In the heart of Europe

Switzerland has borders with three of the four largest European markets. Switzerland is politically independent and is not a member of the European Union. However, a body of democratically approved bilateral agreements ensures close, long-term political cooperation with the EU and economic integration into the European market, home to nearly 500 million customers.

Furthermore, Switzerland is home to many international organizations such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) or the International Federation of Football Associations (FIFA). Most of them are based in Geneva.

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The Swiss political system

Switzerland is a republic and has one of the oldest democratic traditions among the world’s states. It is a nation formed from several ethnic groups with different languages and religions.

The modern Swiss state was founded in 1848. The state has a federal structure and is divided into three political levels: municipal, cantonal and federal.

The federal government is responsible for everything assigned to it under the constitution, such as foreign and security policy, customs and excise, the monetary system, national legislation and defence. By global comparison, the 26 cantons have a high degree of autonomy. Healthcare, education, culture, and taxes are among the political areas in which they have a great deal of influence.

In accordance with the federal constitution, the Swiss people are the «sovereigns» of the country – in other words, they are the highest political body and they elect the parliament. Every Swiss citizen also has the right to participate in the shaping of the constitution and the legal system by means of referendum and initiative.

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Copyright © SECO with input by Osec. June 2010.