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Switzerland:
Geography

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Background
Definition
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.
Location
Definition
Central Europe, east of France, north of Italy
Geographic coordinates
Definition
47 00 N, 8 00 E
Map references
Definition
Europe
Area
Definition - World rank and map
total: 41,290 sq km
land: 39,770 sq km
water: 1,520 sq km
Area - comparative
Definition
slightly less than twice the size of New Jersey
Land boundaries
Definition
total: 1,852 km
border countries: Austria 164 km, France 573 km, Italy 740 km, Liechtenstein 41 km, Germany 334 km
Coastline
Definition
0 km (landlocked)
Maritime claims
Definition
none (landlocked)
Climate
Definition
temperate, but varies with altitude; cold, cloudy, rainy/snowy winters; cool to warm, cloudy, humid summers with occasional showers
Terrain
Definition
mostly mountains (Alps in south, Jura in northwest) with a central plateau of rolling hills, plains, and large lakes
Elevation extremes
Definition
lowest point: Lake Maggiore 195 m
highest point: Dufourspitze 4,634 m
Natural resources
Definition
hydropower potential, timber, salt
Land use
Definition - World rank and map
arable land: 9.91%
permanent crops: 0.58%
other: 89.51% (2005)
Irrigated land
Definition
250 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources
Definition
53.3 cu km (2005)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)
Definition
total: 2.52 cu km/yr (24%/74%/2%)
per capita: 348 cu m/yr (2002)
Natural hazards
Definition
avalanches, landslides, flash floods
Environment - current issues
Definition
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
Definition
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
Definition
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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