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Switzerland Essay Research Paper Switzerland is a

Switzerland Essay, Research Paper Switzerland is a small European country known for its beautiful, snow-capped mountains and freedom-loving people. The Alps and the Jura

Switzerland Essay, Research Paper

Switzerland is a small European country known for its beautiful,

snow-capped mountains and freedom-loving people. The Alps and the Jura

Mountains cover more than half of Switzerland. However, most of the Swiss

people live on a plateau that extends across the middle of the country

between the two mountain ranges. In this region are most of

Switzerland?s capital, Bern, and largest city, Zurich, are also there.

The Swiss have a long tradition of freedom. About 700 years ago,

people in what is now central Switzerland agreed to help each other stay

free from foreign rule. Gradually, people in nearby areas joined them

in what became to be known as the Swiss Confederation. Various Swiss

groups speak different languages. Switzerland has three official

languages?German, French, and Italian. The Latin name for Switzerland,

Helvetia, appears on Swiss coins and postage stamps.

The Swiss now show great pride in their long independence.

Switzerland has no regular army, but almost all the men receive military

training yearly. They keep their weapons and uniforms at home, and can be

called up quickly in an emergency. Local marksmanship contests are held

frequently.

In the early 1500?s, Switzerland established a policy of not taking

sides in the many wars that raged in Europe. During World Wars I and

II, Switzerland remained an island of peace. Almost all the nations

around it took part in the bloody struggles. Switzerland provided safety

for thousands who fled from the fighting, or from political

persecution. The nation?s neutrality policy helped the Swiss develop valuable

banking services to people of countries throughout the world, where banks

are less safe. The League of Nations, the major world organization of

the 1920?s and 1930?s, had its headquarters in the Swiss City of

Geneva. Today, many international organizations, including various United

Nations agencies, have headquarters in Geneva.

Switzerland has limited natural resources, but it is a thriving

industrial nation. Using imported raw materials, the Swiss manufacture

high-quality goods including electrical equipment, machine tools, and

watches. They also produce chemicals, drugs, chocolate, and cheese and

other dairy products.

Government

The government of Switzerland is based on the Swiss Constitution of

1848, which was changed greatly in 1874. The Constitution establishes a

federal republic in which political powers are divided between the

central government and cantonal (state) governments.

In some ways, the Swiss government is one of the most democratic in

the world. Swiss citizens enjoy close control over their laws through

the rights of the referendum and the initiative.

The referendum allows the people to demand a popular vote on laws

passed by the legislature. A vote must be held if 50,000 people request

it. The people can then accept or veto the law.

The initiative gives Swiss citizens the right to bring specific

issues before the people for a vote. Such a vote may force a change in

government policy or may amend the Constitution. An initiative requires a

petition by at least 100,000 citizens. All voters must be at least 20

years old.

Cantonal and local government. Swiss voters elect executive

councils and legislatures in the cantons, half-cantons, and cities. The

country?s six half-cantons were originally three undivided cantons. They

split into separate political units with as much power of self-government

as the full cantons. But each half-canton sends only one

representative to the national legislature?s Council of States, instead of two.

In one canton and in four of the half-cantons, the people vote by a

show of hands at open-air meeting called a Landsgemeinde. Similar

meetings of voters are held in the small towns and villages.

Politics. Switzerland has a wide range of political parties.

However, there are few differences among the large ones. Therefore, the

parties cooperate easily. The three largest political parties have about

an equal degree of strength. They are the Christian Democratic Party,

the Radical Democratic Party, and the Social Democratic Party.

Defense. Switzerland has a militia (citizens? army) instead of

regular armed forces. Swiss men are required to begin a series of

military-training periods at the age of 20. They can be called into service

until the age of 50. Men whose health or work makes them unable to serve

in the militia and men who live out of the country must pay a special

tax.

People

Even after the Swiss began to join forces about 700 years ago to

defend themselves, people from different areas kept their own ways of

life. They defended these ways of life in the same spirit of independence

that has made Switzerland famous. Therefore, the Swiss still differ

greatly among themselves in language, customs, and traditions. These

variations are apparent from region to region, and even among some small

communities.

In the past, the local patriotism of the Swiss was so strong that

most of them thought of themselves as part of their own local area more

than of their country. They considered the Swiss of other areas almost

foreign rivals, and feuds among various areas lasted for hundreds of

years. But at most when their country faced danger, the Swiss stood

together as one people. Today, local patriotism has largely been replaced

by national patriotism.

Population. Switzerland has about 7 million people. About 1

million of the people are foreign-born. Nearly a third of the country?s

foreign-born population came from Italy. Large groups of people from

France, West Germany, and Spain also reside in Switzerland. Switzerland has

a larger percentage of foreign-born residents than any other European

country. Foreign workers have been recruited to fill newly created

jobs, because Switzerland?s economy has grown faster than its domestic

population.

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