Area: 41,285 sq. km. (15,941 sq. mi.); about the size of Vermont and
New Hampshire combined.
Cities: Capital--Bern (population about 123,000). Other
cities--Zurich (341,000), Geneva (176,000), Basel (165,000),
Terrain: 60% mountains, the remainder hills and plateau. Switzerland
straddles the central ranges of the Alps.
Climate: Temperate, varying with altitude and season.
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Swiss (singular and plural).
Population (2002): 7.3 million.
Annual growth rate: 0.8%.
Ethnic groups: Mixed European.
Religions: Roman Catholic 42%, Protestant 33%, Muslim 4.3%, others
5.4%, no religion 11%.
Languages: German 63.7%, French 20.4%, Italian 6.5%, Romansch 0.5%,
Education: Years compulsory--9. Attendance--100%. Literacy--100%.
Health: Infant mortality rate--4.8/1,000. Life expectancy--men 76.5
yrs., women 82.5 yrs.
Work force (3.96 million): Agriculture and forestry--4.2%. Industry
and business--25.6%. Services and government--70.2%.
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
Constitution: 1848; extensively amended in 1874; fully revised in
Branches: Executive--Federal Council, collegium of seven members,
headed by a rotating one-year presidency. Legislative--Federal
Assembly (bicameral: Council of States, 46 members; National
Council, 200 members). Judicial--Federal Tribunal.
Administrative subdivisions: 26 cantons (states) with considerable
Political parties: Swiss People's Party (SVP), Social Democratic
Party (SP), Free Democratic Party (FDP), Christian Democratic Party
(CVP), and several smaller parties representing localities or views
from extreme left to extreme right.
Suffrage: In federal matters, universal over 18.
GDP (2004): $358 billion (444 billion Swiss francs).
Annual growth rate (2004): 1.7% in real terms.
Per capita income (2001): $22,898 (38,470 Swiss francs).
Avg. inflation rate (2005): 1.1%.
Natural resources: Waterpower, timber, salt.
Agriculture (2.26% of GDP in 1999): Products--dairy, livestock,
grains, fruit and vegetables, potatoes, wine.
Arable land (1999): 26%.
Industry (29.9% of GDP in 1999): Types--machinery, chemicals,
pharmaceuticals, time pieces, precision instruments, textiles and
clothing, pigment, transportation equipment.
Services (67.8% of GDP in 1999).
Trade (2002): Exports--$113.7 billion (141 billion Swiss francs):
machinery and electronics; chemicals and pharmaceuticals;
instruments and timepieces. Major markets--Germany, United States,
France, Italy, U.K., Japan. Imports--$106.4 billion (132 billion
Swiss francs): machinery and electronics; chemicals; vehicles. Major
suppliers--Germany, Italy, France, Netherlands, U.S., U.K., Japan.
Switzerland sits at the crossroads of several major European
cultures, which have heavily influenced the country's languages and
cultural practices. Switzerland has four official languages--German,
French, Italian, and Romansch (based on Latin and spoken by a small
minority in the Canton Graubunden). The German spoken is
predominantly a Swiss dialect, but newspapers and some broadcasts
use High German. Many Swiss speak more than one language. English is
widely known, especially among professionals.
More than 75% of the population lives in the central plain, which
stretches between the Alps and the Jura Mountains and from Geneva in
the southwest to the Rhine River and Lake Constance in the
northeast. Resident foreigners and temporary foreign workers make up
about 20% of the population.
Almost all Swiss are literate. Switzerland's 13 institutes of higher
learning enrolled 99,600 students in the academic year of 2001-02.
About 25% of the adult population holds a diploma of higher
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.
Originally inhabited by the Helvetians, or Helvetic Celts, the
territory comprising modern Switzerland came under Roman rule during
the Gallic wars in the 1st century BC and remained a Roman province
until the 4th century AD. Under Roman influence, the population
reached a high level of civilization and enjoyed a flourishing
commerce. Important cities, such as Geneva, Basel, and Zurich, were
linked by military roads that also served as trade arteries between
Rome and the northern tribes.
After the decline of the Roman Empire, Switzerland was invaded by
Germanic tribes from the north and west. Some tribes, such as the
Alemanni in central and northeastern Switzerland, and the
Burgundians, who ruled western Switzerland, settled there. In 800,
the country became part of Charlemagne's empire. It later passed
under the dominion of the Holy Roman emperors in the form of small
ecclesiastic and temporal holdings subject to imperial sovereignty.
With the opening of a new important north-south trade route across
the Alps in the early 13th century, the Empire's rulers began to
attach more importance to the remote Swiss mountain valleys, which
were granted some degree of autonomy under direct imperial rule.
Fearful of the popular disturbances flaring up following the death
of the Holy Roman Emperor in 1291, the ruling families from Uri,
Schwyz, and Unterwalden signed a charter to keep public peace and
pledging mutual support in upholding autonomous administrative and
judicial rule. The anniversary of the charter's signature (August 1,
1291) today is celebrated as Switzerland's National Day.
Between 1315 and 1388 the Swiss Confederates inflicted three
crushing defeats on the Habsburgs, whose aspiration to regional
dominion clashed with Swiss self-determination. During that period,
five other localities (cantons in modern-day parlance) joined the
original three in the Swiss Confederation. Buoyed by their feats,
the Swiss Confederates continuously expanded their borders by
military means and gained formal independence from the Holy Roman
Empire in 1499. Routed by the French and Venetians near Milan in
1515, they renounced expansionist policies. By then the Swiss
Confederation had become a union of 13 localities with a regularly
convening diet administering the subject territories. Swiss
mercenaries continued for centuries to serve in other armies; the
Swiss Guard of the Pope is a vestige of this tradition.
The Reformation led to a division between the Protestant followers
of Zwingli and Calvin in the German and French parts of the country
respectively, and the Catholics. Despite two centuries of civil
strife, the common interest in the joint subject territories kept
the Swiss Confederation from falling apart. The traffic in
mercenaries as well as the alienation between the predominantly
Protestant Swiss and their Catholic neighbors kept the Swiss
Confederation out of the wars of the European powers, which formally
recognized Swiss neutrality in the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. The
Swiss remained neutral during the War of the First Coalition against
revolutionary France, but Napoleon, nonetheless, invaded and annexed
much of the country in 1797-98, replacing the loose confederation
with a centrally governed unitary state.
The Congress of Vienna in 1815 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.
Switzerland industrialized rapidly during the 19th century and by
1850 had become the second most industrialized country in Europe
after Great Britain. During World War I serious tension developed
between the German, French, and Italian-speaking parts of the
country, and Switzerland came close to violating its neutrality but
managed to stay out of hostilities. Labor unrest culminating in a
general strike in 1918 marked the interwar period, but in 1937
employers and the largest trade union concluded a formal agreement
to settle disputes peacefully, which governs workplace relations to
the present day. During World War II, Switzerland came under heavy
pressure from the fascist powers, which after the fall of France in
1940 completely surrounded the country. Some political and economic
leaders displayed a mood of appeasement, but a combination of
tactical accommodation and demonstrative readiness to defend the
country helped Switzerland survive unscathed.
The Cold War enhanced the role of neutral Switzerland and offered
the country a way out of its diplomatic isolation after World War
II. Economically, Switzerland integrated itself into the
American-led Western postwar order, but it remained reluctant to
enter supranational bodies. Switzerland did not join the United
Nations, even though Geneva became host to the UN's European
headquarters, and the country played an active role in many of the
UN's specialized agencies. Switzerland also remained aloof in the
face of European integration efforts, waiting until 1963 to join the
Council of Europe. It still remains outside the European Union.
Instead, Switzerland in 1960 helped form the European Free Trade
Area, which did not strive for political union. Following the Cold
War, Switzerland joined the Bretton Woods institutions in 1992 and
finally became a member of the United Nations in 2002.
Switzerland is a federal state composed of 26 cantons (20 are "full"
cantons and six "half" cantons for purposes of representation in the
federal legislature) that retain attributes of sovereignty, such as
fiscal autonomy and the right to manage internal cantonal affairs.
Under the 2000 Constitution, cantons hold all powers not
specifically delegated to the federation. Switzerland's federal
A bicameral legislature--the Federal Assembly;
A collegial executive of seven members--the Federal Council; and
A judiciary consisting of a single, regular court in Lausanne--the
Federal Tribunal--and special military and administrative courts.
The Federal Insurance Tribunal is an independent division of the
Federal Tribunal that handles social security questions; its seat is
The Constitution provides for separation of the three branches of
The Federal Assembly is the primary seat of power, although in
practice the executive branch has been increasing its power at the
expense of the legislative branch. The Federal Assembly has two
houses--the Council of States and the National Council. These two
houses have equal powers in all respects, including the right to
introduce legislation. Legislation cannot be vetoed by the executive
nor reviewed for constitutionality by the judiciary, but all laws
(except the budget) can be reviewed by popular referendum before
taking effect. The 46 members of the Council of States (two from
each canton and one from each half canton) are directly elected in
each canton by majority voting. The 200 members of the National
Council are directly elected in each canton under a system of
proportional representation. Members of both houses serve for 4
The Federal Assembly meets quarterly for 3-week plenary sessions.
The parliamentary committees of the two houses, which are often key
in shaping legislation, meet behind closed doors, but both majority
and minority positions are presented during the plenary sessions.
The Federal Assembly is a militia parliament, and members commonly
retain their traditional professions. Individual members of
parliament have no personal staff.
The Assembly can be legally dissolved only after the adoption of a
popular initiative calling for a complete revision of the
Constitution. All citizens 18 or older have the right to vote and
run for office in national, cantonal, and communal elections unless
individually disqualified by the relevant legislature.
A strong emphasis on ballot votes arises out of the traditional
Swiss belief that the will of the people is the final national
authority. Every constitutional amendment adopted by parliament is
automatically brought to the ballot and has to carry a double
majority of votes and states in order to become effective. The
voters themselves may actively seek changes to the Constitution by
means of the popular initiative: 100,000 voters may with their
signatures request a national vote on a proposed constitutional
amendment. New federal legislation also is subject to popular
review, under the so-called referendum: 50,000 signatures suffice to
call a ballot vote on any federal law adopted by parliament. The
Assembly can declare an act to be too urgent to allow time for
popular consideration, but this is rare. At any rate, an act passed
urgently must have a time limit and is later subject to the same
constitutional provisions on popular review as other legislation.
The top executive body is the seven-member cabinet called the
Federal Council. The Federal Assembly individually elects the seven
Federal Councilors in a joint session of both houses at the opening
of a new legislature. Federal Councilors are elected for 4-year
terms; there are no term limits and no provision to recall the
cabinet or individual members during the legislature. Each year, the
Federal Assembly elects from among the seven Federal Councilors a
president and vice president, following the principle of seniority.
The member who is vice president one year traditionally is elected
president the next. Although the Constitution provides that the
Federal Assembly chooses and supervises the cabinet, the latter has
gradually assumed a preeminent role in directing the legislative
process as well as executing federal laws.
Under an arrangement between the four major parties called the
"magic formula" which was introduced in 1959 but ended in December
2003, two Federal Councilors (ministers) were elected each from the
Christian Democrats, the Social Democrats, and the Free Democrats
and one from the Swiss People's Party. Under the new magic formula
starting January 1, 2004, the new party composition of the cabinet
changed to the following composition: 1 Christian Democrat, 2 Social
Democrats, 2 Free Democrats, and 2 representatives of the Swiss
The Constitution requires that Federal Councilors act collectively
in all matters, not as individual ministers or as representatives of
their parties. Each Councilor heads one of seven federal departments
and is responsible for preparing legislation pertaining to matters
under its jurisdiction. The president, who remains responsible for
the department he heads, has limited prerogatives and is first among
equals (there is no formal prime minister).
The administration of justice is primarily a cantonal function. The
only regular federal court, the Federal Tribunal, is limited in its
jurisdiction. Its principal function is to hear appeals of civil and
criminal cases. It has authority to review cantonal court decisions
involving federal law and certain administrative rulings of federal
departments, but it has no power to review legislation for
constitutionality. The Tribunal's 30 full-time and 30 part-time
judges are elected by the Federal Assembly for 6-year terms.
The cantons regulate local government. The basic unit of local
government, which administers a village, town, or city, is the
commune or municipality. Citizenship is derived from membership in a
commune and can be conferred on non-Swiss by a commune. Cantons are
subordinate to federal authority but keep autonomy in implementing
Principal Government Officials
Federal Council (Swiss Cabinet)
Home Affairs--Pascal Couchepin (Free Democrat)
Justice and Police--Christoph Blocher (Swiss People's Party)
Foreign Affairs--Micheline Calmy-Rey (Social Democrat)
Defense--Samuel Schmid - President for 2005 - (Swiss People's Party)
Finance--Hans-Rudolf Merz (Free Democrat)
Economic Affairs--Joseph Deiss (Christian Democrat)
Environment, Transport, Energy, Communications--Moritz Leuenberger -
Vice-President - (Social Democrat)
Federal Chancellor--Annemarie Huber-Hotz (Free Democrat)
Ambassador to the United States--Christian Blickenstorfer
Switzerland maintains an embassy in the United States at 2900
Cathedral Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008. Consulates General are in
Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco.
Swiss national tourist offices are in Chicago, New York, and San
Although it has a diverse society, Switzerland has a stable
government. Most voters support the government in the armed
neutrality underlying its foreign and defense policies. Domestic
policy poses no major problems, but the changing international
environment has generated a significant reexamination of Swiss
policy in key areas such as defense, neutrality, and immigration.
Quadrennial national elections typically produce only marginal
changes in party representation.
In recent years, Switzerland has seen a gradual shift in the party
landscape. The rightist Swiss People's Party (SVP), traditionally
the junior partner in the four-party coalition government, more than
doubled its voting share from 11% in 1987 to 22.5% in 1999, and
finally to 26.6% in 2003, thus overtaking its three coalition
partners. This shift in voting shares ended the 44-year old "magic
formula," the power-broking agreement of the four coalition parties,
and gave a second seat in the 7-person Swiss cabinet to the Swiss
People's Party at the expense of the Christian Democrats, now the
weakest party with 14.4% of the votes. For the first time in Swiss
history, the SVP has two seats in the government, reflecting its new
status as Switzerland's most popular party.
On December 10, 2003, Christoph Blocher -- a self-made industrialist
and main figure of the right-populist Swiss People's Party known for
his strong opinions on asylum and migration and law and order issues
-- was elected to the cabinet by parliament, replacing the incumbent
Christian Democrat Justice and Police Minister Ruth Metzler. The
parliament also elected the Free Democrat Hans-Rudolf Merz to
replace retiring Finance Minister Kaspar Villiger. All other
incumbent ministers were reelected. Both Blocher and Merz are strong
advocates of drastic public spending cuts in order to reduce the
country's mounting $102 billion francs state deficit and are staunch
opponents to Switzerland's entering the European Union. The current
makeup of the government also portends a conservative fiscal policy,
even less movement toward integration in Europe, and a strong
defense of Switzerland's banking secrecy.
The Constitution limits federal influence in the formulation of
domestic policy and emphasizes the roles of private enterprise and
cantonal government. However, the Confederation has been compelled
to enlarge its policymaking powers in recent years to cope with
national problems such as education, agriculture, energy,
environment, organized crime, and narcotics.
Despite a dearth of natural resources, the Swiss economy is among
the world's most advanced and prosperous. Per capita income is
virtually the highest in the world, as are wages. Trade has been the
key to prosperity in Switzerland. The country is dependent upon
export markets to generate income while dependent upon imports for
raw materials and to expand the range of goods and services
available in the country. Switzerland has liberal trade and
investment policies and a conservative fiscal policy. The Swiss
legal system is highly developed, commercial law is well defined,
and solid laws and policies protect investments. The Swiss franc is
one of the world's soundest currencies, and the country is known for
its high standard of banking and financial services. Switzerland is
a member of a number of international economic organizations,
including the UN, the World Trade Organization, the International
Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the Organization for Economic
Cooperation and Development (OECD).
Being so closely linked to the economies of western Europe and the
United States, Switzerland has not been able to escape recent
slowdowns experienced in these countries. During most of the 1990s,
the Swiss economy was western Europe's weakest, with annual GDP
growth averaging 0% between 1991 and 1997. Beginning in late 1997,
the economy steadily gained momentum until peaking in 2000 with 3%
growth in real terms. But in 2001 the rate of growth dropped to
0.9%, and in 2002 and 2003 the economy virtually stagnated with real
GDP up by only 0.1%. The Swiss Economic Ministry had said that both
the lack of an upturn in the global economy -- particularly in the
Euro zone -- and the still rather firm Swiss franc would continue to
hold back the Swiss economy in 2003. Economic performance in 2004
was better than expected thanks to eastern and Asian export markets,
and GDP increased by 1.7%. 2005 economic forecasts bet on a 0.9 to
1.6% GDP growth, but structural problems remain the same. The lack
of internal economic reforms and a moribund Eurozone economy will
once again prevent Switzerland from achieving the much needed 3%
In 2005, the dollar/Swiss franc exchange rate continued to be shaped
by geopolitical tensions. The dollar depreciated further against the
Swiss franc from SF 1.49 in October 2002 to SF 1.31 in 2003, and
1.28 in June 2005. The strengthening of the Euro, however, helped
Switzerland to minimize the pressure from a weakening dollar. The
Swiss National Bank lowered its interest rates to near zero in March
2002 to make the Swiss franc unattractive to foreign investors, and
make borrowings cheaper.
The number of bankruptcies in Switzerland during 2004 reached an
alarming rate unseen since 1996, numbering 10,500 companies -- 7.4 %
more than in 2003. Bankruptcies have been on the rise for the past
four years, but the 2004 increase was especially steep. Most cantons
recorded an increase in bankruptcies -- Zurich, Basel, Neuchâtel,
Geneva and Vaud were hardest hit, while life was better for
businesses in Lucerne and St Gallen. Creditors were left facing
losses worth $3.87 billion, up almost a third. Given the sluggish
economic outlook in Europe, the Swiss Statistics Office believes the
upward trend in bankruptcies, both in franc and absolute terms, is
likely to continue.
The recent economic slowdown has had a noticeable impact on the
labor market. Unemployment increased from 2.6% in 2002 to 4.1% in
December 2003, but has since dropped to 3.7%. Among the hardest hit
are job seekers between 15-25 with a rate of 4.5%, and hotel and
restaurant industry workers with 10.4%. The average number of days
devoted to finding a new job increased from 155 to 178 days.
One-fourth of the country's full-time workers are unionized. In
general, labor/management relations are good, mostly characterized
by a willingness on both sides to settle disputes by negotiations
rather than by labor action. About 600 collective bargaining
agreements exist today in Switzerland and are regularly renewed
without major problems. However, the mood is changing. The massive
layoffs that resulted from both the global economic slowdown and
major management scandals have strained the traditional Swiss "labor
peace." Swiss trade unions encouraged strikes against several
companies, including the national airline SWISS, Coca-Cola, and
Orange (the French telecom operator), but total days lost to strikes
remain among the lowest in the OECD. Uncertainties concerning
under-funded pension funds, and the prospect of a potential hike in
the retirement age have stirred further street protests.
Switzerland's machinery, metals, electronics, and chemicals sectors
are world-renowned for precision and quality. Together they account
for well over half of Swiss export revenues. In agriculture,
Switzerland is about 60% self-sufficient. Only 7.5% of the remaining
imports originated from the U.S. Swiss farmers are one of the most
highly protected and subsidized producer group in the world. OECD
estimates show that Switzerland is subsidizing more than 70% of its
agriculture, compared to 35% in the EU. According to the "2007
Agricultural Program" recently adopted by the Swiss Parliament,
subsidies will increase by SF 63 million, thus totaling SF 14.092
billion from 2004 to 2007. Mill quotas, however, will be abolished
starting in 2009.
Tourism, banking, engineering, and insurance are significant sectors
of the economy and heavily influence the country's economic
policies. Swiss trading companies have unique marketing expertise in
many parts of the world, including eastern Europe, the Far East,
Africa, and the Middle East. Not only does Switzerland have a highly
developed tourism infrastructure (making it a good market for
tourism-related equipment and services), the Swiss also are intrepid
travelers. Per capita, more Swiss visit the United States every year
than from any other country. Tourism is the most important U.S.
export to Switzerland (earning almost $1.5 billion). In 2004, more
than 285,000 Swiss came to the United States as tourists.
The Swiss economy earns roughly half of its corporate earnings from
the export industry, and 62% of Swiss exports are destined for the
EU market. The EU is Switzerland's largest trading partner, and
economic and trade barriers between them are minimal. In the wake of
the Swiss voters' rejection of the European Economic Area Agreement
in 1992, the Swiss Government set its sights on negotiating
bilateral sectoral agreements with the EU. After more than 4 years
of negotiations, an agreement covering seven sectors (research,
public procurement, technical barriers to trade, agriculture, civil
aviation, land transport, and the free movement of persons) was
achieved at the end of 1998. Parliament officially endorsed the
so-called "Bilaterals I" in 1999, and the Swiss people approved them
in a referendum in May 2000. The agreements, which had to be
ratified by the European Parliament as well as legislatures in all
15 EU member states, entered into force on June 1, 2002. Switzerland
has so far attempted to mitigate possible adverse effects of
nonmembership by conforming many of its regulations, standards, and
practices to EU directives and norms. Full access to the Swiss
market for the original 15 EU member states entered into force in
June 2004, ending as a result the “national preference”. However,
the Swiss will hold a referendum on September 25, 2005 to extend the
provisions of Bilaterals I to the new eastern EU member states. A
failure to do so is likely to be considered by the EU commission as
discrimination against the new EU member states. Using the so-called
“guillotine clause” linking all seven agreements together, the EU
could revoke the whole Bilateral I package altogether, thus
inflicting severe damage on the Swiss economy.
The Swiss Government embarked in July 2001 on a second round of
bilateral negotiations with the EU known as “Bilaterals II”. Talks
focused on customs fraud, environment, statistics, trade in
processed agricultural goods, media, the taxation of savings and
police/judicial cooperation (dubbed the Schengen-Dublin accords).
Amid a fierce political debate over the essence of Swiss-EU
relations and populist warnings against EU workers and criminals
entering Switzerland, the Schengen-Dublin package was approved on
June 5, 2005 by a narrow referendum of 54.6%. Fears of cheap labor
coming from new EU member states have prompted the government to
provide for tripartite surveillance committees to ensure that decent
wages are enforced. Experts believe the September 25, 2005
referendum will be either narrowly accepted, or worse defeated,
leaving Switzerland open to unilateral EU economic retaliation.
As part of the bilateral agreement on the taxation of savings signed
in June 2003, Swiss banks will levy a withholding tax on EU
citizens' savings income. The tax, starting on July 1, 2005, will
increase gradually to 35% by 2011, with 75% of the funds being
transferred to the EU.
The Swiss federal government remains deeply divided over EU
membership as its long-term goal, and in a March 2001 referendum
more than 70% of the voters rejected rapid steps toward EU
membership. The issue of EU membership is, therefore, likely to be
shelved for several years, if not a decade. In May 2005, the
government said it could sign a framework agreement with the
European Union, as an alternative to joining the organization, to
encourage dialogue and create a platform for closer cooperation. But
in parallel, the cabinet reaffirmed its wish to strengthen ties with
other non-EU trading partners in Asia and America. Exploratory talks
are currently underway to assess the benefits of a U.S.-Swiss Free
Trade Agreement, which would be the first ever signed between the
United States and a European country.
Switzerland ranks 18th among the main trading partners of the U.S.
worldwide. The United States is the second-largest importer (11.5%)
of Swiss goods after Germany (20%). The U.S. exports more to
Switzerland each year than to all the countries of the former Soviet
Union and Eastern Europe combined, and Switzerland imports more U.S.
products and services than does Spain. In addition, the United
States is the largest foreign investor in Switzerland, and
conversely, the primary destination of Swiss foreign investment. It
is estimated that 200,000 American jobs depend on Swiss foreign
investments. Total U.S.-Swiss bilateral trade increased from $15.33
billion during 2003 to $16 billion in 2004.
On May 18, 2003, Swiss voters approved the military reform project
"Army XXI" that will drastically reduce the size of the Swiss Army.
Starting in January 2004, the current 524,000-strong militia will be
pared down to 220,000 conscripts, including 80,000 reservists. The
defense budget of currently SF 4.3 billion ($3.1 billion) will be
trimmed by SF 300 million, and some 2,000 jobs are expected to be
shed between 2004 and 2011. The mandatory time of service will be
curtailed from 300 to 260 days. All able-bodied Swiss males aged 20
to 30 must serve. Thereafter, most personnel are assigned to civil
protection duties until the age of 37.
A new category of soldiers called "single-term conscripts" will
discharge the total time of service of about 300 days of active duty
in one go. Recruiting is on a voluntary basis and should not exceed
20% of a year's draft. The armed forces have a small nucleus of
about 3,600 professional staff, half of whom are either instructors
or staff officers, with the remainder mostly being fortification
guards. The army has virtually no full-time active combat units but
is capable of full mobilization within 72 hours. Women may volunteer
to serve in the armed forces and may now join all units, including
combat troops. About 2,000 women already serve in the army but, so
far, have not been allowed to use weapons for purposes other than
The armed forces are organized in four army corps and an air force
and are equipped with modern, sophisticated, and well-maintained
gear. In 1993, the Swiss Government ordered 34 FA-18s from the
On September 10, 2002, Switzerland became a full member of the
United Nations. Switzerland had previously been involved as party to
the Statute of the International Court of Justice and member of most
UN specialized agencies as well as the International Atomic Energy
Agency. Switzerland has long participated in many UN activities,
including the Economic Commission for Europe, UN Environment
Program, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, UN Educational,
Scientific and Cultural Organization, UN Conference for Trade and
Development, UN Industrial Development Organization, and the
Universal Postal Union (UPU). Prior to its formal accession,
Switzerland had maintained a permanent observer mission at UN
Headquarters since 1948.
Switzerland also is a member of the following international
organizations: World Trade Organization, Organization for Economic
Cooperation and Development, European Free Trade Association, Bank
for International Settlements, Council of Europe, and Organization
for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). In 1992 Swiss voters
approved membership in the Bretton Woods organizations but later
that year rejected the European Economic Area agreement, which the
government viewed as a first step toward EU membership.
The Swiss Constitution declares the preservation of Switzerland's
independence and welfare as the supreme objective of Swiss foreign
policy. Below this overarching goal, the Constitution sets five
specific foreign policy objectives: further the peaceful coexistence
of nations; promote respect for human rights, democracy, and the
rule of the law; promote Swiss economic interests abroad, alleviate
need and poverty in the world; and the preservation of natural
Traditionally, Switzerland has avoided alliances that might entail
military, political, or direct economic action, but in recent years
the Swiss have broadened the scope of activities in which they feel
able to participate without compromising their neutrality. Swiss
voters first rejected UN membership by a 3-to-1 margin in 1986 but
in March 2002 adopted it, albeit in a very close election, making
Switzerland the first country to join the UN based on a popular
referendum decision. In similar fashion, the electorate rejected a
government proposition to deploy Swiss troops as UN peacekeepers
(Blue Helmets) in 1994, but Switzerland joined NATO's Partnership
for Peace and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council in 1996 and
1997, respectively, and deployed Yellow Berets to support the OSCE
in Bosnia. In June 2001, Swiss voters approved new legislation
providing for the deployment of armed Swiss troops for international
peacekeeping missions under UN or OSCE auspices as well as closer
international cooperation in military training.
Switzerland maintains diplomatic relations with almost all countries
and historically has served as a neutral intermediary and host to
major international treaty conferences. The country has no major
dispute in its bilateral relations. Since 1980, Switzerland has
represented U.S. interests in Iran. Switzerland played a key role in
brokering a truce agreement between the Sudanese Government and
Sudan's Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) for the Nuba Mountain region,
signed after a week's negotiations taking place near Lucerne in
The Swiss feel a moral obligation to undertake social, economic, and
humanitarian activities that contribute to world peace and
prosperity. This is manifested by Swiss bilateral and multilateral
diplomatic activity, assistance to developing countries, and support
for the extension of international law, particularly humanitarian
law. Switzerland (mainly Geneva) is home to many international
governmental and nongovernmental organizations, including the
International Committee of the Red Cross (whose flag is essentially
the Swiss flag with colors reversed, the Red Cross historically
being a Swiss organization). One of the first international
organizations, the Universal Postal Union, is located in Bern.
The Swiss Government on June 25, 2003, eased most of the sanctions
against the Republic of Iraq in accord with UN Security Council
Resolution (UNSCR) 1483. The government lifted the trade embargo,
flight restrictions, and financial sanctions in place since August
1990. The weapons embargo and the asset freeze, the scope of which
was extended, remain in force, and restrictions on the trade in
Iraqi cultural goods were newly imposed. Though not a member at the
time, Switzerland had joined UN sanctions against Iraq after the
invasion of Kuwait. To date, Switzerland has joined UN and EU
economic sanctions imposed on Sierra Leone, UNITA (Angola), Liberia,
Serbia and Montenegro, Burma, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Democratic Republic
of the Congo, and Cote d'Ivoire. On October 15, 2003, the Federal
Council ended the import restrictions on raw diamonds from Sierra
Leone and lifted sanctions against Libya.
Switzerland in October 2000 implemented an ordinance to enforce UN
sanctions against the Taliban (UNSCR 1267), which it subsequently
amended in April 2001 in accord with tighter UN regulations (UNSCR
1333). On May 2, 2002, the Swiss Government eased the sanctions
regime in accord with UNSCR 1388 and 1390, lifting the ban on the
sale of acetic acid (used in drug production), Afghani Airlines, and
Afghani diplomatic representations. The weapons embargo, travel
restrictions, and financial sanctions remain in force. The Swiss
Government in November 2001 issued an ordinance declaring illegal
the terrorist organization al Qaeda as well as possible successor or
supporting organizations. More than 200 individuals or companies
linked to international terrorism have been blacklisted to have
their assets frozen. Thus far, Swiss authorities have blocked about
72 accounts totaling $22.6 million.
Switzerland has furnished military observers and medical teams to
several UN operations. Switzerland is an active participant in the
OSCE, its foreign minister serving as Chairman-in-Office for 1996.
Switzerland also is an active participant in the major
nonproliferation and export control regimes.
Under a series of treaties concluded after World War I, Switzerland
assumed responsibility for the diplomatic and consular
representation of Liechtenstein, the protection of its borders, and
the regulation of its customs.
Switzerland is a democratic country subscribing to most of the
ideals with which the United States is identified. The country is
politically stable with a fundamentally strong economy. It occupies
an important strategic position within Europe and possesses a strong
military capability. It has played an increasingly important role in
supporting the spread of democratic institutions and values
worldwide, as well as providing humanitarian relief and economic
development assistance. U.S. policy toward Switzerland takes these
factors into account and endeavors to cooperate with Switzerland to
the extent consistent with Swiss neutrality.
The first 4 years of cooperation under the U.S.-Swiss Joint Economic
Commission invigorated bilateral ties by recording achievements in a
number of areas, including consultations on anti-money laundering
efforts, counter-terrorism, and pharmaceutical regulatory
cooperation; an e-government conference; and the re-establishment of
the Fulbright student/cultural exchange program.
The first official U.S.-Swiss consular relations were established in
the late 1820s. Diplomatic relations were established in 1853. The
U.S. ambassador to Switzerland also is accredited to the
Principality of Liechtenstein.
Principal U.S. Officials
Deputy Chief of Mission--Carol Urban
Political and Economic Counselor--Eric Sandberg
Commercial Officer--Julie Snyder
Consul General--Doria Rosen
Management Officer--Stephen Dodson
Regional Security Officer--Kerry Crocket
Public Affairs Officer--Daniel Wendell
Defense Attaché--Dorothea Cypher-Erickson
Drug Enforcement Agency--Joseph Reagan
Legal Attaché--Richard Tamplin
The U.S. Embassy in Switzerland is at Jubilaeumsstrasse 93, 3005
Bern, tel: (41) (31) 357-7011. The 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.
TRAVEL 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 on the Internet and
hard copies can be purchased from the Superintendent of Documents,
U.S. Government Printing Office, telephone: 202-512-1800; fax
Emergency 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
The 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.
Travelers 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. (202) 512-1800.
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).
U.S. citizens who are long-term visitors or traveling in dangerous
areas are encouraged to register 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
Further Electronic Information
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.
Export.gov 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,
STAT-USA/Internet, 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.
Source of the
information : U.S. State Department
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