Switzerland is located in central Europe. Switzerland is also known as “Confoederatio Helvetica”, therefore the abbreviation of CH. “Confiederatio” stands for “confereration”, “Helvetica” derives for the Latin word “Helvetier”, the name of the people who lived in the area which later became Switzerland. The capital of Switzerland is Bern, which was founded in 1191.
Switzerland’s independence and neutrality have long been honored by the major European powers and Switzerland did not participate in either World War I or II.
Switzerland consists of 23 Cantons, or states, each with their individual legislative, executive and judicial authority. Each canton consists of a number of Bezirke, or districts, and within each district are a number of Gemeinden or municipalities. There are 2929 municipalities in Switzerland. A municipality with more than 10,000 citizens is considered a Stadt, or town, smaller municipalities are called Dorf, or village. However, some smaller villages have the status of a town for historical reasons.
About two thirds of the area of Switzerland is covered with forests, lakes and mountains. Switzerland, in area, is sightly less than twice the size of New Jersey. Completely landlocked, Switzerland is bordered by France to it’s east, Germany to it’s north, Austria to it’s west and finally Italy to the south. Since Switzerland has no mineral resources, it must import, process and resell them as products. Services are the most important part of the economy, which includes banking, assurances and tourism. Farming is also an important part of the economy. But the production of the Swiss farmers does not fulfill the needs of all the people, so Switzerland must rely on imported goods from other countries.
The Swiss economy is divided into three sectors: agriculture, industry and services. Less the 10% of the population is employed in agriculture. This sector is strongly supported by the government. About 40% of the population are employed in industry. This sector includes machine and metal industry, watch industry and textile industry. All of them export much of the products to foreign countries and suffer a lot because of the expensive Swiss Franc. Finally, the service sector employees more than 50% of the population. Included in this sector are banking, assurances and tourism. Banking is one of the most important businesses in Switzerland.
The population of Switzerland is about 7,275,467. Even though Switzerland is a small county, it’s people speak no less than four different languages. Of the total population 65% speak German, 18% speak French, 12% speak Italian, 1% Romansch, and 4% other. The German speaking Swill don’t speak the same German as the Germans or the Austrians do, but it is known as a Swiss-German. To make things even worse, each canton has its own dialect, but there is no written Swiss-German at all. Fortunately, the Germans, Austrians and the Swiss-Germans use the same written German language which in turn is close to the so called “high German” language.
Switzerland’s government is a federal republic. The executive branch consists of the president, who is both the chief of state and the head of the government, and the vice president. Both the president and vice president are elected by the Federal Assembly from among the members of the Federal Council for one-year terms that run concurrently. The legislative branch consists of 200 representatives, know as the Federal Assembly, and members are elected by popular vote on a basis of proportional representation to serve four-years terms. The judicial branch is the Federal Supreme Court and the judges are elected for six-year terms by the Federal Assembly
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