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The Swiss Confederation was founded in 1291 as a defensive alliance among three cantons. In succeeding years, other localities joined the original three. The Swiss Confederation secured its independence from the Holy Roman Empire in 1499. A constitution of 1848, subsequently modified in 1874, replaced the confederation with a centralized federal government. Switzerland's sovereignty and neutrality have long been honored by the major European powers, and the country was not involved in either of the two world wars. The political and economic integration of Europe over the past half century, as well as Switzerland's role in many UN and international organizations, has strengthened Switzerland's ties with its neighbors. However, the country did not officially become a UN member until 2002. Switzerland remains active in many UN and international organizations but retains a strong commitment to neutrality.


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Geography

Location
Central Europe, east of France, north of Italy

Geographic coordinates
47 00 N, 8 00 E

Map references
Europe

Area World Ranking: 136
Total 41,277 sq km
Land 39,997 sq km
Water 1,280 sq km

Area - comparative
Slightly less than twice the size of New Jersey

Land boundaries
Total 1,852 km
Border countries
Austria 164 km, France 573 km, Italy 740 km, Liechtenstein 41 km, Germany 334 km

Coastline
0 km (landlocked)

Maritime claims
None (landlocked)

Climate
Temperate, but varies with altitude; cold, cloudy, rainy/snowy winters; cool to warm, cloudy, humid summers with occasional showers

Terrain
Mostly mountains (Alps in south, Jura in northwest) with a central plateau of rolling hills, plains, and large lakes

Elevation extremes
Lowest point Lake Maggiore 195 m
Highest point Dufourspitze 4,634 m

Natural resources
Hydropower potential, timber, salt

Land use
Arable land 9.91%
Permanent crops 0.58%
Other 89.51% (2005)

Irrigated land
250 sq km (2003)

Total renewable water resources
53.3 cu km (2005)

Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)
Total 2.52 cu km/yr (24%/74%/2%)
Per capita 348 cu m/yr (2002)

Natural hazards
Avalanches, landslides; flash floods

Environment - current issues
Air pollution from vehicle emissions and open-air burning; acid rain; water pollution from increased use of agricultural fertilizers; loss of biodiversity

Environment - international agreements
Party to
Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Sulfur 85, Air Pollution-Sulfur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
Signed, but not ratified Law of the Sea

Geography - note
Landlocked; crossroads of northern and southern Europe; along with southeastern France, northern Italy, and southwestern Austria, has the highest elevations in the Alps


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  Switzerland (Bern):


  GPS points from Switzerland (Bern)

Lake Of Brienz Switzerland (general)

Dalpe Cantone Ticino

Buchrain Kanton Luzern

Bramois Canton Du Valais

Chatelaine-geneve Switzerland (general)

L'orbe Switzerland (general)

Neuenburg Canton De Neuchatel

Siviriez Switzerland (general)




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