameral: Council of States, 46 members; National Council, 200 members). Judicial—Federal Tribunal.

Administrative subdivisions: 26 cantons (states) with considerable autonomy.

Political parties: Swiss People's Party (SVP), Social Democratic Party (SP), Free Democratic Party (FDP), Christian Democratic Party (CVP), and several smaller parties representing localities or views from extreme left to extreme right.

Suffrage: In federal matters, universal over 18.

Economy

GDP: (2002) $268 billion (417 billion Swiss francs).

Annual growth rate: (2002) 0.1% in real terms.

Per capita income: (2001) $22,898 (38,470 Swiss francs).

Avg. inflation rate: (2003) 0.6%.

Natural resources: Waterpower, timber, salt.

Agriculture: (2.26% of GDP in 1999) Products—dairy, livestock, grains, fruit and vegetables, potatoes, wine.

Arable land: (1999) 26%.

Industry: (29.9% of GDP in 1999) Types—machinery, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, time pieces, precision instruments, textiles and clothing, pigment, transportation equipment.

Services: (67.8% of GDP in 1999).

Trade: (2002) Exports—$84.1 billion (130 billion Swiss francs) machinery and electronics; chemicals and pharmaceuticals; instruments and timepieces. Major markets—Germany, United States, France, Italy, U.K., Japan. Imports—$79.4 billion (123 billion Swiss francs) machinery and electronics; chemicals; vehicles. Major suppliers—Germany, Italy, France, Netherlands, U.S., U.K., Japan.


PEOPLE

Switzerland sits at the crossroads of several major European cultures, which have heavily influenced the country's languages and cultural practices. Switzerland has four official languages—German, French, Italian, and Romansch (based on Latin and spoken by a small minority in the Canton Graubunden). The German spoken is predominantly a Swiss dialect, but newspapers and some broadcasts use High German. Many Swiss speak more than one language. English is widely known, especially among professionals.

More than 75% of the population lives in the central plain, which stretches between the Alps and the Jura Mountains and from Geneva in the southwest to the Rhine River and Lake Constance in the northeast. Resident foreigners and temporary foreign workers make up about 20% of the population.

Almost all Swiss are literate. Switzerland's 13 institutes of higher learning enrolled 99,600 students in the academic year of 2001-02. About 25% of the adult population holds a diploma of higher learning.

The Constitution guarantees freedom of worship, and the different religious communities co-exist peacefully.

Switzerland consistently ranks high on quality of life indices, including highest per capita income, one of the highest concentrations of computer and Internet usage per capita, highest insurance coverage per individual, and high health care rates. For these and many other reasons, it serves as an excellent test market for businesses hoping to introduce new products into Europe.


HISTORY

Originally inhabited by the Helvetians, or Helvetic Celts, the territory comprising modern Switzerland came under Roman rule during the Gallic wars in the 1st century BC and remained a Roman province until the 4th century AD. Under Roman influence, the population reached a high level of civilization and enjoyed a flourishing commerce. Important cities, such as Geneva, Basel, and Zurich, were linked by military roads that also served as trade arteries between Rome and the northern tribes.

After the decline of the Roman Empire, Switzerland was invaded by Germanic tribes from the north and west. Some tribes, such as the Alemanni in central and northeastern Switzerland, and the Burgundians, who ruled western Switzerland, settled there. In 800, the country became part of Charlemagne's empire. It later passed under the dominion of the Holy Roman emperors in the form of small ecclesiastic and temporal holdings subject to imperial sovereignty.

With the opening of a new important north-south trade route across the Alps in the early 13th century, the Empire's rulers began to attach more importance to the remote Swiss mountain valleys, which were granted some degree of autonomy under direct imperial rule. Fearful of the popular disturbances flaring up following the death of the Holy Roman Emperor in 1291, the ruling families from Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden signed a charter to keep public peace and pledging mutual support in upholding autonomous administrative and judicial rule. The anniversary of the charter's signature (August 1, 1291) today is celebrated as Switzerland's National Day.

Between 1315 and 1388 the Swiss Confederates inflicted three crushing defeats on the Habsburgs, whose aspiration to regional dominion clashed with Swiss self-determination. During that period, five other localities (cantons in modern-day parlance) joined the original three in the Swiss Confederation. Buoyed by their feats, the Swiss Confederates continuously expanded their borders by military means and gained formal independence from the Holy Roman Empire in 1499. Routed by the French and Venetians near Milan in 1515, they renounced expansionist policies. By then the Swiss Confederation had become a union of 13 localities with a regularly convening diet administering the subject territories. Swiss mercenaries continued for centuries to serve in other armies; the Swiss Guard of the Pope is a vestige of this tradition.

The Reformation led to a division between the Protestant followers of Zwingli and Calvin in the German and French parts of the country respectively, and the Catholics. Despite two centuries of civil strife, the common interest in the joint subject territories kept the Swiss Confederation from falling apart. The traffic in mercenaries as well as the alienation between the predominantly Protestant Swiss and their Catholic neighbors kept the Swiss Confederation out of the wars of the European powers, which formally recognized Swiss neutrality in the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. The Swiss remained neutral during the War of the First Coalition against revolutionary France, but Napoleon, nonetheless, invaded and annexed much of the country in 1797-98, replacing the loose confederation with a centrally governed unitary state.

The Congress of Vienna in 1815 reestablished the old confederation of sovereign states and enshrined Switzerland's status of permanent armed neutrality in international law. In 1848, after a brief civil war between Protestant liberals seeking a centralized national state and Catholic conservatives clinging on to the old order, the majority of Swiss Cantons opted for a Federal State, modeled in part on the U.S. Constitution. The Swiss Constitution established a range of civic liberties and made far-reaching provisions to maintain cantonal autonomy to placate the vanquished Catholic minority. The Swiss amended their Constitution extensively in 1874, establishing federal responsibility for defense, trade, and legal matters, as well as introducing direct democracy by popular referendum. To this day, cantonal autonomy and referendum democracy remain trademarks of the Swiss polity.

Switzerland industrialized rapidly during the 19th century and by 1850 had become the second most industrialized country in Europe after Great Britain. During World War I serious

tension developed between the German, French, and Italian-speaking parts of the country, and Switzerland came close to violating its neutrality but managed to stay out of hostilities. Labor unrest culminating in a general strike in 1918 marked the inter-war period, but in 1937 employers and the largest trade union concluded a formal agreement to settle disputes peacefully, which governs workplace relations to the present day. During World War II, Switzerland came under heavy pressure from the fascist powers, which after the fall of France in 1940 completely surrounded the country. Some political and economic leaders displayed a mood of appeasement, but a combination of tactical accommodation and demonstrative readiness to defend the country helped Switzerland survive unscathed.

The Cold War enhanced the role of neutral Switzerland and offered the country a way out of its diplomatic isolation after World War II. Economically, Switzerland integrated itself into the American-led Western postwar order, but it remained reluctant to enter supranational bodies. Switzerland did not join the United Nations, even though Geneva became host to the UN's European headquarters, and the country played an active role in many of the UN's specialized agencies. Switzerland also remained aloof in the face of European integration efforts, waiting until 1963 to join the Council of Europe. It still remains outside the European Union. Instead, Switzerland in 1960 helped form the European Free Trade Area, which did not strive for political union. Following the Cold War, Switzerland joined the Bretton Woods institutions in 1992 and finally became a member of the United Nations in 2002.


GOVERNMENT

Switzerland is a federal state composed of 26 cantons (20 are "full" cantons and six "half" cantons for purposes of representation in the federal legislature) that retain attributes of sovereignty, such as fiscal autonomy and the right to manage internal cantonal affairs. Under the 2000 Constitution, cantons hold all powers not specifically delegated to the federation. Switzerland's federal institutions are:

  • A bicameral legislature—the Federal Assembly;
  • A collegial executive of seven members—the Federal Council; and
  • A judiciary consisting of a single, regular court in Lausanne—the Federal Tribunal—and special military and administrative courts. The Federal Insurance Tribunal is an independent division of the Federal Tribunal that handles social security questions; its seat is in Lucerne.

The Constitution provides for separation of the three branches of government.

The Federal Assembly is the primary seat of power, although in practice the executive branch has been increasing its power at the expense of the legislative branch. The Federal Assembly has two houses—the Council of States and the National Council. These two houses have equal powers in all respects, including the right to introduce legislation. Legislation cannot be vetoed by the executive nor reviewed for constitutionality by the judiciary, but all laws (except the budget) can be reviewed by popular referendum before taking effect. The 46 members of the Council of States (two from each canton and one from each half canton) are directly elected in each canton by majority voting. The 200 members of the National Council are directly elected in each canton under a system of proportional representation. Members of both houses serve for 4 years.

The Federal Assembly meets quarterly for 3-week plenary sessions. The parliamentary committees of the two houses, which are often key in shaping legislation, meet behind closed doors, but both majority and minority positions are presented during the plenary sessions. The Federal Assembly is a militia parliament, and members commonly retain their traditional professions. Individual members of parliament have no personal staff.

The Assembly can be legally dissolved only after the adoption of a popular initiative calling for a complete revision of the Constitution. All citizens 18 or older have the right to vote and run for office in national, cantonal, and communal elections unless individually disqualified by the relevant legislature.

A strong emphasis on ballot votes arises out of the traditional Swiss belief that the will of the people is the final national authority. Every constitutional amendment adopted by parliament is automatically brought to the ballot and has to carry a double majority of votes and states in order to become effective. The voters themselves may actively seek changes to the Constitution by means of the popular initiative: 100,000 voters may with their signatures request a national vote on a proposed constitutional amendment. New federal legislation also is subject to popular review, under the so-called referendum: 50,000 signatures suffice to call a ballot vote on any federal law adopted by parliament. The Assembly can declare an act to be too urgent to allow time for popular consideration, but this is rare. At any rate, an act passed urgently must have a time limit and is later subject to the same constitutional provisions on popular review as other legislation.

The top executive body is the seven-member cabinet called the Federal Council. The Federal Assembly individually elects the seven Federal Councilors in a joint session of both houses at the opening of a new legislature. Federal Councilors are elected for 4-year terms; there are no term limits and no provision to recall the cabinet or individual members during the legislature. Each year, the Federal Assembly elects from among the seven Federal Councilors a president and vice president, following the principle of seniority. The member who is vice president one year traditionally is elected president the next. Although the Constitution provides that the Federal Assembly chooses and supervises the cabinet, the latter has gradually assumed a preeminent role in directing the legislative process as well as executing federal laws.

Under an arrangement between the four major parties called the "magic formula" which was introduced in 1959 but ended in December 2003, two Federal Councilors (ministers) were elected each from the Christian Democrats, the Social Democrats, and the Free Democrats and one from the Swiss People's Party. Under the new magic formula starting January 1, 2004, the new party composition of the cabinet changed to the following composition: 1 Christian Democrat, 2 Social Democrats, 2 Free Democrats, and 2 representatives of the Swiss People's Party.

The Constitution requires that Federal Councilors act collectively in all matters, not as individual ministers or as representatives of their parties. Each Councilor heads one of seven federal departments and is responsible for preparing legislation pertaining to matters under its jurisdiction. The president, who remains responsible for the department he heads, has limited prerogatives and is first among equals (there is no formal prime minister).

The administration of justice is primarily a cantonal function. The only regular federal court, the Federal Tribunal, is limited in its jurisdiction. Its principal function is to hear appeals of civil and criminal cases. It has authority to review cantonal court decisions involving federal law and certain administrative rulings of federal departments, but it has no power to review legislation for constitutionality. The Tribunal's 30 full-time and 30 part-time judges are elected by the Federal Assembly for 6-year terms.

The cantons regulate local government. The basic unit of local government, which administers a village, town, or city, is the commune or municipality. Citizenship is derived from membership in a commune and can be conferred on non-Swiss by a commune. Cantons are subordinate to federal authority but keep autonomy in implementing federal law.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 1/3/05

President: Samuel SCHMID
Vice President: Moritz LEUENBERGER
Chief, Federal Dept. of Defense, Civil Protection, & Sports: Samuel SCHMID
Chief, Federal Dept. of Economic Affairs: Joseph DEISS
Chief, Federal Dept. of Finance: Hans Rudolf MERZ
Chief, Federal Dept. of Foreign Affairs: Micheline CALMY-REY
Chief, Federal Dept. of Home Affairs: Pascal COUCHEPIN
Chief, Federal Dept. of Justice & Police: Christoph BLOCHER
Chief, Federal Dept. of Transportation, Communications, & Energy: Moritz LEUENBERGER
Federal Chancellor: Annemarie HUBER-HOTZ
Chmn., Swiss National Bank: Jean-Pierre ROTH
Ambassador to the US: Christian BLICKENSTORFER
Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Peter MAURER

Switzerland maintains an embassy in the United States at 2900 Cathedral Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008. Consulates General are in Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco. Swiss national tourist offices are in Chicago, New York, and San Francisco.


POLITICAL CONDITIONS

Although it has a diverse society, Switzerland has a stable government. Most voters support the government in the armed neutrality underlying its foreign and defense policies. Domestic policy poses no major problems, but the changing international environment has generated a significant reexamination of Swiss policy in key areas such as defense, neutrality, and immigration. Quadrennial national elections typically produce only marginal changes in party representation.

In recent years, Switzerland has seen a gradual shift in the party landscape. The rightist Swiss People's Party (SVP), traditionally the junior partner in the four-party coalition government, more than doubled its voting share from 11% in 1987 to 22.5% in 1999, and finally to 26.6% in 2003, thus overtaking its three coalition partners. This shift in voting shares ended the 44-year old "magic formula," the power-broking agreement of the four coalition parties, and gave a second seat in the 7-person Swiss cabinet to the Swiss People's Party at the expense of the Christian Democrats, now the weakest party with 14.4% of the votes. For the first time in Swiss history, the SVP has two seats in the government, reflecting its new status as Switzerland's most popular party.

On December 10, 2003, Christoph Blocher—a self-made industrialist and main figure of the right-populist Swiss People's Party known for his strong opinions on asylum and migration and law and order issues—was elected to the cabinet by parliament, replacing the incumbent Christian Democrat Justice and Police Minister Ruth Metzler. The parliament also elected the Free Democrat Hans-Rudolf Merz to replace retiring Finance Minister Kaspar Villiger. All other incumbent ministers were reelected. Both Blocher and Merz are strong advocates of drastic public spending cuts in order to reduce the country's mounting $102 billion francs state deficit and are staunch opponents to Switzerland's entering the European Union. The current makeup of the government also portends a conservative fiscal policy, even less movement toward integration in Europe, and a strong defense of Switzerland's banking secrecy.

The Constitution limits federal influence in the formulation of domestic policy and emphasizes the roles of private enterprise and cantonal government. However, the Confederation has been compelled to enlarge its policymaking powers in recent years to cope with national problems such as education, agriculture, energy, environment, organized crime, and narcotics.


ECONOMY

Despite a dearth of natural resources, the Swiss economy is among the world's most advanced and prosperous. Per capita income is virtually the highest in the world, as are wages. Trade has been the key to prosperity in Switzerland. The country is dependent upon export markets to generate income while dependent upon imports for raw materials and to expand the range of goods and services available in the country. Switzerland has liberal trade and investment policies and a conservative fiscal policy. The Swiss legal system is highly developed, commercial law is well defined, and solid laws and policies protect investments. The Swiss franc is one of the world's soundest currencies, and the country is known for its high standard of banking and financial services. Switzerland is a member of a number of international economic organizations, including the UN, the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Being so closely linked to the economies of western Europe and the United States, Switzerland has not been able to escape recent slowdowns experienced in these countries. During most of the 1990s, the Swiss economy was western Europe's weakest, with annual GDP growth averaging 0% between 1991 and 1997. Beginning in late 1997, the economy steadily gained momentum until peaking in 2000 with 3% growth in real terms. But in 2001 the rate of growth dropped to 0.9%, and in 2002 and 2003 the economy virtually stagnated with real GDP up by only 0.1%. The Swiss Economic Ministry had said that both the lack of an upturn in the global economy—particularly in the Euro zone—and the still rather firm Swiss franc would continue to hold back the Swiss economy in 2003. Germany, which absorbs 20% of Swiss exports, was expected to grow by no more than 0.1%-0.2% in 2003.

In 2003, the dollar/Swiss franc exchange rate continued to be shaped by geopolitical tensions and the global weakness of the equity markets. The dollar depreciated further against the Swiss franc from SF 1.49 in October 2002 to SF 1.31 in 2003, and 1.22 in January 2004. The strengthening of the Euro, however, helped Switzerland to minimize the pressure from a weakening dollar. The Swiss National Bank lowered its interest rates to near zero in March 2002 to make the Swiss franc unattractive to foreign investors, and make borrowings cheaper.

The number of bankruptcies in Switzerland during the first quarter of 2003 reached an alarming rate unseen since 1996, numbering 1,157 companies—21.9% more than the year before. Nevertheless, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology believes that economic performance will be solid in 2004 and that GDP will increase by 0.9% in 2004, and by 1.2% in 2005.

The recent economic slowdown has had a noticeable impact on the labor market. Unemployment increased from 2.6% in 2002 to 4.1% in December 2003. Economic experts believe it could to rise further to 4.5% in 2005, still below the 5.7% level reached in February 1997. One-fourth of the country's full-time workers are unionized. In general, labor/management relations are good, mostly characterized by a willingness on both sides to settle disputes by negotiations rather than by labor action. About 600 collective bargaining agreements exist today in Switzerland and are regularly renewed without major problems. However, the mood is changing. The massive layoffs that resulted from both the global economic slowdown and major management scandals have strained the traditional Swiss "labor peace." Swiss trade unions encouraged strikes against several companies, including the national airline SWISS, Coca-Cola, and Orange (the French telecom operator), but total days lost to strikes remain among the lowest in the OECD. Uncertainties concerning under-funded pension funds, and the prospect of a potential hike in the retirement age have stirred further street protests.

Switzerland's machinery, metals, electronics, and chemicals sectors are world-renowned for precision and quality. Together they account for well over half of Swiss export revenues. In agriculture, Switzerland is about 60% self-sufficient. Only 7.5% of the remaining imports originated from the U.S. Swiss farmers are one of the most highly protected and subsidized producer group in the world. OECD estimates show that Switzerland is subsidizing more than 70% of its agriculture, compared to 35% in the EU. According to the "2007 Agricultural Program" recently adopted by the Swiss Parliament, subsidies will increase by SF 63 million, thus totaling SF 14.092 billion from 2004 to 2007. Mill quotas, however, will be abolished starting in 2009.

Tourism, banking, engineering, and insurance are significant sectors of the economy and heavily influence the country's economic policies. Swiss trading companies have unique marketing expertise in many parts of the world, including eastern Europe, the Far East, Africa, and the Middle East. Not only does Switzerland have a highly developed tourism infrastructure (making it a good market for tourism-related equipment and services), the Swiss also are intrepid travelers. Per capita, more Swiss visit the United States every year than from any other country. Tourism is the most important U.S. export to Switzerland (earning almost $1.5 billion). In 2002, more than 300,000 Swiss came to the United States as tourists.

The Swiss economy earns roughly half of its corporate earnings from the export industry, and about 70% of Swiss exports are destined for the EU market. The EU is Switzerland's largest trading partner, and economic and trade barriers between them are minimal. In the wake of the Swiss voters' rejection of the European Economic Area Agreement in 1992, the Swiss Government set its sights on negotiating bilateral sectoral agreements with the EU. After more than 4 years of negotiations, an agreement covering seven sectors (research, public procurement, technical barriers to trade, agriculture, civil aviation, land transport, and the free movement of persons) was achieved at the end of 1998. Parliament officially endorsed the so-called "Bilaterals" in 1999, and the Swiss people approved them in a referendum in May 2000. The agreements, which had to be ratified by the European Parliament as well as legislatures in all 15 EU member states, entered into force on June 1, 2002. Switzerland has so far attempted to mitigate possible adverse effects of nonmembership by conforming many of its regulations, standards, and practices to EU directives and norms.

The Swiss Government has embarked on a second round of bilateral negotiations with the EU (known as Bilaterals II). Talks on the four dossiers of customs fraud, environment, statistics, and trade in processed agricultural products started in July 2001. Negotiations on pension funds, student and youth exchange programs, media, the taxation of savings as well as police and judicial cooperation (under the Schengen and Dublin accords) also are underway. While most issues are not really contentious, talks on customs fraud are moving slowly. Police and judicial cooperation and the taxation of savings also are controversial, mostly because of possible adverse effects on Swiss bank secrecy.

Swiss and EU finance ministers agreed in June 2003 that Swiss banks would levy a withholding tax on EU citizens' savings income. The tax would increase gradually to 35% by 2011, with 75% of the funds being transferred to the EU. Swiss President Pascal Couchepin was expected to meet Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who currently chairs the rotating EU presidency, by the end of 2003. Recent estimates value EU capital inflows to Switzerland to $8.3 billion.

The Swiss federal government is deeply divided over EU membership as its long-term goal, and in a March 2001 referendum more than 70% of the voters rejected rapid steps toward EU membership. The issue of EU membership is, therefore, likely to be shelved for several years, if not a decade.

Switzerland ranks 18th among the main trading partners of the U.S. worldwide. The United States is the second-largest importer (11.5%) of Swiss goods after Germany (20%). The U.S. exports more to Switzerland each year than to all the countries of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe combined, and Switzerland imports more U.S. products and services than does Spain. In addition, the United States is the largest foreign investor in Switzerland, and conversely, the primary destination of Swiss foreign investment. It is estimated that 200,000 American jobs depend on Swiss foreign investments. Total U.S.-Swiss bilateral trade, nevertheless, decreased by 12% to $17.16 billion during 2002 compared to the previous year.

The third full year of cooperation under the U.S.-Swiss Joint Economic Commission (JEC) (2002-03) invigorated further bilateral ties by recording achievements in a number of areas covering anti-terrorism financing and the prevention of terrorist acts. That includes further consultations on anti-money laundering procedures and the seizure of al-Qaeda accounts, and as well as the development of a code of conduct for the pharmaceutical industry, led initially by Swiss and U.S. companies to prevent the spread of technology falling into the hands of terrorists. U.S. and Swiss environmental chiefs also met on January 24, 2003, and discussed possible areas of cooperation in the fields of environment and sustainable development. Both countries also approved the JEC agenda for 2003, which includes counter-terrorism, the nonproliferation and export control regimes, bilateral trade and investment issues, and advances in science and technology.


DEFENSE

On May 18, 2003, Swiss voters approved the military reform project "Army XXI" that will drastically reduce the size of the Swiss Army. Starting in January 2004, the current 524,000-strong militia will be pared down to 220,000 conscripts, including 80,000 reservists. The defense budget of currently SF 4.3 billion ($3.1 billion) will be trimmed by SF 300 million, and some 2,000 jobs are expected to be shed between 2004 and 2011. The mandatory time of service will be curtailed from 300 to 260 days. All able-bodied Swiss males aged 20 to 30 must serve. Thereafter, most personnel are assigned to civil protection duties until the age of 37.

A new category of soldiers called "single-term conscripts" will discharge the total time of service of about 300 days of active duty in one go. Recruiting is on a voluntary basis and should not exceed 20% of a year's draft. The armed forces have a small nucleus of about 3,600 professional staff, half of whom are either instructors or staff officers, with the remainder mostly being fortification guards. The army has virtually no full-time active combat units but is capable of full mobilization within 72 hours. Women may volunteer to serve in the armed forces and may now join all units, including combat troops. About 2,000 women already serve in the army but, so far, have not been allowed to use weapons for purposes other than self-defense.

The armed forces are organized in four army corps and an air force and are equipped with modern, sophisticated, and well-maintained gear. In 1993, the Swiss Government ordered 34 FA-18s from the United States.


FOREIGN RELATIONS

On September 10, 2002, Switzerland became a full member of the United Nations. Switzerland had previously been involved as party to the Statute of the International Court of Justice and member of most UN specialized agencies as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency. Switzerland has long participated in many UN activities, including the Economic Commission for Europe, UN Environment Program, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UN Conference for Trade and Development, UN Industrial Development Organization, and the Universal Postal Union (UPU). Prior to its formal accession, Switzerland had maintained a permanent observer mission at UN Headquarters since 1948.

Switzerland also is a member of the following international organizations: World Trade Organization, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, European Free Trade Association, Bank for International Settlements, Council of Europe, and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). In 1992 Swiss voters approved membership in the Bretton Woods organizations but later that year rejected the European Economic Area agreement, which the government viewed as a first step toward EU membership.

The Swiss Constitution declares the preservation of Switzerland's independence and welfare as the supreme objective of Swiss foreign policy. Below this overarching goal, the Constitution sets five specific foreign policy objectives: further the peaceful coexistence of nations; promote respect for human rights, democracy, and the rule of the law; promote Swiss economic interests abroad, alleviate need and poverty in the world; and the preservation of natural resources.

Traditionally, Switzerland has avoided alliances that might entail military, political, or direct economic action, but in recent years the Swiss have broadened the scope of activities in which they feel able to participate without compromising their neutrality. Swiss voters first rejected UN membership by a 3-to-1 margin in 1986 but in March 2002 adopted it, albeit in a very close election, making Switzerland the first country to join the UN based on a popular referendum decision. In similar fashion, the electorate rejected a government proposition to deploy Swiss troops as UN peacekeepers (Blue Helmets) in 1994, but Switzerland joined NATO's Partnership for Peace and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council in 1996 and 1997, respectively, and deployed Yellow Berets to support the OSCE in Bosnia. In June 2001, Swiss voters approved new legislation providing for the deployment of armed Swiss troops for international peacekeeping missions under UN or OSCE auspices as well as closer international cooperation in military training.

Switzerland maintains diplomatic relations with almost all countries and historically has served as a neutral intermediary and host to major international treaty conferences. The country has no major dispute in its bilateral relations. Since 1980, Switzerland has represented U.S. interests in Iran. Switzerland played a key role in brokering a truce agreement between the Sudanese Government and Sudan's Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) for the Nuba Mountain region, signed after a week's negotiations taking place near Lucerne in January 2002.

The Swiss feel a moral obligation to undertake social, economic, and humanitarian activities that contribute to world peace and prosperity. This is manifested by Swiss bilateral and multilateral diplomatic activity, assistance to developing countries, and support for the extension of international law, particularly humanitarian law. Switzerland (mainly Geneva) is home to many international governmental and nongovernmental organizations, including the International Committee of the Red Cross (whose flag is essentially the Swiss flag with colors reversed, the Red Cross historically being a Swiss organization). One of the first international organizations, the Universal Postal Union, is located in Bern.

The Swiss Government on June 25, 2003, eased most of the sanctions against the Republic of Iraq in accord with UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1483. The government lifted the trade embargo, flight restrictions, and financial sanctions in place since August 1990. The weapons embargo and the asset freeze, the scope of which was extended, remain in force, and restrictions on the trade in Iraqi cultural goods were newly imposed. Though not a member at the time, Switzerland had joined UN sanctions against Iraq after the invasion of Kuwait. Switzerland also has joined UN economic sanctions imposed on Libya, Sierra Leone, UNITA (Angola), Liberia, and Serbia and Montenegro. On October 15, 2003, the Federal Council ended the import restrictions on raw diamonds from Sierra Leone and lifted sanctions against Libya.

Switzerland in October 2000 implemented an ordinance to enforce UN sanctions against the Taliban (UNSCR 1267), which it subsequently amended in April 2001 in accord with tighter UN regulations (UNSCR 1333). On May 2, 2002, the Swiss Government eased the sanctions regime in accord with UNSCR 1388 and 1390, lifting the ban on the sale of acetic acid (used in drug production), Afghani Airlines, and Afghani diplomatic representations. The weapons embargo, travel restrictions, and financial sanctions remain in force. The Swiss Government in November 2001 issued an ordinance declaring illegal the terrorist organization al Qaeda as well as possible successor or supporting organizations. More than 200 individuals or companies linked to international terrorism have been blacklisted to have their assets frozen. Thus far, Swiss authorities have blocked about 72 accounts totaling $22.6 million.

Switzerland has furnished military observers and medical teams to several UN operations. Switzerland is an active participant in the OSCE, its foreign minister serving as Chairman-in-Office for 1996. Switzerland also is an active participant in the major nonproliferation and export control regimes.

Under a series of treaties concluded after World War I, Switzerland assumed responsibility for the diplomatic and consular representation of Liechtenstein, the protection of its borders, and the regulation of its customs.


U.S.-SWISS RELATIONS

Switzerland is a democratic country subscribing to most of the ideals with which the United States is identified. The country is politically stable with a fundamentally strong economy. It occupies an important strategic position within Europe and possesses a strong military capability. It has played an increasingly important role in supporting the spread of democratic institutions and values worldwide, as well as providing humanitarian relief and economic development assistance. U.S. policy toward Switzerland takes these factors into account and endeavors to cooperate with Switzerland to the extent consistent with Swiss neutrality.

The first 3 years of cooperation under the U.S.-Swiss Joint Economic Commission (2000-03) invigorated bilateral ties by recording achievements in a number of areas, including consultations on anti-money laundering efforts, counter-terrorism, and pharmaceutical regulatory cooperation; an e-government conference; and the re-establishment of the Fulbright student/cultural exchange program.

The first official U.S.-Swiss consular relations were established in the late 1820s. Diplomatic relations were established in 1853. The U.S. ambassador to Switzerland also is accredited to the Principality of Liechtenstein.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

BERN (E) Address: Jubilaeumsstr. 93, 3005 Bern; APO/FPO: No APO; Phone: 41-31-357-7011; Fax: 41-31-357-7344; Workweek: Mon.-Fri., 8:30-5:30; Website: http://www.usembassy.ch

AMB:Pamela P. Willeford
DCM:Carol Urban
CG:Doria Rosen
POL:Eric Sandberg (Pol/Econ Chief)
COM:Julie Snyder
MGT:Stephen Dodson
AFSA:Diana Clayton
CLO:Les Rhoades
CUS:David Marwell
DAO:COL Dorothea Cypher-Erickson
DEA:Joseph Reagan
GSO:Diana Clayton
ICASS Chair:Ron Brickerd
IPO:Ricardo Cabrera
ISO:Novaro Casci (FSN)
ISSO:Laura Williams
LEGATT:Richard Tamplin
PAO:Daniel Wendell
RSO:Kerry Crockett
State ICASS:Eric Sandberg
Last Updated: 11/30/2004

GENEVA (M) Address: 11 Rte de Pregny, 1292 Chambesy, Geneva, Switzerland; Phone: 41-22-749-4111; Fax: 41-22-749-4892; Workweek: M–F 8:30-5:30; Website: usmission.ch

AMB:Kevin E. Moley
AMB OMS:Bonnie A. Angelov
DCM:Lynn L. Cassel
DCM OMS:Patricia Reber
POL:Joel Danies
MGT:Stanton R. Bigelow
AID:Nance Kyloh (RMA)
CLO:Jackie Graves/Adriana Birdsall
ECO:Lisa Carle
EST:Chuck Ashley
FMO:Thomas Lyman
GSO:Earl Graves
ICASS Chair:Randall Hyer
IMO:Loren (Fred) File
IPO:Janice Metzger
ISO:Alan Knabe
ISSO:Nijay Saini
LAB:John Chamberlin
LEGATT:T. Michael Peay
PAO:Brooks Robinson
RSO:Don Weinberg
State ICASS:Charles Stonecipher
Last Updated: 9/23/2004

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

October 21, 2004

Country Description: Switzerland is a highly developed democracy. Liechtenstein is a democratically run constitutional monarchy.

Entry/Exit Requirements: A passport is required for travel to both Switzerland and Liechtenstein. A visa is not required for U.S. citizens for stays of up to 90 days in either country. For more information on entry requirements for both countries, travelers may contact the Embassy of Switzerland at 2900 Cathedral Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 745-7900, or the nearest Swiss Consulate General in Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, or San Francisco. Additional information for both countries is available at http://ggwww.swissemb.org. In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated new procedures at entry/exit points. These procedures often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for a child to travel, if the parent(s) or legal guardian is not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.

Dual Nationality: U.S. citizens who are also considered by the Swiss Government to have Swiss citizenship may be subject to compulsory military service and other requirements while in Switzerland. Those who might be affected should inquire at a Swiss Embassy or Consulate regarding their status. In some instances, dual nationality may hamper U.S. government efforts to provide protection abroad. In addition to being subject to all Swiss laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals may also be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on Swiss citizens. For additional information, see the Consular Affairs home page on the Inter-net at http://travel.state.gov for our Dual Nationality flyer.

Safety and Security: The potential for specific threats or acts of violence involving American citizens in Switzerland is remote; nonetheless, travelers should always review their security practices and be alert to their surroundings. The Consular Agencies in Zurich and Geneva may close periodically to assess their security situations. Americans are encouraged to check the Consular Affairs home page for updated travel and security information.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found. Up to date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States, or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-317-472-2328. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

Crime: Switzerland has a low rate of violent crime. However, pick-pocketing and purse snatching do occur in the vicinity of train and bus stations, airports, and some public parks, especially during peak tourist periods (such as summer and Christmas) and when conferences, shows, or exhibits are scheduled in major cities. Liechtenstein has a low crime rate. Travelers may wish to exercise caution on trains, especially on overnight trains to neighboring countries. Even locked sleeping compartments can be entered by thieves, who steal from passengers while they sleep. The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlet, A Safe Trip Abroad, to promote a trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, and via the Internet at http://www.gpoaccess.gov or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.

If you are the victim of a crime over-seas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends, and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of a crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal process and to find an attorney if needed.

Medical Facilities and Insurance: Good medical care is widely available. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost many thousands of dollars. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services.

The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Furthermore, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred over-seas including emergency services such as medical evacuations.

When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death. Supplemental medical insurance with specific overseas coverage, including provision for mountain rescue and/or medical evacuation, is strongly advised, particularly for those who plan to participate in mountain activities (summer or winter). Rescue insurance is available inexpensively in Switzerland and may be purchased at many Swiss post offices. Information can be obtained from the Swiss National Tourist Office: e-mail http://www.myswitzerland.com, at most tourist information offices in Switzerland, or with the Swiss Air Rescue Organization http://www.rega.ch. Such insurance has proved useful as uninsured rescues can easily cost $25,000 or more.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page.

Other Health Information: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for International Travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via their Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's web site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Switzerland and Liechtenstein is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of public transportation: Excellent
Urban road conditions/maintenance: Excellent
Rural road conditions/maintenance: Excellent
Availability of roadside assistance: Excellent

Although many roads are mountainous and winding, road safety standards are high. In some mountain areas, vehicle snow chains are required in winter. Road travel can be more dangerous during summer, winter holidays, the Easter break and Whitsunday weekend (late spring) because of increased traffic. Travel on expressways (indicated by green signs with a white expressway symbol) requires purchase of a sticker or "vignette", which must be affixed to the car's windshield. Vignettes can be purchased at most border crossing points, gas stations and at Swiss post offices. Drivers using the highway system without a vignette are subject to hefty fines levied on the spot. Public transportation in Switzerland and Liechtenstein is generally excellent.

Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Swiss civil aviation authority's oversight of Switzerland's air carrier operations as category 1—in compliance with international aviation safety standards. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA Inter-net website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/index.cfm.

Customs Regulations: Switzerland's customs authorities encourage the use of an ATA (Admission Temposraire/Temporary Admission) Carnet for the temporary admission of professional equipment, commercial samples, and/or goods for exhibitions and fair purposes. ATA Carnet Headquarters, located at the U.S. Council for International Business, 1212 Avenue of the Americas, New York, N.Y. 10036, issues and guarantees the ATA Carnet in the United States. For additional information call 212-354-4480, send an email to [email protected], or visit http://www.uscib.org for details.

In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products are illegal and bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines. A current list of those countries with serious problems in this regard can be found here.

Criminal Penalties: U.S. citizens are subject to the laws of the country in which they are traveling. Sometimes these laws can differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to individuals under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. In Switzerland and Liechtenstein, penalties for possession, use, and dealing in illegal drugs are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines. Under the Protect Act of April 2003, it is a crime, prosecutable in the United States, for a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien, to engage in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18, whether or not the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident alien intended to engage in such illicit sexual conduct prior to going abroad. For purposes of the PROTECT Act, illicit sexual conduct includes any commercial sex act in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18. The law defines a commercial sex act as any sex act, on account of which anything of value is given to or received by a person under the age of 18.

Under the Protection of Children from Sexual Predators Act of 1998, it is a crime to use the mail or any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transmit information about a minor under the age of 16 for criminal sexual purposes that include, among other things, the production of child pornography. This same law makes it a crime to use any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transport obscene materials to minors under the age of 16.

Children's Issues: Since July 1988, Switzerland has been party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child abduction. For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/family/index.html or telephone Overseas Citizens Services at 1-888-407-4747.

This number is available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except federal holidays). Callers who are unable to use this toll-free number, such as those calling from overseas, may obtain information and assistance during these hours by calling 1-317-472-2328.

Registration/Embassy and Consulate Locations: Americans living or traveling in Switzerland are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov, and obtain updated information on travel and security within Switzerland. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy, Consulate or Consular Agent in Geneva and Zurich.

The U.S. Embassy in Bern is located at Jubilaeumstrasse 93, 3005 Bern; Tel. (41)(31) 357-7011, fax (41)(31) 357-7280. The Embassy's 24 hour emergency telephone number is (41)(31) 357-7777. The Embassy's e-mail address is [email protected] The U.S. Embassy website at http://www.us-embassy.ch answers many questions of interest to Americans visiting and residing in Switzerland.

The U.S. Consular Agency in Zurich is located at the American Center of Zurich, Dufourstrasse 101, 8008 Zurich; Tel. (41)(1) 422-2566, fax (41) (1) 383-9814.

The U.S. Consular Agency in Geneva is located at the American Center Geneva, 7 Rue Versonnex, 1207 Geneva; Tel. (41)(22) 840-5160, fax (41)(22) 840-5162, e-mail: [email protected]

There is no U.S. Embassy or Consulate in Liechtenstein. For assistance and information on travel and security in Liechtenstein, U.S. citizens may contact or register at the U.S. Embassy in Bern at the address above.

International Adoption

January 2005

The information below has been edited from a report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Adoption section of this book and review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family.

Disclaimer: The information in this circular relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is provided for general information only. Questions involving interpretation of specific foreign laws should be addressed to foreign legal counsel.

General: Switzerland's ratification of the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption entered into force on January 1, 2003.

Availability of Children for Adoption: Switzerland is not considered a source country for parents seeking orphaned children to adopt, so there are very few Swiss children available for adoption. In the past ten years, the U.S. Embassy in Bern has not issued immigrant visas to Swiss orphans or for children adopted from other countries.

Swiss Adoption Authorities: Prospective U.S. citizen adoptive parents resident in Switzerland should contact the Cantonal Central Authority (CCA) in the canton where they are domiciled. The CCA can provide complete information on adoption law, policy and procedures. Please review current reports online at travel.state.gov/family for more details.

Age and Civil Status Requirements: Parents wishing to adopt a child in Switzerland must be at least 16 years older than the child they plan to adopt. Married couples wishing to adopt must both be at least 35 years old or married for 5 years and in most circumstances must jointly adopt the child. Single persons may adopt if they are at least 35 years old. If a parent wishes to adopt the child of a spouse, the couple must have been married for at least 5 years.

Adoption Agencies and Attornies: Prospective adoptive parents are advised to fully research any adoption agency or facilitator they plan to use for adoption services. For U.S. based agencies, it is suggested that prospective adoptive parents contact the Better Business Bureau and licensing office of the Department of Health and Family Services in the state where the agency is located. Parents may wish to contact and be counselled by non-official specialists (adoption agencies, attorneys and other facilitators). A complete list of adoption agencies approved by the cantons is available at www.ofj.admin.ch/e/index.html.

Prospective adoptive parents should verify that the adoption agency with which they work has been approved by the Office of Child Protection in the Swiss Federal Office of Justice (www.bj.admin.ch). Please also see Important Notice Regarding Adoption Agents and Facilitators at the Web site for the Bureau of Consular Affairs at http://travel.state.gov.

The U.S. Embassy in Bern maintains a list of local English-speaking attorneys, some of whom practice family law. Visit the Embassy's website at www.usembassy.ch.

Swiss Documentary Requirements: The applicable law and procedures for U.S. citizens domiciled in Switzerland therefore depends on the country of origin of the child to be adopted.

Authentications: All U.S. documents submitted to a foreign government/court must be authenticated. Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at travel.state.gov/family

Embassy and Consulates in the United States: Switzerland has Consulates in Atlanta, GA; Chicago, IL; Houston, TX; Los Angeles, CA; New York, NY; and San Francisco, CA; as well as an Embassy in Washington, DC which maintains a Web site at www.swissemb.org.

U.S. Immigration Requirements: U.S. citizen adoptive parents who wish to bring their child to the United States for permanent residence should contact the U.S. Embassy in Bern to discuss their options. General information about immigration requirements for adopted children can be found on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service website at uscis.gov.

U.S. Embassy in Switzerland: As soon as prospective adoptive parents arrive in Switzerland, they should contact the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in order to register their presence in Switzerland. The Consulate Section is located at: Embassy of the United States of America; 93 Jubilaeumstrasse; 3005 Bern; Switzerland; Telephone no. (41)(31) 357-7011.

Questions: Specific questions regarding adoption in Switzerland may be addressed to the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services or the Immigrant Visa Unit at the U.S. Embassy in Switzerland. Parents may also contact the Office of Children's Issues, U.S. Department of State, CA/OCS/CI, 2201 C Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20520-4818, toll-free Tel: 1-888-404-4747 with specific questions.

International Parental Child Abduction

January 2005

The information below has been edited from the report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Parental Child Abduction section of this book and review current reports online at travel.state.gov

Disclaimer: The information in this circular relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is provided for general information only. Questions involving interpretation of specific foreign laws should be addressed to foreign counsel.

The Swiss Central Authority of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction has informed the Department of State of the following general information concerning the operation of the Convention in Switzerland.

Judicial Procedure: Upon receipt of a Hague application, the Swiss Central Authority usually tries to get in touch with the abducting parent in order to find out if a mediated solution can be achieved. If this is not the case, or if the applicant requests to commence the judicial procedure immediately in view of obtaining a court order under the Hague Convention, the applicant is sent a list of attorneys from the respective canton who are willing to take Hague cases. The applicant can also let the Central Authority choose the attorney for him/her. It is up to the attorney to commence the judicial procedure, to file the application of legal aid (if applicable) and to take the necessary steps in view of obtaining an enforcement of the final judgment.

Switzerland has no unified civil procedure law and no uniform court system, and the designation of the courts, rules of procedure and conditions for appeals vary considerably. A judgment rendered by the court of first instance (often called the District Court) can normally be reviewed by the court of second instance (called Superior Court, Court of Appeals, etc.). Finally, it is possible to file a further appeal with the Federal (Supreme) Court in Lausanne, Switzerland's highest judicial authority. No writ of certiorari must be obtained in order to get access to the Federal Court, but the complaints that can be raised in this stage of the lawsuit are normally limited to the violation of constitutional rights (including a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights). A final decision should usually not be expected in less than six months.

Attorneys: The applicant can choose an attorney from a list that will be provided by the Swiss Central Attorney, or he/she can let the Central Authority choose the attorney for him/her. There is a large number of attorneys who speak and write English fluently. The attorney must be paid only if the applicant is not entitled to legal aid. The attorney fees are ruled by cantonal law and differ widely. The fee normally can be negotiated between attorney and client, but no contingent fee is allowed.

Legal Aid: Switzerland has established a system of legal aid that is governed (in accordance with Article 42 of the Hague Convention) by cantonal law, although a minimal standard and guidelines are set by the case law of the Federal Court. Pursuant to this case law, an applicant is entitled to legal aid if he or she is indigent (unable to pay a living for him/herself and his/her family in addition to the legal fees) and if the chances of winning the case are greater than the chances of losing it. Legal aid covers both the court costs (which are considerably higher than those in the U.S.) as well as the attorney's fees.

It is up to the attorney to file the request for legal aid with the court or the competent authority before commencing the Hague procedure. There are no application forms available. In general, documents indicating the monthly or annual income and expenses as well as assets and debts are required. The quicker these documents are conveyed to the attorney, the quicker a preliminary decision regarding legal aid can be obtained.

Rights of Access: The Swiss Central Authority tries to help parents exercise their rights of access pursuant to Article 21 of the Hague Convention. This obligation normally is fulfilled through intermediaries, mostly local guardianship authorities or juvenile services. This includes proceedings in view of negotiating mediated solutions and organizing locations and supervision in order to permit the meeting of a child with the parent. The Central Authority furthermore helps to find an attorney if no mediated solution can be found and a court must resolve the dispute. If the child's habitual residence is in Switzerland, the conditions and requirements of such a decision are set forth by Swiss law. If the conditions of rights of access have already been determined in a decision rendered by a U.S. court in the habitual residence of the child, then the Swiss court organizes the protection of the rights of access pursuant to Article 21 of the Hague Convention.

Translation of Documents: The Swiss Central Authority accepts all documents in English. Translation into German, French or Italian, as the language of the court might be, will be required if the document must be presented to a court, but the translation need not be sent with the Hague application.

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SWITZERLAND

Compiled from the July 2005 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.

Official Name:
Swiss Confederation


PROFILE

Geography

Area:

41,285 sq. km. (15,941 sq. mi.); about the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined.

Cities:

Capital—Bern (population about 123,000). Other cities—Zurich (341,000), Geneva (176,000), Basel (165,000), Lausanne (116,000).

Terrain:

60% mountains, the remainder hills and plateau. Switzerland straddles the central ranges of the Alps.

Climate:

Temperate, varying with altitude and season.

People

Nationality:

Noun and adjective—Swiss (singular and plural).

Population (2002):

7.3 million.

Annual growth rate:

0.8%.

Ethnic groups:

Mixed European.

Religion:

Roman Catholic 42%, Protestant 33%, Muslim 4.3%, others 5.4%, no religion 11%.

Language:

German 63.7%, French 20.4%, Italian 6.5%, Romansch 0.5%, other 9.4%.

Education:

Years compulsory—9. Attendance—100%. Literacy—100%.

Health:

Infant mortality rate—4.8/1,000. Life expectancy—men 76.5 yrs., women 82.5 yrs.

Work force (3.96 million):

Agriculture and forestry—4.2%. Industry and business—25.6%. Services and government—70.2%.

Government

Type:

Federal state.

Independence:

The first Swiss Confederation was founded in August 1291 as a defensive alliance among three cantons. The Swiss Confederation established independence from the Holy Roman Empire in 1499.

Constitution:

1848; extensively amended in 1874; fully revised in 2000

Branches:

Executive—Federal Council, collegium of seven members, headed by a rotating one-year presidency. Legislative—Federal Assembly (bicameral: Council of States, 46 members; National Council, 200 members). Judicial—Federal Tribunal.

Administrative subdivisions:

26 cantons (states) with considerable autonomy.

Political parties:

Swiss People's Party (SVP), Social Democratic Party (SP), Free Democratic Party (FDP), Christian Democratic Party (CVP), and several smaller parties representing localities or views from extreme left to extreme right.

Suffrage:

In federal matters, universal over 18.

Economy

GDP (2004):

$358 billion (444 billion Swiss francs).

Annual growth rate (2004):

1.7% in real terms.

Per capita income (2001):

$22,898 (38,470 Swiss francs).

Avg. inflation rate (2005):

1.1%.

Natural resources:

Waterpower, timber, salt.

Agriculture (2.26% of GDP in 1999):

Products—dairy, livestock, grains, fruit and vegetables, potatoes, wine.

Arable land (1999):

26%.

Industry (29.9% of GDP in 1999):

Types—machinery, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, time pieces, precision instruments, textiles and clothing, pigment, transportation equipment.

Services:

(67.8% of GDP in 1999).

Trade (2002):

Exports—$113.7 billion (141 billion Swiss francs): machinery and electronics; chemicals and pharmaceuticals; instruments and timepieces. Major markets—Germany, United States, France, Italy, U.K., Japan. Imports—$106.4 billion (132 billion Swiss francs): machinery and electronics; chemicals; vehicles. Major suppliers—Germany, Italy, France, Netherlands, U.S., U.K., Japan.


PEOPLE

Switzerland sits at the crossroads of several major European cultures, which have heavily influenced the country's languages and cultural practices. Switzerland has four official languages—German, French, Italian, and Romansch (based on Latin and spoken by a small minority in the Canton Graubunden). The German spoken is predominantly a Swiss dialect, but newspapers and some broadcasts use High German. Many Swiss speak more than one language. English is widely known, especially among professionals.

More than 75% of the population lives in the central plain, which stretches between the Alps and the Jura Mountains and from Geneva in the southwest to the Rhine River and Lake Constance in the northeast. Resident foreigners and temporary foreign workers make up about 20% of the population.

Almost all Swiss are literate. Switzerland's 13 institutes of higher learning enrolled 99,600 students in the academic year of 2001-02. About 25% of the adult population holds a diploma of higher learning.

The Constitution guarantees freedom of worship, and the different religious communities co-exist peacefully.

Switzerland consistently ranks high on quality of life indices, including highest per capita income, one of the highest concentrations of computer and Internet usage per capita, highest insurance coverage per individual, and high health care rates. For these and many other reasons, it serves as an excellent test market for businesses hoping to introduce new products into Europe.


HISTORY

Originally inhabited by the Helvetians, or Helvetic Celts, the territory comprising modern Switzerland came under Roman rule during the Gallic wars in the 1st century BC and remained a Roman province until the 4th century AD. Under Roman influence, the population reached a high level of civilization and enjoyed a flourishing commerce. Important cities, such as Geneva, Basel, and Zurich, were linked by military roads that also served as trade arteries between Rome and the northern tribes.

After the decline of the Roman Empire, Switzerland was invaded by Germanic tribes from the north and west. Some tribes, such as the Alemanni in central and northeastern Switzerland, and the Burgundians, who ruled western Switzerland, settled there. In 800, the country became part of Charlemagne's empire. It later passed under the dominion of the Holy Roman emperors in the form of small ecclesiastic and temporal holdings subject to imperial sovereignty.

With the opening of a new important north-south trade route across the Alps in the early 13th century, the Empire's rulers began to attach more importance to the remote Swiss mountain valleys, which were granted some degree of autonomy under direct imperial rule. Fearful of the popular disturbances flaring up following the death of the Holy Roman Emperor in 1291, the ruling families from Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden signed a charter to keep public peace and pledging mutual support in upholding autonomous administrative and judicial rule. The anniversary of the charter's signature (August 1, 1291) today is celebrated as Switzerland's National Day.

Between 1315 and 1388 the Swiss Confederates inflicted three crushing defeats on the Habsburgs, whose aspiration to regional dominion clashed with Swiss self-determination. During that period, five other localities (cantons in modern-day parlance) joined the original three in the Swiss Confederation. Buoyed by their feats, the Swiss Confederates continuously expanded their borders by military means and gained formal independence from the Holy Roman Empire in 1499. Routed by the French and Venetians near Milan in 1515, they renounced expansionist policies. By then the Swiss Confederation had become a union of 13 localities with a regularly convening diet administering the subject territories. Swiss mercenaries continued for centuries to serve in other armies; the Swiss Guard of the Pope is a vestige of this tradition.

The Reformation led to a division between the Protestant followers of Zwingli and Calvin in the German and French parts of the country respectively, and the Catholics. Despite two centuries of civil strife, the common interest in the joint subject territories kept the Swiss Confederation from falling apart. The traffic in mercenaries as well as the alienation between the predominantly Protestant Swiss and their Catholic neighbors kept the Swiss Confederation out of the wars of the European powers, which formally recognized Swiss neutrality in the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. The Swiss remained neutral during the War of the First Coalition against revolutionary France, but Napoleon, nonetheless, invaded and annexed much of the country in 1797-98, replacing the loose confederation with a centrally governed unitary state.

The Congress of Vienna in 1815 reestablished the old confederation of sovereign states and enshrined Switzerland's status of permanent armed neutrality in international law. In 1848, after a brief civil war between Protestant liberals seeking a centralized national state and Catholic conservatives clinging on to the old order, the majority of Swiss Cantons opted for a Federal State, modeled in part on the U.S. Constitution. The Swiss Constitution established a range of civic liberties and made far-reaching provisions to maintain cantonal autonomy to placate the vanquished Catholic minority. The Swiss amended their Constitution extensively in 1874, establishing federal responsibility for defense, trade, and legal matters, as well as introducing direct democracy by popular referendum. To this day, cantonal autonomy and referendum democracy remain trademarks of the Swiss polity.

Switzerland industrialized rapidly during the 19th century and by 1850 had become the second most industrialized country in Europe after Great Britain. During World War I serious tension developed between the German, French, and Italian-speaking parts of the country, and Switzerland came close to violating its neutrality but managed to stay out of hostilities. Labor unrest culminating in a general strike in 1918 marked the interwar period, but in 1937 employers and the largest trade union concluded a formal agreement to settle disputes peacefully, which governs workplace relations to the present day. During World War II, Switzerland came under heavy pressure from the fascist powers, which after the fall of France in 1940 completely surrounded the country. Some political and economic leaders displayed a mood of appeasement, but a combination of tactical accommodation and demonstrative readiness to defend the country helped Switzerland survive unscathed.

The Cold War enhanced the role of neutral Switzerland and offered the country a way out of its diplomatic isolation after World War II. Economically, Switzerland integrated itself into the American-led Western postwar order, but it remained reluctant to enter supranational bodies. Switzerland did not join the United Nations, even though Geneva became host to the UN's European headquarters, and the country played an active role in many of the UN's specialized agencies. Switzerland also remained aloof in the face of European integration efforts, waiting until 1963 to join the Council of Europe. It still remains outside the European Union. Instead, Switzerland in 1960 helped form the European Free Trade Area, which did not strive for political union. Following the Cold War, Switzerland joined the Bretton Woods institutions in 1992 and finally became a member of the United Nations in 2002.


GOVERNMENT

Switzerland is a federal state composed of 26 cantons (20 are "full" cantons and six "half" cantons for purposes of representation in the federal legislature) that retain attributes of sovereignty, such as fiscal autonomy and the right to manage internal cantonal affairs. Under the 2000 Constitution, cantons hold all powers not specifically delegated to the federation. Switzerland's federal institutions are:

  • A bicameral legislature—the Federal Assembly;
  • A collegial executive of seven members—the Federal Council; and
  • A judiciary consisting of a single, regular court in Lausanne—the Federal Tribunal—and special military and administrative courts. The Federal Insurance Tribunal is an independent division of the Federal Tribunal that handles social security questions; its seat is in Lucerne.

The Constitution provides for separation of the three branches of government.

The Federal Assembly is the primary seat of power, although in practice the executive branch has been increasing its power at the expense of the legislative branch. The Federal Assembly has two houses—the Council of States and the National Council. These two houses have equal powers in all respects, including the right to introduce legislation. Legislation cannot be vetoed by the executive nor reviewed for constitutionality by the judiciary, but all laws (except the budget) can be reviewed by popular referendum before taking effect. The 46 members of the Council of States (two from each canton and one from each half canton) are directly elected in each canton by majority voting. The 200 members of the National Council are directly elected in each canton under a system of proportional representation. Members of both houses serve for 4 years.

The Federal Assembly meets quarterly for 3-week plenary sessions. The parliamentary committees of the two houses, which are often key in shaping legislation, meet behind closed doors, but both majority and minority positions are presented during the plenary sessions. The Federal Assembly is a militia parliament, and members commonly retain their traditional professions. Individual members of parliament have no personal staff.

The Assembly can be legally dissolved only after the adoption of a popular initiative calling for a complete revision of the Constitution. All citizens 18 or older have the right to vote and run for office in national, cantonal, and communal elections unless individually disqualified by the relevant legislature.

A strong emphasis on ballot votes arises out of the traditional Swiss belief that the will of the people is the final national authority. Every constitutional amendment adopted by parliament is automatically brought to the ballot and has to carry a double majority of votes and states in order to become effective. The voters themselves may actively seek changes to the Constitution by means of the popular initiative: 100,000 voters may with their signatures request a national vote on a proposed constitutional amendment. New federal legislation also is subject to popular review, under the so-called referendum: 50,000 signatures suffice to call a ballot vote on any federal law adopted by parliament. The Assembly can declare an act to be too urgent to allow time for popular consideration, but this is rare. At any rate, an act passed urgently must have a time limit and is later subject to the same constitutional provisions on popular review as other legislation.

The top executive body is the seven-member cabinet called the Federal Council. The Federal Assembly individually elects the seven Federal Councilors in a joint session of both houses at the opening of a new legislature. Federal Councilors are elected for 4-year terms; there are no term limits and no provision to recall the cabinet or individual members during the legislature. Each year, the Federal Assembly elects from among the seven Federal Councilors a president and vice president, following the principle of seniority. The member who is vice president one year traditionally is elected president the next. Although the Constitution provides that the Federal Assembly chooses and supervises the cabinet, the latter has gradually assumed a preeminent role in directing the legislative process as well as executing federal laws.

Under an arrangement between the four major parties called the "magic formula" which was introduced in 1959 but ended in December 2003, two Federal Councilors (ministers) were elected each from the Christian Democrats, the Social Democrats, and the Free Democrats and one from the Swiss People's Party. Under the new magic formula starting January 1, 2004, the new party composition of the cabinet changed to the following composition: 1 Christian Democrat, 2 Social Democrats, 2 Free Democrats, and 2 representatives of the Swiss People's Party.

The Constitution requires that Federal Councilors act collectively in all matters, not as individual ministers or as representatives of their parties. Each Councilor heads one of seven federal departments and is responsible for preparing legislation pertaining to matters under its jurisdiction. The president, who remains responsible for the department he heads, has limited prerogatives and is first among equals (there is no formal prime minister).

The administration of justice is primarily a cantonal function. The only regular federal court, the Federal Tribunal, is limited in its jurisdiction. Its principal function is to hear appeals of civil and criminal cases. It has authority to review cantonal court decisions involving federal law and certain administrative rulings of federal departments, but it has no power to review legislation for constitutionality. The Tribunal's 30 full-time and 30 part-time judges are elected by the Federal Assembly for 6-year terms.

The cantons regulate local government. The basic unit of local government, which administers a village, town, or city, is the commune or municipality. Citizenship is derived from membership in a commune and can be conferred on non-Swiss by a commune. Cantons are subordinate to federal authority but keep autonomy in implementing federal law.

Principal Government Officials

Last Updated: 1/3/2006

President: Moritz LEUENBERGER
Vice President: Micheline CALMY-REY
Chief, Federal Dept. of Defense, Civil Protection, & Sports: Samuel SCHMID
Chief, Federal Dept. of Economic Affairs: Joseph DEISS
Chief, Federal Dept. of Finance: Hans-Rudolf MERZ
Chief, Federal Dept. of Foreign Affairs: Micheline CALMY-REY
Chief, Federal Dept. of Home Affairs: Pascal COUCHEPIN
Chief, Federal Dept. of Justice & Police: Christoph BLOCHER
Chief, Federal Dept. of Transportation, Communications, & Energy: Moritz LEUENBERGER
Federal Chancellor: Annemarie HUBERHOTZ
Chmn., Swiss National Bank: Jean-Pierre ROTH
Ambassador to the US: Christian BLICKENSTORFER
Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Peter MAURER

Switzerland maintains an embassy in the United States at 2900 Cathedral Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008. Consulates General are in Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco. Swiss national tourist offices are in Chicago, New York, and San Francisco.


POLITICAL CONDITIONS

Although it has a diverse society, Switzerland has a stable government. Most voters support the government in the armed neutrality underlying its foreign and defense policies. Domestic policy poses no major problems, but the changing international environment has generated a significant reexamination of Swiss policy in key areas such as defense, neutrality, and immigration. Quadrennial national elections typically produce only marginal changes in party representation.

In recent years, Switzerland has seen a gradual shift in the party landscape. The rightist Swiss People's Party (SVP), traditionally the junior partner in the four-party coalition government, more than doubled its voting share from 11% in 1987 to 22.5% in 1999, and finally to 26.6% in 2003, thus overtaking its three coalition partners. This shift in voting shares ended the 44-year old "magic formula," the power-broking agreement of the four coalition parties, and gave a second seat in the 7-person Swiss cabinet to the Swiss People's Party at the expense of the Christian Democrats, now the weakest party with 14.4% of the votes. For the first time in Swiss history, the SVP has two seats in the government, reflecting its new status as Switzerland's most popular party.

On December 10, 2003, Christoph Blocher—a self-made industrialist and main figure of the right-populist Swiss People's Party known for his strong opinions on asylum and migration and law and order issues—was elected to the cabinet by parliament, replacing the incumbent Christian Democrat Justice and Police Minister Ruth Metzler. The parliament also elected the Free Democrat Hans-Rudolf Merz to replace retiring Finance Minister Kaspar Villiger. All other incumbent ministers were reelected. Both Blocher and Merz are strong advocates of drastic public spending cuts in order to reduce the country's mounting $102 billion francs state deficit and are staunch opponents to Switzerland's entering the European Union. The current makeup of the government also portends a conservative fiscal policy, even less movement toward integration in Europe, and a strong defense of Switzerland's banking secrecy.

The Constitution limits federal influence in the formulation of domestic policy and emphasizes the roles of private enterprise and cantonal government. However, the Confederation has been compelled to enlarge its policymaking powers in recent years to cope with national problems such as education, agriculture, energy, environment, organized crime, and narcotics.


ECONOMY

Despite a dearth of natural resources, the Swiss economy is among the world's most advanced and prosperous. Per capita income is virtually the highest in the world, as are wages. Trade has been the key to prosperity in Switzerland. The country is dependent upon export markets to generate income while dependent upon imports for raw materials and to expand the range of goods and services available in the country. Switzerland has liberal trade and investment policies and a conservative fiscal policy. The Swiss legal system is highly developed, commercial law is well defined, and solid laws and policies protect investments. The Swiss franc is one of the world's soundest currencies, and the country is known for its high standard of banking and financial services. Switzerland is a member of a number of international economic organizations, including the UN, the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Being so closely linked to the economies of western Europe and the United States, Switzerland has not been able to escape recent slowdowns experienced in these countries. During most of the 1990s, the Swiss economy was western Europe's weakest, with annual GDP growth averaging 0% between 1991 and 1997. Beginning in late 1997, the economy steadily gained momentum until peaking in 2000 with 3% growth in real terms. But in 2001 the rate of growth dropped to 0.9%, and in 2002 and 2003 the economy virtually stagnated with real GDP up by only 0.1%. The Swiss Economic Ministry had said that both the lack of an upturn in the global economy—particularly in the Euro zone—and the still rather firm Swiss franc would continue to hold back the Swiss economy in 2003. Economic performance in 2004 was better than expected thanks to eastern and Asian export markets, and GDP increased by 1.7%. 2005 economic forecasts bet on a 0.9 to 1.6% GDP growth, but structural problems remain the same. The lack of internal economic reforms and a moribund Eurozone economy will once again prevent Switzerland from achieving the much needed 3% growth target.

In 2005, the dollar/Swiss franc exchange rate continued to be shaped by geopolitical tensions. The dollar depreciated further against the Swiss franc from SF 1.49 in October 2002 to SF 1.31 in 2003, and 1.28 in June 2005. The strengthening of the Euro, however, helped Switzerland to minimize the pressure from a weakening dollar. The Swiss National Bank lowered its interest rates to near zero in March 2002 to make the Swiss franc unattractive to foreign investors, and make borrowings cheaper.

The number of bankruptcies in Switzerland during 2004 reached an alarming rate unseen since 1996, numbering 10,500 companies—7.4% more than in 2003. Bankruptcies have been on the rise for the past four years, but the 2004 increase was especially steep. Most cantons recorded an increase in bankruptcies—Zurich, Basel, Neuchâtel, Geneva and Vaud were hardest hit, while life was better for businesses in Lucerne and St Gallen. Creditors were left facing losses worth $3.87 billion, up almost a third. Given the sluggish economic outlook in Europe, the Swiss Statistics Office believes the upward trend in bankruptcies, both in franc and absolute terms, is likely to continue.

The recent economic slowdown has had a noticeable impact on the labor market. Unemployment increased from 2.6% in 2002 to 4.1% in December 2003, but has since dropped to 3.7%. Among the hardest hit are job seekers between 15-25 with a rate of 4.5%, and hotel and restaurant industry workers with 10.4%. The average number of days devoted to finding a new job increased from 155 to 178 days. One-fourth of the country's full-time workers are unionized. In general, labor/management relations are good, mostly characterized by a willingness on both sides to settle disputes by negotiations rather than by labor action. About 600 collective bargaining agreements exist today in Switzerland and are regularly renewed without major problems. However, the mood is changing. The massive layoffs that resulted from both the global economic slowdown and major management scandals have strained the traditional Swiss "labor peace." Swiss trade unions encouraged strikes against several companies, including the national airline SWISS, Coca-Cola, and Orange (the French telecom operator), but total days lost to strikes remain among the lowest in the OECD. Uncertainties concerning under-funded pension funds, and the prospect of a potential hike in the retirement age have stirred further street protests.

Switzerland's machinery, metals, electronics, and chemicals sectors are world-renowned for precision and quality. Together they account for well over half of Swiss export revenues. In agriculture, Switzerland is about 60% self-sufficient. Only 7.5% of the remaining imports originated from the U.S. Swiss farmers are one of the most highly protected and subsidized producer group in the world. OECD estimates show that Switzerland is subsidizing more than 70% of its agriculture, compared to 35% in the EU. According to the "2007 Agricultural Program" recently adopted by the Swiss Parliament, subsidies will increase by SF 63 million, thus totaling SF 14.092 billion from 2004 to 2007. Mill quotas, however, will be abolished starting in 2009.

Tourism, banking, engineering, and insurance are significant sectors of the economy and heavily influence the country's economic policies. Swiss trading companies have unique marketing expertise in many parts of the world, including eastern Europe, the Far East, Africa, and the Middle East. Not only does Switzerland have a highly developed tourism infrastructure (making it a good market for tourism-related equipment and services), the Swiss also are intrepid travelers. Per capita, more Swiss visit the United States every year than from any other country. Tourism is the most important U.S. export to Switzerland (earning almost $1.5 billion). In 2004, more than 285,000 Swiss came to the United States as tourists.

The Swiss economy earns roughly half of its corporate earnings from the export industry, and 62% of Swiss exports are destined for the EU market. The EU is Switzerland's largest trading partner, and economic and trade barriers between them are minimal. In the wake of the Swiss voters' rejection of the European Economic Area Agreement in 1992, the Swiss Government set its sights on negotiating bilateral sectoral agreements with the EU. After more than 4 years of negotiations, an agreement covering seven sectors (research, public procurement, technical barriers to trade, agriculture, civil aviation, land transport, and the free movement of persons) was achieved at the end of 1998. Parliament officially endorsed the so-called "Bilaterals I" in 1999, and the Swiss people approved them in a referendum in May 2000. The agreements, which had to be ratified by the European Parliament as well as legislatures in all 15 EU member states, entered into force on June 1, 2002. Switzerland has so far attempted to mitigate possible adverse effects of nonmembership by conforming many of its regulations, standards, and practices to EU directives and norms. Full access to the Swiss market for the original 15 EU member states entered into force in June 2004, ending as a result the "national preference". However, the Swiss will hold a referendum on September 25, 2005 to extend the provisions of Bilaterals I to the new eastern EU member states. A failure to do so is likely to be considered by the EU commission as discrimination against the new EU member states. Using the so-called "guillotine clause" linking all seven agreements together, the EU could revoke the whole Bilateral I package altogether, thus inflicting severe damage on the Swiss economy.

The Swiss Government embarked in July 2001 on a second round of bilateral negotiations with the EU known as "Bilaterals II". Talks focused on customs fraud, environment, statistics, trade in processed agricultural goods, media, the taxation of savings and police/judicial cooperation (dubbed the Schengen-Dublin accords). Amid a fierce political debate over the essence of Swiss-EU relations and populist warnings against EU workers and criminals entering Switzerland, the Schengen-Dublin package was approved on June 5, 2005 by a narrow referendum of 54.6%. Fears of cheap labor coming from new EU member states have prompted the government to provide for tripartite surveillance committees to ensure that decent wages are enforced. Experts believe the September 25, 2005 referendum will be either narrowly accepted, or worse defeated, leaving Switzerland open to unilateral EU economic retaliation.

As part of the bilateral agreement on the taxation of savings signed in June 2003, Swiss banks will levy a withholding tax on EU citizens' savings income. The tax, starting on July 1, 2005, will increase gradually to 35% by 2011, with 75% of the funds being transferred to the EU.

The Swiss federal government remains deeply divided over EU membership as its long-term goal, and in a March 2001 referendum more than 70% of the voters rejected rapid steps toward EU membership. The issue of EU membership is, therefore, likely to be shelved for several years, if not a decade. In May 2005, the government said it could sign a framework agreement with the European Union, as an alternative to joining the organization, to encourage dialogue and create a platform for closer cooperation. But in parallel, the cabinet reaffirmed its wish to strengthen ties with other non-EU trading partners in Asia and America. Exploratory talks are currently underway to assess the benefits of a U.S.-Swiss Free Trade Agreement, which would be the first ever signed between the United States and a European country.

Switzerland ranks 18th among the main trading partners of the U.S. worldwide. The United States is the second-largest importer (11.5%) of Swiss goods after Germany (20%). The U.S. exports more to Switzerland each year than to all the countries of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe combined, and Switzerland imports more U.S. products and services than does Spain. In addition, the United States is the largest foreign investor in Switzerland, and conversely, the primary destination of Swiss foreign investment. It is estimated that 200,000 American jobs depend on Swiss foreign investments. Total U.S.-Swiss bilateral trade increased from $15.33 billion during 2003 to $16 billion in 2004.


DEFENSE

On May 18, 2003, Swiss voters approved the military reform project "Army XXI" that will drastically reduce the size of the Swiss Army. Starting in January 2004, the current 524,000-strong militia will be pared down to 220,000 conscripts, including 80,000 reservists. The defense budget of currently SF 4.3 billion ($3.1 billion) will be trimmed by SF 300 million, and some 2,000 jobs are expected to be shed between 2004 and 2011. The mandatory time of service will be curtailed from 300 to 260 days. All able-bodied Swiss males aged 20 to 30 must serve. Thereafter, most personnel are assigned to civil protection duties until the age of 37.

A new category of soldiers called "single-term conscripts" will discharge the total time of service of about 300 days of active duty in one go. Recruiting is on a voluntary basis and should not exceed 20% of a year's draft. The armed forces have a small nucleus of about 3,600 professional staff, half of whom are either instructors or staff officers, with the remainder mostly being fortification guards. The army has virtually no full-time active combat units but is capable of full mobilization within 72 hours. Women may volunteer to serve in the armed forces and may now join all units, including combat troops. About 2,000 women already serve in the army but, so far, have not been allowed to use weapons for purposes other than self-defense.

The armed forces are organized in four army corps and an air force and are equipped with modern, sophisticated, and well-maintained gear. In 1993, the Swiss Government ordered 34 FA-18s from the United States.


FOREIGN RELATIONS

On September 10, 2002, Switzerland became a full member of the United Nations. Switzerland had previously been involved as party to the Statute of the International Court of Justice and member of most UN specialized agencies as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency. Switzerland has long participated in many UN activities, including the Economic Commission for Europe, UN Environment Program, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UN Conference for Trade and Development, UN Industrial Development Organization, and the Universal Postal Union (UPU). Prior to its formal accession, Switzerland had maintained a permanent observer mission at UN Headquarters since 1948.

Switzerland also is a member of the following international organizations: World Trade Organization, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, European Free Trade Association, Bank for International Settlements, Council of Europe, and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). In 1992 Swiss voters approved membership in the Bretton Woods organizations but later that year rejected the European Economic Area agreement, which the government viewed as a first step toward EU membership.

The Swiss Constitution declares the preservation of Switzerland's independence and welfare as the supreme objective of Swiss foreign policy. Below this overarching goal, the Constitution sets five specific foreign policy objectives: further the peaceful coexistence of nations; promote respect for human rights, democracy, and the rule of the law; promote Swiss economic interests abroad, alleviate need and poverty in the world; and the preservation of natural resources.

Traditionally, Switzerland has avoided alliances that might entail military, political, or direct economic action, but in recent years the Swiss have broadened the scope of activities in which they feel able to participate without compromising their neutrality. Swiss voters first rejected UN membership by a 3-to-1 margin in 1986 but in March 2002 adopted it, albeit in a very close election, making Switzerland the first country to join the UN based on a popular referendum decision. In similar fashion, the electorate rejected a government proposition to deploy Swiss troops as UN peacekeepers (Blue Helmets) in 1994, but Switzerland joined NATO's Partnership for Peace and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council in 1996 and 1997, respectively, and deployed Yellow Berets to support the OSCE in Bosnia. In June 2001, Swiss voters approved new legislation providing for the deployment of armed Swiss troops for international peacekeeping missions under UN or OSCE auspices as well as closer international cooperation in military training.

Switzerland maintains diplomatic relations with almost all countries and historically has served as a neutral intermediary and host to major international treaty conferences. The country has no major dispute in its bilateral relations. Since 1980, Switzerland has represented U.S. interests in Iran. Switzerland played a key role in brokering a truce agreement between the Sudanese Government and Sudan's Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) for the Nuba Mountain region, signed after a week's negotiations taking place near Lucerne in January 2002.

The Swiss feel a moral obligation to undertake social, economic, and humanitarian activities that contribute to world peace and prosperity. This is manifested by Swiss bilateral and multilateral diplomatic activity, assistance to developing countries, and support for the extension of international law, particularly humanitarian law. Switzerland (mainly Geneva) is home to many international governmental and nongovernmental organizations, including the International Committee of the Red Cross (whose flag is essentially the Swiss flag with colors reversed, the Red Cross historically being a Swiss organization). One of the first international organizations, the Universal Postal Union, is located in Bern.

The Swiss Government on June 25, 2003, eased most of the sanctions against the Republic of Iraq in accord with UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1483. The government lifted the trade embargo, flight restrictions, and financial sanctions in place since August 1990. The weapons embargo and the asset freeze, the scope of which was extended, remain in force, and restrictions on the trade in Iraqi cultural goods were newly imposed. Though not a member at the time, Switzerland had joined UN sanctions against Iraq after the invasion of Kuwait. To date, Switzerland has joined UN and EU economic sanctions imposed on Sierra Leone, UNITA (Angola), Liberia, Serbia and Montenegro, Burma, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Cote d'Ivoire. On October 15, 2003, the Federal Council ended the import restrictions on raw diamonds from Sierra Leone and lifted sanctions against Libya.

Switzerland in October 2000 implemented an ordinance to enforce UN sanctions against the Taliban (UNSCR 1267), which it subsequently amended in April 2001 in accord with tighter UN regulations (UNSCR 1333). On May 2, 2002, the Swiss Government eased the sanctions regime in accord with UNSCR 1388 and 1390, lifting the ban on the sale of acetic acid (used in drug production), Afghani Airlines, and Afghani diplomatic representations. The weapons embargo, travel restrictions, and financial sanctions remain in force. The Swiss Government in November 2001 issued an ordinance declaring illegal the terrorist organization al Qaeda as well as possible successor or supporting organizations. More than 200 individuals or companies linked to international terrorism have been blacklisted to have their assets frozen. Thus far, Swiss authorities have blocked about 72 accounts totaling $22.6 million.

Switzerland has furnished military observers and medical teams to several UN operations. Switzerland is an active participant in the OSCE, its foreign minister serving as Chairman-in-Office for 1996. Switzerland also is an active participant in the major nonproliferation and export control regimes.

Under a series of treaties concluded after World War I, Switzerland assumed responsibility for the diplomatic and consular representation of Liechtenstein, the protection of its borders, and the regulation of its customs.


U.S.-SWISS RELATIONS

Switzerland is a democratic country subscribing to most of the ideals with which the United States is identified. The country is politically stable with a fundamentally strong economy. It occupies an important strategic position within Europe and possesses a strong military capability. It has played an increasingly important role in supporting the spread of democratic institutions and values worldwide, as well as providing humanitarian relief and economic development assistance. U.S. policy toward Switzerland takes these factors into account and endeavors to cooperate with Switzerland to the extent consistent with Swiss neutrality.

The first 4 years of cooperation under the U.S.-Swiss Joint Economic Commission invigorated bilateral ties by recording achievements in a number of areas, including consultations on anti-money laundering efforts, counter-terrorism, and pharmaceutical regulatory cooperation; an e-government conference; and the reestablishment of the Fulbright student/cultural exchange program.

The first official U.S.-Swiss consular relations were established in the late 1820s. Diplomatic relations were established in 1853. The U.S. ambassador to Switzerland also is accredited to the Principality of Liechtenstein.

Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

BERN (E) Address: Jubilaeumsstr. 93, 3005 Bern; APO/FPO: No APO; Phone: 41-31-357-7011; Fax: 41 - 31 - 357-7344; Workweek: Mon. - Fri., 8:30-5:30; Website: http://www.usembassy.ch.

AMB:Pamela P. Willeford
DCM:Carol Urban
CG:Doria Rosen
POL:Eric Sandberg (Pol/Econ Chief)
MGT:Stephen Dodson
CUS:David Marwell
DAO:COL Dorothea Cypher-Erickson
FCS:Julie Snyder
ICASS Chair:Ron Brickerd
IPO:Stephen McCain
ISO:Novaro Casci (FSN)
ISSO:Laura Williams
PAO:Daniel Wendell
RSO:Kerry Crockett
State ICASS:Eric Sandberg
Last Updated: 1/5/2006

GENEVA (M) Address: 11 Rte de Pregny, 1292 Chambesy, Geneva, Switzerland; Phone: 41-22-749-4111; Fax: 41-22-749-4892; INMARSAT Tel: 764114496/9; Workweek: M-F 8:30-5:30; Website: usmission.ch.

AMB:Kevin E. Moley
AMB OMS:Abigail Erickson
DCM:Lynn L. Cassel
DCM OMS:Patricia Reber
POL:DePirro, Velia M.
MGT:Stanton R. Bigelow
AID:Nance Kyloh (RMA)
CLO:Jackie Graves/Adriana Birdsall
ECO:Lisa Carle
EST:Chuck Ashley
FMO:Thomas Lyman
GSO:Earl Graves
ICASS Chair:Piper Campbell
IMO:Loren (Fred) File
IPO:Janice Metzger
ISO:Lisa Kurtz
ISSO:Nijay Saini
LAB:John Chamberlin
LEGATT:Jeffrey D. Kovar
PAO:Brooks Robinson
RSO:Mark G. Bandik
State ICASS:Kira Kruglikova
Last Updated: 12/22/2005

TRAVEL

Consular Information Sheet

November 28, 2005

Country Description:

Switzerland is a highly developed democracy. Liechtenstein is a democratically run constitutional monarchy.

Entry/Exit Requirements:

A passport is required for travel to both Switzerland and Liechtenstein. A visa is not required for stays up to 90 days in either country. For more information on entry requirements for both countries, travelers may contact the Embassy of Switzerland at 2900 Cathedral Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 745-7900, or the nearest Swiss Consulate General in Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, or San Francisco. See our Foreign Entry Requirements brochure for more information on Switzerland, Liechtenstein and other countries. Visit the Embassy of Switzerland's web site at http://www.swissemb.org for the most current visa information.

Find more information about Entry and Exit Requirements pertaining to dual nationality and the prevention of international child abduction. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information.

Safety and Security:

The potential for specific threats of violence involving American citizens in Switzerland is remote. However, while not directed at U.S. interests or personnel, Switzerland has experienced occasional terrorist incidents. The Consular Agencies in Zurich and Geneva may close periodically to assess their security situation.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Travel Warnings and Public Announcements, including the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, can be found.

Crime:

Switzerland has a low rate of violent crime. However, pick-pocketing and purse snatching do occur in the vicinity of train and bus stations, airports, and some public parks, especially during peak tourist periods (such as summer and Christmas) and when conferences, shows, or exhibits are scheduled in mayor cities. Liechtenstein has a low crime rate. Travelers may wish to exercise caution on trains, especially on overnight trains to neighboring countries. Thieves, who steal from passengers while they sleep, can enter even locked sleeping compartments.

Information for victims of crime:

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Switzerland, through the 26 cantons, has a program to assist victims of crime and their immediate relatives. Medical, psychological, social, financial and legal assistance are available throughout the country. This program also protects the rights of the victim during the criminal proceedings. The victim may receive compensation for some damages, if requested during the criminal procedure. Information is available at the Swiss Department of Justice located on Bundesrain 20, 3003 Bern, telephone: 41-31-322-4750, as well as on the Internet at www.bj.admin.ch.

Medical facilities and health information:

Good medical care is widely available.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

Medical insurance:

The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.

Traffic safety and road conditions:

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Switzerland is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Although many roads are mountainous and winding, road safety standards are high. In some mountain areas, vehicle snow chains are required in winter. Road travel can be more dangerous during summer, winter holidays, the Easter break and Whitsunday weekend (late spring) because of increased traffic. Travel on expressways (indicated by green signs with a white expressway symbol) requires purchase of a sticker or "vignette," which must be affixed to the car's windshield. Vignettes can be purchased a most border crossings points, gas stations and at Swiss post offices. Drivers using the highway system without a vignette are subject to hefty fines levied on the spot. Public transportation in Switzerland and Liechtenstein is excellent.

Please refer to our Road Safety page. Visit the website of the country's national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety at insert site here.

Aviation safety oversight:

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Switzerland as being in compliance with ICAO international aviation safety standards for oversight of Switzerland's air carrier operations.

Special circumstances:

Costs of search and rescue operations are the responsibility of the victim, thus, travelers who plan to participate in mountain activities (summer and winter) are strongly encouraged to buy mountain search and rescue insurance. Search and rescue insurance is available inexpensively in Switzerland and may be purchased at many Swiss post offices. Information can be obtained form the Swiss National Tourist Office, at http://www.myswitzerland.com, at most tourists information offices or with the Swiss Air Rescue Organization at http://www.rega.ch. Such insurance has proved useful as uninsured rescues can easily cost $25,000.

Switzerland's customs authorities encourage the use of an ATA (Admission Temporaire/Admission) Carnet for the temporary admission of professional equipment, commercial samples, and/or goods for exhibitions and fair purposes. ATA Carnet Headquarters located at the U.S. Council for International Business, 1212 Avenue of the Americas, New York, N.Y. 10036, and issues and guarantees the ATA Carnet in the United States. For additional information call (212) 354-4480, send an email to [email protected], or visit http://www.uscib.org for details.

Criminal Penalties:

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Switzerland's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Switzerland are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Children's issues:

For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website.

Registration/Embassy location:

Americans living or traveling in Switzerland are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy, Consulate or Consular Agent to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at Jubilaeumstrasse 93, 3005 Bern; Tel. (41)(31) 357-7011, fax (41)(31) 357-7280. The Embassy's 24-hour emergency telephone number is (41)(31)357-7777. The Embassy's email address is [email protected] The U.S. Embassy website at http://bern.usembassy.gov answers many questions of interest to Americans visiting and residing in Switzerland.

The U.S. Consular Agency in Zurich is located at the American Center of Zurich, Dufourstrasse 101, 8008 Zurich; Tel: (41)(43) 499-2960, fax (41)(43) 499-2961.

The U.S. Consular Agency in Geneva is located at rue Versonnex 7, CH-1207 Geneva, Tel: 022-840-51 60 fax 022-840-51 62.

There is no U.S. Embassy or Consulate in Liechtenstein. For assistance and information on travel and security in Liechtenstein, U.S. may contact or register at the U.S. Embassy in Bern at the address above.

International Adoption

January 2006

The information below has been edited from a report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Adoption section of this book and review current reports online at www.travel.state.gov/family.

Disclaimer:

The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is based on public sources and our current understanding. Questions involving foreign and U.S. immigration laws and legal interpretation should be addressed respectively to qualified foreign or U.S. legal counsel.

Availability of Children for Adoption:

Switzerland is not considered a source country for parents seeking orphaned children to adopt, so there are very few Swiss children available for adoption. In the past ten years, the U.S. Embassy in Bern has not issued immigrant visas to Swiss orphans or for children adopted from other countries.

Swiss Adoption Authorities:

Prospective U.S. citizen adoptive parents resident in Switzerland should contact the Cantonal Central Authority (CCA) in the canton where they are domiciled. The CCA can provide complete information on adoption law, policy and procedures. Please review current reports online at travel.state.gov/family for more details.

Age and Civil Status Requirements:

Parents wishing to adopt a child in Switzerland must be at least 16 years older than the child they plan to adopt. Married couples wishing to adopt must both be at least 35 years old or married for 5 years and in most circumstances must jointly adopt the child. Single persons may adopt if they are at least 35 years old. If a parent wishes to adopt the child of a spouse, the couple must have been married for at least 5 years.

Adoption Agencies and Attornies:

Parents may wish to contact and be counselled by non-official specialists (adoption agencies, attorneys and other facilitators). A complete list of adoption agencies approved by the cantons is available at www.ofj.admin.ch/e/index.html. Prospective adoptive parents should verify that the adoption agency with which they work has been approved by the Office of Child Protection in the Swiss Federal Office of Justice (www.bj.admin.ch). Please also see Important Notice Regarding Adoption Agents and Facilitators at the Web site for the Bureau of Consular Affairs at http://travel.state.gov.

The U.S. Embassy in Bern maintains a list of local English-speaking attorneys, some of whom practice family law. Visit the Embassy's website at www.usembassy.ch.

Swiss Documentary Requirements:

The applicable law and procedures for U.S. citizens domiciled in Switzerland therefore depends on the country of origin of the child to be adopted.

Child's Origin in a Contracting State of the Hague Adoption Convention:

The prospective adopting persons should contact the CCA of the canton in which they are domiciled. The CAA will advise them about adoption law and procedures as well as documentary requirements such as immigration papers, social and medical reports which are necessary to adopt a child from a Hague Convention Country.

Child's Origin in a Non-Contracting State of the Hague Adoption Convention:

The prospective adopting persons must work with the local CCA to obtain permission to bring the child to Switzerland in advance of a planned adoption. The CCA can also provide information on adoption law and procedures as well as documentary requirements such as immigration papers, social and medical reports.

After a child to be adopted arrives in Switzerland, there is a probationary period of at least one year during which the child will be under the supervision of the local guardianship authority. At the end of this period the guardianship authority will order a home study. The adoption will then be finalized unless it has been established that adoption would be against the child's interest and well-being. There is no probationary period or supervision if the adoption has already been finalized outside Switzerland and at least one of the adopting parents shares the nationality of the child's country of origin.

Precise documentary requirements vary depending on the requirements of the child's country of origin and whether the Hague Convention on intercountry adoption is applicable. For detailed information please contact the CAA or a specialized adoption agency.

Authentications:

All U.S. documents submitted to a foreign government/court must be authenticated. Please see the International Adoption section of this book for more details and review current reports online at travel.state.gov/family

Embassy and Consulates in the United States:

Switzerland has Consulates in Atlanta, GA; Chicago, IL; Houston, TX; Los Angeles, CA; New York, NY; and San Francisco, CA; as well as an Embassy in Washington, DC which maintains a Web site at www.swissemb.org.

U.S. Immigration Requirements:

U.S. citizen adoptive parents who wish to bring their child to the United States for permanent residence should contact the U.S. Embassy in Bern to discuss their options. General information about immigration requirements for adopted children can be found on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service website at uscis.gov.

U.S. Embassy in Switzerland:
Embassy of the United States of America
93 Jubilaeumstrasse
3005 Bern
Switzerland
Telephone no. (41)(31) 357-7011

Additional Information:

Prospective adoptive parents are strongly encouraged to consult BCIS publication M-249, The Immigration of Adopted and Prospective Adoptive Children, as well as the Department of State publication, International Adoptions. The BCIS publication is available at the BCIS Web site, http://uscis.gov. The Department of State publication can be found on the Bureau of Consular Affairs Web site under "International Adoptions."

Questions:

Specific questions regarding adoption in Switzerland may be addressed to the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services or the Immigrant Visa Unit at the U.S. Embassy in Switzerland. Parents may also contact the Office of Children's Issues, U.S. Department of State, CA/OCS/CI, 2201 C Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20520-4818, toll-free
Tel: 1-888-404-4747 with specific questions.

International Parental Child Abduction

January 2006

The information below has been edited from the report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Overseas Citizens Services. For more information, please read the International Child Abduction section of this book and review current reports online at travel.state.gov.

Disclaimer:

The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is based on public sources and our current understanding. Questions involving foreign and U.S. immigration laws and legal interpretation should be addressed respectively to qualified foreign or U.S. legal counsel.

The Swiss Central Authority of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction has informed the Department of State of the following general information concerning the operation of the Convention in Switzerland.

Judicial Procedure:

Upon receipt of a Hague application, the Swiss Central Authority usually tries to get in touch with the abducting parent in order to find out if a mediated solution can be achieved. If this is not the case, or if the applicant requests to commence the judicial procedure immediately in view of obtaining a court order under the Hague Convention, the applicant is sent a list of attorneys from the respective canton who are willing to take Hague cases. The applicant can also let the Central Authority choose the attorney for him/her. It is up to the attorney to commence the judicial procedure, to file the application of legal aid (if applicable) and to take the necessary steps in view of obtaining an enforcement of the final judgment. Switzerland has no unified civil procedure law and no uniform court system, and the designation of the courts, rules of procedure and conditions for appeals vary considerably. A judgment rendered by the court of first instance (often called the District Court) can normally be reviewed by the court of second instance (called Superior Court, Court of Appeals, etc.). Finally, it is possible to file a further appeal with the Federal (Supreme) Court in Lausanne, Switzerland's highest judicial authority. No writ of certiorari must be obtained in order to get access to the Federal Court, but the complaints that can be raised in this stage of the lawsuit are normally limited to the violation of constitutional rights (including a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights). A final decision should usually not be expected in less than six months.

Attorneys:

The applicant can choose an attorney from a list that will be provided by the Swiss Central Attorney, or he/she can let the Central Authority choose the attorney for him/her. There is a large number of attorneys who speak and write English fluently. The attorney must be paid only if the applicant is not entitled to legal aid. The attorney fees are ruled by cantonal law and differ widely. The fee normally can be negotiated between attorney and client, but no contingent fee is allowed.

Legal Aid:

Switzerland has established a system of legal aid that is governed (in accordance with Article 42 of the Hague Convention) by cantonal law, although a minimal standard and guidelines are set by the case law of the Federal Court. Pursuant to this case law, an applicant is entitled to legal aid if he or she is indigent (unable to pay a living for him/herself and his/her family in addition to the legal fees) and if the chances of winning the case are greater than the chances of losing it. Legal aid covers both the court costs (which are considerably higher than those in the U.S.) as well as the attorney's fees. It is up to the attorney to file the request for legal aid with the court or the competent authority before commencing the Hague procedure. There are no application forms available. In general, documents indicating the monthly or annual income and expenses as well as assets and debts are required. The quicker these documents are conveyed to the attorney, the quicker a preliminary decision regarding legal aid can be obtained.

Rights of Access:

The Swiss Central Authority tries to help parents exercise their rights of access pursuant to Article 21 of the Hague Convention. This obligation normally is fulfilled through intermediaries, mostly local guardianship authorities or juvenile services. This includes proceedings in view of negotiating mediated solutions and organizing locations and supervision in order to permit the meeting of a child with the parent. The Central Authority furthermore helps to find an attorney if no mediated solution can be found and a court must resolve the dispute. If the child's habitual residence is in Switzerland, the conditions and requirements of such a decision are set forth by Swiss law. If the conditions of rights of access have already been determined in a decision rendered by a U.S. court in the habitual residence of the child, then the Swiss court organizes the protection of the rights of access pursuant to Article 21 of the Hague Convention.

Article 28 Authorization:

No authorization as foreseen in Article 28 is required when the Hague application is filed with the Swiss Central Authority. A power of attorney must normally be completed, signed and sent to the attorney when the judicial procedure commences.

Translation of Documents:

The Swiss Central Authority accepts all documents in English. Translation into German, French or Italian, as the language of the court might be, will be required if the document must be presented to a court, but the translation need not be sent with the Hague application.

For further information on international parental child abduction, contact the Office of Children's Issues at 202-736-7000, visit the State Department website on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov, or send a nine-by-twelve-inch, self-addressed envelope to: Office of Children's Issues, SA-29, U.S. Department of State, 2201 C Street, NW, Washington, DC 20520-2818; Phone: (202) 736-9090; Fax: (202) 312-9743.

views updated

SWITZERLAND

Compiled from the January 2004 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.


Official Name:
Swiss Confederation


PROFILE
PEOPLE
HISTORY
GOVERNMENT
POLITICAL CONDITIONS
ECONOMY
DEFENSE
FOREIGN RELATIONS
U.S.-SWISS RELATIONS
TRAVEL


PROFILE


Geography

Area: 41,285 sq. km. (15,941 sq. mi.); about the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined.

Cities: Capital—Bern (population about 123,000). Other cities—Zurich (341,000), Geneva (176,000), Basel (165,000), Lausanne (116,000).

Terrain: 60% mountains, the remainder hills and plateau. Switzerland straddles the central ranges of the Alps.

Climate: Temperate, varying with altitude and season.


People

Nationality: Noun and adjective—Swiss (singular and plural).

Population: (2002) 7.3 million.

Annual growth rate: 0.8%.

Ethnic groups: Mixed European.

Religions: Roman Catholic 42%, Protestant 33%, Muslim 4.3%, others 5.4%, no religion 11%.

Languages: German 63.7%, French 20.4%, Italian 6.5%, Romansch 0.5%, other 9.4%.

Education: Years compulsoryȔ9. Attendance—100%. Literacy—100%.

Health: Infant mortality rate—4.8/1,000. Life expectancy—men 76.5 yrs., women 82.5 yrs.

Work force: (3.96 million) Agriculture and forestry—4.2%. Industry and business—25.6%. Services and government—70.2%.


Government

Type: Federal state.

Independence: The first Swiss Confederation was founded in August 1291 as a defensive alliance among three cantons. The Swiss Confederation established independence from the Holy Roman Empire in 1499.

Constitution: 1848; extensively amended in 1874; fully revised in 2000

Branches: Executive—Federal Council, collegium of seven members, headed by a rotating one-year presidency. Legislative—Federal Assembly (bicameral: Council of States, 46 members; National Council, 200 members). Judicial—Federal Tribunal.

Administrative subdivisions: 26 cantons (states) with considerable autonomy.

Political parties: Swiss People's Party (SVP), Social Democratic Party (SP), Free Democratic Party (FDP), Christian Democratic Party (CVP), and several smaller parties representing localities or views from extreme left to extreme right.

Suffrage: In federal matters, universal over 18.

Economy

GDP: (2002)$268 billion (417 billion Swiss francs).

Annual growth rate: (2002) 0.1% in real terms.

Per capita income: (2001) $22,898 (38,470 Swiss francs).

Avg. inflation rate: (2003) 0.6%.

Natural resources: Waterpower, timber, salt.

Agriculture: (2.26% of GDP in 1999) Products—dairy, livestock, grains, fruit and vegetables, potatoes, wine.

Arable land: (1999) 26%.

Industry: (29.9% of GDP in 1999) Types—machinery, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, time pieces, precision instruments, textiles and clothing, pigment, transportation equipment.

Services: (67.8% of GDP in 1999).

Trade: (2002) Exports—$84.1 billion (130 billion Swiss franc s) machinery and electronics; chemicals and pharmaceuticals; instruments and timepieces. Major markets—Germany, United States, France, Italy, U.K., Japan. Imports—$79.4 billion (123 billion Swiss francs) machinery and electronics; chemicals; vehicles. Major suppliers—Germany, Italy, France, Netherlands, U.S., U.K., Japan.



PEOPLE

Switzerland sits at the crossroads of several major European cultures, which have heavily influenced the country's languages and cultural practices. Switzerland has four official languages—German, French, Italian, and Romansch (based on Latin and spoken by a small minority in the Canton Graubunden). The German spoken is predominantly a Swiss dialect, but newspapers and some broadcasts use High German. Many Swiss speak more than one language. English is widely known, especially among professionals.


More than 75% of the population lives in the central plain, which stretches between the Alps and the Jura Mountains and from Geneva in the southwest to the Rhine River and Lake Constance in the northeast. Resident foreigners and temporary foreign workers make up about 20% of the population.


Almost all Swiss are literate. Switzerland's 13 institutes of higher learning enrolled 99,600 students in the academic year of 2001-02. About 25% of the adult population holds a diploma of higher learning.


The Constitution guarantees freedom of worship, and the different religious communities co-exist peacefully.


Switzerland consistently ranks high on quality of life indices, including highest per capita income, one of the highest concentrations of computer and Internet usage per capita, highest insurance coverage per individual, and high health care rates. For these and many other reasons, it serves as an excellent test market for businesses hoping to introduce new products into Europe.



HISTORY

Originally inhabited by the Helvetians, or Helvetic Celts, the territory comprising modern Switzerland came under Roman rule during the Gallic wars in the 1st century BC and remained a Roman province until the 4th century AD. Under Roman influence, the population reached a high level of civilization and enjoyed a flourishing commerce. Important cities, such as Geneva, Basel, and Zurich, were linked by military roads that also served as trade arteries between Rome and the northern tribes.

After the decline of the Roman Empire, Switzerland was invaded by Germanic tribes from the north and west. Some tribes, such as the Alemanni in central and northeastern Switzerland, and the Burgundians, who ruled western Switzerland, settled there. In 800, the country became part of Charlemagne's empire. It later passed under the dominion of the Holy Roman emperors in the form of small ecclesiastic and temporal holdings subject to imperial sovereignty.


With the opening of a new important north-south trade route across the Alps in the early 13th century, the Empire's rulers began to attach more importance to the remote Swiss mountain valleys, which were granted some degree of autonomy under direct imperial rule. Fearful of the popular disturbances flaring up following the death of the Holy Roman Emperor in 1291, the ruling families from Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden signed a charter to keep public peace and pledging mutual support in upholding autonomous administrative and judicial rule. The anniversary of the charter's signature (August 1, 1291) today is celebrated as Switzerland's National Day.


Between 1315 and 1388 the Swiss Confederates inflicted three crushing defeats on the Habsburgs, whose aspiration to regional dominion clashed with Swiss self-determination. During that period, five other localities (cantons in modern-day parlance) joined the original three in the Swiss Confederation. Buoyed by their feats, the Swiss Confederates continuously expanded their borders by military means and gained formal independence from the Holy Roman Empire in 1499. Routed by the French and Venetians near Milan in 1515, they renounced expansionist policies. By then the Swiss Confederation had become a union of 13 localities with a regularly convening diet administering the subject territories. Swiss mercenaries continued for centuries to serve in other armies; the Swiss Guard of the Pope is a vestige of this tradition.


The Reformation led to a division between the Protestant followers of Zwingli and Calvin in the German and French parts of the country respectively, and the Catholics. Despite two centuries of civil strife, the common interest in the joint subject territories kept the Swiss Confederation from falling apart. The traffic in mercenaries as well as the alienation between the predominantly Protestant Swiss and their Catholic neighbors kept the Swiss Confederation out of the wars of the European powers, which formally recognized Swiss neutrality in the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. The Swiss remained neutral during the War of the First Coalition against revolutionary France, but Napoleon, nonetheless, invaded and annexed much of the country in 1797-98, replacing the loose confederation with a centrally governed unitary state.


The Congress of Vienna in 1815 reestablished the old confederation of sovereign states and enshrined Switzerland's status of permanent armed neutrality in international law. In 1848, after a brief civil war between Protestant liberals seeking a centralized national state and Catholic conservatives clinging on to the old order, the majority of Swiss Cantons opted for a Federal State, modeled in part on the U.S. Constitution. The Swiss Constitution established a range of civic liberties and made far-reaching provisions to maintain cantonal autonomy to placate the vanquished Catholic minority. The Swiss amended their Constitution extensively in 1874, establishing federal responsibility for defense, trade, and legal matters, as well as introducing direct democracy by popular referendum. To this day, cantonal autonomy and referendum democracy remain trademarks of the Swiss polity.


Switzerland industrialized rapidly during the 19th century and by 1850 had become the second most industrialized country in Europe after Great Britain. During World War I serious
tension developed between the German, French, and Italian-speaking parts of the country, and Switzerland came close to violating its neutrality but managed to stay out of hostilities. Labor unrest culminating in a general strike in 1918 marked the interwar period, but in 1937 employers and the largest trade union concluded a formal agreement to settle disputes peacefully, which governs workplace relations to the present day. During World War II, Switzerland came under heavy pressure from the fascist powers, which after the fall of France in 1940 completely surrounded the country. Some political and economic leaders displayed a mood of appeasement, but a combination of tactical accommodation and demonstrative readiness to defend the country helped Switzerland survive unscathed.

The Cold War enhanced the role of neutral Switzerland and offered the country a way out of its diplomatic isolation after World War II. Economically, Switzerland integrated itself into the American-led Western post-war order, but it remained reluctant to enter supranational bodies. Switzerland did not join the United Nations, even though Geneva became host to the UN's European headquarters, and the country played an active role in many of the UN's specialized agencies. Switzerland also remained aloof in the face of European integration efforts, waiting until 1963 to join the Council of Europe. It still remains outside the European Union. Instead, Switzerland in 1960 helped form the European Free Trade Area, which did not strive for political union. Following the Cold War, Switzerland joined the Bretton Woods institutions in 1992 and finally became a member of the United Nations in 2002.



GOVERNMENT

Switzerland is a federal state composed of 26 cantons (20 are "full" cantons and six "half" cantons for purposes of representation in the federal legislature) that retain attributes of sovereignty, such as fiscal autonomy and the right to manage internal cantonal affairs. Under the 2000 Constitution, cantons hold all powers not specifically delegated to the federation. Switzerland's federal institutions are:


  • A bicameral legislature—the Federal Assembly;
  • A collegial executive of seven members—the Federal Council; and
  • A judiciary consisting of a single, regular court in Lausanne—the Federal Tribunal—and special military and administrative courts. The Federal Insurance Tribunal is an independent division of the Federal Tribunal that handles social security questions; its seat is in Lucerne.

The Constitution provides for separation of the three branches of government.


The Federal Assembly is the primary seat of power, although in practice the executive branch has been increasing its power at the expense of the legislative branch. The Federal Assembly has two houses—the Council of States and the National Council. These two houses have equal powers in all respects, including the right to introduce legislation. Legislation cannot be vetoed by the executive nor reviewed for constitutionality by the judiciary, but all laws (except the budget) can be reviewed by popular referendum before taking effect. The 46 members of the Council of States (two from each canton and one from each half canton) are directly elected in each canton by majority voting. The 200 members of the National Council are directly elected in each canton under a system of proportional representation. Members of both houses serve for 4 years.


The Federal Assembly meets quarterly for 3-week plenary sessions. The parliamentary committees of the two houses, which are often key in shaping legislation, meet behind closed doors, but both majority and minority positions are presented during the plenary sessions. The Federal Assembly is a militia parliament, and members commonly retain their traditional professions. Individual members of parliament have no personal staff.

The Assembly can be legally dissolved only after the adoption of a popular initiative calling for a complete revision of the Constitution. All citizens 18 or older have the right to vote and run for office in national, cantonal, and communal elections unless individually disqualified by the relevant legislature.


A strong emphasis on ballot votes arises out of the traditional Swiss belief that the will of the people is the final national authority. Every constitutional amendment adopted by parliament is automatically brought to the ballot and has to carry a double majority of votes and states in order to become effective. The voters themselves may actively seek changes to the Constitution by means of the popular initiative: 100,000 voters may with their signatures request a national vote on a proposed constitutional amendment. New federal legislation also is subject to popular review, under the so-called referendum: 50,000 signatures suffice to call a ballot vote on any federal law adopted by parliament. The Assembly can declare an act to be too urgent to allow time for popular consideration, but this is rare. At any rate, an act passed urgently must have a time limit and is later subject to the same constitutional provisions on popular review as other legislation.


The top executive body is the seven-member cabinet called the Federal Council. The Federal Assembly individually elects the seven Federal Councilors in a joint session of both houses at the opening of a new legislature. Federal Councilors are elected for 4-year terms; there are no term limits and no provision to recall the cabinet or individual members during the legislature. Each year, the Federal Assembly elects from among the seven Federal Councilors a president and vice president, following the principle of seniority. The member who is vice president one year traditionally is elected president the next. Although the Constitution provides that the Federal Assembly chooses and supervises the cabinet, the latter has gradually assumed a preeminent role in directing the legislative process as well as executing federal laws.

Under an arrangement between the four major parties called the "magic formula" which was introduced in 1959 but ended in December 2003, two Federal Councilors (ministers) were elected each from the Christian Democrats, the Social Democrats, and the Free Democrats and one from the Swiss People's Party. Under the new magic formula starting January 1, 2004, the new party composition of the cabinet changed to the following composition: 1 Christian Democrat, 2 Social Democrats, 2 Free Democrats, and 2 representatives of the Swiss People's Party.


The Constitution requires that Federal Councilors act collectively in all matters, not as individual ministers or as representatives of their parties. Each Councilor heads one of seven federal departments and is responsible for preparing legislation pertaining to matters under its jurisdiction. The president, who remains responsible for the department he heads, has limited prerogatives and is first among equals (there is no formal prime minister).


The administration of justice is primarily a cantonal function. The only regular federal court, the Federal Tribunal, is limited in its jurisdiction. Its principal function is to hear appeals of civil and criminal cases. It has authority to review cantonal court decisions involving federal law and certain administrative rulings of federal departments, but it has no power to review legislation for constitutionality. The Tribunal's 30 full-time and 30 part-time judges are elected by the Federal Assembly for 6-year terms.


The cantons regulate local government. The basic unit of local government, which administers a village, town, or city, is the commune or municipality. Citizenship is derived from membership in a commune and can be conferred on non-Swiss by a commune. Cantons are subordinate to federal authority but keep autonomy in implementing federal law.


Principal Government Officials
Last Updated: 1/30/04


President: Deiss, Joseph

Vice President: Schmid, Samuel

Chief, Federal Dept. of Defense, Civil Protection, & Sports: Schmid, Samuel

Chief, Federal Dept. of Economic Affairs: Deiss, Joseph

Chief, Federal Dept. of Finance: Merz, Hans-Rudolf

Chief, Federal Dept. of Foreign Affairs: Calmy-Rey, Micheline

Chief, Federal Dept. of Home Affairs: Couchepin, Pascal

Chief, Federal Dept. of Justice & Police: Blocher, Christoph

Chief, Federal Dept. of Transportation, Communications, & Energy: Leuenberger, Moritz

Federal Chancellor: Huber-Hotz, Annemarie

Chmn., Swiss National Bank: Roth, Jean-Pierre

Ambassador to the US: Blickenstorfer, Christian

Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Staehelin, Jenoe



Switzerland maintains an embassy in the United States at 2900 Cathedral Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008. Consulates General are in Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco. Swiss national tourist offices are in Chicago, New York, and San Francisco.



POLITICAL CONDITIONS

Although it has a diverse society, Switzerland has a stable government. Most voters support the government in the armed neutrality underlying its foreign and defense policies. Domestic policy poses no major problems, but the changing international environment has generated a significant reexamination of Swiss policy in key areas such as defense, neutrality, and immigration. Quadrennial national elections typically produce only marginal changes in party representation.

In recent years, Switzerland has seen a gradual shift in the party landscape. The rightist Swiss People's Party (SVP), traditionally the junior partner in the four-party coalition government, more than doubled its voting share from 11% in 1987 to 22.5% in 1999, and finally to 26.6% in 2003, thus overtaking its three coalition partners. This shift in voting shares ended the 44-year old "magic formula," the power-broking agreement of the four coalition parties, and gave a second seat in the 7-person Swiss cabinet to the Swiss People's Party at the expense of the Christian Democrats, now the weakest party with 14.4% of the votes. For the first time in Swiss history, the SVP has two seats in the government, reflecting its new status as Switzerland's most popular party.


On December 10, 2003, Christoph Blocher — a self-made industrialist and main figure of the right-populist Swiss People's Party known for his strong opinions on asylum and migration and law and order issues — was elected to the cabinet by parliament, replacing the incumbent Christian Democrat Justice and Police Minister Ruth Metzler. The parliament also elected the Free Democrat Hans-Rudolf Merz to replace retiring Finance Minister Kaspar Villiger. All other in cumbent ministers were reelected. Both Blocher and Merz are strong advocates of drastic public spending cuts in order to reduce the country's mounting $102 billion francs state deficit and are staunch opponents to Switzerland's entering the European Union. The current makeup of the government also portends a conservative fiscal policy, evenless movement toward integration in Europe, and a strong defense of Switzerland's banking secrecy.


The Constitution limits federal influence in the formulation of domestic policy and emphasizes the roles of private enterprise and cantonal government. However, the Confederation has been compelled to enlarge its policy making powers in recent years to cope with national problems such as education, agriculture, energy, environment, organized crime, and narcotics.



ECONOMY

Despite a dearth of natural resources, the Swiss economy is among the world's most advanced and prosperous. Per capita income is virtually the highest in the world, as are wages. Trade has been the key to prosperity in Switzerland. The country is dependent upon export markets to generate income while dependent upon imports for raw materials and to expand the range of goods and services available in the country. Switzerland has liberal trade and investment policies and a conservative fiscal policy. The Swiss legal system is highly developed, commercial law is well defined, and solid laws and policies protect investments. The Swiss franc is one of the world's soundest currencies, and the country is known for its high standard of banking and financial services. Switzerland is a member of a number of international economic organizations, including the UN, the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).


Being so closely linked to the economies of western Europe and the United States, Switzerland has not been able to escape recent slowdowns experienced in these countries. During most of the 1990s, the Swiss economy was western Europe's weakest, with annual GDP growth averaging 0% between 1991 and 1997. Beginning in late 1997, the economy steadily gained momentum until peaking in 2000 with 3% growth in real terms. But in 2001 the rate of growth dropped to 0.9%, and in 2002 and 2003 the economy virtually stagnated with real GDP up by only 0.1%. The Swiss Economic Ministry had said that both the lack of an upturn in the global economy — particularly in the Euro zone — and the still rather firm Swiss franc would continue to hold back the Swiss economy in 2003. Germany, which absorbs 20% of Swiss exports, was expected to grow by no more than 0.1%-0.2% in 2003.


In 2003, the dollar/Swiss franc exchange rate continued to be shaped by geopolitical tensions and the global weakness of the equity markets. The dollar depreciated further against the Swiss franc from SF 1.49 in October 2002 to SF 1.31 in 2003, and 1.22 in January 2004. The strengthening of the Euro, however, helped Switzerland to minimize the pressure from a weakening dollar. The Swiss National Bank lowered its interest rates to near zero in March 2002 to make the Swiss franc unattractive to foreign investors, and make borrowings cheaper.


The number of bankruptcies in Switzerland during the first quarter of 2003 reached an alarming rate unseen since 1996, numbering 1,157 companies — 21.9% more than the year before. Nevertheless, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology believes that economic performance will be solid in 2004 and that GDP will increase by 0.9% in 2004, and by 1.2% in 2005.


The recent economic slowdown has had a noticeable impact on the labor market. Unemployment increased from 2.6% in 2002 to 4.1% in December 2003. Economic experts believe it could to rise further to 4.5% in 2005, still below the 5.7% level reached in February 1997. One-fourth of the country's full-time workers are unionized. In general, labor/management relations are good, mostly characterized by a willingness on both sides to settle disputes by negotiations rather than by labor action. About 600 collective bargaining agreements exist today in Switzerland and are regularly renewed without major problems. However, the mood is changing. The massive layoffs that resulted from both the global economic slowdown and major management scandals have strained the traditional Swiss "labor peace." Swiss trade unions encouraged strikes against several companies, including the national airline SWISS, Coca-Cola, and Orange (the French telecom operator), but total days lost to strikes remain among the lowest in the OECD. Uncertainties concerning under-funded pension funds, and the prospect of a potential hike in the retirement age have stirred further street protests.

Switzerland's machinery, metals, electronics, and chemicals sectors are world-renowned for precision and quality. Together they account for well over half of Swiss export revenues. In agriculture, Switzerland is about 60% self-sufficient. Only 7.5% of the remaining imports originated from the U.S. Swiss farmers are one of the most highly protected and subsidized producer group in the world. OECD estimates show that Switzerland is subsidizing more than 70% of its agriculture, compared to 35% in the EU. According to the "2007 Agricultural Program" recently adopted by the Swiss Parliament, subsidies will increase by SF 63 million, thus totaling SF 14.092 billion from 2004 to 2007. Mill quotas, however, will be abolished starting in 2009.


Tourism, banking, engineering, and insurance are significant sectors of the economy and heavily influence the country's economic policies. Swiss trading companies have unique marketing expertise in many parts of the world, including eastern Europe, the Far East, Africa, and the Middle East. Not only does Switzerland have a highly developed tourism infrastructure (making it a good market for tourism-related equipment and services), the Swiss also are intrepid travelers. Per capita, more Swiss visit the United States every year than from any other country. Tourism is the most important U.S. export to Switzerland (earning almost $1.5 billion). In 2002, more than 300,000 Swiss came to the United States as tourists.


The Swiss economy earns roughly half of its corporate earnings from the export industry, and about 70% of Swiss exports are destined for the EU market. The EU is Switzerland's largest trading partner, and economic and trade barriers between them are minimal. In the wake of the Swiss voters' rejection of the European Economic Area Agreement in 1992, the Swiss Government set its sights on negotiating bilateral sectorial agreements with the EU. After more than 4 years of negotiations, an agreement covering seven sectors (research, public procurement, technical barriers to trade, agriculture, civil aviation, land transport, and the free movement of persons) was achieved at the end of 1998. Parliament officially endorsed the so-called "Bilaterals" in 1999, and the Swiss people approved them in a referendum in May 2000. The agreements, which had to be ratified by the European Parliament as well as legislatures in all 15 EU member states, entered into force on June 1, 2002. Switzerland has so far attempted to mitigate possible adverse effects of nonmembership by conforming many of its regulations, standards, and practices to EU directives and norms.

The Swiss Government has embarked on a second round of bilateral negotiations with the EU (known as Bilaterals II). Talks on the four dossiers of customs fraud, environment, statistics, and trade in processed agricultural products started in July 2001. Negotiations on pension funds, student and youth exchange programs, media, the taxation of savings as well as police and judicial cooperation (under the Schengen and Dublin accords) also are underway. While most issues are not really contentious, talks on customs fraud are moving slowly. Police and judicial cooperation and the taxation of savings also are controversial, mostly because of possible adverse effects on Swiss bank secrecy.


Swiss and EU finance ministers agreed in June 2003 that Swiss banks would levy a withholding tax on EU citizens' savings income. The tax would increase gradually to 35% by 2011, with 75% of the funds being transferred to the EU. Swiss President Pascal Couchepin was expected to meet Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who currently chairs the rotating EU presidency, by the end of 2003. Recent estimates value EU capital inflows to Switzerland to $8.3 billion.


The Swiss federal government is deeply divided over EU membership as its long-term goal, and in a March 2001 referendum more than 70% of the voters rejected rapid steps toward EU membership. The issue of EU membership is, therefore, likely to be shelved for several years, if not a decade.


Switzerland ranks 18th among the main trading partners of the U.S. worldwide. The United States is the second-largest importer (11.5%) of Swiss goods after Germany (20%). The U.S. exports more to Switzerland each year than to all the countries of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe combined, and Switzerland imports more U.S. products and services than does Spain. In addition, the United States is the largest foreign investor in Switzerland, and conversely, the primary destination of Swiss foreign investment. It is estimated that 200,000 American jobs depend on Swiss foreign investments. Total U.S.-Swiss bilateral trade, nevertheless, decreased by 12% to $17.16 billion during 2002 compared to the previous year.


The third full year of cooperation under the U.S.-Swiss Joint Economic Commission (JEC) (2002-03) invigorated further bilateral ties by recording achievements in a number of areas covering anti-terrorism financing and the prevention of terrorist acts. That includes further consultations on anti-money laundering procedures and the seizure of al-Qaeda accounts, and as well as the development of a code of conduct for the pharmaceutical industry, led initially by Swiss and U.S. companies to prevent the spread of technology falling into the hands of terrorists. U.S. and Swiss environmental chiefs also met on January 24, 2003, and discussed possible areas of cooperation in the fields of environment and sustainable development. Both countries also approved the JEC agenda for 2003, which includes counter-terrorism, the nonproliferation and export control regimes, bilateral trade and investment issues, and advances in science and technology.



DEFENSE

On May 18, 2003, Swiss voters approved the military reform project "Army XXI" that will drastically reduce the size of the Swiss Army. Starting in January 2004, the current 524,000-strong militia will be pared down to 220,000 conscripts, including 80,000 reservists. The defense budget of currently SF 4.3 billion ($3.1 billion) will be trimmed by SF 300 million, and some 2,000 jobs are expected to be shed between 2004 and 2011. The mandatory time of service will be curtailed from 300 to 260 days. All able-bodied Swiss males aged 20 to 30 must serve. Thereafter, most personnel are assigned to civil protection duties until the age of 37.


A new category of soldiers called "single-term conscripts" will discharge the total time of service of about 300 days of active duty in one go. Recruiting is on a voluntary basis and should not exceed 20% of a year's draft. The armed forces have a small nucleus of about 3,600 professional staff, half of whom are either instructors or staff officers, with the remainder mostly being fortification guards. The army has virtually no full-time active combat units but is capable of full mobilization within 72 hours. Women may volunteer to serve in the armed forces and may now join all units, including combat troops. About 2,000 women already serve in the army but, so far, have not been allowed to use weapons for purposes other than self-defense.


The armed forces are organized in four army corps and an air force and are equipped with modern, sophisticated, and well-maintained gear. In 1993, the Swiss Government ordered 34 FA-18s from the United States.



FOREIGN RELATIONS

On September 10, 2002, Switzerland became a full member of the United Nations. Switzerland had previously been involved as party to the Statute of the International Court of Justice and member of most UN specialized agencies as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency. Switzerland has long participated in many UN activities, including the Economic Commission for Europe, UN Environment Program, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UN Conference for Trade and Development, UN Industrial Development Organization, and the Universal Postal Union (UPU). Prior to its formal accession, Switzerland had maintained a permanent observer mission at UN Headquarters since 1948.

Switzerland also is a member of the following international organizations: World Trade Organization, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, European Free Trade Association, Bank for International Settlements, Council of Europe, and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). In 1992 Swiss voters approved membership in the Bretton Woods organizations but later that year rejected the European Economic Area agreement, which the government viewed as a first step toward EU membership.


The Swiss Constitution declares the preservation of Switzerland's independence and welfare as the supreme objective of Swiss foreign policy. Below this overarching goal, the Constitution sets five specific foreign policy objectives: further the peaceful coexistence of nations; promote respect for human rights, democracy, and the rule of the law; promote Swiss economic interests abroad, alleviate need and poverty in the world; and the preservation of natural resources.


Traditionally, Switzerland has avoided alliances that might entail military, political, or direct economic action, but in recent years the Swiss have broadened the scope of activities in which they feel able to participate without compromising their neutrality. Swiss voters first rejected UN membership by a 3-to-1 margin in 1986 but in March 2002 adopted it, albeit in a very close election, making Switzerland the first country to join the UN based on a popular referendum decision. In similar fashion, the electorate rejected a government proposition to deploy Swiss troops as UN peacekeepers (Blue Helmets) in 1994, but Switzerland joined NATO's Partnership for Peace and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council in 1996 and 1997, respectively, and deployed Yellow Berets to support the OSCE in Bosnia. In June 2001, Swiss voters approved new legislation providing for the deployment of armed Swiss troops for international peacekeeping missions under UN or OSCE auspices as well as closer international cooperation in military training.


Switzerland maintains diplomatic relations with almost all countries and historically has served as a neutral intermediary and host to major international treaty conferences. The country has no major dispute in its bilateral relations. Since 1980, Switzerland has represented U.S. interests in Iran. Switzerland played a key role in brokering a truce agreement between the Sudanese Government and Sudan's Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) for the Nuba Mountain region, signed after a week's negotiations taking place near Lucerne in January 2002.


The Swiss feel a moral obligation to undertake social, economic, and humanitarian activities that contribute to world peace and prosperity. This is manifested by Swiss bilateral and multilateral diplomatic activity, assistance to developing countries, and support for the extension of international law, particularly humanitarian law. Switzerland (mainly Geneva) is home to many international governmental and nongovernmental organizations, including the International Committee of the Red Cross (whose flag is essentially the Swiss flag with colors reversed, the Red Cross historically being a Swiss organization). One of the first international organizations, the Universal Postal Union, is located in Bern.


The Swiss Government on June 25, 2003, eased most of the sanctions against the Republic of Iraq in accord with UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1483. The government lifted the trade embargo, flight restrictions, and financial sanctions in place since August 1990. The weapons embargo and the asset freeze, the scope of which was extended, remain in force, and restrictions on the trade in Iraqi cultural goods were newly imposed. Though not a member at the time, Switzerland had joined UN sanctions against Iraq after the invasion of Kuwait. Switzerland also has joined UN economic sanctions imposed on Libya, Sierra Leone, UNITA (Angola), Liberia, and Serbia and Montenegro. On October 15, 2003, the Federal Council ended the import restrictions on raw diamonds from Sierra Leone and lifted sanctions against Libya.

Switzerland in October 2000 implemented an ordinance to enforce UN sanctions against the Taliban (UNSCR 1267), which it subsequently amended in April 2001 in accord with tighter UN regulations (UNSCR 1333). On May 2, 2002, the Swiss Government eased the sanctions regime in accord with UNSCR 1388 and 1390, lifting the ban on the sale of acetic acid (used in drug production), Afghani Airlines, and Afghani diplomatic representations. The weapons embargo, travel restrictions, and financial sanctions remain in force. The Swiss Government in November 2001 issued an ordinance declaring illegal the terrorist organizational Qaeda as well as possible successor or supporting organizations. More than 200 individuals or companies linked to international terrorism have been blacklisted to have their assets frozen. Thus far, Swiss authorities have blocked about 72 accounts totaling $22.6 million.


Switzerland has furnished military observers and medical teams to several UN operations. Switzerland is an active participant in the OSCE, its foreign minister serving as Chairman-in-Office for 1996. Switzerland also is an active participant in the major nonproliferation and export control regimes.

Under a series of treaties concluded after World War I, Switzerland assumed responsibility for the diplomatic and consular representation of Liechtenstein, the protection of its borders, and the regulation of its customs.



U.S.-SWISS RELATIONS

Switzerland is a democratic country subscribing to most of the ideals with which the United States is identified. The country is politically stable with a fundamentally strong economy. It occupies an important strategic position within Europe and possesses a strong military capability. It has played an increasingly important role in supporting the spread of democratic institutions and values worldwide, as well as providing humanitarian relief and economic development assistance. U.S. policy toward Switzerland takes these factors into account and endeavors to cooperate with Switzerland to the extent consistent with Swiss neutrality.


The first 3 years of cooperation under the U.S.-Swiss Joint Economic Commission (2000-03) invigorated bilateral ties by recording achievements in a number of areas, including consultations on anti-money laundering efforts, counter-terrorism, and pharmaceutical regulatory cooperation; an e-government conference; and the re-establishment of the Fulbright student/cultural exchange program.


The first official U.S.-Swiss consular relations were established in the late 1820s. Diplomatic relations were established in 1853. The U.S. ambassador to Switzerland also is accredited to the Principality of Liechtenstein.


Principal U.S. Embassy Officials

Bern (E), Jubilaumsstrasse 93, 3005 Bern, Tel [41] (31) 357-7011, Fax 357-7344; After-hours 357-7218; AMB Tel 357-7259; DCM Tel 357-7258; POL/ECO Tel 357-7424; ADM Tel 357-7295; PAO Tel 357-7238, Fax 357-7379; IPC Tel 357–7201; RSO Tel 357-7296; DEA Tel 357-7367, Fax 357-7253; DAO Tel 357-7240, Fax 357-7381; LEGATT Tel 357-7340, Fax 357-7268; CON Fax 357-7398; FCS Fax 357-7336; COM Fax 357-7336. Website: www.usembassy.ch

AMB: Mercer Reynolds
AMB OMS: Anne Dickerson
EXEC ASST: Will Nixon
DCM: Jack Zetkulic
POL/ECO: Dennis J. Ortblad
COM: Michael Keaveny
CON: Lili Ming
MGT: Sandy Robinson
AGR: Gregg Young (res. Geneva/USTR)
RSO: John Davis
PAO: Bruce Armstrong
IRM: Ricardo Cabrera
DAO: COL Stefan Aubrey, USA
DEA: David Michael
LEGATT: Charles Bevan
IRS: Frederick D. Pablo (res. Paris)
FAA: Anthony Fazio (res. Paris)
RMO: Barry Gould (res. Berlin)

US Mission to the European Office of the UN and Other International Organizations (Geneva), Mission Permanente Des Etats-Unis, Route de Pregny 11, 1292 Chambesy-Geneva, Switzerland, Tel [41] (22) 749-4111, Fax 749-4880, Amb. Tel 749-4300, Fax 749-4892; DCM Tel 749-4302; PSA (POL) Tel 749-4621, Fax 749-4717; IEA (ECO) Tel 749-4629, Fax 749-4883; RMA Tel 749-4617, Fax 4671; LEGATT: 749-4460; MGT Tel 749-4391, Fax 749-4524; PAO Tel 749-4359, Fax 749-4314; RSO Tel 749-4397; LAB Tel 749-4624; IMO Tel 749-4306.

CM: Kevin E. Moley
CM OMS: Bonnie A. Angelov
CHG: Lynn L. Cassel
IEA (ECO): Douglas Griffiths
PSA (POL): Jeffrey DeLaurentis
RMA: Piper Campbell
LEGATT: T. Michael Peay
EST: Lynette Poulton Kamakura
MGT: Stanton R. Bigelow
PAO: John D. Hamill
RSO: Donald Weinberg
LAB: John W. Chamberlain
ISO: Alan Knabe
IMO: Peter Jensen

US Trade Representative (USTR), Botanic Bldg., 1-3 Avenue de la Paix, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland, Tel [41] (22) 749-4111, Fax 749-5308.

CM: Linnet Deily
DCM: David Shark
PTO: Jon Santamauro
AGR: Mary Revelt


US Delegation to the Conference on Disarmament (CD), U.S. Mission Bldg., Route de Pregny 11, 1292 Chambesy-Geneva, Tel [41] (22) 749-4407, Fax 749-4833.

US REP: [Vacant]
REP SEC: [Vacant]
DEP REP: J. Sherwood McGinnis
EXEC SEC: Evelynn U. Putnam
DOE REP: [Vacant]
JCS REP: [Vacant]
OSD REP: [Vacant]
STATE REP: [Vacant]


Geneva (CA), 7 Rue Verson nex, 1207 Geneva, Tel [41] (22) 840-5160, Fax 840-5161.

CA: Lisa Conner


Zurich (CA) Dufo urstrasse 101, 8008 Zurich, Tel [41] (01) 422-2566, Fax 383-9814.

CA: Ellen Bruckmann


Last Modified: Monday, December 08, 2003



TRAVEL


Consular Information Sheet
March 7, 2003


Country Descriptions: Switzerland is a highly developed democracy. Liechtenstein is a democratically run constitutional monarchy.


Entry Requirements: A passport is required for travel to both Switzerland and Liechtenstein. A visa is not required for U.S. citizens for stays of up to 90 days in either country. For more information on entry requirements for both countries, travelers may contact the Embassy of Switzerland at 2900 Cathedral Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 745-7900, or the nearest Swiss Consulate General in Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, or San Francisco. Additional information for both countries is available at http://www.swissemb.org. In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated new procedures at entry/exit points. These procedures often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for a child to travel, if the parent(s) or legal guardian is not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.

Dual Nationality: U.S. citizens who are also considered by the Swiss Government to have Swiss citizenship may be subject to compulsory military service and other requirements while in Switzerland. Those who might be affected should inquire at a Swiss Embassy or Consulate regarding their status. In some instances, dual nationality may hamper U.S. government efforts to provide protection abroad. In addition to being subject to all Swiss laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals may also be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on Swiss citizens. For additional information, see the Consular Affairs home page on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov for our Dual Nationality flyer.


Safety and Security: The potential for specific threats or acts of violence involving American citizens in Switzerland is remote; nonetheless, travelers should always review their security practices and be alert to their surroundings. The Consular Agencies in Zurich and Geneva may close periodically to assess their security situations. Americans are encouraged to check the Consular Affairs home page for updated travel and security information.


Crime: Switzerland has a low rate of violent crime. However, pick-pocketing and purse snatching do occur in the vicinity of train and bus stations, airports, and some public parks, especially during peak tourist periods (such as summer and Christmas) and when conferences, shows, or exhibits are scheduled in major cities. Liechtenstein has a low crime rate. Travelers may wish to exercise caution on trains, especially on overnight trains to neighboring countries. Even locked sleeping compartments can be entered by thieves, who steal from passengers while they sleep. The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlet, "A Safe Trip Abroad," to promote a trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, and via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/sudocs or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.


If you are the victim of a crime overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends, and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of a crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal process and to find an attorney if needed.


Medical Facilities and Insurance: Good medical care is widely available. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost many thousands of dollars. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services.


The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Furthermore, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including emergency services such as medical evacuations.

When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death. Supplemental medical insurance with specific overseas coverage, including provision for mountain rescue and/or medical evacuation, is strongly advised, particularly for those who plan to participate in mountain activities (summer or winter). Rescue insurance is available inexpensively in Switzerland and may be purchased at many Swiss post offices. In formation can be obtained from the Swiss National Tourist Office: e-mail www.myswitzerland.com, at most tourist information offices in Switzerland, or the U.S. Embassy in Bern. Such insurance has proved useful as uninsured rescues can easily cost $25,000 or more.


Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, "Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad," available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.

Other Health Information: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for International Travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via their Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.


Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Switzerland and Liechtenstein is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.


Safety of public transportation: Excellent
Urban road conditions/maintenance: Excellent
Rural road conditions/maintenance: Excellent
Availability of roadside assistance: Excellent


Although many roads are mountainous and winding, road safety standards are high. In some mountain areas, vehicle snow chains are required in winter. Road travel can be more dangerous during summer, winter holidays, and Whitsunday weekend (late spring) because of increased traffic. Travel on highways (indicated by green signs with a white highway symbol) requires purchase of a sticker or "vignette," which must be affixed to the car's windshield. Vignettes can be purchased at most border crossing points, gas stations and at Swiss post offices. Drivers using the highway system without a vignette are subject to hefty fines levied on the spot. All forms of public transportation in Switzerland and Liechtenstein are generally excellent.

Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Swiss civil aviation authority's oversight of Switzerland's air carrier operations as category 1 — in compliance with international aviation safety standards. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA Internet website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the Pentagon at 703-697-7288.


Customs Regulations: Switzerland's customs authorities encourage the use of an ATA (Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission) Carnet for the temporary admission of professional equipment, commercial samples, and/or goods for exhibitions and fair purposes. ATA Carnet Headquarters, located at the U.S. Council for International Business, 1212 Avenue of the Americas, New York, N.Y. 10036, issues and guarantees the ATA Carnet in the United States. For additional information call 212-354-4480, send an e-mail to [email protected], or visit http://www.uscib.org for details.

Criminal Penalties: U.S. citizens are subject to the laws of the country in which they are traveling. Sometimes these laws can differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to individuals under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. In Switzerland and Liechtenstein, penalties for possession, use, and dealing in illegal drugs are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.


Children's Issues: For information on the international adoption of children, international parental child abduction, and international child support enforcement issues, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/childrens_issues.html or tel. 1-888-407-4747.


Registration And Embassy And Consulate Locations: U.S. citizens are encouraged to register and obtain updated information on travel and security within Switzerland at the U.S. Embassy in Bern or at the two U.S. Consular Agencies, which offer limited consular services to U.S. citizens, in Zurich and Geneva.

The U.S. Embassy in Bern is located at Jubilaeumstrasse 93, 3005 Bern; Tel. (41)(31) 357-7011, fax (41)(31) 357-7280. The Embassy's 24 hour emergency telephone numbers are(41)(31) 357-7218 or 7777. The Embassy's e-mail address is [email protected] The U.S. Embassy website at http://www.us-embassy.ch answers many questions of interest to Americans visiting and residing in Switzerland.


The U.S. Consular Agency in Zurich is located at the American Center of Zurich, Dufourstrasse 101, 8008 Zurich; Tel. (41)(1) 422-2566, fax (41) (1) 383-9814.


The U.S. Consular Agency in Geneva is located at the American Center Geneva, 7 Rue Versonnex, 1207 Geneva; Tel. (41)(22) 840-5160, fax (41)(22) 840-5162, e-mail: [email protected]


There is no U.S. Embassy or Consulate in Liechtenstein. For assistance and information on travel and security in Liechtenstein, U.S. citizens may contact or register at the U.S. Embassy in Bern at the address above.

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Switzerland

Basic Data

Official Country Name: Swiss Confederation
Region (Map name): Europe
Population: 7,283,274
Language(s): German (official)
63.7%, French (official)
19.2%, Italian (official)
7.6%, Romansch 0.6%,
other 8.9%
Literacy rate: 99.0%
Area: 41,290 sq km
GDP: 239,764 (US$ millions)
Number of Daily Newspapers: 104
Total Circulation: 2,666,000
Circulation per 1,000: 454
Number of Nondaily Newspapers: 124
Total Circulation: 723,000
Circulation per 1,000: 123
Total Newspaper Ad Receipts: 2,224 (Swiss Franc millions)
As % of All Ad Expenditures: 52.20
Number of Television Stations: 115
Number of Television Sets: 3,310,000
Television Sets per 1,000: 454.5
Number of Cable Subscribers: 2,578,320
Cable Subscribers per 1,000: 358.1
Number of Satellite Subscribers: 295,000
Satellite Subscribers per 1,000: 40.5
Number of Radio Stations: 119
Number of Radio Receivers: 7,100,000
Radio Receivers per 1,000: 974.8
Number of Individuals with Computers: 3,600,000
Computers per 1,000: 494.3
Number of Individuals with Internet Access: 2,134,000
Internet Access per 1,000: 293.0

Background & General Characteristics

General Description

Switzerland is a land-locked, Central European, Alpine nation that has enjoyed a remarkably long and continuous tradition of independence and political neutrality. The federal structure grants considerable autonomy to the cantons. With a population of 7.28 million and a total area of 15,940 square miles, Switzerland's ethnic and linguistic diversity reflects its location relative to three major neighboring countries: Germany, France, and Italy, respectively. Ethnically, the Swiss German-speaking population is in the majority (approximately 65 percent), followed by the French-speaking (18 percent) and Italian-speaking (10 percent) populations. In addition, a small Romansch ethnic and linguistic minority (approximately 1 percent of the population) enjoys the status of an official language. Roman Catholics constitute the largest religious denomination (46 percent), followed closely by Protestants (40 percent). This diversity, coupled with affluence, nearly universal literacy, and direct civic engagement has been fertile ground for a highly competitive and largely independent press.

Several additional factors combine to shape Switzer-land's diverse press. First, the mountainous terrain has historically fostered regionalism and a concomitant interest in locally based media. Second, the media landscape is characterized by linguistic plurality, even within a dominant linguistic region. Third, Switzerland's traditional status as an independent and neutral country in the heart of Europe has made it an attractive site for major international organizations. This host status has, in turn, supported a broad and diverse interest in national and international news. Fourth, the Swiss economy relies in key areas on international trade, a factor that increases interest in news media. Finally, civic literacy on important national and international issues is aided by the important role which regional and national referenda play in Swiss political affairs.

Traditionally the Swiss press has enjoyed high respect for its diversity and editorial integrity. The code for journalists is specified in the 1972 Declaration of Duties and Rights of Journalists, adopted by the Swiss Federation of Journalists and revised in 1994. The code emphasizes independence as a prerequisite to responsible journalistic action: "The right to information, to free speech and criticism is one of the basic human rights. The duties and rights of journalists derive from the public's right to know facts and opinions. The responsibility of journalists towards the public has priority over any other responsibility, particularly the responsibility to their employers and the state organs."

The Nature of the Audience

The Swiss press competes for a critical and demanding audience in the balanced delivery of local, regional, national, and international news to a population boasting an adult literacy rate of 99 percent and enjoying a relatively high per capita income, even by Western European standards. Swiss citizens on average spend approximately one-half hour per day reading print media. This figure has remained stable for the period 1985 to 2000. During the same time period TV viewing has increased from two to two and one-half hours per day; radio listening increased during the same period from two and one-half hours to three hours daily.

Although the distribution of Swiss newspapers and magazines reflects the linguistic and ethnic composition of the population, the German-language media predominate. There is no discernable religious orientation in the major newspapers and magazines. Special-interest publications represent the interests of various religious groups, including the Jüdische Rundschau. Other special-interest publications include a wide variety of technical and professional publications (e.g. Media Trend Journal ), business-oriented newspapers and magazines (e.g. CASH and Handelszeitung ), sports and leisure, lifestyle and fashion, art and culture, ecology, politics, and computers. The special-interest publications are almost all in magazine format.

Nature of the Journalism Industry

Switzerland has historically boasted the greatest number of newspapers published in proportion to its population and geographical size. In 1999 daily newspapers accounted for 2.65 million sales, a slight decline from the high of 2.85 million sold in 1991, but still above the total circulation of 2.61 million for 1980. Whereas circulation has remained relatively constant, both in terms of subscription and single-copy sales, the number of newspaper titles continues to decrease. Increased competition, concentration of ownership, mergers, and economic weakness have led to a steady decline in the number of daily newspaper titles, particularly during the last two decades of the twentieth century. The number of Swiss daily newspapers fell from 143 to 73 during the period from 1980 to 1999. The fact that total circulation has increased while titles have decreased underscores the extent to which diversity has been reduced during a period of continuing readership.

Almost all major Swiss cities have at least a local newspaper. In addition, the larger cities like Berne, Basle, Geneva, Lausanne, Zurich, and the other cantonal capitals also have regional, and often national, newspapers. The diversity and regional identification of Switzerland's population accounts for a relatively large number of newspaper titles, but circulation is often relatively small. For example, the Bischofszeller Nachrichten daily newspaper had a circulation of 829 in 2000. In the same year there were only 15 daily newspapers with a total circulation of more than 50,000. A total of 86 newspapers had a circulation of less than 5,000; 39 from 5,000 to 10,000; and 15 from 10,000 to 15,000. The circulation of the country's 10 largest newspapers is expected to increase from 1.4 million copies in 1994 to 1.6 million by 2003. For the same time period total circulation of the remaining newspapers is expected to drop from 450,000 to 330,000.

Most daily newspapers, which include those appearing at least four times per week, are published for morning delivery and sales. Newspapers generally cover local, national, and international news on a regular basis. Business, opinion-editorials, sports, and cultural sections are often grouped in separate sections for focused reading. German-language newspapers account for 8 of the 10 largest Swiss newspapers by circulation: Blick (314,200), Tages-Anzeiger (279,900), Neue Zürcher Zeitung (169,100), Berner Zeitung (135,700), Neue Luzerner Zeitung (133,500), Aargauer Zeitung (119,700), Basler Zeitung (115,400), and St. Galler Tagblatt (110,500), followed by the French-language 24 Heures (89,600) and Tribune de Genève (78,400). The most influential newspapers continue to be the German-language Tages-Anzeiger and Neue Zürcher Zeitung, and the French-language Le Temps.

In view of the inherent linguistic diversity of the Swiss press, there is an extraordinarily rich diversity in foreign-language publications. This includes publications from the major neighboring countries of Austria, Germany, France, and Italy. In addition major international, English-language newspapers and editions are available. Several Swiss newspapers, information servers, and magazines have online services available in several languages. Swiss newspapers and magazines targeted to foreign-language readers include the Geneva News, and International Report, and the Portuguese-language Gazeta Lusófona.

Economic Framework

The economic climate of the Swiss print media is characterized by keen competition for advertising income. Newspapers are confronting increasing media concentrations in which advertising can reach a larger market segment. The concentration is a result of outright mergers, cooperative ventures, and the elimination of newspaper titles. In addition, electronic media compete with print media and advertising revenues. Most Swiss newspapers are now available online, at least in some summary form. Some titles, like Zürich Online, exist only as an electronic medium. Radio and television are also available as marketing vehicles.

The pressure toward concentration of print media offerings through fewer titles and broader circulation has benefited the advertising industry as revenues have grown in the face of declining placement duplication. Developments during the early 2000s suggest that increases in subscription rates and copy prices are counterproductive. Groupe Edipresse, a French-based conglomerate representing several influential French-language newspapers, including Le Matin,24 Heures, and Tribune de Geneve, experienced a significant drop in circulation when higher prices were introduced. Publishers increasingly try to offset subscription rate increases by offering discounted subscriptions to additional newspapers and/or magazines held by a media group. These tactics aimed toward mass circulation are aided by the continuing trend toward mergers and concentration of titles.

In addition to the challenges posed by increasing competition and concentration of titles, Swiss newspapers have also had to account for new online media technology that has expanded the competition from more traditional electronic media like radio and television. Nonetheless, the Swiss continue to spend more time with print media for information and analysis than with the electronic media. The feeling remains strong that random, independent access to the written word, and the ability to review print media at will, is necessary for comprehension and informed judgment.

The principal reason for the trend toward concentration of ownership is the keen competition for decreasing advertising revenues. In addition, mergers and the increasing use of shared editorial, feature, and supplement sections effectively standardize the editorial image in national and international news reporting. At the same time, coverage of regional and local news has become more competitive because these sections remain largely under the editorial control of the smaller newspapers.

Although it is difficult to assess accurately the relative size of the media conglomerates that have come to dominate the industry, there are a limited number of top media enterprises. Swiss-based Ringier AG controls Cash,SonntagsBlick, and Blick, the largest mass-circulation daily, as well as 11 magazines, 10 television programs, and a variety of media-linked web sites. Tamedia owns four newspapers, including the Tages-Anzeiger. In addition, Tamedia has a 49 percent share in the Berner Zeitung. Tamedia also controls seven magazines, a publishing company, and six regular newspaper supplements. The Basler Mediengruppe has expanded from its foundational newspaper, the daily Basler Zeitung, to include more than a dozen publishing entities as well as local and smaller regional newspapers. Mediax AG controls seven special-interest magazines.

Consolidation of newspaper titles is exemplified by groups such as the Neue Luzerner Zeitung AG, which is in turn controlled by LZ Medien Holding. The Neue Luzerner Zeitung AG not only publishes its flagship newspaper, the Neue Luzerner Zeitung, but also five regional editions. The NZZ-Gruppe has similarly expanded from its original newspaper, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, to include media holdings in St. Gallen and Berne.

Swiss newspapers are represented in all major categories of media publication, including full-featured national and regional daily newspapers, regional and local weekly editions, newspapers published three to five times per week, as well as free newspapers. The latter, principally Metropol and 20 Minuten, are small-format newspapers distributed on public transportation. The remaining free newspapers account for almost 70 percent of the total Swiss titles published in 2001. Together, all types of newspapers accounted for 22.6 percent of the Swiss print market. The remaining titles are distributed among consumer-oriented magazines (2.7 percent), special-interest magazines (38 percent), and trade/ professional publications (36.5 percent).

There is no official government newspaper, and political newspapers are confined to informational and policy publications issued by or on behalf of political interest groups, including most prominently environmental protection and agricultural organizations. With the notable exception of the daily mass tabloid Blick and its Sunday edition, SonntagsBlick, newspapers address a largely educated readership with an active interest in information and analysis.

Advertisers exert no editorial control as such. The economic incentive to concentrate ad placement for maximum geographic and demographic exposure does, however, indirectly affect editorial content and marketing decisions. In this regard the WEMF AG, an advertising media research company, and the VSW, an association of Swiss ad agencies, provide regular industry analyses on the Swiss print and broadcast media. The reliance on analyses rests in part on the fact that Swiss newspapers still account for approximately half of all advertising market.

Eighty percent of daily newspapers in Switzerland are sold through subscription. The remaining twenty percent are sold along with large variety of local, national, and international newspapers and magazines at newsstands. The demand for a supply of newsprint has been relatively stable since 1995, when the total consumption of newsprint was 308,000 metric tons. The price of news-print for June 2002 was set at US $465.00 per ton.

The Swiss labor market is characterized by stability, high wages, benefits, and productivity. Strikes are rare, and there have been no organized strikes in the print or broadcast media since 1985. Labor protest generally takes a subtler and less confrontational form. In 1997, for example, journalists for the newspaper Journal de Genève and its rival, le Nouveau Quotidien, protested the proposed merger of the two by withholding their bylines from articles. The labor union Comedia represents approximately 20,000 employees in the media and publishing industry within the Swiss Federation of Trade Unions.

Swiss printing technology is world renowned. Pre-press, press, and postpress technology uses software extensively for digital data processing, archiving, layout, and design. The Neue Zürcher Zeitung, for example, utilizes Ocè DemandStream printing technology to publish its European editions.

Press Laws

Constitutional & Legislative Provisions

Swiss legislation traditionally treats the press differently to preserve its diversity. For example, the 1995 Federal Act on Cartels and Other Restraints on Competition requires that the Competition Commission be notified in the event of planned mergers or takeovers that exceed a set turnover limitation. This limit is dramatically lower for businesses involved in print or broadcast media, which affects the ability to expand markets through concentration of media holdings.

Swiss press laws are anchored constitutionally and guarantee specifically "freedom of the press, radio and television, and of other forms of public telecasting of productions and information." The constitution furthermore prohibits censorship, and guarantees editorial secrecy. The constitution furthermore stipulates that radio and television legislation is a federal matter. Freedom of the press (i.e., the ability to gather and publish information and opinions freely) is also traditionally understood in Switzerland to protect the right to establish newspapers. This reflects historical support for the intrinsic value of a diverse, pluralistic press landscape. In view of changing economic circumstances, the predisposition toward 'more is better' may perhaps come under review.

Several laws and legislative initiatives have an indirect bearing on press freedom in its economic sense. This includes the restrictive provisions of the 1995 Federal Act on Cartels and Other Restraints on Competition. Also significant is the 1986 Law Against Unfair Competition, which provides for third-party liability in the event of alleged unfair competition. This has led in one notable case to legal suppression of an article on the grounds that the journalist had not reported fairly on supposed health risks associated with microwave ovens. A 1998 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights was issued against Switzerland for its literal and restrictive interpretation of unfair competition. Discussion is ongoing regarding the 1992 Federal Law on Data Protection. At issue is whether journalists may refuse access to confidential information. The debate seeks to reconcile the professional right of the investigative journalist and the right to privacy.

The extent to which press plurality and diversity continue to be prized is illustrated by current discussions about draft legislation for a so-called Diversity Law (Vielfaltsgesetz), which is designed to strengthen the economic viability of the press. The draft includes a provision for generous postal delivery subsidies in the case of newspapers and magazines.

Accreditation

In 1979 the Swiss Federal Chancery issued specific guidelines, revised 1990, regarding the accreditation of journalists seeking official status when covering the bicameral legislature. Otherwise, there are no specific licensing or accreditation laws governing newspapers or journalists. Guidelines for editorial and journalistic practice are established by the major national and international professional associations to which the majority of newspapers and professional journalists adhere. These include the liberal Swiss Union of Journalists (Schweizerische Journalistinnen und Journalisten Union), and oldest professional association, the Swiss Federation of Journalists (Schweizer Verband der Journalistinnen und Journalisten), whose members subscribe to a specific "Declaration of Rights and Duties of Journalists." The Swiss Press Council (Schweizer Presserat) is available to hear private and professional complaints involving journalistic ethics. In all matters of legal adjudication, the Swiss judiciary is independent.

Censorship

The freedom of the press is not infringed upon by censorship. The press takes its role as a critically analytical intermediary between the public and private sectors seriously. The diversity of languages and regions reflected in the Swiss press virtually assures that news cannot be suppressed, even if such an attempt were made. Documented infringement is indirect and extremely rare. When a BBC-produced documentary on the Holocaust criticized Switzerland's role during World War II, there was strong protest from Switzerland, but in only one case did a right-wing Swiss member of parliament shut down a television channel in response to popular protest.

Attitude toward Foreign Media

Given the relatively great dependence of the Swiss economy on foreign trade, as well as its historical attractiveness for international organizations, the attitude toward foreign media is liberal and characterized by keen interest in European and global affairs. This attitude extends to the ownership of domestic media, which is a matter of economic forces rather than specific legal restriction. Foreign journalists enjoy rights consistent with the exercise of their profession in open, democratic societies.

Events following attack on the New York World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, affected the Swiss press. In October 2001, a European-based correspondent for an Arabic newspaper was jailed temporarily as he entered Switzerland to cover an international conference. Upon release the journalist was expelled from Switzerland. Such rare instances of interference must be seen against the background of a generally zealous attitude toward safeguarding the domestic peace, particularly in view of a perceived international terrorist threat.

Although Switzerland remains reluctant about full membership in European and international organizations, owing largely to concerns about independence and neutrality, it participates actively in most international organizations and is a signatory to key international treaties and agreements.

News Agencies

The Swiss Press Agency (Schweizerische Depeschenagentur) is the nonprofit, private national news agency. It issues reports on politics, business, culture, and sports in German, French, and Italian. Almost all Swiss and two dozen foreign media subscribe to its services.

Broadcast Media

The Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (Schweizerische Radio und Fernsehgesellschaft; SBC) is charged with the production and broadcast of radio and television programs. The management and organization of radio and television is based on Article 93 of the Swiss Federal Constitution. In addition, the act mandates independent complaint review. The 1991 Federal Radio and Television Law clarifies the mandate in greater detail. With respect to broadcast media, Article 3 states:

Radio and Television shall contribute to education and cultural development, to the free formation of opinion, and to the entertainment of the listeners and viewers. They shall take into account the particularities of the country and the needs of the Cantons. They shall present events factually, and reflect diverse opinions fairly and adequately. The independence of radio and television and the autonomy of their programming are guaranteed. The situation and the role of other media, in particular the press, shall be taken into account. It shall be possible to submit complaints about programs to an independent authority.

The SBC has recently changed its logo to highlight its multilingual and multicultural mission and audience from the rather prosaic SRG to SRG SSR idée suisse.

The SBC is legally empowered to issue licenses and to levy license fees, based on radio and television set ownership, for the full financing of radio and partial financing of television. It is also charged with providing all linguistic regions with quality and diverse programming. In 2000 revenues from licensing fees amounted to SF 1.06 billion, whereas television advertising amounted to SF 370 million. Increases in licensing fees are subject to legislative approval. Because the government is reluctant to give the impression of limiting access to broadcast media through excessive licensing fees, the SBC traditionally depends in part on public financing.

SBC studios are distributed throughout the various language regions. Radio content is produced in six central and four regional studios, which provide content for nine stations. The program content distribution for 2000 included 56 percent light music, 16 percent classical music, and 10 percent news and current affairs. In addition 49 private, noncommercial FM radio stations broadcast in local and regional markets. The Association of Swiss Private Radios (Verband Schweizer Privatradios) represents 25 private radio broadcasters. International broadcast services are provided in nine languages through swissinfo, an affiliate of the SBC. SBC also owns a controlling stake in Swiss TXT, which provides teletext information and news.

Three television studios, located in Geneva, Lugano, and Zurich, produce six independent programs, two for each linguistic region, as well as special programs in the Romansch language. The SBC also maintains partnership and programming relationships with cable television stations, including CNN, 3SAT, Eurosport, TV5, and arte. Access to domestic and foreign broadcasting is broad thanks to a 93 percent cable and satellite penetration rate, giving the average Swiss household access to more than 20 TV channels.

The market for private, nationally broadcast television channels is hindered by the relatively small yet highly competitive market. Nonetheless, increasing pressure to deregulate the broadcast media opened opportunities during the late 1990s. One channel, Tele 24, went on the air in 1998 and shut down two years later. Another private cable station, TV3, lost financial backing from the Tamedia concern in the early 2000s, placing its future solvency in question. In part financing difficulties are a result of Swiss demographics. Although Switzerland has high advertising expenditures, the penetration data for television lags behind the print media.

Electronic News Media

The Internet as a media infrastructure dramatically impacted the Swiss media landscape during last years of the twentieth century and continues to shape the country's media into the twenty-first century. Data for 2001 indicated that 59.6 percent of Swiss homes have Internet access. More than a dozen full-service webzines and online journals have established themselves. In addition, most national and the larger regional newspapers are now also available online. Of the top 20 media Web sites in Switzerland, 4 sites (all online editions of newspapers) account for one third of the total hits. These include Edicom, with links to the newspapers Le Matin,Tribune de Genève, and 24 heures, as well as an online version of Swiss TXT. Bluewin AG provides full Internet services for residential and small-business customers via its bluewin portal. Internet security concerns are addressed specifically through SecuMedia AG, which coordinates environmental-protection, safety, and security media via its SiLine portal. Media consulting businesses have expanded their services correspondingly, including tracking top Web sites in Switzerland.

The sobering economic reality of online media has forced a basic reconsideration of content, marketing, and editorial-policy issues with respect to the press. For service and product providers the Internet represents an opportunity to develop and expand a customer base. However, for the vast majority of media providers, the Internet creates new problems, such as content duplication and further diluted advertising revenues.

Education & Training

Review of Education in Journalism

The Swiss educational system is geared, particularly at the secondary level, toward a distinction between vocational education and preparation for post-secondary academic learning. Until recently few secondary courses of vocational study were designed specifically for preparing journalists in the print and broadcasting media. In 1995 a directory of professions was established, which permits registered journalists and editors to designate themselves professionally.

Entry into the journalistic professions generally require graduation from a vocational, secondary, or post-secondary school. An internship in an appropriate setting is also usually required. Additional courses of study are available at several universities, institutes, and technical colleges. The required period of study may be shortened for university-level graduates. In rare cases, direct employment in the print or broadcast media is possible.

In view of Switzerland's federal structure, cantonal universities vary greatly with respect to curricula, requirements for a course of study, and tuition. The technical universities in Zurich and Lausanne are federal institutions. The major courses of journalism and media study available at Swiss universities include:

  • Institute for Media Studies at the University of Basle (Institut für Medienwissenschaften);
  • Institute for Media Studies at the University of Berne (Institut für Medienwissenschaft);
  • Institute for Journalism and Communication Study at the University of Fribourg (Institut für Journalistik und Kommunikationswissenschaft);
  • Communication and Media Studies at the University of Geneva (Sciences de la communication et des médias);
  • Institute for Mass Communication Sociology at the University of Lausanne (Institut de sociologie des communications de masse);
  • Communication Science Department at the University of Lugano (Facoltà di scienze della comunicazione);
  • Institute for Communication and Culture at the University of Lucern (Institut für Kommunikation und Kultur);
  • Institute for Journalism and Communication at the University of Neuchâtel (Institut de journalisme et communication);
  • Institute for Publishing and Media Research at the University of Zurich (Institut für Publizistik und Medienforschung);
  • Institute for Media and Communication Management at the University of St. Gallen (Institut für Medien und Kommunikationsmanagement).

The innovative approach to journalism education and the rise of new, electronic media is exemplified by the University of Lugano, which offers a Swiss Master of Public Relations with an emphasis on multimedia and comprehensive competencies in journalistic, technical, and commercial areas.

In-house training has been a common feature of journalistic education, and the Schweizer Presse (Swiss Press) umbrella organization for newspaper and magazine publishers supports its own training facility, the Medieninstitut (Media Institute), located in Zurich. The media conglomerate Ringier AG has been offering training in its own Journalistenschule (School of Journalism) since 1974. The Medienausbildungszentrum MAZ (Media Training Center), established in 1984 and located near Lucern, is the largest journalism school. Issues of certification and continuing training are also coordinated by the group, Qualität im Journalismus (Quality in Journalism), founded in 1999.

The relatively rapid and diverse proliferation of specific educational opportunities for Swiss journalists is explained in part by a historical sense that no particular training is required for journalists and editors. As Andreas Doepfner, editor of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, wrote in a study for the European Journalism Centre (Bierhoff): "In our newsroom, we traditionally have put emphasis on personal responsibility for further orientation and individual development. Nothing is mandatory, but a lot is possible. You now notice that people increasingly start using the opportunities on offer, and especially value seminars which offer in-depth background to existing expertise."

Journalistic Awards & Prizes

In keeping with the Swiss tradition of diversity, and in view of the need to promote and recognize professionalism and quality, the Swiss offer a comparatively broad spectrum of awards and prizes. Whereas some are distinctly partisan, as indicated by their sponsors, several seek to recognize the impact of new electronic media and thereby to expand the boundaries of quality and professional journalism. It is significant to note that several of the prizes are designed specifically to recognize, and hence promote, the work of young journalists. In this way, the publicity that comes with the awards also acts to stimulate professional development. The awards include:

  • ALSTOM Journalism Award, sponsored by ALSTOM AG and recognizing reporting on energy-related topics;
  • Prix Media SANW, offered by the Swiss Academy of Natural Sciences;
  • Prix Media SANW, sponsored by the Swiss Academy for the Humanities and Social Sciences;
  • Forschungsreportagen-Wettbewerb (Research Reporting Competition), sponsored by the University of Berne and honoring reporting on university research;
  • Nationaler Medienpreis zur Förderung junger Journalisten, sponsored by the Swiss Association of Catholic Journalists to recognize young journalists;
  • Medienpreis idée suisse, awarded by the SBC;
  • Qualität im Journalismus sponsors various media awards and prizes;
  • Weltwoche-Preis für junge Journalisten, awarded to young journalists by the weekly newspaper, Weltwoche;
  • BZ-Preis für Lokaljournalismus, awarded for local journalism by the Berner Zeitung;
  • Espace-Media-Preis Swiss Press Photo, awarded for photo journalism by the media conglomerate;
  • Pharmacia & Upjohn Journalistenpreis, awarded for pharmaceutically oriented reporting;
  • Medienpreis Aargau/Solothurn, awarded for excellence in regional reporting;
  • Katholischer Medienpreis, awarded by the Media Commission of the Swiss Bishops Conference;
  • AgroPreis, sponsored by the Schweizer Bauernver-band (Swiss Farmers Association);
  • Journalistenpreis, awarded by the Emmentalische Mobiliar insurance company;
  • Aeskulap-Journalistenpreis, awarded for reporting on alternative health care;
  • Zürcher Journalistenpreis, awarded by the Zurich Press Club;
  • Von Roll Award, for contributions promoting the relationship between journalism and Swiss industry;

Major Journalistic Associations & Organizations

The major trade union associations represent primarily the employment interests of journalists. In addition, two distinct trends have emerged in the development of professional organizations. One addresses the professional status of working principally involved with new electronic media (e.g., //syndikat). A second trend addresses the need for quality control and professionalism in the journalistic profession (e.g., Qualität im Journalismus). The major journalistic and media organizations include:

  • Schweizer Verband der Journalistinnen und Journalisten (Swiss Association of Journalists);
  • Comedia Mediengewerkschaft (Comedia Media Union), affiliated with the Swiss Trade Union Council;
  • Schweizer Syndikat Medienschaffender (Swiss Media Employees Union), also a member of the Swiss Trade Union Council;
  • //syndikat, representing online employees and free-lancers;
  • Verband Schweizer Fachjournalisten (Association of Swiss Specialized Journalists), representing the interests of journalists and editors of trade and professional publications;
  • Zürcher Presseverein (Zurich Press Club);
  • Verein Freier Berufsjournalistinnen und journalisten Zürich (Zurich Freelance Journalists Club);
  • Schweizer Klub für Wissenschaftsjournalismus (Swiss Scientific Journalism Club);
  • Schweizer Presserat (Swiss Press Council);
  • Qualität im Journalismus (Quality in Journalism);
  • Verband Schweizer Presse (Swiss Press Association), representing the interests of publishers.

Summary

Given Switzerland's small geographical size and population, it has a remarkably rich press tradition. Several factors have contributed to this tradition. Switzerland's neutrality has promoted a stable political, social, and economic system, particularly throughout the 20th century. Its population is well educated and affluent, ranking regularly first in economic and demographic indicators among Western European nations. Switzerland's location in Central Europe places it at the crossroads of three major ethnic and linguistic groups: German, French, and Italian. Respect for independence and social and political stability help to explain the official status that Switzerland continues to accord the three languages. This intrinsic acknowledgment of ethnic and linguistic diversity extends even to the numerically small Romansch community. The traditional isolation of regions, based on linguistic differences and the nature of Swiss geography, has also fostered a deep identification with locality. The emphasis on cantonal autonomy in fundamental matters further underscores a strong regional identification, and hence a relative sense of independence from centralized authority. Swiss neutrality has made it both an economic haven in turbulent times (e.g. international banking) and a host site for various transnational organizations (e.g. the International Red Cross).

Taken together, these factors help to explain the extraordinary diversity of the Swiss press landscape. A wide spectrum of local, regional, and national newspapers, serving distinct linguistic groups, continues to meet the strong demand from a highly educated, affluent, and independent readership that still relies on printed media for information, analysis, and orientation. The trend toward concentration of ownership and newspaper shutdowns is driven primarily by economic factors rather than by political considerations. Freedom of the press is taken both literally and figuratively in the broadest sense of the term.

In contrast to the print media, the Swiss broadcast media has always been under greater control of the federal government, particularly in the areas of financing and licensing. Although the Swiss market is lucrative on a per capita basis for commercial broadcast investors, overall market size and supplemental revenue sources primarily generated by advertising continue to undermine the profitability of private commercial television. In any event, an extensive cable network allows most Swiss access to programming from neighboring countries.

Increasing access to electronic media, particularly via the Internet, has further expanded the availability of news and information sources. Here, too, economic factors are largely responsible for the changing fortunes of online service and information providers.

Trends & Prospects for the Media

The trend in the print media continues to move toward fewer editorially independent newspapers. This will increase pressure on the remaining newspapers to cut costs, increase circulation, or to tailor their content more carefully to a specifically targeted readership. The danger in this approach is the potential sacrifice of journalistic and editorial integrity to increase profitability. The focus on professionalizing journalism through training and adherence to professional guidelines will have a positive impact on the quality of journalism, but it has the potential to further erode the viability of small, local publications. The revelations about Switzerland's role in World War II (i.e., holding the financial assets of Holocaust victims in Swiss banks) underscores the need for a responsible press that can monitor and guide the public debate on sensitive issues.

The broadcast media is moving toward increasing deregulation to address the current disincentives to private commercial radio and television. At the very least, the essentially monopolistic control of the SBC will continue to be debated.

Electronic media will continue to grow as a media infrastructure. Given traditional Swiss preoccupation with privacy, it is likely that data protection will play a major role in the national debate about the rights and responsibilities of various media.

Finally, access and regulation issues will require increasing coordination with Switzerland's European neighbors as the debate about Switzerland's entry into the European Union intensifies. The process of adapting to the changing realities of the various media markets is likely to be slow, fraught with problems of coordinating various cantonal and federal initiatives, but it is likely to be thorough and based upon informed consent. In this sense, the Swiss press will initiate and referee the debate about changing itself.

Significant Dates

  • 1999: The World Association of Newspapers conference is held in Switzerland; metropol and 20 Minuten, new free newspapers targeting commuters, are introduced to the Swiss market.
  • 2001: Friedrich Leibacher storms the Swiss parliament building, killing 14 people before committing suicide.
  • 2002: Switzerland's new president formally begins his duties with a call for a serious national debate on joining the United Nations; the Swiss national airline, Swissair, ceases operation.

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Siegfried Christoph