SWITZERLAND, THE BEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD?
1)Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â How is the Swiss flag?
2)Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â What is the other name of Switzerland?
3)Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Where is Switzerland and what are the countries at her borders?
4)Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â What is the Swiss motto?
5)Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â What is the name of its capital?
6)Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Can you name a mountain chain of this country?
7)Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Can you name two Swiss products?
8)Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â How the Swiss political system is called?
9)Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â How many languages are spoken in the country?
10)Â Â Â Â Â Can you name a movie filmed in Switzerland?
11)Â Â Â Â Â What is the name of the wind instrument which measures 9ft long?
12)Â Â Â Â Â Can you name a well-known Swiss person in sport?
If you answer all these questions correctly, you know a lot not only about this country but certainly about others as well.
Being Swiss it is difficult for me to present my own country because of a certain â€œparti prisâ€ (bias). Switzerland is one of the most photographed countries in the world for its beautiful landscapes, lakes and mountains. For me those landscapes are too neat, too rigid, too well taking care of, and are not anymore wild as we can find them in Scotland or in America.
Switzerland has a good and bad reputation.Â Good reputation for its politics (direct democracy), its chocolate (better than the Belgian ones?), its welcoming (Iâ€™m not so sure!), its clean roads and tidy houses, its watch industry (Rolex, Tisso, Audermars Piguet, etc.), for its chemicals and pharmaceuticals (Novartis [Ciba-Geigy +Hoffman La Roche], for its cheeses (Emmenthal, Gruyere, Fontine)
Â Â [Swiss Fondue], and the quality of life.Â Switzerland is one of the richest countries in the world by per capita gross domestic product, with a nominal per capita GDP of $67,384. ZÃ¼rich and Geneva have respectively been ranked as the cities with the second and third highest quality of life in the world.Â
On the other side Switzerland has a bad reputation for the Banks because of the coded accountsÂ (not anymore!) opened by people invading tax of their own country and for its tax system (20% income tax increasing depending on your salary, 16% company, and it is around 30% for rich people). Maybe it has changed?
Geography and climate
Switzerland is situated in Western Europe where it is bordered by GERMANY to the north, FRANCE to the west, ITALY to the south, AUSTRIA and LIECHTENSTEIN to the east.
The country has an area of 41,285 square kilometres (15,940 square miles). The productive area - that is, the area without the lakes, rivers, unproductive vegetation and no vegetation at all - covers 30,753 square km (11,870 square miles). It Â measures 220 kilometers (137 miles) from north to south and 350 km (217 miles) from east to west. The forest covers 1.217.501 hectares.
Switzerland has a population of 7.7 million. Population density is high, with 193 people per square km (500 per square mile) of the productive area in 2008. In the agglomerations, which cover about 20% of the total surface area, the density is 590 per square km (1528 per square mile).
Switzerland has 6 per cent of Europe's stock of fresh water. The Rhine, Rhone and Inn all take their source here, although their waters flow into three seas: the North Sea, the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. The Rhine Falls, a few kilometers downstream of Schaffhausen, are the largest in Europe. They are 150 m (450 ft) wide and 23 m (75.4 ft) high. In addition, Switzerland has over 1,500 lakes. The two largest, Lakes Geneva and Constance, lie on the border. Lake Geneva is shared with France, and Lake Constance with Germany and Austria. Lake Geneva, which lies on the course of the Rhone, is the largest freshwater lake in central Europe. However the biggest lake which lies wholly whithin the country is Lake Neuchatel with an area of 218.4 square km.
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 (Tessin). Summers tend to be warm and humid at times with periodic rainfall so they are ideal for pastures and grazing. The winters in the mountains alternate with sun and snow, while the lower lands tend to be more cloudy and foggy in winter. A weather phenomenon known as the foehn can occur at all times of the year, even in winter, and is characterised by a relatively warm wind, bringing air of very low relative humidity. It blows also on the northern side of the Alps where it can trigger dangerous avalanches.
Switzerland has 26 cantons, ruled independently with their own school and tax systems, as a confederation of states (Swiss Confederation or ConfÂœderatio Helvetica (CH) (Latin). Â Swiss citizens are subject to three legal jurisdictions: the commune, canton and federal levels. The 1848 federal constitution defines a system of DIRECT DEMOCRACY.Â The
(The Parliament in Bern)Â Â Â Â Â Â Â instruments of Swiss direct democracy at the federal level, known as civic rights (Volksrechte, droits civiques), include the right to submit a constitutional initiative and a referendum, both of which may overturn parliamentary decisions.Â The Federal Constitution can be altered every 10 years and the last time it has been changed was in 1999.
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.
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.
The Community Councils are formal and all the debates are well displayed in every commune. Any new projects have a â€œdelegateâ€ to report to the Community Council from the various â€œcommitteesâ€ the projects may need. This involve and motivate the population to participate directly to any change of their local landscape, infrastructure, day-to-day life. On each votation (around every 4 months), a booklet of around 30 pages is sent to each citizen duly register on the â€œelectoral roleâ€. In this leaflet all the questions requested for a vote are explained and all the parties can expose their views with the pros and cons.Â
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. Three hundred years later, its policy of neutrality has been internationally recognised at the Congress of Vienne in 1815. It is only in 2002 that Switzerland became 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 with participating to more than 18 different committees. The Swiss people have consistently rejected Switzerlandâ€™s EU membership since the early 1990s.Â
Geneva is the birth place of the RED CROSS and Red Crescent Movement, and hosts the United Nations Human Rights Council. 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 (photoÂ on the left)Â is the second biggest centre for the United Nations (UN) after New York, and Switzerland was a founding member of the League of Nations. Other international institutions out of 200: World Health Organization (WHO), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the International Ice Hockey Federation, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the FIFA, and the UEFA.Â
Education, Science and Technology
Education in Switzerland is very diverse because the Consitution of the country delegates the authority for the school system to the cantons.Â There are both public and private,Â including many private international schools. 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.Â
113 Nobel Prize winners stand in relation to Switzerland and the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded 9 times to organisations residing in the country. 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 WÃ¼thrich received Nobel prizes in the field of science. Other famous people:Â L. Euler (Maths), Auguste Piccard (aeronautics).Â
At the frontier of Switzerland/France, Geneva hosts the world's largest laboratory, dedicated to particle physics research, the CERN (photo on the right).
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.Â Â Â (Tunnel at the CERN-photo on the right)
Energy and environment
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). The agency is supporting the 2000-watt society initiative to cut the nation's energy use by more than half by the year 2050.Â
There are multiple companies involved in solar energy, and around 150km in the highway between Switzerland and Germany, you will find solar energy panels.Â
The railway network of 5,063km carries around 400 million passengers annually and is very well deserved and is mostly on time!Â It has been counted that each Swiss citizen travelled on average 2000km by rail, which make them the keenest rail users!Â
Switzerland signed the Kyoto Agreement in 1998 (ratified in 2003), and was one of the first to initiate the Rio Summit (1992).Â On 26 cantons, 18 have made their own Local Agenda 21. This country recycle 65% to 95% of materials (aluminium, gold, platinium, silver (in particular places), batteries+ carton+paper+can+glass (in every commune), PVCÂ bottles (directly collected in supermarkets), and it has been said that Switzerland has one of the best environmental records among nations in the developed world.Â
Its neighbours and the international sentiment of the Swiss influence the culture of the country, but over the years a distinctive culture with some regional differences and an independent streak has developed. In particular, French-speaking regions have tended to orient themselves slightly more on French culture and tend to be more pro EU. Swiss German speaking areas may perhaps be seen to be more oriented towards German culture and are more traditionalist and neutralist, and Italian-speaking areas have more in common with Italian culture.Â Â
German (63% according to 2000 Census) in the north, east and centre of the country; French (20.4%) to the west; Italian (6.5%) in the south. Romansh (< 0.5%) in the South Eastern canton of GraubÃ¼nden, is designated by the Federal Constitution as a national language along with German, French and Italian (Article 4 of the Constitution).
Resident foreigners and temporary foreign workers make up about 21% of the population.
Among the most important cultural performances held annually are the Locarno International Film Festival and the Montreux Jazz Festival.Â
Some famous painters: Alexandre Calame, Ferdinand Hodler, G. Giacometti.
Writers: B. Constant, J.-J. Rousseau, Madame Germaine de Stael (portrait on the left), Duerrenmatt, H.F. Amiel, C.F. Ramuz.
Music: Arthur Honegger, Frank Martin, Ernest Ansermet
Religion, philosophy, psychology and entomology: Ferdinand de Saussure (teaching methods, founder of the modern linguistics), Ulrich Zwingli (Religious leader), Carl Gustav Jung (phsychiatrist), Henri Dunant (founder of the Red Cross), etc.
Switzerland is a beautiful country with wonderful landscapes.Â But it is not all we need living in the country, and to my opinion, the xenophobic sentiment is back, the wellbeing is weakened,Â as worldwide the credit crunch has had a bad impact in the country but not so hard than in the UK, and the nationalistic sensibility is deminished due to the return of the righ movements (despite the coalition ).
Dear Friends, I wrote about â€œmy countryâ€ because I am going to visit my family in Switzerland next week for 3 weeks, my Dad is 96 years old and he needs to see meâ€¦.