Background: The 3 states Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden – the so called “Ur-Kantone” unite against the surrounding aggressors. A citizen of each state swears on august, 1st 1291 on a small mountain named “Rütli”:”we will be a one and only nation of brothers …”This leads to the term confederation (“Eidgenossenschaft”).
About two third of the area of Switzerland is covered with forests, lakes and mountains. Since Switzerland has no mineral resources, it must import, process and resell them as products. “Services” are the most important part of the economy. This 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 people, so Switzerland must rely on imported goods from other countries.
Location: Switzerland is bordered by France to the west, Germany to the north, Austria to the east and Italy to the south. It is a land locked country.
Language: Sixty-five to 70 per cent German in central and eastern areas, 19 per cent French in the west and eight per cent Italian in the south. Raeto-Romansch is spoken in the southeast by one per cent. English is spoken by many. Overlapping cultural influences characterise the country.
Area: 41,284 sq km (15,940 sq miles).
Population: 7,123,537 (1998)
Economy – overview: Switzerland is a prosperous and stable modern market economy with low unemployment, a highly skilled labor force, and a per capita GDP larger than that of the big Western European economies. The Swiss in recent years have brought their economic practices largely into conformity with the EU’s to enhance their international competitiveness. Switzerland remains a safe haven for investors, because it has maintained a degree of bank secrecy and has kept up the franc’s long-term external value. Reflecting the anemic economic conditions of Europe, GDP growth dropped in 2001 to about 0.8%, to 0.2% in 2002, and to -0.3% in 2003.
Swiss banking dominates the service sector, where discretion has attracted a reputation for large deposits. These banks have earned a reputation around the world for providing sophisticated and discreet banking services. There are about 400 banks in Switzerland, ranging from the large multinationals down to small banks serving the needs of a single community or a few special clients.
European Time zone (MET). It is one hour ahead of Greenwich Time (GMT+1).