A landlocked, mountainous country, Switzerland’s geographical position in central Europe and studied neutrality have given it the access and political stability to become one of the world’s wealthiest countries.
Switzerland has for centuries been a neutral state, which means that it cannot take part in armed conflict unless it is attacked. Its forces can only be used for self-defence and internal security.
It joined the United Nations only in 2002. Surrounded by the European Union, it has vacillated between seeking closer engagement with its powerful neighbour and other international organisations, and preferring a more isolationist course.
The people are given a direct say in their own affairs under Switzerland’s system of direct democracy, which has no parallel in any other country.
They are invited to the polls several times a year to vote in national or regional referendums and people’s initiatives.
- Swiss Confederation
- Capital: Bern
- Population 7.7 million
- Area 41,284 sq km (15,940 sq miles)
- Major languagesGerman, French, Italian, Romansch
- Major religionChristianity
- Life expectancy 80 years (men), 85 years (women)
- Currency Swiss Franc