Population: 7.5 million (July 2004).
Religions: Roman Catholic 46.1%, Protestant 40%, other 5%, none 8.9% (1990).
Ethnic groups: German 65%, French 18%, Italian 10%, Romansch 1%, other 6%.
Languages: German (official) 63.7%, French (official) 19.2%, Italian (official) 7.6%, Romansch (official) 0.6%, other 8.9%.
Mount Pilatus, Suiss Alps.
Country name: Swiss Confederation. Short form: Switzerland.
Local: Schweizerische Eidgenossenschaft (German), Confederation Suisse (French), Confederazione Svizzera (Italian). Short form: Schweiz (German), Suisse (French), Svizzera (Italian).
Government type: federal republic. Revision of Constitution of 1874 entered into force on 1 January 2000.
Independence: 1 August 1291 (Founding of the Swiss Confederation).
Administrative divisions: 26 cantons (cantons, singular - canton in French; cantoni, singular - cantone in Italian; kantone, singular - kanton in German); Aargau, Appenzell Ausser-Rhoden, Appenzell Inner-Rhoden, Basel-Landschaft, Basel-Stadt, Bern, Fribourg, Geneve, Glarus, Graubunden, Jura, Luzern, Neuchatel, Nidwalden, Obwalden, Sankt Gallen, Schaffhausen, Schwyz, Solothurn, Thurgau, Ticino, Uri, Valais, Vaud, Zug, Zurich.
Terrain: mostly mountains (Alps in south, Jura in northwest) with a central plateau of rolling hills, plains, and large lakes. Switzerland has the highest elevations in the Alps.
Total area: 41,290 km˛.
Highest point: Dufourspitze 4,634 m.
Climate: temperate, but varies with altitude; cold, cloudy, rainy/snowy winters; cool to warm, cloudy, humid summers with occasional showers.
However, the country did not officially become a UN member until 2002.
Switzerland's independence and neutrality have long been honored by the major European powers, and Switzerland 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.
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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.
Currency: Swiss franc (CHF).
Industries: machinery, chemicals, watches, textiles, precision instruments.