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It has four main linguistic and cultural regions: German, French, Italian and Romansh. Although most Swiss are German-speaking, national identity is fairly cohesive, being rooted in a common historical background, shared values such as federalism and direct democracy, and Alpine symbolism. Swiss identity transcends language, ethnicity, and religion, leading to Switzerland being described as a Willensnationcode: deu promoted to code: de ("nation of volition") rather than a nation state.
In the Early Middle Ages, from the end of the fourth century, the western extent of modern-day Switzerland was part of the territory of the Kings of the Burgundians. The Alemanni settled the Swiss Plateau in the fifth century and the valleys of the Alps in the eighth century, forming Alemannia. Modern-day Switzerland was then divided between the kingdoms of Alemannia and Burgundy. The entire region became part of the expanding Frankish Empire in the sixth century, following Clovis I's victory over the Alemanni at Tolbiac in 504 AD, and later Frankish domination of the Burgundians.
Throughout the rest of the sixth, seventh and eighth centuries, Swiss regions continued under Frankish hegemony (Merovingian and Carolingian dynasties) but after its extension under Charlemagne, the Frankish Empire was divided by the Treaty of Verdun in 843. The territories of present-day Switzerland became divided into Middle Francia and East Francia until they were reunified under the Holy Roman Empire around 1000 AD.
By 1200, the Swiss Plateau comprised the dominions of the houses of Savoy, Zähringer, Habsburg, and Kyburg. Some regions (Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden, later known as Waldstätten) were accorded the Imperial immediacy to grant the empire direct control over the mountain passes. With the extinction of its male line in 1263, the Kyburg dynasty fell in AD 1264. The Habsburgs under King Rudolph I (Holy Roman Emperor in 1273) laid claim to the Kyburg lands and annexed them, extending their territory to the eastern Swiss Plateau.
On 9 February 2014, 50.3% of Swiss voters approved a ballot initiative launched by the Swiss People's Party (SVP/UDC) to restrict immigration. This initiative was mostly backed by rural (57.6% approval) and suburban groups (51.2% approval), and isolated towns (51.3% approval) as well as by a strong majority (69.2% approval) in Ticino, while metropolitan centres (58.5% rejection) and the French-speaking part (58.5% rejection) rejected it. In December 2016, a political compromise with the EU was attained that eliminated quotas on EU citizens, but still allowed favourable treatment of Swiss-based job applicants. On 27 September 2020, 62% of Swiss voters rejected the anti-free movement referendum by SVP.
Switzerland lies between latitudes 45 and 48 N, and longitudes 5 and 11 E. It contains three basic topographical areas: the Swiss Alps to the south, the Swiss Plateau or Central Plateau, and the Jura mountains on the west. The Alps are a mountain range running across the central and south of the country, constituting about 60% of the country's area. The majority of the population live on the Swiss Plateau. The Swiss Alps host many glaciers, covering 1,063 square kilometres (410 sq mi). From these originate the headwaters of several major rivers, such as the Rhine, Inn, Ticino and Rhône, which flow in the four cardinal directions, spreading across Europe. The hydrographic network includes several of the largest bodies of fresh water in Central and Western Europe, among which are Lake Geneva (Lac Léman in French), Lake Constance (Bodensee in German) and Lake Maggiore. Switzerland has more than 1500 lakes and contains 6% of Europe's freshwater stock. Lakes and glaciers cover about 6% of the national territory. Lake Geneva is the largest lake and is shared with France. The Rhône is both the main source and outflow of Lake Geneva. Lake Constance is the second largest and, like Lake Geneva, an intermediate step by the Rhine at the border with Austria and Germany. While the Rhône flows into the Mediterranean Sea at the French Camargue region and the Rhine flows into the North Sea at Rotterdam, about 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) apart, both springs are only about 22 kilometres (14 miles) apart in the Swiss Alps.
Switzerland's many small valleys separated by high mountains often host unique ecologies. The mountainous regions themselves offer a rich range of plants not found at other altitudes. The climatic, geological and topographical conditions of the alpine region make for a fragile ecosystem that is particularly sensitive to climate change. According to the 2014 Environmental Performance Index, Switzerland ranks first among 132 nations in safeguarding the environment, due to its high scores on environmental public health, its heavy reliance on renewable sources of energy (hydropower and geothermal energy), and its level of greenhouse gas emissions. In 2020 it was ranked third out of 180 countries. The country pledged to cut GHG emissions by 50% by 2030 compared to the level of 1990 and plans to reach zero emissions by 2050.
Although not a member, Switzerland maintains relationships with the EU and European countries through bilateral agreements. The Swiss have brought their economic practices largely into conformity with those of the EU, in an effort to compete internationally. EU membership faces considerable negative popular sentiment. It is opposed by the conservative SVP party, the largest party in the National Council, and not advocated by several other political parties. The membership application was formally withdrawn in 2016. The western French-speaking areas and the urban regions of the rest of the country tend to be more pro-EU, but do not form a significant share of the population.
An Integration Office operates under the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Economic Affairs. Seven bilateral agreements liberalised trade ties, taking effect in 2001. This first series of bilateral agreements included the free movement of persons. A second series of agreements covering nine areas was signed in 2004, including the Schengen Treaty and the Dublin Convention.
The minimum age for primary school is about six years, but most cantons provide a free "children's school" starting at age four or five. Primary school continues until grade four, five or six, depending on the school. Traditionally, the first foreign language in school was one of the other Swiss languages, although, in 2000, English was elevated in a few cantons. At the end of primary school or at the beginning of secondary school, pupils are assigned according to their capacities into one of several sections (often three). The fastest learners are taught advanced classes to prepare for further studies and the matura, while other students receive an education adapted to their needs.
Aside from the official forms of their respective languages, the four linguistic regions of Switzerland also have local dialectal forms. The role played by dialects in each linguistic region varies dramatically: in German-speaking regions, Swiss German dialects have become more prevalent since the second half of the 20th century, especially in the media, and are used as an everyday language for many, while the Swiss variety of Standard German is almost always used instead of dialect for written communication (c.f. diglossic usage of a language). Conversely, in the French-speaking regions, local Franco-Provençal dialects have almost disappeared (only 6.3% of the population of Valais, 3.9% of Fribourg, and 3.1% of Jura still spoke dialects at the end of the 20th century), while in the Italian-speaking regions, the use of Lombard dialects is mostly limited to family settings and casual conversation.
Swiss culture is characterised by diversity, which is reflected in diverse traditional customs. A region may be in some ways culturally connected to the neighbouring country that shares its language, all rooted in western European culture. The linguistically isolated Romansh culture in Graubünden in eastern Switzerland constitutes an exception. It survives only in the upper valleys of the Rhine and the Inn and strives to maintain its rare linguistic tradition.
The Swiss Constitution of 1848, under the recent impression of the clashes of Catholic vs Protestant cantons that culminated in the Sonderbundskrieg, consciously defines a consociational state, allowing the peaceful co-existence of Catholics and Protestants. A 1980 initiative calling for the complete separation of church and state was rejected by 78.9% of the voters. Some traditionally Protestant cantons and cities nowadays have a slight Catholic majority, because since about 1970 a steadily growing minority were not affiliated with any religious body (21.4% in Switzerland, 2012) especially in traditionally Protestant regions, such as Basel-City (42%), canton of Neuchâtel (38%), canton of Geneva (35%), canton of Vaud (26%), or Zürich city (city: >25%; canton: 23%).
The government exerts greater control over broadcast media than print media, especially due to financing and licensing. The Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, whose name was recently changed to SRG SSR, is charged with the production and distribution of radio and television content. SRG SSR studios are distributed across the various language regions. Radio content is produced in six central and four regional studios while video media are produced in Geneva, Zürich, Basel, and Lugano. An extensive cable network allows most Swiss to access content from neighbouring countries.
The cuisine is multifaceted. While dishes such as fondue, raclette or rösti are omnipresent, each region developed its gastronomy according to the varieties of climate and language. Traditional Swiss cuisine uses ingredients similar to those in other European countries, as well as unique dairy products and cheeses such as Gruyère or Emmental, produced in the valleys of Gruyères and Emmental. The number of fine-dining establishments is high, particularly in western Switzerland. 59ce067264