Foreign relations of Switzerland
The foreign relations of Switzerland are the primary responsibility of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. Some international relations of Switzerland are handled by other departments of the federal administration of Switzerland; the Swiss Constitution of 1999 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; these objectives reflect the Swiss moral obligation to undertake social and humanitarian activities that contribute to world peace and prosperity. This is manifested by Swiss bilateral and multilateral diplomatic activity, assistance to developing countries, support for the extension of international law humanitarian law. Traditionally, Switzerland has avoided alliances that might entail military, political, or direct economic action. Only in recent years have the Swiss broadened the scope of activities in which they feel able to participate without compromising their neutrality.
Switzerland is not a member of the European Union and joined the United Nations late compared to its European neighbours. Switzerland maintains diplomatic relations with all countries and has served as a neutral intermediary and host to major international treaty conferences; the country has no major dispute in its bilateral relations. Switzerland is home to many international governmental and nongovernmental organisations, including the International Committee of the Red Cross. One of the first international organisations, the Universal Postal Union, is located in Bern. On 10 September 2002, Switzerland became a full member of the United Nations, after a referendum supporting full membership won in a close vote six months earlier; the 2002 vote made Switzerland the first country to join based on a popular vote. Prior to its formal accession to the United Nations, Switzerland had maintained an observer role at the UN's General Assembly and its Economic and Social Council. Prior to full membership it had no right to a seat as one of the elected members of the UN Security Council.
Switzerland has participated within many of the UN's specialised institutions, including the Economic Commission for Europe, United Nations Environment Programme, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, UN Educational and Cultural Organization, UN Conference on Trade and Development, UN Industrial Development Organization, the Universal Postal Union. Switzerland has furnished military observers and medical teams to several UN operations. Switzerland is a party to the Statute of the International Court of Justice; the Swiss government on 25 June 2003, eased most of the sanctions against the Republic of Iraq in accord with UN Security Council Resolution 1483. The government lifted the trade embargo, flight restrictions, financial sanctions in place since August 1990; the weapons embargo and the asset freeze, the scope of, extended, remain in force, 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 has joined UN economic sanctions imposed on Libya, Sierra Leone, UNITA, Serbia/Montenegro. On 15 October 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, which it subsequently amended in April 2001 in accord with tighter UN regulations. On 2 May 2002, the Swiss Government eased the sanctions regime in accord with UNSCR 1388 and 1390, lifting the ban on the sale of acetic acid, Afghan airlines, Afghan diplomatic representations; the weapons embargo, travel restrictions, financial sanctions remain in force. The Swiss Government in November 2001 issued an ordinance declaring illegal the terrorist organisation Al-Qaida as well as possible successor or supporting organisations. 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 totalling U.
S.$22.6 million. While the Swiss electorate did reject a government proposition to directly deploy Swiss troops as UN peacekeepers in 1994, a total of 23 Swiss personnel including police and military observers have served or are now serving for the United Nations; these dispositions are impartial defined and cover a number of UN projects around the globe. In 1996 Switzerland joined NATO's Partnership for Peace, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council in 1997, 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. Since 1999, the Swiss army is participating through SWISSCOY in the peace keeping mission of the Kosovo Force based on UN-resolution 1244, with prolonged presence until 2014, after approval by the Swiss federal assembly in Spring 2011. Main duties include the supervision of civilian reconstruction efforts and protection of patrimonial sites, military police and medical assistance.
Switzerland during the World Wars
During World War I and World War II, the Swiss Confederation maintained armed neutrality. It was of considerable interest to belligerent states as the scene for diplomacy and commerce. Additionally, it was a safe haven for refugees. Switzerland maintained a state of armed neutrality during the First World War. However, with two of the Central Powers and two of the Entente Powers all sharing borders and populations with Switzerland, neutrality proved difficult. From December 1914 until the spring of 1918 Swiss troops were deployed in the Jura along the French border over concern that the trench war might spill into Switzerland. Of lesser concern was the Italian border, but troops were stationed in the Unterengadin region of Graubünden. While the German-speaking majority in Switzerland favored the Central Powers, the French- and Italian-speaking populations sided with the Entente Powers, which would cause conflict in 1918. However, the country managed to keep out of the war. During the war Switzerland therefore suffered some difficulties.
However, because Switzerland was centrally located and undamaged, the war allowed the growth of the Swiss banking industry. For the same reasons, Switzerland became a haven for revolutionaries. Following the organisation of the army in 1907 and military expansion in 1911, the Swiss Army consisted of about 250,000 men with an additional 200,000 in supporting roles. Both European alliance-systems took the size of the Swiss military into account in the years prior to 1914 in the Schlieffen Plan. Following the declarations of war in late July 1914, on August 1, 1914, Switzerland mobilized its army. By August 11 Wille had deployed much of the army along the Jura border with France, with smaller units deployed along the eastern and southern borders; this remained unchanged until May 1915 when Italy entered the war on the Entente side, at which point troops were deployed to the Unterengadin valley, Val Müstair and along the southern border. Once it became clear that the Allies and the Central Powers would respect Swiss neutrality, the number of troops deployed began to drop.
After September 1914, some soldiers were released to return to vital industries. By November 1916 the Swiss had only 38,000 men in the army; this number increased during the winter of 1916–17 to over 100,000 as a result of a proposed French attack that would have crossed Switzerland. When this attack failed to occur the army began to shrink again; because of widespread workers' strikes, at the end of the war the Swiss army had shrunk to only 12,500 men. During the war "belligerents" crossed the Swiss borders about 1,000 times, with some of these incidents occurring around the Dreisprachen Piz or Three Languages Peak. Switzerland had a hotel on the peak. During the war, fierce battles were fought in the ice and snow of the area, with gun fire crossing into Swiss areas at times; the three nations made an agreement not to fire over Swiss territory which jutted out between Austria and Italy. Instead they could fire down the pass. In one incident a Swiss soldier was killed at his outpost on Dreisprachen Piz by Italian gunfire.
During the fighting, Switzerland became a haven for many politicians, artists and thinkers. Bern, Zürich, Geneva became centers of debate and discussion. In Zürich two different anti-war groups would bring lasting changes to the world, the Bolsheviks and the Dadaists; the Bolsheviks were a faction of Russian socialists, centered around Vladimir Lenin. Following the outbreak of the war, Lenin was stunned when the large Social Democratic parties of Europe supported their various respective countries' war efforts. Lenin adopted the stance that what he described as an "imperialist war" ought to be turned into a civil war between the classes, he left Austria for neutral Switzerland in 1914 following the outbreak of the war and remained active in Switzerland until 1917. Following the 1917 February Revolution in Russia and the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II he left Switzerland on the sealed train to Petrograd, where he would shortly lead the 1917 October Revolution in Russia. While the Dada art movement was an anti-war organization, Dadaists used art to oppose all wars.
The founders of the movement had left Romania to escape the destruction of the war. At the Cabaret Voltaire in Zürich they put on performances expressing their disgust with the war and with the interests that inspired it. By some accounts Dada coalesced on October 1916 at the cabaret; the artists used abstraction to fight against the social and cultural ideas of that time that they believed had caused the war. Dadaists viewed abstraction of logical thought-processes; when World War I ended in 1918, most of the Zürich Dadaists returned to their home countries, some began Dada activities in other cities. In 1917 Switzerland's neutrality came into question. Robert Grimm, a Swiss socialist politician, travelled to Russia as an activist to negotiate a separate peace between Russia and Germany, in order to end the war on the Eastern Front in the interests of socialism and pacifism. Misrepresenting himself as a diplomat
Telecommunication is the transmission of signs, messages, writings and sounds or information of any nature by wire, optical or other electromagnetic systems. Telecommunication occurs when the exchange of information between communication participants includes the use of technology, it is transmitted either electrically over physical media, such as cables, or via electromagnetic radiation. Such transmission paths are divided into communication channels which afford the advantages of multiplexing. Since the Latin term communicatio is considered the social process of information exchange, the term telecommunications is used in its plural form because it involves many different technologies. Early means of communicating over a distance included visual signals, such as beacons, smoke signals, semaphore telegraphs, signal flags, optical heliographs. Other examples of pre-modern long-distance communication included audio messages such as coded drumbeats, lung-blown horns, loud whistles. 20th- and 21st-century technologies for long-distance communication involve electrical and electromagnetic technologies, such as telegraph and teleprinter, radio, microwave transmission, fiber optics, communications satellites.
A revolution in wireless communication began in the first decade of the 20th century with the pioneering developments in radio communications by Guglielmo Marconi, who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1909, other notable pioneering inventors and developers in the field of electrical and electronic telecommunications. These included Charles Wheatstone and Samuel Morse, Alexander Graham Bell, Edwin Armstrong and Lee de Forest, as well as Vladimir K. Zworykin, John Logie Baird and Philo Farnsworth; the word telecommunication is a compound of the Greek prefix tele, meaning distant, far off, or afar, the Latin communicare, meaning to share. Its modern use is adapted from the French, because its written use was recorded in 1904 by the French engineer and novelist Édouard Estaunié. Communication was first used as an English word in the late 14th century, it comes from Old French comunicacion, from Latin communicationem, noun of action from past participle stem of communicare "to share, divide out.
Homing pigeons have been used throughout history by different cultures. Pigeon post had Persian roots, was used by the Romans to aid their military. Frontinus said; the Greeks conveyed the names of the victors at the Olympic Games to various cities using homing pigeons. In the early 19th century, the Dutch government used the system in Sumatra, and in 1849, Paul Julius Reuter started a pigeon service to fly stock prices between Aachen and Brussels, a service that operated for a year until the gap in the telegraph link was closed. In the Middle Ages, chains of beacons were used on hilltops as a means of relaying a signal. Beacon chains suffered the drawback that they could only pass a single bit of information, so the meaning of the message such as "the enemy has been sighted" had to be agreed upon in advance. One notable instance of their use was during the Spanish Armada, when a beacon chain relayed a signal from Plymouth to London. In 1792, Claude Chappe, a French engineer, built the first fixed visual telegraphy system between Lille and Paris.
However semaphore suffered from the need for skilled operators and expensive towers at intervals of ten to thirty kilometres. As a result of competition from the electrical telegraph, the last commercial line was abandoned in 1880. On 25 July 1837 the first commercial electrical telegraph was demonstrated by English inventor Sir William Fothergill Cooke, English scientist Sir Charles Wheatstone. Both inventors viewed their device as "an improvement to the electromagnetic telegraph" not as a new device. Samuel Morse independently developed a version of the electrical telegraph that he unsuccessfully demonstrated on 2 September 1837, his code was an important advance over Wheatstone's signaling method. The first transatlantic telegraph cable was completed on 27 July 1866, allowing transatlantic telecommunication for the first time; the conventional telephone was invented independently by Alexander Bell and Elisha Gray in 1876. Antonio Meucci invented the first device that allowed the electrical transmission of voice over a line in 1849.
However Meucci's device was of little practical value because it relied upon the electrophonic effect and thus required users to place the receiver in their mouth to "hear" what was being said. The first commercial telephone services were set-up in 1878 and 1879 on both sides of the Atlantic in the cities of New Haven and London. Starting in 1894, Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi began developing a wireless communication using the newly discovered phenomenon of radio waves, showing by 1901 that they could be transmitted across the Atlantic Ocean; this was the start of wireless telegraphy by radio. Voice and music had little early success. World War I accelerated the development of radio for military communications. After the war, commercial radio AM broadcasting began in the 1920s and became an important mass medium for entertainment and news. World War II again accelerated development of radio for the wartime purposes of aircraft and land communication, radio navigation and radar. Development of stereo FM broadcasting of radio
Swiss Federal Constitution
The Federal Constitution of the Swiss Confederation of 18 April 1999 is the third and current federal constitution of Switzerland. It establishes the Swiss Confederation as a federal republic of 26 cantons; the document contains a catalogue of individual and popular rights, delineates the responsibilities of the cantons and the Confederation and establishes the federal authorities of government. The Constitution was adopted by a referendum on 18 April 1999, in which a majority of the people and the Cantons voted in favour, it replaced the prior federal constitution of 1874, which it was intended to be brought up to date without changing its substance. Prior to 1798, the Swiss Confederacy was a confederation of independent states, not a federal state, as such was based on treaties rather than a constitution; the Helvetic Republic of 1798–1803 had a constitution drawn up by Peter Ochs, in 1803 replaced by the Act of Mediation, in turn replaced by the Federal Treaty of 1815, which restored the Confederacy, while the individual cantons drew up cantonal constitutions, in most respects based on the Ancien Régime of the 18th century, but with notable liberal innovations in the constitutions of the new cantons of St. Gallen, Thurgau, Ticino and Geneva.
The new cantonal constitutions in many cases served as precedents for the federal constitution. Following the French July Revolution in 1830, a number of large assemblies were held calling for new cantonal constitutions; the modifications to the cantonal constitutions made during this period of "Regeneration" remains the basis of the current-day cantonal constitutions. Vaud introduced the legislative popular initiative in 1846. Berne introduced the legislative optional referendum in the same year; the political crisis of the Regeneration period culminated in the Sonderbund War of November 1847. As a result of the Sonderbund War, Switzerland was transformed into a federal state, with a constitution promulgated on 12 September 1848; this constitution provided for the cantons' sovereignty, as long as this did not impinge on the Federal Constitution. The creation of a bicameral assembly was consciously inspired by the United States Constitution, the National Council and Council of States corresponding to the House of Representatives and Senate, respectively.
The Constitution of 1848 was revised in 1866, wholly revised in 1874. This latter constitutional change introduced the referendum at the federal level. In a partial revision of 1891, the "right of initiative" was introduced, under which a certain number of voters could make a request to amend a constitutional article, or to introduce a new article into the constitution; this mechanism is called federal popular initiative. Thus, partial revisions of the constitution could – from this time onward – be made at any time. Twelve such changes were made in the period of 1893 to 1994: 20 August 1893: prohibition of schechita without anesthetization 5 July 1908: prohibition of absinthe 13 October 1918: proportional representation in the Swiss National Council 21 March 1920: prohibition of casino gambling 30 January 1921: mandatory referendum on international treaties signed by Switzerland 2 December 1928: exemptions on the ban on casinos 11 September 1949: provisions for the optional referendum procedure 28 November 1982: provisions against overpricing 6 December 1987: protection of wetlands 23 September 1990: moratorium on nuclear power plants 26 September 1993: Swiss National Day 20 February 1994: protection of the Alpine landscape The Federal Constitution was wholly revised for the second time in the 1990s, the new version was approved by popular and cantonal vote on 18 April 1999.
It came into force on 1 January 2000. The 1999 Constitution of Switzerland consists of Preambule and 6 Parts, which together make up 196 Articles, it provides an explicit provision for nine fundamental rights, which up until had only been discussed and debated in the Federal Court. It provides for greater details in tax laws; the Constitution of 1999 has been changed by popular initiative ten times in the period of 2002 to 2014, as follows: 3 March 2002: Accession to the United Nations 8 February 2004: Indefinite confinement of dangerous sexual offenders 27 November 2005: Restrictions on the use of genetically modified organisms in agriculture 30 November 2008: Abolition of the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse 29 November 2009: Prohibition of minarets 28 November 2010: extradition of convicted foreign citizens 11 March 2012: Limitation on building permits for holiday homes 3 March 2013: Provisions for the right of shareholders in Swiss public companies to determine executive pay 9 February 2014: Principle of immigration quotas 8 May 2014: Prohibition of convicted pedophiles from working with minors The preamble and the first title of the Constitution determine the general outlines of Switzerland as a democratic federal republic of 26 cantons governed by the rule of law.
The preamble opens with a solemn invocation of God in continuance of Swiss constitutional tradition. It is a mandate to the State authorities by the Swiss people and cantons, as the Confederation's constituent powers, to adhere to the values listed in the preamble, which include "liberty and democracy and peace in solidarity a
Politics of Switzerland
Switzerland is a semi-direct democratic federal republic. The federal legislative power is vested in the two chambers of the Federal Assembly, the National Council and the Council of States; the Federal Council holds the executive power and is composed of seven power-sharing Federal Councillors elected by the Federal Assembly. The judicial branch is headed by the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland, whose judges are elected by the Federal Assembly. Switzerland has a tradition of direct democracy. For any change in the constitution, a referendum is mandatory. In addition, the people may present a constitutional popular initiative to introduce amendments to the federal constitution; the people assume a role similar to the constitutional court, which does not exist, thus act as the guardian of the rule of law. Cantonal and municipal politics vary in the different cantons; the Economist Intelligence Unit has rated Switzerland as "full democracy" in 2016. Switzerland features a system of government not seen in any other nation: direct representation, sometimes called half-direct democracy.
Referenda on the most important laws have been used since the 1848 constitution. Amendments to the Federal Constitution of Switzerland, the joining of international organizations, or changes to federal laws that have no foundation in the constitution but will remain in force for more than one year must be approved by the majority of both the people and the cantons, a double majority. Any citizen may challenge a law, passed by parliament. If that person is able to gather 50,000 signatures against the law within 100 days, a national vote has to be scheduled where voters decide by a simple majority of the voters whether to accept or reject the law. Any citizen may seek a decision on an amendment they want to make to the constitution. For such a federal popular initiative to be organised, the signatures of 100,000 voters must be collected within 18 months; such a federal popular initiative is formulated as a precise new text whose wording can no longer be changed by parliament and the government.
After a successful signature gathering, the federal council may create a counterproposal to the proposed amendment and put it to vote on the same day as the original proposal. Such counter-proposals are a compromise between the status quo and the wording of the initiative. Voters will decide in a national vote whether to accept the initiative amendment, the counter proposal put forward by the government if any, or both. If both are accepted, one has to additionally signal a preference. Initiatives have to be accepted by a double majority of both the popular votes and a majority of the cantons, while counter-proposals may be of legislative level and hence require only simple majority. Federalism refers to a vertical separation of powers; the aim is to avoid the concentration of power in a forum, which allows a moderation of state power and the easing of the duties of the federal state. In Switzerland, it is above all a matter of designating the independence of the cantons vis-à-vis the Confederation.
The Swiss Federal Council is a seven-member executive council that heads the federal administration, operating as a combination cabinet and collective presidency. Any Swiss citizen eligible to be a member of the National Council can be elected; the Federal Council is elected by the Federal Assembly for a four-year term. Present members are: Doris Leuthard, Guy Parmelin, Ueli Maurer, Ignazio Cassis, Simonetta Sommaruga, Johann Schneider-Ammann and Alain Berset; the ceremonial President and Vice President of the Confederation are elected by the Federal Assembly from among the members of the Federal Council for one-year terms that run concurrently. The President has no powers over and above his or her six colleagues, but undertakes representative functions performed by a president or prime minister in single-executive systems; the current President and Vice President are Ueli Maurer, respectively. The Swiss executive is one of the most stable governments worldwide. Since 1848, it has never been renewed at the same time, providing a long-term continuity.
From 1959 to 2003 the Federal Council was composed of a coalition of all major parties in the same ratio: two each from the Free Democratic Party, Social Democratic Party, Christian Democratic People's Party and one from the Swiss People's Party. Changes in the council occur only if one of the members resigns; the Federal Chancellor is the head of the Federal Chancellery, which acts as the general staff of the Federal Council. The Chancellery is divided into three distinct sectors; the Chancellor is the formal head of the Federal Chancellor Sector, comprising the planning and strategy section, the Internal Services section, the political rights section, the federal crisis management training unit of the Federal Administration, the Records and Process Management section. Two sectors are headed by the Vice-Chancellors: the Federal Council sector manages the agenda of the Federal Council's meeting; this sector comprises the Section for Federal Council Affairs, the Legal Sect
The World Factbook
The World Factbook known as the CIA World Factbook, is a reference resource produced by the Central Intelligence Agency with almanac-style information about the countries of the world. The official print version is available from the Government Printing Office. Other companies—such as Skyhorse Publishing—also print a paper edition; the Factbook is available in the form of a website, updated every week. It is available for download for use off-line, it provides a two- to three-page summary of the demographics, communications, government and military of each of 267 international entities including U. S.-recognized countries and other areas in the world. The World Factbook is prepared by the CIA for the use of U. S. government officials, its style, format and content are designed to meet their requirements. However, it is used as a resource for academic research papers and news articles; as a work of the U. S. government, it is in the public domain in the United States. In researching the Factbook, the CIA uses the sources listed below.
Other public and private sources are consulted. Antarctic Information Program Armed Forces Medical Intelligence Center Bureau of the Census Bureau of Labor Statistics Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs Defense Intelligence Agency Department of Energy Department of State Fish and Wildlife Service Maritime Administration National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Naval Facilities Engineering Command Office of Insular Affairs Office of Naval Intelligence Oil & Gas Journal United States Board on Geographic Names United States Transportation Command Because the Factbook is in the public domain, people are free under United States law to redistribute it or parts of it in any way that they like, without permission of the CIA. However, the CIA requests. Copying the official seal of the CIA without permission is prohibited by U. S. federal law—specifically, the Central Intelligence Agency Act of 1949. Before November 2001 The World Factbook website was updated yearly. Information available as of January 1 of the current year is used in preparing the Factbook.
The first, edition of Factbook was published in August 1962, the first unclassified version in June 1971. The World Factbook was first available to the public in print in 1975. In 2008 the CIA discontinued printing the Factbook themselves, instead turning printing responsibilities over to the Government Printing Office; this happened due to a CIA decision to "focus Factbook resources" on the online edition. The Factbook has been on the World Wide Web since October 1994; the web version receives an average of 6 million visits per month. The official printed version is sold by the Government Printing Office and National Technical Information Service. In past years, the Factbook was available on CD-ROM, magnetic tape, floppy disk. Many Internet sites use information and images from the CIA World Factbook. Several publishers, including Grand River Books, Potomac Books, Skyhorse Publishing have re-published the Factbook in recent years; as of July 2011, The World Factbook comprises 267 entities, which can be divided into the following categories: Independent countries The CIA defines these as people "politically organized into a sovereign state with a definite territory."
In this category, there are 195 entities. Others Places set apart from the list of independent countries. There are two: Taiwan and the European Union. Dependencies and Areas of Special Sovereignty Places affiliated with another country, they may be subcategorized by affiliated country: Australia: six entities China: two entities Denmark: two entities France: eight entities Netherlands: three entities New Zealand: three entities Norway: three entities United Kingdom: seventeen entities United States: fourteen entitiesMiscellaneous Antarctica and places in dispute. There are six such entities. Other entities The World and the oceans. There are the World. Areas not covered Specific regions within a country or areas in dispute among countries, such as Kashmir, are not covered, but other areas of the world whose status is disputed, such as the Spratly Islands, have entries. Subnational areas of countries are not included in the Factbook. Instead, users looking for information about subnational areas are referred to "a comprehensive encyclopedia" for their reference needs.
This criterion was invoked in the 2007 and 2011 editions with the decision to drop the entries for French Guiana, Martinique and Reunion. They were dropped because besides being overseas departments, they were now overseas regions, an integral part of France. Kashmir Maps depicting Kashmir have the Indo-Pakistani border drawn at the Line of Control, but the region of Kashmir administered by China drawn in hash marks. Northern Cyprus Northern Cyprus, which the U. S. considers part of the Republic of Cyprus, is not given a separate entry because "territorial occupations/annexations not recognized by the United States Government are not shown on U. S. Government maps."Taiwan/Republic of China The name
Switzerland the Swiss Confederation, is a country situated in western and southern Europe. It consists of 26 cantons, the city of Bern is the seat of the federal authorities; the sovereign state is a federal republic bordered by Italy to the south, France to the west, Germany to the north, Austria and Liechtenstein to the east. Switzerland is a landlocked country geographically divided between the Alps, the Swiss Plateau and the Jura, spanning a total area of 41,285 km2. While the Alps occupy the greater part of the territory, the Swiss population of 8.5 million people is concentrated on the plateau, where the largest cities are to be found: among them are the two global cities and economic centres Zürich and Geneva. The establishment of the Old Swiss Confederacy dates to the late medieval period, resulting from a series of military successes against Austria and Burgundy. Swiss independence from the Holy Roman Empire was formally recognized in the Peace of Westphalia in 1648; the country has a history of armed neutrality going back to the Reformation.
It pursues an active foreign policy and is involved in peace-building processes around the world. In addition to being the birthplace of the Red Cross, Switzerland is home to numerous international organisations, including the second largest UN office. On the European level, it is a founding member of the European Free Trade Association, but notably not part of the European Union, the European Economic Area or the Eurozone. However, it participates in the Schengen Area and the European Single Market through bilateral treaties. Spanning the intersection of Germanic and Romance Europe, Switzerland comprises four main linguistic and cultural regions: German, French and Romansh. Although the majority of the population are German-speaking, Swiss national identity is rooted in a common historical background, shared values such as federalism and direct democracy, Alpine symbolism. Due to its linguistic diversity, Switzerland is known by a variety of native names: Schweiz. On coins and stamps, the Latin name – shortened to "Helvetia" – is used instead of the four national languages.
Switzerland is one of the most developed countries in the world, with the highest nominal wealth per adult and the eighth-highest per capita gross domestic product according to the IMF. Switzerland ranks at or near the top globally in several metrics of national performance, including government transparency, civil liberties, quality of life, economic competitiveness and human development. Zürich and Basel have all three been ranked among the top ten cities in the world in terms of quality of life, with the first ranked second globally, according to Mercer in 2018; the English name Switzerland is a compound containing Switzer, an obsolete term for the Swiss, in use during the 16th to 19th centuries. The English adjective Swiss is a loan from French Suisse in use since the 16th century; the name Switzer is from the Alemannic Schwiizer, in origin an inhabitant of Schwyz and its associated territory, one of the Waldstätten cantons which formed the nucleus of the Old Swiss Confederacy. The Swiss began to adopt the name for themselves after the Swabian War of 1499, used alongside the term for "Confederates", used since the 14th century.
The data code for Switzerland, CH, is derived from Latin Confoederatio Helvetica. The toponym Schwyz itself was first attested in 972, as Old High German Suittes perhaps related to swedan ‘to burn’, referring to the area of forest, burned and cleared to build; the name was extended to the area dominated by the canton, after the Swabian War of 1499 came to be used for the entire Confederation. The Swiss German name of the country, Schwiiz, is homophonous to that of the canton and the settlement, but distinguished by the use of the definite article; the Latin name Confoederatio Helvetica was neologized and introduced after the formation of the federal state in 1848, harking back to the Napoleonic Helvetic Republic, appearing on coins from 1879, inscribed on the Federal Palace in 1902 and after 1948 used in the official seal.. Helvetica is derived from the Helvetii, a Gaulish tribe living on the Swiss plateau before the Roman era. Helvetia appears as a national personification of the Swiss confederacy in the 17th century with a 1672 play by Johann Caspar Weissenbach.
Switzerland has existed as a state in its present form since the adoption of the Swiss Federal Constitution in 1848. The precursors of Switzerland established a protective alliance at the end of the 13th century, forming a loose confederation of states which persisted for centuries; the oldest traces of hominid existence in Switzerland date back about 150,000 years. The oldest known farming settlements in Switzerland, which were found at Gächlingen, have been dated to around 5300 BC; the earliest known cultural tribes of the area were members of the Hallstatt and La Tène cultures, named after the archaeological site of La Tène on the north side of Lake Neuchâtel. La Tène culture developed and flourished during the late Iron Age from around 450 BC under some influence from the Gree