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22 mai 2011 7 22 /05 /mai /2011 05:00

Switzerland (German: die Schweiz, French: Suisse, Italian: Svizzera, Romansh: Svizra), officially the Swiss Confederation(Latin: Confoederatio Helvetica, hence its abbreviation CH), is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. Dell Studio XPS 1640 Battery

The country is situated in Western Europe, where it is bordered by Germany to the north, France to the west, Italy to the south, and Austria and Liechtenstein to the east.

Switzerland is a landlocked country geographically divided between the Alps, the Central Plateau and the Jura, spanning an area of 41,285 km2(15,940 sq mi). Dell Latitude D830 Battery

While the Alps occupy the greater part of the territory, the Swiss population of approximately 7.9 million people concentrates mostly on the Plateau, where the largest cities are to be found. Among them are the two global cities and economic centres of Zurich and Geneva.Toshiba Satellite M65 battery

The Swiss Confederation has a long history of neutrality—it has not been in a state of war internationally since 1815—and did not join the United Nationsuntil 2002. It pursues, however, an active foreign policy and is frequently involved in peace-building processes around the world.Toshiba NB100 Battery

Switzerland is also the birthplace of the Red Cross and home to a large number of international organizations, including the second largest UN office, the World Trade Organization and the International Labour Organization. On the European level, it is a founding member of the European Free Trade Association and is part of the Schengen Area – Toshiba Satellite P10 Battery

although it is notably not a member of the European Union, nor the European Economic Area.

Switzerland is one of the richest countries in the world by per capita gross domestic product, with a nominal per capita GDP of $69,838. In 2010, Switzerland had the highest wealth per adult of any country in the world (with $372,692 for each person).Sony VGP-BPS13B/B Battery

Switzerland also has one of the world's largestaccount balances as a percentage of GDP, only placing behind a few oil producing countries. Zurich and Geneva have respectively been ranked as the cities with the second and third highest quality of life in the world.Sony VGN-FW11S Battery

In 2010 the World Economic Forum ranked Switzerland as the most competitive country in the world, while ranked by the European Union as Europe's most innovative country by far.

Switzerland comprises three main linguistic and cultural regions: German, French, and Italian, to which the Romansh-speaking valleys are added. Hp pavilion dv6000 battery

TheSwiss therefore do not form a nation in the sense of a common ethnic or linguistic identity. The strong sense of belonging to the country is founded on the common historical background, shared values (federalism, direct democracy, neutrality)[11] and Alpine symbolism.Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31S battery

The establishment of the Swiss Confederation is traditionally dated to 1 August 1291; Swiss National Day is celebrated on the anniversary.

History

Switzerland has existed as a state in its present form since the adoption of the Swiss Federal Constitution in 1848.Sony Vaio VGN-FZ31S battery

The precursors of modern Switzerland established a protective alliance at the end of the 13th century (1291), forming a loose confederation of states which persisted for centuries.

Etymology

The English name Switzerland is a compound containing Switzer, an obsolete term for the Swiss, in use during the 16th to 19th centuries.HP NX8200 battery

The English adjective Swiss is a loan from French Suisse, also in use since the 16th century. The name Switzer is from the AlemannicSchwiizer, in origin an inhabitant of Schwyz and its associated territory, one of the Waldstätten cantons which formed the nucleus of the Old Swiss Confederacy. HP NX7400 battery

The toponym itself is first attested in 972, as Old High German Suittes, ultimately perhaps related to suedan "to burn", referring to the area of forest that was burned and cleared to build.[14] The name was extended to the area dominated by the canton, and after the Swabian War of 1499 gradually came to be used for the entire Confederation.HP NW8440 battery

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 (d'Schwiiz for the Confederation, but simply Schwiiz for the canton and the town).

The Neo-Latin name Confoederatio Helvetica was introduced gradually after the formation of the federal state in 1848,HP NW8200 battery

harking back to the NapoleonicHelvetic Republic, appearing on coins from 1879, inscribed on the Federal Palace in 1902 and after 1948 used in the official seal. It is derived from the name of the Helvetii, a Gaulish tribe living on the Swiss plateau before the Roman era. HP NC6400 battery

Helvetia appears as a national personification of the Swiss confederacy in the 17th century, with a 1672 play by Johann Caspar Weissenbach.

Early history

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.HP NC6200 battery

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, possibly under some influence from the Greek and Etruscan civilisations.HP NC6100 battery

One of the most important tribal groups in the Swiss region was the Helvetii. In 58 BC, at the Battle of Bibracte, Julius Caesar's armies defeated the Helvetii. In 15 BC, Tiberius, who was destined to be the second Roman emperor and his brother, Drusus, conquered the Alps, integrating them into the Roman Empire. HP NC6000 battery

The area occupied by the Helvetii—the namesakes of the laterConfoederatio Helvetica—first became part of Rome's Gallia Belgica province and then of its Germania Superior province, while the eastern portion of modern Switzerland was integrated into the Roman province of Raetia.HP NC4400 battery

In the Early Middle Ages, from the 4th century, the western extent of modern-day Switzerland was part of the territory of the Kings of the Burgundians. TheAlemanni settled the Swiss plateau in the 5th century and the valleys of the Alps in the 8th century, forming Alemannia. HP 6710B battery

Modern-day Switzerland was therefore then divided between the kingdoms of Alemannia and Burgundy.[21] The entire region became part of the expanding Frankish Empire in the 6th century, following Clovis I's victory over the Alemanni at Tolbiac in 504 AD, and later Frankish domination of the Burgundians.HP 6530B battery

Throughout the rest of the 6th, 7th and 8th centuries the Swiss regions continued under Frankish hegemony (Merovingian and Carolingian dynasties). But after its extension under Charlemagne, the Frankish empire was divided by the Treaty of Verdun in 843.HP 6510B battery

The territories of present day Switzerland became divided into Middle Francia and East Francia until they were reunified under the Holy Roman Empire around 1000 AD.

By 1200, the Swiss plateau comprised the dominions of the houses of Savoy, Zähringer, Habsburg and Kyburg.HP Pavilion DV6-1020ED Battery

Some regions (Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden, later known as Waldstätten) were accorded the Imperial immediacy to grant the empire direct control over the mountain passes. When the Kyburg dynasty fell in 1264 AD, the Habsburgs under King Rudolph I (Holy Roman Emperor in 1273) extended their territory to the eastern Swiss plateau.Dell Latitude E6400 battery

Old Swiss Confederacy

The Old Swiss Confederacy was an alliance among the valley communities of the central Alps. The Confederacy facilitated management of common interests (free trade) and ensured peace on the important mountain trade routes.Apple A1281 battery

The Federal Charter of 1291 agreed between the rural communes of Uri, Schwyz, andUnterwalden is considered the confederacy's founding document, even though similar alliances are likely to have existed decades earlier.

By 1353 the three original cantons had joined with the cantons of Glarus and Zug and the Lucerne, Zurichand Bern city states to form the "Old Confederacy" of eight states that existed until the end of the 15th century. Apple A1280 battery

The expansion led to increased power and wealth for the federation. By 1460, the confederates controlled most of the territory south and west of the Rhine to the Alps and the Jura mountains, particularly after victories against the Habsburgs (Battle of Sempach, Battle of Näfels), over Charles the Bold ofBurgundy during the 1470s, and the success of the Swiss mercenaries. Dell LATITUDE D800 battery

The Swiss victory in the Swabian War against the Swabian League of Emperor Maximilian I in 1499 amounted to de factoindependence within the Holy Roman Empire.

The Old Swiss Confederacy had acquired a reputation of invincibility during these earlier wars, butexpansion of the federation suffered a setback in 1515 with the Swiss defeat in the Battle of Marignano.Dell Inspiron 6400 AC Adapter

This ended the so-called "heroic" epoch of Swiss history. The success of Zwingli's Reformation in some cantons led to inter-cantonal religious conflicts in 1529 and 1531 (Wars of Kappel). It was not until more than one hundred years after these internal wars that, in 1648, under the Treaty of Westphalia, Sony Vaio VGN-CR190E/L Battery

European countries recognized Switzerland's independence from the Holy Roman Empire and its neutrality.

During the Early Modern period of Swiss history, the growing authoritarianism of the patriciate families combined with a financial crisis in the wake of the Thirty Years' War led to the Swiss peasant war of 1653. HP 448007-001 battery

In the background to this struggle, the conflict between Catholic and Protestant cantons persisted, erupting in further violence at the Battles of Villmergen in 1656 and 1712.

Napoleonic era

In 1798, the revolutionary French government conquered Switzerland and imposed a new unified constitution.Sony VGP-BPS11 battery

This centralised the government of the country and effectively abolished the cantons and Mülhausen and Valtellina valley separated from Switzerland. The new regime, known as the Helvetic Republic, was highly unpopular. It had been imposed by a foreign invading army and destroyed centuries of tradition, making Switzerland nothing more than a French satellite state.HP Pavilion DV6-1223EO Battery

The fierce French suppression of the Nidwalden Revolt in September 1798 was an example of the oppressive presence of the French Army and the local population's resistance to the occupation.

When war broke out between France and its rivals, Russian and Austrian forces invaded Switzerland. Compaq CQ35-100 battery

The Swiss refused to fight alongside the French in the name of the Helvetic Republic. In 1803 Napoleon organised a meeting of the leading Swiss politicians from both sides in Paris. The result was the Act of Mediation which largely restored Swiss autonomy and introduced a Confederation of 19 cantons.HP DV9700 battery

Henceforth much of Swiss politics would concern balancing the cantons' tradition of self-rule with the need for a central government.

In 1815 the Congress of Vienna fully re-established Swiss independence and the European powers agreed to permanently recognise Swiss neutrality. Swiss troops still served foreign governments until 1860 when they fought in the Siege of Gaeta.Sony VGP-BPS13 battery

The treaty also allowed Switzerland to increase its territory, with the admission of the cantons of Valais, Neuchâtel and Geneva. Switzerland's borders have not changed since.

Federal state

The restoration of the power to the patriciate was only temporary. HP Pavilion DV8 battery

After a period of unrest with repeated violent clashes such as the Züriputsch of 1839, civil war broke out in 1847 when some of the Catholic cantons tried to set up a separate alliance (the Sonderbundskrieg).The war lasted for less than a month, causing fewer than 100 casualties, most of which were through friendly fire. Compaq CQ50 battery

However minor the Sonderbundskrieg seems to be when compared with other European riots and wars in the 19th century, it nevertheless had a major impact on both the psychology and the society of the Swiss and of Switzerland.

The war convinced most Swiss of the need for unity and strength towards its European neighbours. HP Pavilion DV7 battery

Swiss people from all strata of society, whether Catholic, Protestant, or from the liberal or conservative current, realised that the cantons would profit more if their economic and religious interests were merged.

Thus, while the rest of Europe was plagued by revolutionary uprisings, the Swiss drew up a constitution which provided for a federal layout, much of it inspired by the American example. Ibm THINKPAD X200 Battery

This constitution provided for a central authority while leaving the cantons the right to self-government on local issues. Giving credit to those who favoured the power of the cantons (the Sonderbund Kantone), the national assembly was divided between an upper house (the Swiss Council of States, 2 representatives per canton) and a lower house (the National Council of Switzerland, representatives elected from across the country). Ibm THINKPAD X200 Battery

Referendawere made mandatory for any amendment of this constitution.

A system of single weights and measures was introduced and in 1850 the Swiss franc became the Swiss single currency. Article 11 of the constitution forbade sending troops to serve abroad, though the Swiss were still obliged to serve Francis II of the Two Sicilies with Swiss Guards present at the Siege of Gaeta in 1860, marking the end of foreign service.Ibm THINKPAD X200 Battery

An important clause of the constitution was that it could be re-written completely if this was deemed necessary, thus enabling it to evolve as a whole rather than being modified one amendment at a time.

This need soon proved itself when the rise in population and the Industrial Revolution that followed led to calls to modify the constitution accordingly.SONY VAIO VGN-FW21E Battery

An early draft was rejected by the population in 1872 but modifications led to its acceptance in 1874. It introduced the facultative referendum for laws at the federal level. It also established federal responsibility for defense, trade, and legal matters.

In 1891, the constitution was revised with unusually strong elements of direct democracy, which remain unique even today.Asus M52N Battery

Modern history

Switzerland was not invaded during either of the world wars. During World War I, Switzerland was home to Vladimir Illych Ulyanov (Lenin) and he remained there until 1917. wiss neutrality was seriously questioned by the Grimm-Hoffmann Affair in 1917, but it was short-lived. Dell Latitude E6400 ATG Battery

In 1920, Switzerland joined theLeague of Nations, which was based in Geneva, on the condition that it was exempt from any military requirements.

During World War II, detailed invasion plans were drawn up by the Germans, but Switzerland was never attacked.SONY VAIO VGN-FW21L Battery

Switzerland was able to remain independent through a combination of military deterrence, concessions to Germany, and good fortune as larger events during the war delayed an invasion. Under General Henri Guisan, a massive mobilisation of militia forces was ordered. SONY VAIO VGN-FW21M Battery

The Swiss military strategy was changed from one of static defence at the borders to protect the economic heartland, to one of organised long-term attrition and withdrawal to strong, well-stockpiled positions high in the Alps known as the Reduit. Switzerland was an important base for espionage by both sides in the conflict and often mediated communications between the Axis and Allied powers. SONY VAIO VGN-FW21Z Battery

Switzerland's trade was blockaded by both the Allies and by the Axis. Economic cooperation and extension of credit to the Third Reich varied according to the perceived likelihood of invasion and the availability of other trading partners. Concessions reached a peak after a crucial rail link through Vichy France was severed in 1942, leaving Switzerland completely surrounded by the Axis.SONY VAIO VGN-FW33GW Battery

Over the course of the war, Switzerland interned over 300,000 refugees and theInternational Red Cross, based in Geneva, played an important part during the conflict. Strict immigration and asylum policies as well as the financial relationships with Nazi Germany raised controversy but not until the end of the 20th century, carrying on to this day with some Swiss banks and entities still refusing to surrender the assets deposited by victims of Nazi persecution.Dell XPS M1210 Battery

During the war, the Swiss Air Force engaged aircraft of both sides, shooting down 11 intruding Luftwaffe planes in May and June 1940, then forcing down other intruders after a change of policy following threats from Germany. The fact that the Swiss Air Force consistently beat the Luftwaffe was a recurring embarrassment for Hitler in World War II. Dell KM958 battery

The Allies acknowledged this, but the Allied Air Forces also many times intruded Swiss Air Space and made raids on several cities during the War. Over 100 Allied bombers and their crews were interned during the war. During 1944–45, Allied bombers mistakenly bombed a few places in Switzerland, among which were the cities of Schaffhausen, Basel and Zurich. Dell Studio 1555 battery

After the war, the Swiss government exported credits through the charitable fund known as the «Schweizerspende» and also donated to the Marshall Plan to help Europe's recovery, gestures that proved very profitable to the Swiss economy.

Women were granted the right to vote in the first Swiss cantons in 1959, at the federal level in 1971 and, after resistance, in the last canton Appenzell Innerrhoden in 1990. Sony VGP-BPS13 battery

After suffrage at the federal level, women quickly rose in political significance, with the first woman on the seven member Federal Council executive being Elisabeth Kopp, who served from 1984–1989, and the first female president being Ruth Dreifuss in 1999.

Switzerland joined the Council of Europe in 1963.Sony VGP-BPS13/S battery

In 1979 areas from the canton of Bern attained independence from the Bernese, forming the new canton of Jura. On 18 April 1999 the Swiss population and the cantons voted in favour of a completely revised federal constitution.

In 2002 Switzerland became a full member of the United Nations, leaving the Vatican as the last widely recognised state without full UN membership. Sony VGP-BPS13A/B battery

Switzerland is a founding member of the EFTA, but is not a member of the European Economic Area. An application for membership in the European Unionwas sent in May 1992, but not advanced since the EEA was rejected in December 1992[26] when Switzerland was the only country to launch a referendum on the EEA.Sony VGP-BPS13B/B battery

There have since been several referenda on the EU issue; due to a mixed reaction from the population the membership application has been frozen. Nonetheless, Swiss law is gradually being adjusted to conform with that of the EU, and the government has signed a number of bilateral agreements with the European Union. Sony VGP-BPL9 battery

Switzerland, together with Liechtenstein, has been completely surrounded by the EU since Austria's membership in 1995. On 5 June 2005, Swiss voters agreed by a 55% majority to join the Schengen treaty, a result that was regarded by EU commentators as a sign of support by Switzerland, a country that is traditionally perceived as independent and reluctant to enter supranational bodies. Sony VGP-BPS13B/B battery

Geography

Extending across the north and south side of the Alps, Switzerland encompasses a great diversity of landscapes and climates on a limited area of 41,285 square kilometres (15,940 sq mi). The population is about 7.9 million, resulting in an average population density of around 190 people per square kilometre (485/sq mi).Sony VGP-BPL15 battery

The more mountainous southern half of the country is far more sparsely populated than the northern half. In the largest Canton of Graubünden, lying entirely in the Alps, population density falls to 27 /km² (70 /sq mi).

Switzerland lies between latitudes 45° and 48° N, and longitudes 5° and 11° E. It contains three basic topographical areas: the Swiss Alps on the south, the Central Plateau or middleland, and the Jura mountains on the north. HP Pavilion dv6000 Battery

The Alps are a high mountain range running across the central-south of the country, comprising about 60% of the country's total area. Among the high valleys of the Swiss Alps many glaciers are found, totalling an area of 1,063 square kilometres. From these originate the headwaters of several major rivers, such as the Rhine, Inn, HP Pavilion dv8000 battery

Ticino andRhone, which flow in the four cardinal directions into the whole of Europe. The hydrographic network includes several of the largest bodies of freshwater in Central and Western Europe, among which are included Lake Geneva, Lake Constance and Lake Maggiore. Switzerland has more than 1500 lakes, and contains 6% of Europe's stock of fresh water.HP PAVILION DV6000 Battery

Lakes and glaciers cover about 6% of the national territory.

About a hundred of Switzerland's mountain peaks are close to or higher than 4,000 metres (13,000 ft). At 4,634 m (15,203 ft), Monte Rosa is the highest, although the Matterhorn (4,478 m/14,692 ft) is probably the most famous. Both are located within the Pennine Alps in the canton of Valais. HP PAVILION DV8000 Battery

The section of theBernese Alps above the deep glacial Lauterbrunnen valley, containing 72 waterfalls, is well known for the Jungfrau (4,158 m/13,642 ft) and Eiger, and the many picturesque valleys in the region. In the southeast the long Engadin Valley, encompassing the St. Moritz area in canton Graubünden, is also well known; the highest peak in the neighbouring Bernina Alps is Piz Bernina (4,049 m/13,284 ft). SONY VAIO VGN-FZ Battery

The more populous northern part of the country, comprising about 30% of the country's total area, is called the Middle Land. It has greater open and hilly landscapes, partly forested, partly open pastures, usually with grazing herds, or vegetables and fruit fields, but it is still hilly. There are large lakes found here and the biggest Swiss cities are in this area of the country.HP Pavilion DV6000 battery

The largest lake is Lake Geneva (also called Lac Léman in French), in western Switzerland. The Rhone River is both the main input and output of Lake Geneva.

Climate

The Swiss climate is generally temperate, but can vary greatly between the localities,from glacial conditions on the mountaintops to the often pleasant near Mediterranean climate at Switzerland's southern tip. HP Pavilion DV8000 battery

Summers tend to be warm and humid at times with periodic rainfall so they are ideal for pastures and grazing. The less humid winters in the mountains may see long intervals of stable conditions for weeks, while the lower lands tend to suffer from inversion, during this periods, thus seeing no sun for weeks.HP Pavilion DV6000 battery

A weather phenomenon known as the föhn (with an identical effect as the chinook wind) can occur at all times of the year and is characterised by an unexpectedly warm wind, bringing air of very low relative humidity to the north of the Alps during rainfall periods on the southern face of the Alps. HP Pavilion DV8000 battery

This works both ways across the alps but is more efficient if blowing from the south due to the steeper step for oncoming wind from the south. Valleys running south to north trigger the best effect. The driest conditions persist in all inner alpine valleys that receive less rain because arriving clouds lose a lot of their content while crossing the mountains before reaching these areas. SONY VAIO VGN-FZ18 Battery

Large alpine areas such as Graubünden remain drier than pre-alpine areas and as in the main valley of the Valais wine grapes are grown there.

The wettest conditions persist in the high Alps and in the Ticino canton which has much sun yet heavy bursts of rain from time to time.SONY VAIO VGN-FZ21E Battery

Precipitation tends to be spread moderately throughout the year with a peak in summer. Autumn is the driest season, winter receives less precipitation than summer, yet the weather patterns in Switzerland are not in a stable climate system and can be variable from year to year with no strict and predictable periods.SONY VAIO VGN-FW31J Battery

Environment

Switzerland's ecosystems can be particularly fragile, because of the many delicate valleys separated by high mountains, often forming unique ecologies. The mountainous regions themselves are also vulnerable, with a rich range of plants not found at other altitudes, and experience some pressure from visitors and grazing.SONY VAIO VGN-FW31J Battery

The climatic, geological and topographical conditions of the alpine region make for a very fragile ecosystem that is particularly sensitive to climate change.

Politics

The Federal Constitution adopted in 1848 is the legal foundation of the modern federal state. SONY VAIO VGN-FW21E Battery

It is among the oldest constitutions in the world.A new Constitution was adopted in 1999, but did not introduce notable changes to the federal structure. It outlines basic and political rights of individuals and citizen participation in public affairs, divides the powers between the Confederation and the cantons and defines federal jurisdiction and authority. SONY VAIO VGN-NR11S/S Battery

There are three main governing bodies on the federal level:  the bicameral parliament (legislative), the Federal Council (executive) and the Federal Court (judicial).

The Swiss Parliament consists of two houses: the Council of States which has 46 representatives (two from each canton and one from each half-canton) SONY VAIO VGN-NR11M/S Battery

who are elected under a system determined by each canton, and the National Council, which consists of 200 members who are elected under a system of proportional representation, depending on the population of each canton. Members of both houses serve for 4 years. SONY VAIO VGN-NR11Z/S Battery

When both houses are in joint session, they are known collectively as the Federal Assembly. Through referendums, citizens may challenge any law passed by parliament and throughinitiatives, introduce amendments to the federal constitution, thus making Switzerland a direct democracy.Sony VAIO VGN-FW21E Battery

The Federal Council constitutes the federal government, directs the federal administration and serves as collectiveHead of State. It is a collegial body of seven members, elected for a four-year mandate by the Federal Assembly which also exercises oversight over the Council. Sony VAIO VGN-NR11S/S Battery

The President of the Confederation is elected by the Assembly from among the seven members, traditionally in rotation and for a one-year term; the President chairs the government and assumes representative functions. However, the president is a primus inter pares with no additional powers, and remains the head of a department within the administration. Sony VAIO VGN-NR11Z/S Battery

The Swiss government has been a coalition of the four major political parties since 1959, each party having a number of seats that roughly reflects its share of electorate and representation in the federal parliament. The classic distribution of 2 CVP/PDC, 2 SPS/PSS, 2 FDP/PRD and 1 SVP/UDC as it stood from 1959 to 2003 was known as the "magic formula". Sony VAIO VGN-NR11M/S Battery

In the 2007 Federal Council elections the seven seats in the Federal Council were distributed as follows:

2 Social Democrats (SPS/PSS),
2 Liberal Democrats (FDP/PRD),
2 Swiss People's Party (SVP/UDC),Sony VAIO VGN-NR11Z/T Battery
1 Christian Democrats (CVP/PDC).

The function of the Federal Supreme Court is to hear appeals against rulings of cantonal or federal courts. The judges are elected by the Federal Assembly for six-year terms.

Direct democracy

Swiss citizens are subject to three legal jurisdictions: the commune, canton and federal levels.SONY VAIO VGN-FZ180E Battery

The 1848 federal constitution defines a system of direct democracy (sometimes called half-direct or representative direct democracy since it is aided by the more commonplace institutions of a parliamentary democracy). The instruments of Swiss direct democracy at the federal level, known as civic rights (Volksrechte, droits civiques), include the right to submit aconstitutional initiative and a referendum, both of which may overturn parliamentary decisions.SONY VAIO VGN-FZ220E Battery

By calling a federal referendum a group of citizens may challenge a law that has been passed by Parliament, if they can gather 50,000 signatures against the law within 100 days. If so, a national vote is scheduled where voters decide by a simple majority whether to accept or reject the law. Eight cantons together can also call a referendum on a federal law.SONY VAIO VGN-FZ340E Battery

Similarly, the federal constitutional initiative allows citizens to put a constitutional amendment to a national vote, if they can get 100,000 voters to sign the proposed amendment within 18 months. Parliament can supplement the proposed amendment with a counter-proposal, with voters having to indicate a preference on the ballot in case both proposals are accepted. SONY VAIO VGN-FZ460E Battery

Constitutional amendments, whether introduced by initiative or in Parliament, must be accepted by a double majority of both the national popular vote and a majority of the cantonal popular votes.

Administrative divisions

The cantons have a permanent constitutional status and, in comparison with the situation in other countries, a high degree of independence. SONY VAIO VGN-FZ480E Battery

Under the Federal Constitution, all 26 cantons are equal in status. Each canton has its own constitution, and its own parliament, government and courts. However, there are considerable differences between the individual cantons, most particularly in terms of population and geographical area.SONY VAIO VGN-FZ31E Battery

Their populations vary between 15,000 (Appenzell Innerrhoden) and 1,253,500 (Zurich), and their area between 37 km2 (14 sq mi) (Basel-Stadt) and 7,105 km2(2,743 sq mi) (Graubünden). The Cantons comprise a total of 2,889 municipalities. Within Switzerland there are two enclaves: Büsingen belongs to Germany, Campione d'Italia belongs to Italy.SONY VAIO VGN-FZ31B Battery

In a referendum held in the Austrian state of Vorarlberg on 11 May 1919 over 80% of those voting supported a proposal that the state should join the Swiss Confederation. However, this was prevented by the opposition of the Austrian Government, the Allies, Swiss liberals and non German-speaking Swiss.SONY VAIO VGN-FZ31J Battery

Foreign relations and international institutions

Traditionally, Switzerland avoids alliances that might entail military, political, or direct economic action and had been neutral since the end of its expansion in 1515. Its policy of neutrality has been internationally recognised at the Congress of Vienna in 1815.SONY VAIO VGN-FZ31M Battery

Only in 2002 did Switzerland become a full member of the United Nations but it was the first state to join it by referendum. Switzerland maintains diplomatic relations with almost all countries and historically has served as an intermediary between other states.SONY VAIO VGN-FZ31Z Battery

Switzerland is not a member of the European Union; the Swiss people have consistently rejected membership since the early 1990s.

An unusual number of international institutions have their seats in Switzerland, in part because of its policy of neutrality.Geneva is the birth place of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and hosts the United Nations Human Rights Council. SONY VAIO VGN-FZ38M Battery

The European Broadcasting Union has the official headquarters in the city. Even though Switzerland is one of the most recent countries to have joined the United Nations, the Palace of Nations in Geneva is the second biggest centre for the United Nations after New York, and Switzerland was a founding member of the League of Nations.SONY VGP-BPS8 Battery

Apart from the United Nations headquarters, the Swiss Confederation is host to many UN agencies, like the World Health Organization (WHO),World Scout Organization, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and about 200 other international organisations.[62] The World Economic Forum foundation is based in Geneva.SONY VGP-BPS13/S Battery

It is best known for its annual meeting in Davos which brings together top international business and political leaders to discuss important issues facing the world, including health and the environment.

Furthermore, many sport federations and organisations are located throughout the country, such as the International Basketball Federation, in Geneva, the UEFA(Union of European Football Association), SONY VGP-BPS13A/B Battery

in Nyon, the FIFA (International Federation of Association Football) and the International Ice Hockey Federation, in Zurich, the International Cycling Union, in Aigle, and the International Olympic Committee, in Lausanne.

Military

The Swiss Armed Forces, including the Land Forces and the Air Force, are composed of conscripts:SONY VGP-BPS13B/B Battery

professional soldiers constitute only about 5 percent of the military personnel, and all the rest are conscript male citizens aged from 20 to 34 (in special cases up to 50) years. Being a landlocked country, Switzerland has no navy, however on lakes bordering neighbouring countries armed military patrol boats are used. SONY VGP-BPS13A/S Battery

Swiss citizens are prohibited from serving in foreign armies, with the exception of the Swiss Guards of the Vatican.

The structure of the Swiss militia system stipulates that the soldiers keep their Army issued equipment, including all personal weapons, at home. SONY VGP-BPS13AS Battery

Some organizations and political parties find this practice controversial but mainstream Swiss opinion is in favour of the system. Compulsory military serviceconcerns all male Swiss citizens; women can serve voluntarily. Men usually receive military conscription orders for training at the age of 19.Dell Inspiron 1320n Battery

About two thirds of the young Swiss are found suited for service; for those found unsuited, various forms of alternative service exist. Annually, approximately 20,000 persons are trained in recruit centres for a duration from 18 to 21 weeks. The reform "Army XXI" was adopted by popular vote in 2003, it replaced the previous model "Army 95", reducing the effectives from 400,000 to about 200,000. SONY VGP-BPS13AS Battery

Of those, 120,000 are active in periodic Army training and 80,000 are non-training reserves.

Overall, three general mobilisations have been declared to ensure the integrity and neutrality of Switzerland. The first one was held on the occasion of theFranco-Prussian War of 1870–71. Dell Inspiron 1320n Battery

The second one was decided in response to the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914. The third mobilisation of the army took place on September 1939 in response to the German attack on Poland; Henri Guisan was elected as the General-in-Chief.Dell Studio 1450 Battery

Because of its neutrality policy, the Swiss army does not currently take part in armed conflicts in other countries, but is part of some peacekeeping missions around the world. Since 2000 the armed forces department has also maintained the Onyx intelligence gathering system to monitor satellite communications. Dell Studio 1457 Battery

Following the end of the Cold War there have been a number of attempts to curb military activity or even abolish the armed forces altogether. A notable referendum on the subject, launched by an anti-militarist group, was held on 26 November 1989. It was defeated with about two thirds of the voters against the proposal.Dell Latitude D610 Battery

A similar referendum, called for before, but held shortly after, the September 11 attacks in the US, was defeated by over 78% of voters.

Economy

Switzerland has a stable, modern and one of the most capitalist economies in the world. It has the highest European rating in the Index of Economic Freedom 2010, while also providing large coverage through public services.Dell Studio 1457 Battery

The nominal per capita GDP is higher than those of the larger Western and Central European economies and Japan. The Swiss franc remains one of the world's strongest currencies with the lowest inflation rate (rising to an estimated 0.7% for 2011).

If adjusted for purchasing power parity, Switzerland ranks sixteenth in the world for GDP per capita.Toshiba Satellite M60 battery

The World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report currently ranks Switzerland's economy as the most competitive in the world. For much of the 20th century, Switzerland was the wealthiest country in Europe by a considerable margin. In 2010, Dell Latitude D830 Battery

the Global Wealth Report by Credit Suisse Research Institute found that Switzerland has the highest average wealth per adult at $372,692, followed by Norway, Australia and Singapore at $326,530, $320,909 and $255,488 respectively, with wealth defined by the value of financial and non-financial (such as real estate) assets.Dell Latitude D620 Battery

In 2005 the median household income in Switzerland was an estimated 95,000 CHF, the equivalent of roughly 100,000 USD (as of December 2010) in nominal terms.

Switzerland is home to several large multinational corporations. The largest Swiss companies by revenue are Glencore,Nestlé, Novartis, Hoffmann-La Roche, ABB and Adecco.Dell Inspiron Mini 10 Battery

Also notable are UBS AG, Zurich Financial Services, Credit Suisse, Swiss Re, and The Swatch Group. Switzerland is ranked as having one of the most powerful economies in the world.

Chemicals, health and pharmaceutical, measuring instruments, musical instruments, real estate, banking and insurance,tourism, and international organisations are important industries in Switzerland. Sony VGN-FW11S Battery

The largest exported goods are chemicals (34% of exported goods), machines/electronics (20.9%), and precision instruments/watches (16.9%). Exported services amount to a third of exported goods.

Around 3.8 million people work in Switzerland. Switzerland has a more flexible job market than neighboring countries and the unemployment rate is very low.Sony VGN-FW11M Battery

Unemployment rate increased from a low of 1.7% in June 2000 to a peak of 4.4%, as of December 2009.Population growth from net immigration is quite high, at 0.52% of population in 2004. Foreign citizen population is 21.8% as of 2004,about the same as in Australia. GDP per hour worked is the world's 17th highest, at 27.44 international dollars in 2006.Sony VGN-FW139E/H battery

Switzerland has an overwhelmingly private sector economy and low tax rates by the Western World standards; overall taxation is one of the smallest ofdeveloped countries. Switzerland is an easy place to do business; Switzerland ranks 21st of 178 countries in the Ease of Doing Business Index. Dell Latitude E5400 Battery

The slow growth Switzerland experienced in the 1990s and the early 2000s has brought greater support for economic reforms and harmonisation with the European Union. Accor

ding to Credit Suisse, only about 37% of residents own their own homes, one of the lowest rates of home ownership in Europe. Dell Latitude E4200 Battery

Housing and food price levels were 171% and 145% of the EU-25 index in 2007, compared to 113% and 104% in Germany.

Agricultural protectionism—a rare exception to Switzerland's free trade policies—has contributed to high food prices. Product market liberalisation is lagging behind many EU countries according to theOECD.Dell Inspiron 300M Battery

Nevertheless, domestic purchasing power is one of the best in the world.Apart from agriculture, economic and trade barriers between the European Union and Switzerland are minimal and Switzerland has free trade agreements worldwide. Switzerland is a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).Dell Studio 1737 battery

Education and science

Education in Switzerland is very diverse because the constitution of Switzerland delegates the authority for the school system to the cantons. There are both public and private schools, including many private international schools. Dell Inspiron E1505 battery

The minimum age for primary school is about six years in all cantons, but most cantons provide a free "children's school" starting at four or five years old. Primary school continues until grade four or five, depending on the school. Traditionally, the first foreign language in school was always one of the other national languages, although recently (2000) English was introduced first in a few cantons. Dell RM791 battery

At the end of primary school (or at the beginning of secondary school), pupils are separated according to their capacities in several (often three) sections. The fastest learners are taught advanced classes to be prepared for further studies and the matura, while students who assimilate a little bit more slowly receive an education more adapted to their needs.Acer Aspire One battery 10400mAh

There are 12 universities in Switzerland, ten of which are maintained at cantonal level and usually offer a range of non-technical subjects. The first university in Switzerland was founded in 1460 in Basel (with a faculty of medicine) and has a tradition of chemical and medical research in Switzerland. Dell Precision M70 Battery

The biggest university in Switzerland is the University of Zurichwith nearly 25,000 students. The two institutes sponsored by the federal government are the ETHZ in Zurich (founded 1855) and the EPFL in Lausanne (founded 1969 as such, formerly an institute associated with the University of Lausanne) which both have an excellent international reputation.SONY VGN -FZ210CE Battery

In addition there are various Universities of Applied Sciences. In business and management studies, University of St. Gallen, (HSG) and International Institute for Management Development (IMD) are the leaders. Switzerland has the second highest rate of foreign students in tertiary education, after Australia.Toshiba Satellite L305 Battery

Many Nobel prizes were awarded to Swiss scientists, for example to the world-famous physicist Albert Einstein in the field of physics who developed his theory of relativity while working in Bern. More recently Vladimir Prelog, Heinrich Rohrer,Richard Ernst, Edmond Fischer, Rolf Zinkernagel and Kurt Wüthrich received Nobel prizes in the sciences. Toshiba Satellite T4900 Battery

In total, 113 Nobel Prize winners stand in relation to Switzerland  and the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded 9 times to organisations residing in Switzerland.

Geneva and the nearby French department of Ain co-host the world's largest laboratory, CERN, dedicated to particle physics research. Toshiba PA3399U-2BRS battery

Another important research center is the Paul Scherrer Institute. Notable inventions include the lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), the scanning tunneling microscope(Nobel prize) or the very popular Velcro. Some technologies enabled the exploration of new worlds such as the pressurized balloon of Auguste Piccard and the Bathyscaphe which permitted Jacques Piccard to reach the deepest point of the world's oceans.Sony VGP-BPS10 battery

Switzerland Space Agency, the Swiss Space Office, has been involved in various space technologies and programs. In addition it was one of the 10 founders of the European Space Agency in 1975 and is the seventh largest contributor to the ESA budget. In the private sector, several companies are implicated in the space industry such as Oerlikon Space  or Maxon Motors  who provide spacecraft structures.Sony VGP-BPS9 battery

Switzerland and the European Union

Switzerland voted against membership in the European Economic Area in a referendum in December 1992 and has since maintained and developed its relationships with the European Union (EU) and European countries through bilateral agreements.Sony VGP-BPS11 battery

In March 2001, the Swiss people refused in a popular vote to start accession negotiations with the EU. In recent years, the Swiss have brought their economic practices largely into conformity with those of the EU in many ways, in an effort to enhance their international competitiveness. Sony VGP-BPS22 battery

The economy has been growing most recently at around 3% per year. Full EU membership is a long-term objective of some in the Swiss government, but there is considerable popular sentiment against this supported by the conservative SVP party. The western French-speaking areas and the urban regions of the rest of the country tend to be more pro-EU, however with far from any significant share of the population.Sony VGP-BPL8 battery

The government has established an Integration Office under the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Economic Affairs. To minimise the negative consequences of Switzerland's isolation from the rest of Europe, Bern and Brussels signed seven bilateral agreements to further liberalise trade ties. Sony VGP-BPS14 battery

These agreements were signed in 1999 and took effect in 2001. This first series of bilateral agreements included the free movement of persons. A second series covering nine areas was signed in 2004 and has since been ratified. The second series includes the Schengen Treaty and theDublin Convention. They continue to discuss further areas for cooperation.Sony VGP-BPS21 battery

In 2006, Switzerland approved a billion francs supportive investment in the poorer Southern and Central European countries in support of cooperation and positive ties to the EU as a whole. A further referendum will be needed to approve 300 million francs to support Romania and Bulgaria and their recent admission. Toshiba Satellite A200 Battery

The Swiss have also been under EU and sometimes international pressure to reduce banking secrecy and to raise tax rates to parity with the EU. Preparatory discussions are being opened in four new areas: opening up the electricity market, participation in the European GNSS project Galileo, cooperating with the European centre for disease prevention and recognising certificates of origin for food products. Toshiba Satellite M300 Battery

On 27 November 2008, the interior and justice ministers of European Union in Brussels announced Switzerland's accession to the Schengen passport-free zone from 12 December 2008. The landborder checkpoints will remain in place only for goods movements, but should not run controls on people, though people entering the country had their passports checked until 29 March 2009 if they originated from a Schengen nation. Toshiba Satellite 1200 Battery

Energy, infrastructure, and environment

Electricity generated in Switzerland is 56% from hydroelectricity and 39% from nuclear power, with 5% of the electricity generated from conventional power sources resulting in a nearly CO2-free electricity-generating network. SONY VGP-BPS13A/Q Battery

On 18 May 2003, two anti-nuclear initiatives were turned down: Moratorium Plus, aimed at forbidding the building of new nuclear power plants (41.6% supported and 58.4% opposed), and Electricity Without Nuclear (33.7% supported and 66.3% opposed).

The former ten-year moratorium on the construction of new nuclear power plants was the result of a citizens' initiative voted on in 1990 which had passed with 54.5% Yes vs. 45.5% No votes.SONY VGP-BPS13A/Q Battery

A new nuclear plant in the Canton of Bern is presently planned. The Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE) is the office responsible for all questions relating to energy supply and energy use within the Federal Department of Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications(DETEC). SONY VGP-BPS13/Q Battery

The agency is supporting the 2000-watt society initiative to cut the nation's energy use by more than half by the year 2050.

The most dense rail network in Europe of 5,063 km (3,146 mi) carries over 350 million passengers annually. In 2007, each Swiss citizen travelled on average 2,103 km (1,307 mi) by rail, which makes them the keenest rail users.SONY VGP-BPS13/Q Battery

The network is administered mainly by the Federal Railways, except in Graubünden, where the 366 km (227 mi) narrow gauge railway is operated by the Rhaetian Railways and includes some World Heritage lines. The building of new railway base tunnels through the Alps is under way to reduce the time of travel between north and south through the AlpTransit project.SONY VGP-BPS21A/B Battery

Swiss private-public managed road network is funded by road tolls and vehicle taxes. The Swiss autobahn/autoroute system requires the purchase of avignette (toll sticker)—which costs 40 Swiss francs—for one calendar year in order to use its roadways, for both passenger cars and trucks.SONY VGP-BPS21/S Battery

The Swiss autobahn/autoroute network has a total length of 1,638 km (1,018 mi) (as of 2000) and has, by an area of 41,290 km2(15,940 sq mi), also the one of the highest motorway densities in the world. Zurich Airport is Switzerland's largest international flight gateway, which handled 22.8 million passengers in 2010. SONY VGP-BPS21B Battery

The other international airports are Geneva Airport (11.8 million passengers), EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg which is located in France, Bern Airport,Lugano Airport, St. Gallen-Altenrhein Airport and Sion Airport.

Switzerland has one of the best environmental records among nations in the developed world; it was one of the countries to sign the Kyoto Protocol in 1998 and ratified it in 2003. SONY VGP-BPS21A Battery

With Mexico and the Republic of Korea it forms the Environmental Integrity Group (EIG). The country is heavily active in recycling and anti-littering regulations and is one of the top recyclers in the world, with 66% to 96% of recyclable materials being recycled, depending on the area of the country. SONY VGP-BPS21 Battery

In many places in Switzerland, household garbage disposal is charged for. Garbage (except dangerous items, batteries etc.) is only collected if it is in bags which either have a payment sticker attached, or in official bags with the surcharge paid at the time of purchase.Sony VGP-BPS21A/B Battery

This gives a financial incentive to recycle as much as possible, since recycling is free.  Illegal disposal of garbage is not tolerated but usually the enforcement of such laws is limited to violations that involve the unlawful disposal of larger volumes at traffic intersections and public areas. Fines for not paying the disposal fee range from CHF 200–500.Sony VGP-BPS21/S Battery

Switzerland also has internationally the most efficient system to recycle old newspapers and cardboard materials. Publicly organized collection by volunteers and economical railway transport logistics started as early as 1865 under the leadership of the notable industrialist Hans Caspar Escher (Escher Wyss AG) when the first modern Swiss paper manufacturing plant was built in Biberist.Sony VGP-BPS21A Battery

Demographics

Switzerland lies at the crossroads of several major European cultures that have heavily influenced the country's languages and culture. Switzerland has four official languages: German (63.7% total population share, with foreign residents; Sony VGP-BPS21 Battery

72.5% of residents with Swiss citizenship, in 2000) in the north, east and center of the country; French (20.4%; 21.0%) to the west; Italian (6.5%; 4.3%) in the south.Romansh (0.5%; 0.6%), a Romance languagespoken locally in the southeastern trilingual canton of Graubünden, is designated by the Federal Constitution as a national language along with German, SONY VAIO VGN-FW31J Battery

French and Italian (Article 4 of the Constitution), and as official language if the authorities communicate with persons of Romansh language (Article 70), but federal laws and other official acts do not need to be decreed in this language. The federal government is obliged to communicate in the official languages, and in the federal parliament simultaneous translation is provided from and into German, French and Italian. SONY VAIO VGN-FW31E Battery

The German spoken in Switzerland is predominantly a group of Alemannic dialects collectively known as Swiss German, but written communication typically use Swiss Standard German, whilst the majority of radio and TV broadcast is (nowadays) in Swiss German as well. Similarly, SONY VAIO VGN-FW31B Battery

there are some dialects of Franco-Provençal in rural communities in the French speaking part, known as "Suisse romande", called Vaudois, Gruérien, Jurassien, Empro, Fribourgeois, Neuchâtelois, and in the Italian speaking area, Ticinese (a dialect of Lombard). Moreover, SONY VAIO VGN-FW31M Battery

the official languages (German, French and Italian) borrow some terms not understood outside of Switzerland, i.e. terms from other languages (German Billette from French), from similar term in another language (Italian azione used not as act but as discount from German Aktion). SONY VAIO VGN-FW31Z Battery

Learning one of the other national languages at school is obligatory for all Swiss, so many Swiss are supposed to be at least bilingual, especially those belonging to minorities.

Resident foreigners and temporary foreign workers make up about 22% of the population.Dell Inspiron 6400 AC Adapter

Most of these (60%) are from European Union or EFTAcountries. Italians are the largest single group of foreigners with 17.3% of total foreign population. They are followed by Germans (13.2%), immigrants from Serbia and Montenegro (11.5%) and Portugal (11.3%).Dell LATITUDE D800 battery

Immigrants from Sri Lanka, most of them former Tamil refugees, are the largest group among people of Asian origin. In the 2000s, domestic and international institutions have expressed concern about what they perceive as an increase of xenophobia, particularly in some political campaignings. Dell Inspiron Mini 12 battery

However, the high proportion of foreign citizens in the country, as well as the generally unproblematic integration of foreigners, underlines Switzerland's openness.

Health

Swiss citizens are required to buy universal health insurance from private insurance companies, which in turn are required to accept every applicant.Dell Inspiron 1720 battery

This system permits access to a broad range of modern medical services. The healthcare system compares well with other European countries and patients are largely satisfied with it. In 2006 life expectancy at birth was 79 years for men and 84 years for women. It is among the highest in the world.Dell Inspiron 1564 battery

However, spending on health is particularly high, with 11.5% of GDP (2003) and, from 1990, a steady increase is observed, reflecting the high prices of the services provided With aging populations and new healthcare technologies, health spending will likely continue to rise.Dell Inspiron 1464 battery

Urbanization

Between two thirds and three quarters of the population live in urban areas. Switzerland has gone from a largely rural country to an urban one in just 70 years. Since 1935 urban development has claimed as much of the Swiss landscape as it did during the previous 2,000 years. Dell XPS 1340 battery

This urban sprawl does not only affect the plateau but also the Jura and the Alpine foothills and there are growing concerns about land use.However from the beginning of the 21st century, the population growth in urban areas is higher than in the countryside. Dell INSPIRON 9100 battery

Switzerland has a dense network of cities, where large, medium and small cities are complementary. The plateau is very densely populated with about 450 people per km2 and the landscape continually shows signs of man's presence. The weight of the largest metropolitan areas, which are Zurich,Geneva–Lausanne, Basel and Bern tend to increase.Dell Inspiron N4010 battery

In international comparison the importance of these urban areas is stronger than their number of inhabitants suggests. In addition the two main centers of Zurich and Geneva are recognized for their particular great quality of life. Dell N3010 battery

Religion

Switzerland has no official state religion, though most of the cantons (except Geneva and Neuchâtel) recognize official churches, which are either the Catholic Church or the Swiss Reformed Church. These churches, and in some cantons also the Old Catholic Church and Jewish congregations, are financed by official taxation of adherents.HP Pavilion DV6-1210SA battery

Christianity is the predominant religion of Switzerland, divided between the Catholic Church (41.8% of the population) and various Protestant denominations (35.3%). Immigration has brought Islam (4.26%) and Eastern Orthodoxy (1.8%) as sizeable minority religions.HP Pavilion DM4 battery

Other Christian minority communities include Neo-Pietism (0.44%), Pentecostalism (0.28%, mostly incorporated in the Schweizer Pfingstmission), Methodism (0.13%), the New Apostolic Church(0.45%), Jehovah's Witnesses (0.28%), other Protestant denominations (0.20%), the Old Catholic Church (0.18%), other Christian denominations (0.20%). HP Pavilion DM3 battery

Minor non-Christian minority groups are Hinduism (0.38%), Buddhism (0.29%), Judaism (0.25%) and "other religions" (0.11%). 4.3% did not make a statement. The 2005 Eurobarometer poll found 48% to be theist, 39% expressing belief in "a spirit or life force", 9% atheist and 4% agnostic. Greeley (2003) found that 27% of the population does not believe in a God.Compaq CQ35-100 battery

The country is historically about evenly balanced between Catholic and Protestant, with a complex patchwork of majorities over most of the country. One canton, Appenzell, was officially divided into Catholic and Protestant sections in 1597. The larger cities (Bern, Geneva, Zurich and Basel) are predominantly Protestant. HP DV9700 battery

Central Switzerland, as well as Ticino, is traditionally Catholic. The Swiss Constitution of 1848, under the recent impression of the clashes of Catholic vs. Protestant cantons that culminated in the Sonderbundskrieg, consciously defines a consociational state, allowing the peaceful co-existence of Catholics and Protestants.HP Compaq 491278-001 battery

A 1980 initiative calling for the complete separation of church and state was rejected by 78.9% of the voters.

Culture

Three of Europe's major languages are official in Switzerland. Swiss culture is characterised by diversity, which is reflected in a wide range of traditional customs.HP Compaq HSTNN-LB51 battery

A region may be in some ways strongly culturally connected to the neighbouring country that shares its language, the country itself being rooted in western European culture. The linguistically isolated Romansh culture in Graubünden in eastern Switzerland constitutes an exception, it survives only in the upper valleys of the Rhine and the Inn and strives to maintain its rare linguistic tradition.HP Pavilion ZD8227 battery

Switzerland is home to many notable contributors to literature, art, architecture, music and sciences. In addition the country attracted a number of creative persons during time of unrest or war in Europe. Some 1000 museums are distributed through the country; the number has more than tripled since 1950.HP Compaq Business Notebook TC4400 battery

Among the most important cultural performances held annually are the Lucerne Festival, the Montreux Jazz Festival  and the Locarno International Film Festival.

Alpine symbolism has played an essential role in shaping the history of the country and the Swiss national identity?HP Pavilion DV7-2085EL battery

Nowadays some concentrated mountain areas have a strong highly energetic ski resort culture in winter, and a hiking (wandering) or Mountain biking culture in summer. Other areas throughout the year have a recreational culture that caters to tourism, yet the quieter seasons are spring and autumn when there are fewer visitors. Compaq Presario 300 battery

A traditional farmer and herder culture also predominates in many areas and small farms are omnipresent outside the cities. Folk art is kept alive in organisations all over the country. In Switzerland it is mostly expressed in music, dance, poetry, wood carving and embroidery. HP Compaq Business Notebook 6735S battery

The alphorn, a trumpet- like musical instrument made of wood, has become alongside yodeling and the accordion an epitome of traditional Swiss music.

Literature

As the Confederation, from its foundation in 1291, was almost exclusively composed of German-speaking regions, the earliest forms of literature are in German.HP Pavilion DV2820EA battery

In the 18th century French became the fashionable language in Bern and elsewhere, while the influence of the French-speaking allies and subject lands was more marked than before.

Among the classics of Swiss German literature are Jeremias Gotthelf (1797–1854) and Gottfried Keller (1819–1890).HP Pavilion DV6373EA battery

The undisputed giants of 20th century Swiss literature are Max Frisch (1911–91) and Friedrich Dürrenmatt (1921–90), whose repertoire includes Die Physiker (The Physicists) and Das Versprechen (The Pledge), released in 2001 as a Hollywood film.

Prominent French-speaking writers were Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778) and Germaine de Staël (1766–1817). HP Compaq 572190-001 battery

More recent authors include Charles Ferdinand Ramuz (1878–1947), whose novels describe the lives of peasants and mountain dwellers, set in a harsh environment and Blaise Cendrars (born Frédéric Sauser, 1887–1961).[157] Also Italian and Romansh-speaking authors contributed but in more modest way given their small number.Compaq Presario CQ50-105EL battery

The probably most famous Swiss literary creation, Heidi, the story of an orphan girl who lives with her grandfather in the Alps, was one of the most popular children's books ever and has come to be a symbol of Switzerland. Her creator, Johanna Spyri (1827–1901), wrote a number of other books around similar themes.[HP Pavilion DV7-1290EO battery]

Media

The freedom of the press and the right to free expression is guaranteed in the federal constitution of Switzerland?The Swiss News Agency (SNA) broadcasts information around-the-clock in three of the four national languages—on politics, economics, society and culture. Compaq Presario CQ71 battery

The SNA supplies almost all Swiss media and a couple dozen foreign media services with its news.

Switzerland has historically boasted the greatest number of newspaper titles published in proportion to its population and size.The most influential newspapers are the German-language Tages-Anzeiger and Neue Zürcher Zeitung NZZ, and the French-language Le Temps, but almost every city has at least one local newspaper. HP Pavilion DV6000 battery

The cultural diversity accounts for a large number of newspapers.

In contrast to the print media, the broadcast media has always been under greater control of the government.The Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, whose name was recently changed to SRG SSR idée suisse, is charged with the production and broadcast of radio and television programs.Compaq Presario CQ70 battery

SRG SSR studios are distributed throughout the various language regions. Radio content is produced in six central and four regional studios while the television programs are produced in Geneva, Zurich and Lugano. An extensive cable network also allows most Swiss to access the programs from neighboring countries.[HP Compaq 491278-001 battery]

Sports

Skiing, snowboarding and mountaineering are among the most popular sports in Switzerland, the nature of the country being particularly suited for such activities. Winter sports are practiced by the natives and tourists since the second half of the 19th century with the invention of bobsleigh in St. Moritz.[HP TouchSmart TX2-1150EG battery]

The first world ski championships were held in Mürren (1931) and St. Moritz (1934). The latter town hosted the second Winter Olympic Games in 1928 and the fifth edition in 1948. Among the most successful skiers and world champions are Pirmin Zurbriggen and Didier Cuche.HP 520 battery

Many Swiss are fans of football and the national team or 'Nati' is widely supported. Switzerland was the joint host, with Austria, of the Euro 2008 tournament. Many Swiss also follow ice hockey and support one of the 12 clubs in the League A. In April 2009, Switzerland hosted the 2009 IIHF World Championship for the 10th time.[Asus ADP-36EH C Adapter]

The numerous lakes make Switzerland an attractive place for sailing. The largest, Lake Geneva, is the home of the sailing team Alinghi which was the first European team to win the America's Cup in 2003 and which successfully defended the title in 2007. Tennis has become increasely popular sport, and Swiss players such as Martina Hingisand Roger Federer have won multiple Grand Slams.Dell PA-10 Adapter

Motorsport racecourses and events were banned in Switzerland following the 1955 Le Mans disaster with exception to events such as Hillclimbing. However, this ban was overturned in June 2007. During this period, the country still produced successful racing drivers such as Clay Regazzoni, Jo Siffert and successful World Touring Car Championshipdriver Alain Menu. Delta ADP-90FB Adapter

Switzerland also won the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport in 2007–08 with driver Neel Jani. Swissmotorcycle racer Thomas Lüthi won the 2005 MotoGP World Championship in the 125cc category.

Traditional sports include Swiss wrestling or "Schwingen". http://www.battery-pack.co.uk/

It is an old tradition from the rural central cantons and considered the national sport by some. Hornussen is another indigenous Swiss sport, which is like a cross between baseball and golf. Steinstossen is the Swiss variant of stone put, a competition in throwing a heavy stone. Delta ADP-90FB Adapter

Practiced only among the alpine population since prehistoric times, it is recorded to have taken place in Basel in the 13th century. It is also central to theUnspunnenfest, first held in 1805, with its symbol the 83.5 kg stone named Unspunnenstein.

Cuisine

The cuisine of Switzerland is multi-faceted. Dell PA-10 Adapter

While some dishes such as fondue, raclette or rösti are omnipresent through the country, each region developed its own gastronomy according to the differences of climate and languages. Traditional Swiss cuisine uses ingredients similar to those in other European countries, as well as unique dairy products and cheeses such as Gruyère or Emmental, produced in the valleys of Gruyères and Emmental.Dell PA-12 Adapter

The number of fine-dining establishments is high, particularly in western Switzerland.

Chocolate had been made in Switzerland since the 18th century but it gained its reputation at the end of the 19th century with the invention of modern techniques such as conching and tempering which enabled its production on a high quality level.Asus ADP-36EH C Adapter

Also a breakthrough was the invention of milk chocolate in 1875 by Daniel Peter. The Swiss are the world's largest consumers of chocolate.

The most popular alcoholic drink in Switzerland is wine. Dell Inspiron 6400 Adapter

Switzerland is notable for the variety of grapes grown because of the large variations in terroirs, with their specific mixes of soil, air, altitude and light. Swiss wine is produced mainly in Valais, Vaud (Lavaux), Geneva and Ticino, with a small majority of white wines.Dell Inspiron 1520 Adapter

Vineyards have been cultivated in Switzerland since the Roman era, even though certain traces can be found of a more ancient origin. The most widespread varieties are the Chasselas (called Fendant in Valais) and Pinot Noir. The Merlot is the main variety produced in Ticino. (end)Dell Inspiron 1525 Charger

Poland 2

Health

Poland's healthcare system is based on an all-inclusive insurance system. State subsidised healthcare is available to all Polish citizens who are covered by this general health insurance program. However, it is not compulsory to be treated in a state-run hospital as a number of private medical complexes do exist nationwide.HP Pavilion DV6000 Adapter

All medical service providers and hospitals in Poland are subordinate to the Polish Ministry of Health, which provides oversight and scrutiny of general medical practice as well as being responsible for the day to day administration of the healthcare system. Dell Latitude D820 Charger

In addition to these roles, the ministry is also tasked with the maintenance of standards of hygiene and patient-care.

Hospitals in Poland are organised according to the regional administrative structure, resultantly most towns have their own hospital (Szpital Miejski). Larger and more specialised medical complexes tend only to be found in major cities, with some even more specialised units located only in the capital, Warsaw.HP Pavilion DV9000 AC Adapter

However, allvoivodeships have their own general hospital (most have more than one), all of which are obliged to have a trauma centre; these types of hospital, which are able to deal with almost all medical problems are called 'regional hospitals' (Szpital Wojewódzki).Sony VGP-BPS8 Battery

The last category of hospital in Poland is that of specialised medical centres, an example of which would be the Sk?odowska-Curie Institute of Oncology, Poland's leading, and most highly specialised centre for the research and treatment of cancer.

The Polish health-care industry is currently undergoing a major transformation, with many hospitals being listed as top priorities for refurbishment.Sony VGP-BPS9 Battery

As a result of this process, many hospitals have already been thoroughly modernised throughout and are now equipped with the latest in medical hardware. The overall quality of healthcare provision nationwide, as judged by European standards, is generally regarded as being very high.Sony VGP-BPS12 Battery

This is reflected in the nation's average life expectancy, which at 71 for males and 80 for females, has shown a marked increase from 63/68 in 2003, and now corresponds with the average figures for life expectancy in the European Union.

Education

The education of Polish society was a goal of rulers as early as the 12th century, and Poland soon became one of the most educated countries in Europe.Dell Inspiron 6400 Battery

The library catalogue of the Cathedral Chapter of Kraków dating back to 1110 shows that in the early 12th century Polish intellectuals had access to European literature. The Jagiellonian University, founded in 1364 by King Casimir III in Kraków, is one of Europe's oldest universities. Dell Inspiron 1525 Battery

In 1773 King Stanis?aw August Poniatowski established the Commission of National Education (Komisja Edukacji Narodowej), the world's first state ministry of education.

The first university in Poland, Kraków's Jagiellonian University, was established in 1364 by Casimir III the Great in Kraków. It is the oldest university in Poland. Dell XPS M1530 Battery

It is the second oldest university in Central Europe and one of the oldest universities in the world. The idea to found the university was first conceived when Poland's King Casimir III realized that the nation needed a class of educated people, especially lawyers, who could codify the country's laws and administer the courts and offices.Dell Inspiron 6000 Battery

His efforts to found an institution of higher learning in Poland were finally rewarded when Pope Urban Vgranted him permission to open the University of Krakow.

Since changes made in 2009 education in Poland starts at the age of five or six for the 0 class (Kindergarten) and six or seven years in the 1st class of primary school (Polish szko?a podstawowa). Dell Inspiron 9400 Battery

It is compulsory that children do one year of formal education before entering 1st class at no later than 7 years of age. At the end of 6th class when the students are 13, they take a compulsory exam that will determine to which lower secondary school (gimnazjum, pronounced gheem-nah-sium) (Middle School/Junior High) they will be accepted. Dell latitude D600 Battery

They will attend this school for three years for classes, 7, 8, and 9. They then take another compulsory exam to determine the upper secondary level school they will attend. There are several alternatives, the most common being the three years in a liceum or four years in a technikum. Dell Inspiron 8600 Battery

Both end with a maturity examination (matura, quite similar to French baccalauréat), and may be followed by several forms of upper education, leading to licencjat or in?ynier (the Polish Bologna Process first cycle qualification) , magister (the PolishBologna Process second cycle qualification) and eventually doktor (the Polish Bologna Process third cycle qualification).Dell Latitude D610 Battery

There are currently 18 fully accredited traditional universities in Poland, these are then further supplemented by 20 technical universities, nine independent medical universities and five universities for the study of economics. In addition to these institutions there are then nine agricultural academies, three pedagogical universities, a theological academy and three maritime service universities. Dell Inspiron 1520 Battery

Poland's long and history of promoting the arts has led to the establishment of a number of higher educational institutes dedicated to the teaching of the arts. Amongst these are the seven higher state academies of music. All of these institutions are further supplemented by a large number of private educational institutions and the four national military academies (two for the army and one for each of the other branches of service),Dell XPS M1710 Battery

bringing the total number of organisations for the pursuit of higher education to well over 500, one of the largest numbers in Europe. The Programme for International Student Assessment, coordinated by the OECD, currently ranks Poland's educational system as the 23rd best in the world, being neither significantly higher nor lower than the OECD average. Dell XPS M1330 Battery

Culture

The culture of Poland is closely connected with its intricate 1000 year history  Its unique character developed as a result of its geography at the confluence of Western and Eastern Europe. With origins in the culture of the Proto-Slavs, over time Polish culture has been profoundly influenced by its interweaving ties with the Germanic, Dell XPS M1210 Battery

Latinate and Byzantine worlds as well as in continual dialog with the many other ethnic groups and minorities living in Poland. The people of Poland have traditionally been seen as hospitable to artists from abroad and eager to follow cultural and artistic trends popular in other countries. Apple A1185 Battery

In the 19th and 20th centuries the Polish focus on cultural advancement often took precedence over political and economic activity. These factors have contributed to the versatile nature of Polish art, with all its complex nuances.

Famous people

Poland is the birthplace of many distinguished personalities (see. List of Polish people), among which are: Miko?aj Kopernik,Fryderyk Chopin, Maria Sk?odowska Curie,  Tadeusz Ko?ciuszko, Kazimierz Pu?aski, Józef Pi?sudski and Pope John Paul II.Apple Powerbook G4 Battery

Great polish painter Jan Matejko devoted his monumental art to the most significant historical events on Polish lands, along with the playwright, painter and poet Stanis?aw Wyspia?ski. Stanis?aw Ignacy Witkiewicz (Witkacy) was an example of a Polish avant-garde philosopher and author of aesthetic theories.Apple MacBook Pro 17 inch Battery

Polish literature dates back to the 12th century  and includes many famous poets and writers such as Jan Kochanowski, Adam Mickiewicz, Boles?aw Prus,Juliusz S?owacki, Witold Gombrowicz, Stanis?aw Lem and, Ryszard Kapu?ci?ski. Writers Henryk Sienkiewicz, W?adys?aw Reymont, Czes?aw Mi?osz, Wis?awa Szymborska have each won the Nobel Prize in Literature.Asus EEE PC Battery

Also a renowned Polish novelist, who wrote in the English language, was Joseph Conrad.

Many world famous Polish movie directors include Academy Awards winners Roman Pola?ski, Andrzej Wajda, Zbigniew Rybczy?ski, Janusz Kami?ski,Krzysztof Kie?lowski, Agnieszka Holland.Compaq V6000 Battery

World renowned actresses were Helena Modjeska and Pola Negri. 

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