Switzerland, officially the Swiss Confederation, is a landlocked country located at the confluence of Western, Central and Southern Europe. It is bordered by Italy to the south, France to the west, Germany to the north and Austria and Liechtenstein to the east.
Switzerland is geographically divided among the Swiss Plateau, the Alps and the Jura; the Alps occupy the greater part of the territory, whereas the Swiss population of approximately 8.7 million is concentrated mostly on the plateau, where the largest cities and economic centres are located, including Zürich, Geneva and Basel.
Switzerland originates from the Old Swiss Confederacy established in the Late Middle Ages following a series of military successes against Austria and Burgundy. The Federal Charter of 1291 is considered the country's founding document. Since the Reformation of the 16th century, Switzerland has maintained a policy of armed neutrality. Swiss independence from the Holy Roman Empire was formally recognised in the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. Switzerland has not fought an international war since 1815. It joined the United Nations only in 2002, though it pursues an active foreign policy, including participation in frequent peace-building processes worldwide. Switzerland is the birthplace of the Red Cross, one of the world's oldest and best-known humanitarian organisations, and hosts the headquarters or offices of most major international institutions, including the WTO, the WHO, the ILO, FIFA, and the United Nations. It is a founding member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), but not part of the European Union (EU), the European Economic Area, or the Eurozone; however, it participates in the European single market and the Schengen Area through bilateral treaties.
Switzerland is a federal republic composed of 26 cantons, with federal authorities based in Bern. It has four main linguistic and cultural regions: German, French, Italian and Romansh. Although most Swiss are German-speaking, national identity is rooted in a common historical background, shared values such as federalism and direct democracy, and Alpine symbolism. This identity transcends language, ethnicity, and religion, leading to Switzerland being described as a Willensnation ("nation of volition") rather than a nation state. (Full article...)