A Suíça é um país na Europa Central. A capital é Berna. A principal religião é o Cristianismo (Catolicismo e Protestantismo). As línguas nacionais são o Alemão, Francês, Italiano e Romanche. A Confederação Suíça foi fundada em 1291 como uma aliança defensiva entre três cantões. Nos anos seguintes, outras localidades juntaram-se às três originais. A Confederação Suíça garantiu a sua independência do Sacro Império Romano em 1499. A Constituição de 1848, posteriormente alterada em 1874, substituiu a confederação com um governo federal centralizado. A soberania e a neutralidade da Suiça têm sido desde há muito honradas pelas grandes potências Europeias, e o país não estêve envolvido em nenhuma das duas Guerras Mundiais. A integração política e economica da Europa ao longo do último meio século, bem como o papel da Suíça na ONU e em organizações internacionais, tem reforçado os laços da Suíça com seus vizinhos. No entanto, o país não se tornou oficialmente um membro da ONU até 2002. A Suíça permanece ativa em muitas organizações das Nações Unidas e internacionais, mas mantém um forte compromisso com a neutralidade.
Switzerland is a nation in Alpine Europe. Small, wealthy, and mountainous, it was famously described by the German writer Johann Wolfgang Goethe as "a combination of the colossal and the well-ordered". Jagged snow-capped mountains dominate this land, which the Swiss have nonetheless tamed and groomed to perfection. Indeed, human development has, for the most part, added to the beauty of Switzerland's landscape instead of marring it.
Switzerland is also famous for its political neutrality. This policy, together with the country's well-trained militia and mountain barriers, has kept Switzerland out of international wars for more than 500 years. The Swiss have used their enduring peace to develop highly sophisticated systems of government, technology, and business, especially banking. Their country, most notably the city of Geneva, has also become headquarters for hundreds of international organizations dedicated to world peace, cooperation, and humanitarian aid.
At the same time, the Swiss are far from a homogenous group. Indeed, there is not one Swiss language but four—German, French, Italian, and Romansh. Each is associated with its own region and culture. While remaining in many ways distinct, each of these cultures also takes pride in its unique Swiss flavor.
Switzerland occupies 15,938 sq. mi. (41,279 sq. km.), an area almost twice the size of New Jersey. It shares borders with Germany on the northeast, Austria and the tiny principality of Liechtenstein on the east, Italy on the south, and France on the west and northwest.
All of Switzerland lies within Europe's Alpine Mountain System, with few places below 1,000 ft. (300 m.) in elevation, and more than half the land higher than 3,000 ft. (900 m.). Within this larger alpine system, three geographic regions span the country. They are the Swiss Alps, the Swiss Plateau, and the Juras. Switzerland also encompasses a small projection of rolling hills in the North Italian Plain, south of the Alps.
The Swiss Alps and their foothills arc across southern and central Switzerland, from east to west. They cover more than half of Switzerland and make up a fourth of the entire Alps, Europe's largest and highest mountain range. Geologically young, the Alps remain lofty, steep, and jagged. Their peaks are among the most dramatic in the world.
The Swiss Alps include more than 100 summits over 13,000 ft. (nearly 4,000 m.). Narrow valleys separate many of the individual mountains. And cascading streams carve their slopes with deep, steep-sided gorges. Snow blankets most of this region for at least three to five months of the year. Many glaciers, or permanent ice caps, cover the highest peaks and slopes. In area, they total nearly 750 sq. mi. (1,950 sq. km.). But they are shrinking, perhaps due to global climate change. Avalanches and landslides frequently thunder down the rugged mountain slopes.
River valleys divide the Swiss Alps into two parallel mountain chains. They run east to west on either side of a central mountain block called the St. Gotthard Massif. The southern chain comprises the Pennine, Lepontine, and Rhaetian Alps. The Pennines are home to many of Europe's tallest peaks. They include Switzerland's highest point, Dufourspitze (15,204 ft.; 4,634 m.), one of 10 summits on the Monte Rosa Massif, and the famous Matterhorn (see the sidebar).
The northern chain includes the dramatic Bernese Oberland, on the west, and the Glarus Alps, to the east. The Bernese Oberland has Switzerland's greatest concentration of glaciers. To the north, the Bernese and Glarus mountains gradually drop down into a broad area of foothills. Then they flatten out to form a high, rolling plateau.
The Swiss Plateau is known as the Mittelland ( "middle land" ). It stretches across the north-central third of Switzerland, from Lake Geneva, on the country's western border with France, to Lake Constance, on its northeastern border with Germany. The plateau forms a high, broad rectangle of rolling plains. It has an average elevation of 1,300 ft. (400 m.) above sea level and an average width, from north to south, of 30 mi. (50 km.). Winding river valleys crisscross this region, which also contains Switzerland's most fertile soil, the majority of its farms, and several major lakes.
The Jura Mountains rise up from the Mittelland along its northwestern border. Far older and lower than the Alps, the Juras (Celtic for "forestland" ) consist of parallel lines of rounded mountains. Most stand to heights of between 3,000 and 4,000 ft. (900 and 1,200 m.). Because the Juras have few gaps, or passes, they create a rugged barrier between Switzerland and northeastern France.
Rivers and Lakes
Fed by the meltwater of glaciers and deep winter snows, Western Europe's most important rivers all begin in the Swiss Alps. The Rhône and Rhine Rivers arise within 15 mi. (24 km.) of each other in the St. Gotthard Massif—the Rhône flowing southwest, the Rhine heading northeast. The Ticino flows south into Italy. The Inn River flows east into Austria. The beautiful Aare River winds north and east across the Swiss Plateau for 183 mi. (294 km.) before emptying into the Rhine.
Switzerland's countless mountain streams form some of the world's most dramatic waterfalls. The Bernese Oberland boasts Switzerland's highest, Giessbach Falls (1,312 ft.; 400 m.), and its most spectacular, Staubbach Falls (984 ft.; 300 m.).
More than 1,000 small icy lakes dot the Swiss Alps. The Swiss Plateau features many far larger lakes. Most of them are fed and drained by major rivers. The largest is Lake Geneva, or Lac Léman (224 sq. mi.; 580 sq. km.), on the western border with France. Lake Constance, or Bodensee (210 sq. mi.; 544 sq. km.), stands on Switzerland's northeastern border with Germany. Lake Neuchâtel, or Neuenbergersee (84 sq. mi.; 218 sq. km.), is the largest to lie completely within Swiss territory, at the foot of the Jura Mountains.
Swiss weather patterns can change dramatically over relatively small distances. This is the result of the influence of the country's mountains and winds.
A temperate climate prevails across the Swiss Plateau and in the lower and larger mountain valleys. In these places, January temperatures average just below freezing. July temperatures average between 63° and 70° F. (17° and 21° C.). Fog often occurs during winter. Sunny skies with occasional thunderstorms typify the summer. Most places on the plateau receive between 40 and 45 in. (1,016 and 1,143 mm.) of precipitation a year.
Precipitation tends to increase with elevation. At the same time, temperatures drop about 3° F. (2° C.) for every 1,000-ft. (300-m.) rise in altitude. Overall, Switzerland's mountains have cold, snowy winters and cool, comfortable summers. Glacier areas remain cold year-round, as the thin air at these altitudes holds less heat. Occasionally, a dry, warm mountain wind known as the foehn blows from the south. It cascades down the north slopes of the Alps to raise temperatures far above normal.
Many are surprised to learn that Switzerland has an area characterized by a warm, dry Mediterranean climate. In Ticino, for example, an area of plains south of the Alps, temperatures range from 35° F. (2° C.) in January to around 64° F. (18° C.) in July.
Switzerland has a population of just over 8 million people. The Swiss enjoy a high quality of life. Virtually every Swiss citizen can read and write in at least one language. About one-fourth of the population has earned a college degree or achieved a similar course of higher learning. Average personal income ranks among the highest in the world. All residents have access to government-controlled health insurance and some of the best medical facilities in the world. The Swiss average life expectancy of 80 years also ranks among the highest in the world.
Many Swiss descend, in part, from one or more of the land's native peoples. Celtic and Rhaetian tribes arrived here in prehistoric times. They were followed by Alemanni and Burgundian tribes, from what is now Germany and France, between the 3rd and 5th centuries Little survives of these ancient cultures in Switzerland. Rather, modern-day Swiss, who number around 8 million, tend to define themselves by the country's four major language groups—German, French, Italian, and Romansh—and their associated traditions.
About 64 percent of the Swiss population speaks a dialect of German known as Swiss German. It is the most common language across the country's central and northern regions. The German Swiss have a long-standing reputation for precision and orderliness.
About 20 percent of the population speaks French. It is the predominant language of western Switzerland. French food and local wines have long been an important part of the Swiss-French culture, which tends to be more informal than that of the Swiss-German majority.
Another 7 percent of the population speaks Italian as their first language. As would be expected, they live along Switzerland's southern border with Italy, especially in Ticino. Ticino is the balmy Mediterranean region that extends south of the Alps.
Less than 1 percent of the population, or about 50,000 people, speak the ancient Latin dialect of Romansh. It is heard primarily in the mountain valleys of the Rhaetian Alps, in southeastern Switzerland. Anyone who has learned Latin can figure out the street and shop signs in this corner of Switzerland. There, a traditional architecture of thick walls, door arches, and sunken windows likewise reflects ancient Roman times. This region celebrates the folk festival of Chalanda Marz, on March 1. It marks the end of winter and the first day of the ancient Roman calendar.
Many Swiss know more than one language, including English. Because foreign workers account for nearly one-quarter of the population, many other languages can also be heard.
Education and Religion
Switzerland's school system has long ranked as one of the world's best. Each canton (the Swiss equivalent of a state or province) has its own school system, with classes taught in its regional language. Many Swiss children attend preschool. Formal schooling is mandatory between ages 6 or 7 and ages 15 or 16, depending on the canton. The vast majority of students continue their education to age 18. More than half enroll in a university or other institute of higher learning. The renowned quality of Switzerland's 13 universities draws students from around the world.
About 42 percent of Swiss citizens belong to the Roman Catholic Church. Another 35 percent are Protestant. Approximately 11 percent claim no religion. Switzerland has long had a small Jewish population. In recent years, foreign workers and refugees have raised the number of Muslims to just over 4 percent of the population.
Arts and Culture
Switzerland's inspiring mountains and political neutrality have drawn creative artists, philosophers, and scientists since Renaissance times. Following World War I, many actors, playwrights, painters, and writers congregated in Zurich. There, they gave rise to an international, avant-garde art and literary movement known as Dadaism. It celebrated the rejection of all traditional rules and forms. Paul Klee is a noted Swiss painter of this era.
Switzerland's most famous authors wrote in German. In 1880, Johanna Spyri wrote the children's classic Heidi. In the early 20th century, Hermann Hesse wrote inspiring, philosophical novels such as Siddhartha (1922) and Steppenwolf (1927). He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1946. Friedrich Dürrenmatt, who died in 1990, is the country's best-known playwright.
Several Swiss cities support opera houses or symphony orchestras. The most famous is the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande in Geneva. Lausanne, in central Switzerland, hosts an annual international music festival. The Montreux Jazz Festival, on the east bank of Lake Geneva, has become world-famous.
In most every village, town, and city, amateur folk groups perform traditional Swiss music and dance wearing special mountain costumes. Swiss folk music is best known for yodeling. It is a singing style once used to communicate between isolated mountain slopes. Mountain communication also gave rise to the long wooden instrument known as the alphorn.
The Swiss have carefully preserved their historic architecture, which—thanks to the country's neutrality—escaped the destructive bombing raids of World War II. Medieval and Renaissance castles, cathedrals, and villages still stand in every part of the country.
Sports. Skiing, hiking, and mountain climbing have long been national pastimes in Switzerland. Its many mountain resorts draw millions of visitors each winter. Sailing is especially popular on the country's many large lakes. Snowboarding has become widespread in recent years.
Food and Drink. Swiss food and drink vary with the country's four language regions. The German-Swiss are known for their sausages and cheese; the French-Swiss for their cheese and wine; and the Italian-Swiss for their pastas and savory tomato sauces. Romansh foods often feature wild game complemented by maluns, a grated-potato dish fried in butter, or pizzoccheri neri, a dish of buckwheat noodles and greens.
Ritual surrounds fondue, a bubbling mixture of grated Gruyère and Emmentaler cheeses, garlic, wine, and kirsch (clear, potent cherry brandy). It is prepared in an earthenware pot over a small stove on the table. Each guest, armed with a long fork, dips small chunks of bread into the fondue.
Other Swiss specialties include delicious rösti, crusty cakes of crisply fried potatoes; and Grisons beef (or Bündnerfleisch), thin slices of meat dried in the open air and cooked by the Sun. Everywhere in Switzerland, one can enjoy a rich cup of coffee, or espresso, and fresh, flavorful bread.
Switzerland has kept its cities small and architecturally beautiful. Only in recent years have Switzerland's urban areas begun to spread into the surrounding countryside. As a result, many once-distinct towns now run together around such major cities as Zurich, Geneva, Basel, Bern, and Lausanne.
Bern is Switzerland's capital and fourth-largest city. It sits on a small, high peninsula surrounded on three sides by a U-shaped bend in the Aare River. The peaks of the Bernese Oberland form a dramatic backdrop across the city's southern horizon. Most of its residents speak German.
Bern's natural moat made it an ideal spot for a fortress in early medieval times. Then, in 1191, the duke of Zähringen ordered his men to cut down the peninsula's oak forest and use the wood to build an orderly village. He named the town after the brown bears, or Bären, that lived in the surrounding countryside.
After a fire destroyed Bern in 1405, its residents rebuilt the city's houses and stores out of sandstone. Since that time, Bern's appearance has remained remarkably unchanged. Cobblestone streets still crisscross the city's historic district in the pattern laid out by its 12th-century founder. Ornate fountains topped by historical and mythological statues line the main streets, and stone arcades cover the sidewalks.
A 15th-century Gothic cathedral famous for its magnificent stained glass dominates the center of town. Nearby, a 16th-century clock tower puts on hourly performances with mechanical clowns, dancing bears, and other figurines. Since 1848, Bern has been the home of the Swiss National Parliament, its courts, the National Library, and State Archive. In 1983, the United Nations (U.N.) declared Bern's entire historic town center a World Heritage Site.
Bern has an active nightlife, and the Bernese consider themselves more relaxed than their big-city colleagues in Zurich and Geneva. On any workday, one can see throngs of fashionably suited businesspeople and diplomats commuting to and from their offices on foot, scooter, or bicycle.
Zurich is Switzerland's largest city and its economic engine. It stretches around the north shore of Lake Zurich, on the eastern side of the Swiss Mittelland. The city's greater metropolitan area has a population of 1.6 million. The city extends all the way around the 25-mi. (40-km.)-long lake.
This German-Swiss city was already an international trade center by the 18th century, when it was famous for silk textiles. Modern-day Zurich ranks as a world center for banking, insurance, and finance. The city's gold-trading center is the world's largest, and the SWX Swiss Exchange ranks fourth in the world (after New York, London, and Tokyo). Zurich's paper-manufacturing, printing, and machine-tooling industries are concentrated in the city's outskirts.
Zurich has become popular with tourists for the fine shopping of its Bahnhofstrasse, the main boulevard that extends from the city's rail depot to its attractive lakeside park. Zurich's cobblestoned Old Town features cozy cafés and bookshops. Zurich is also one of Switzerland's cultural centers, with an opera, symphony orchestra, and many theater companies. The city is known for its April Sechseläuten ( "six o'clock bells" ) festival, when cathedral bells signal the joyous end of the long Swiss winter and costumed paraders burn the Böog—a symbolic wood snowman stuffed with firecrackers.
Geneva is the second-largest city in Switzerland. It sits on the southwestern tip of Lake Geneva, surrounded on three sides by France. Most residents speak French, but Geneva is a very international city (see the sidebar).
Basel is the country's third-largest city. It is located on a sweeping bend in the Rhine River, at the meeting point of Switzerland's northern borders with France and Germany. Switzerland's major inland port, Basel exports and imports goods along the Rhine River to the North Sea, some 500 mi. (800 km.) away. Basel is a major center for international banking and Swiss industries. Since the 16th century, it has been famous for its high-quality textiles, watches, and leather goods. Its other major industries include the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals, industrial chemicals, and paper. Thanks to Basel's abundance of jobs, its surrounding communities have grown dramatically in recent years. Its larger metropolitan area is now home to more than a half million people, many of them foreign workers.
Lausanne is Switzerland's fourth-largest city. It is a major tourist center on the north shore of Lake Geneva, some 40 mi. (64 km.) east of Geneva. The city's lakefront section has been dubbed the "Swiss Riviera." It has promenades of hotels, restaurants, and cafés overlooking a yacht-strewn stretch of water. From here, the city rises, level by level, up the slopes of steep hills, to a great cathedral and the historic town center known as La Cité. The city is home to the Federal Tribunal, Switzerland's supreme court, as well as to private schools, colleges, and many light industries.
Switzerland's thriving economy is based primarily on financial services and the manufacture of high-quality precision instruments and high-tech machinery. The country enjoys an unemployment rate that seldom exceeds 2 percent of its workforce.
Over 72 percent of Swiss employees work in service jobs. Banking, financial service, and insurance companies rank among the country's largest private employers. Tourism likewise employs many service workers. More than 11 million visitors a year vacation in Switzerland or stay there for business. The Swiss government is an especially large employer. Besides administering traditional government services, the federal government runs the universities, railroads, hydroelectric plants, and radio and television networks.
Manufacturing industries employ under 24 percent of the Swiss workforce. Switzerland's factories produce the vast majority of its export goods, which value more than $85 billion a year. The country's leading manufacturers specialize in small precision goods such as highly accurate watches, medical instruments, and electronics.
The country is home to several of the world's largest chemical manufacturers, which produce a wide variety of pharmaceutical, agricultural, and industrial compounds. Switzerland remains famous for its processed foods, especially its chocolates, cheeses, and baby foods. Nestlé and Gerber are among the Swiss brands known around the world.
Agriculture employs less than 4 percent of Swiss workers, primarily in dairy farming. The main crops include fruit, wheat, and potatoes, mostly grown on small, productive farms. Ticino has many olive orchards, and vineyards abound along Lakes Geneva, Lugano, and Neuchâtel.
Switzerland imports food, metals, oil and natural gas, machinery, motor vehicles, and textiles. It exports energy created at its hydroelectric plants, as well as watches, precision instruments, and various agricultural products. Switzerland derives more than half of its electricity from hydropower; most of the rest comes from nuclear energy. In May 2011, however, it became the first European country to announce that it would phase out nuclear power. This occurred in the aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan. The country's nuclear plants will be closed over the next 20 years. Germany adopted a similar plan soon after.
The Swiss government operates on three levels, with one federal government, 26 cantons, and more than 3,000 communes, or municipal areas. All Swiss citizens 18 years and older can vote in all elections.
The legislature, or lawmaking body, of the Swiss federal government consists of two houses—the Council of States and the National Council. Every four years, the people elect representatives to the National Council, with the population of each canton determining its number of members. Each canton also elects two members to the Council of States, with terms that vary from one to four years, depending on the canton.
The two houses of the legislature together elect seven members to serve four-year terms on the Federal Council, or Bundesrat. This is Switzerland's executive branch of government, and it holds decision-making power over new legislation and foreign affairs. Each year, the legislature appoints a president and vice president from among the seven Bundesrat members, but the offices remain largely ceremonial.
The Swiss constitution grants the country's cantons all government powers except those specifically reserved for the federal government. These federal powers include authority over foreign relations and over national systems of transportation, communications, energy, and higher education.
The Swiss constitution also gives its people a great deal of direct power through the right of referendum and initiative. With a referendum petition signed by at least 50,000 citizens, the Swiss can demand a national vote on any law passed by the legislature. With an initiative petition signed by 100,000 citizens, they can demand a national vote to change government policy or even amend the constitution. In this way, the Swiss have made many important decisions.
Swiss women did not have the right to vote in national elections or run for office until 1971. Most cantons introduced the woman's vote about the same time, but two half-cantons withheld that right until 1989–1990. In 1994, Swiss voters outlawed racial discrimination and racist propaganda. In 2001, they rejected a proposal to abolish the country's militia, and in 2002 they supported Swiss membership in the United Nations.
The federal government administers programs providing financial benefits to the retired and to people with disabilities. Cantons or communes provide health insurance to residents—for a fee that is waived for those who cannot afford it. The Swiss government requires all male citizens ages 20 to 37 train and serve as reservists in its military.
In ancient times, a Celtic people known as the Helvetii and an Etruscan people known as the Rhaetians established villages across what is now Switzerland. The region's recorded history begins in 58 B.C., when an army led by Julius Caesar conquered the native people and claimed the land for the Roman Empire.
Roman control lasted some 300 years, during which time the Romans built garrisons along the Rhine River and coexisted peacefully with the area's Celts and Rhaetians. When the Roman Empire weakened, in the mid-3rd century, Alemanni tribes invaded from what is now Germany and overran most of the area. Two centuries later, Burgundians invaded from what is now France and took over the area around Lake Geneva. In the early 6th century, the powerful Franks invaded, defeating all of these peoples and incorporating the region into their expanding kingdom.
The Frankish King Clovis banished the practice of nature-worship and introduced Christianity. The region became divided into feudal states when the Frankish Empire crumbled in the 9th century, then reunited again as part of the Holy Roman Empire in the 10th and 11th centuries.
Notwithstanding the various claims, the local rulers and peasants of the region that would one day become Switzerland enjoyed a certain degree of independence, thanks largely to the barriers presented by the Alps and Jura Mountains. The origin of the actual country dates to 1291, when the ruling families of the land signed a charter declaring their freedom from the Hapsburg rulers of the Holy Roman Empire and pledging to defend each other. Their confederation took its name from the central region of Schwyz. The Swiss still celebrate the anniversary of the charter's signing, August 1, as their National Day.
From this period comes the legend of William Tell, the Swiss national hero who refused to tip his hat to a Hapsburg-appointed governor and, as punishment, had to shoot an apple from atop his son's head. According to the story, Tell went on to assassinate the governor and lead a local revolt that sparked the larger Swiss uprising.
The Swiss quickly became famous for the ferocity with which they would defend their freedom from outside rule. In 1315, a group of Swiss peasants trapped and defeated an Austrian army 10 times its size. This and similar victories led to the independence of a central core of Swiss cantons. Other cantons joined over the years, and in 1499 the Holy Roman Empire formally agreed to Switzerland's independence.
The fearsome Swiss militia continued to add territory to their country until 1515, when the militia suffered crushing defeats in battles for bordering parts of Italy and France. It was then that the Swiss government adopted its historic policy of neutrality, vowing to stay out of all international conflicts and concentrate on defending its own borders. Nevertheless, Switzerland's renowned soldiers remained much in demand. They went on to earn considerable wealth as mercenaries, or paid troops, in the service of many European kings and queens, and also the pope.
Although Switzerland made peace with the rest of Europe, religious differences within the country led to a series of short but bloody civil wars. In the early 1500s, Ulrich Zwingli led a Protestant movement against the Roman Catholic Church in Zurich, and John Calvin did the same in Geneva. Switzerland's Protestant and Catholic camps fought, on and off, throughout the 16th century, with neither side gaining control, before agreeing that each canton could choose its own religion.
Despite their neutrality and strong militia, the Swiss could not stop Napoléon from invading and annexing their country in 1797. After Napoléon's final defeat in 1815, Switzerland regained its independence, with additional territory. At that time, the other governments of Europe agreed to recognize and respect Switzerland's political neutrality. The country continued to suffer civil wars, in part over religion, but also because of bitter disagreements over the strength of its federal government and the independence of its cantons.
Switzerland's era of civil war ended in 1848, with the adoption of a new constitution that set up the country's democratically elected government in its present form. The constitution guaranteed religious freedom and other civil rights, and left most government authority with the cantons.
In 1863, the Swiss writer Jean-Henri Dunant founded the Red Cross. It would be the first of many international humanitarian organizations that made their headquarters in Geneva (see the sidebar).
In 1914, Switzerland remained neutral while the rest of Europe entered World War I. After the war, the continent's newly created League of Nations made its headquarters in Geneva. Switzerland likewise remained neutral during World War II. During that war, the German army considered invading Switzerland, but decided against it, knowing that the Swiss stood ready to blow up the passes and tunnels that led into their country.
When the League of Nations was succeeded by the United Nations in 1945, Switzerland offered to host the U.N.'s European headquarters in Geneva. But because of a requirement to join in military action (a violation of its policy of neutrality), Switzerland did not formally become a U.N. member. Switzerland did join many other international organizations dealing with trade and social progress, including the European Free Trade Association, in 1960, and the Council of Europe, in 1963. In 1981, 10 years after Switzerland's women gained the right to vote, Swiss voters approved an equal-rights amendment to their constitution, and lawmakers added regulations requiring that employers pay men and women equal wages for the same work.
During the 1970s and 1980s, the decades of job growth and declining Swiss birthrates led to a great need for foreign workers. The country's number of non-Swiss residents grew dramatically—to about a quarter of the total population. This led to controversy over a potential loss of the traditional "Swiss" way of life. In 1987, Swiss voters passed an initiative restricting the entrance of immigrant workers, as well as of those seeking political asylum from other countries.
In 1992, Swiss voters approved joining the World Bank. But in 1993, they said "no" to joining the European Union (EU). Also in the 1990s, several major Swiss banks agreed to pay $1.25 billion to the survivors of Holocaust victims who had left assets in their banks. In 1999, Ruth Dreifuss became Switzerland's first woman president. (As of 2016, the president was Johann Schneider-Ammann, who had served as vice president in 2015.) In 2002, a narrow majority of the Swiss people approved a government proposal to join the United Nations (UN). That year, Switzerland became the 190th UN member state.
The Swiss continue to wrestle with issues that touch on the traditional Swiss lifestyle. One controversy surrounds the protection of the renowned Swiss landscape, which has suffered from acid rain and sprawling development. Switzerland is also reforming some of its bank-secrecy laws, to cooperate with international investigations into money laundering and related criminal activities. In 2010 the Swiss Parliament approved the first of a series of new banking agreements with other countries, including the United States. These agreements are geared to helping foreign tax authorities gain information on their citizens' bank accounts in Switzerland. The Swiss are also divided over the issue of whether the country should join the European Union.
Another issue is the controversy over the continued immigration of foreign workers. This issue led to the rise of a far-right anti-immigration party called the Swiss People's Party, which became the largest party in the country in 1999. The party lost some ground in the elections of 2011 but remained the largest party. Nevertheless, its influence could be seen in the tightening of immigration restrictions in 2012 and again, after a controversial referendum, in 2014. In 2015 the crisis posed by a flood of refugees and economic migrants into Europe further boosted the Swiss People's Party. In the October elections it won a record 29.4 percent of the vote and 65 out of the 200 seats in the National Council.
A Suíça detém os seguintes Premios Nobel (US$ 1,5 milhão):
Literatura: (1919) Carl Spitteler - (1946) Hermann Hesse.
Química: (1913) Alfred Werner - (1937) Paul Karrer - (1939) Léopold Ruzicka - (1975) Vladimir Prelog - (1991) Richard Ernst - (2002) Kurt Wüthrich.
Física: (1920) Charles E. Guillaume - (1986) Heinrich Rohrer - (1987) K. Alex Müller and J. Georg Bednorg.
Fisiologia ou Medicina: (1909) Emil T. Kocher - (1948) Paul Müller - (1949) Walter R. Hess - (1950) Tadeus Reichstein - (1978) Werner Arber - (1996) Rolf M. Zinkernagel.
Paz: (1901) Jean Henri Dunant - (1902) Elie Ducommun e Charles A. Gobat.
e os seguintes Premios da Academia (o Oscar):
(1984) Le diagonale du Fou [Dangerous Moves], Richard Dembo
(1990) A Viagem da Esperança [Journey Of Hope], Xavier Koller
chief of state: President of the Swiss Confederation Doris LEUTHARD (since 1 January 2017); Vice President Alain BERSET (since 1 January 2017; note - the Federal Council, which is comprised of 7 federal councillors, constitutes the federal government of Switzerland; council members rotate in a 1-year term as federal president (chief of state and head of government);
head of government: President of the Swiss Confederation Doris LEUTHARD (since 1 January 2017); Vice President Alain BERSET (since 1 January 2017)
cabinet: Federal Council or Bundesrat (in German), Conseil Federal (in French), Consiglio Federale (in Italian) indirectly elected usually from among its members by the Federal Assembly for a 4-year term;
elections/appointments: president and vice president indirectly elected by the Federal Assembly from among members of the Federal Council for a 1-year, non-consecutive term; election last held on 7 December 2016 (next to be held in early December 2017);
election results: Doris LEUTHARD elected president; Federal Assembly vote - 188 of 207; Alain BERSET elected vice president.
The Swiss Confederation was founded in 1291 as a defensive alliance among three cantons. In succeeding years, other localities joined the original three. The Swiss Confederation secured its independence from the Holy Roman Empire in 1499. A constitution of 1848, subsequently modified in 1874, replaced the confederation with a centralized federal government. Switzerland's sovereignty and neutrality have long been honored by the major European powers, and the country was not involved in either of the two world wars. The political and economic integration of Europe over the past half century, as well as Switzerland's role in many UN and international organizations, has strengthened Switzerland's ties with its neighbors. However, the country did not officially become a UN member until 2002. Switzerland remains active in many UN and international organizations but retains a strong commitment to neutrality.
Economy - overview:
Switzerland, a country that espouses neutrality, is a prosperous and modern market economy with low unemployment, a highly skilled labor force, and a per capita GDP among the highest in the world. Switzerland's economy benefits from a highly developed service sector, led by financial services, and a manufacturing industry that specializes in high-technology, knowledge-based production. Its economic and political stability, transparent legal system, exceptional infrastructure, efficient capital markets, and low corporate tax rates also make Switzerland one of the world's most competitive economies.
The Swiss have brought their economic practices largely into conformity with the EU's to enhance their international competitiveness, but some trade protectionism remains, particularly for its small agricultural sector. The fate of the Swiss economy is tightly linked to that of its neighbors in the euro zone, which purchases half of Swiss exports. The global financial crisis of 2008 and resulting economic downturn in 2009 stalled demand for Swiss exports and put Switzerland into a recession. During this period, the Swiss National Bank (SNB) implemented a zero-interest rate policy to boost the economy, as well as to prevent appreciation of the franc, and Switzerland's economy began to recover in 2010.
The sovereign debt crises unfolding in neighboring euro-zone countries, however, coupled with ongoing economic instability in Russia and other eastern European economies continue to pose a significant risk to the Swiss economy, driving up demand for the Swiss franc by investors seeking a safe-haven currency. In January 2015, the SNB abandoned the Swiss franc’s peg to the euro, roiling global currency markets and making active SNB intervention a necessary hallmark of present-day Swiss monetary policy. The independent SNB has upheld its zero interest rate policy and conducted major market interventions to prevent further appreciation of the Swiss franc, but parliamentarians have urged it to do more to weaken the currency. The franc's strength has made Swiss exports less competitive and weakened the country's growth outlook; GDP growth fell below 2% per year from 2011-15.
In recent years, Switzerland has responded to increasing pressure from neighboring countries and trading partners to reform its banking secrecy laws, by agreeing to conform to OECD regulations on administrative assistance in tax matters, including tax evasion. The Swiss government has also renegotiated its double taxation agreements with numerous countries, including the US, to incorporate OECD standards, and is openly considering the possibility of imposing taxes on bank deposits held by foreigners.
Disputes - international: none;
Refugees and internally displaced persons:
refugees (country of origin): 21,000 (Eritrea); 8,695 (Syria) (2015)
stateless persons: 69 (2015);
a major international financial center vulnerable to the layering and integration stages of money laundering; despite significant legislation and reporting requirements, secrecy rules persist and nonresidents are permitted to conduct business through offshore entities and various intermediaries; transit country for and consumer of South American cocaine, Southwest Asian heroin, and Western European synthetics; domestic cannabis cultivation and limited ecstasy production.
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