41,285 sq. km. (15,941 sq. mi.); about the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined.
Capital--Bern (population about 123,000). Other cities--Zurich
(341,000), Geneva (176,000), Basel (165,000), Lausanne (116,000).
60% mountains, the remainder hills and plateau. Switzerland straddles the central
ranges of the Alps.
Climate: Temperate, varying with altitude and season.
Noun and adjective--Swiss (singular and plural).
Annual growth rate: 0.6%.
Ethnic groups: Mixed European.
Roman Catholic 42%, Protestant 33%, Muslim 4.3%, others 5.4%, no religion 11%.
German 63.7%, French 20.4%, Italian 6.5%, Romansch 0.5%, other 9.4%.
Years compulsory--9. Attendance--100%. Literacy--100%.
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%.
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
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.
subdivisions: 26 cantons (states) with considerable autonomy.
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.
(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.
(est. 1.8% of GDP in 2004): Products--dairy, livestock, grains, fruit
and vegetables, potatoes, wine.
Arable land (1999): 26%.
28.2% of GDP in 2004): Types--machinery, chemicals, pharmaceuticals,
time pieces, precision instruments, textiles and clothing, pigment, transportation
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
The Congress of Vienna in
1815 re-established 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.
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.
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.
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.
Constitution provides for separation of the three branches of government.
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.
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
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.
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).
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.
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
Principal Government Officials
Council (Swiss Cabinet)
Foreign Affairs--Micheline Calmy-Rey - Vice President
- (Social Democrat)
Home Affairs--Pascal Couchepin (Free Democrat)
and Police--Christoph Blocher (Swiss People's Party)
Defense, Civil Protection
and Sports--Samuel Schmid (Swiss People's Party)
Economic Affairs--Doris Leuthard (Christian Democrat)
Transport, Energy and Communications--Moritz Leuenberger - President - (Social
Federal Chancellor--Annemarie Huber-Hotz (Free Democrat)
to the United States--Urs Ziswiler
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.
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
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
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Chargé d’Affaires--Carol Urban
and Economic Counselor--Stan Otto
Commercial Officer--Julie Snyder
Management Officer--Stephen Dodson
Public Affairs Officer--Daniel Wendell
Legal Attaché--Dan Boyd
Drug Enforcement Agency--Joe Kipp
and Customs Enforcement Attaché--Dave Marwell
U.S. Embassy in Switzerland is at Jubilaeumsstrasse
93, 3005 Bern, tel: (41) (31) 357-7011.
U.S. Mission to the European Office of the United Nations and other International
Organizations is in Geneva at Route de Pregny 11, 1292 Chambesy, tel: (41) (22)
749-4111. The U.S. Mission to the WTO is in Geneva at Avenue de la Paix 1-3, 1202
Geneva, tel: (41) (22) 749-4111. The U.S. Delegation to the Conference on Disarmament
(CD) is in Geneva at Route de Pregny 11, 1292 Chambesy, tel: (41) (22) 749-4407.
America Centers and Consular Agencies are also maintained in Zurich and Geneva.
AND BUSINESS INFORMATION
The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information
Program provides Consular Information Sheets, Travel Warnings, and Public Announcements.
Consular Information Sheets exist for all countries and include information
on entry requirements, currency regulations, health conditions, areas of instability,
crime and security, political disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. posts
in the country. Travel Warnings are issued when the State Department recommends
that Americans avoid travel to a certain country. Public Announcements
are issued as a means to disseminate information quickly about terrorist threats
and other relatively short-term conditions overseas that pose significant risks
to the security of American travelers. Free copies of this information are available
by calling the Bureau of Consular Affairs at 202-647-5225 or via the fax-on-demand
system: 202-647-3000. Consular Information Sheets and Travel Warnings also are
available on the Consular Affairs Internet home page: http://travel.state.gov/. Consular
Affairs Tips for Travelers publication series, which contain information on obtaining
passports and planning a safe trip abroad, are available on the Internet and hard
copies can be purchased from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government
Printing Office, telephone: 202-512-1800; fax 202-512-2250.
information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be obtained from the Office
of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-5225. For after-hours emergencies,
Sundays and holidays, call 202-647-4000.
National Passport Information Center (NPIC) is the U.S. Department of State's
single, centralized public contact center for U.S. passport information. Telephone:
1-877-4USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778). Customer service representatives and operators
for TDD/TTY are available Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Eastern Time,
excluding federal holidays.
can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at 877-FYI-TRIP (877-394-8747) and
a web site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel/index.htm
give the most recent health advisories, immunization recommendations or requirements,
and advice on food and drinking water safety for regions and countries. A booklet
entitled Health Information for International Travel (HHS publication number CDC-95-8280)
is available from the U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, tel.
Information on travel
conditions, visa requirements, currency and customs regulations, legal holidays,
and other items of interest to travelers also may be obtained before your departure
from a country's embassy and/or consulates in the U.S. (for this country, see
"Principal Government Officials" listing in this publication).
citizens who are long-term visitors or traveling in dangerous areas are encouraged
their travel via the State Department's travel registration web site at https://travelregistration.state.gov/
or at the Consular section of the U.S. embassy upon arrival in a country by filling
out a short form and sending in a copy of their passports. This may help family
members contact you in case of an emergency.
Department of State Web Site. Available on
the Internet at http://www.state.gov/, the Department
of State web site provides timely, global access to official U.S. foreign policy
information, including Background Notes and
daily press briefings
along with the directory of key officers
of Foreign Service posts and more.
provides a portal to all export-related assistance and market information offered
by the federal government and provides trade leads, free export counseling, help
with the export process, and more.
a service of the U.S. Department of Commerce, provides authoritative economic,
business, and international trade information from the Federal government. The
site includes current and historical trade-related releases, international market
research, trade opportunities, and country analysis and provides access to the
National Trade Data Bank.