(pronounced "pahz-KAHL koosh-PAN")
"Switzerland and the EU have a shared geography, common values, and economic interests. This requires us to continue our dialogue with the EU."
The Swiss Confederation is located in the heart of Western Europe and is bordered by Germany, France, Italy, Austria, and Liechtenstein. Of the country's 41,292 sq km (15,943 sq mi), 60% are covered by the Alps and contain some of the highest mountain peaks in Europe. The remaining 30% is referred to as the Mittleland or central plateau. This area supports the majority of the nation's urban, economic, and agricultural activity.
Switzerland's population numbers approximately 7.3 million (2002 estimate). The native Swiss are an amalgam of different ethnic traditions—65% German, 18% French, 10% Italian, and 1% Romansch. The majority speak German, with smaller percentages speaking French, Italian, and Romansch. All four are official languages of the government. An estimated 46% of Swiss were Roman Catholic in 2002, while 40% were Protestant. The largest city in Switzerland is Zurich, although Berne is its capital; both are in the German-speaking section of the country.
Switzerland is one of the wealthiest countries in the world and boasts a higher per capita gross domestic product (GDP) than many larger European countries, such as France and Germany. Per capita GDP was estimated at $31,700 in 2002. Switzerland is home to some of the largest banks and multinational corporations in the world. Major exports include machinery, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and watches. The primary destination for these goods is the European Union (EU), which accounted for about 61% of all Swiss exports as of 2002. The unit of currency is the Swiss franc. After under-going a period of economic stagnation during most of the 1990s, the Swiss economy turned around briefly at the end of the decade. Growth then dropped again, to about 0.8% in 2002; the economy recovered slightly, to experience neither growth nor decline (0% growth) in 2002.
Office of the President
Federal Chancellery, Bundeshaus-West
Bundesgasse, 3003 Berne, Switzerland