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Thursday, January 15, 2009


Small, mountainous and wealthy, with a population of just 7.5 million, Switzerland is renowned for its enviable quality of life in a country that ticks along like clockwork. Its products are sought after the world over, from its delicious cheese and chocolate to luxurious watches whose timekeeping is as sharp as a Swiss Army Knife, another popular export from this sophisticated Alpine nation.Switzerland's famed political neutrality, financial power and isolated location, ring-fenced by breathtaking mountains, have enabled it to play a safe but central role in European affairs. The conveniently central location in the middle of Europe has also made Switzerland a favourite meeting place for conventions and international conferences - Geneva, for instance, is home to the United Nations.Switzerland is not only a place for professionals, though. As a stylish tourist destination it offers such top ski resorts as Zermatt, Verbier and celebrity-studded St Moritz, while the white peaks of mountains set against blue skies make a wonderful backdrop for summertime hiking. The ancient capital of Berne provides superb opportunities for sightseeing, shopping and traditional folk entertainment while the largest city, Zürich leads the way in arts, design and nightlife, from opera and world-class theatre to stylish bars and nightclubs.Switzerland's unique political model is based on consensus-building, and, considering that the country consists of several culturally different groups speaking different languages (Swiss German, French, Italian and Romansch), its peaceful domestic situation is admirable. And while the Swiss in practice have been neutral in foreign affairs for several centuries, they are increasingly willing to get more involved in world affairs and deploy the skills in democracy and diplomacy they have developed domestically on the international stage. Switzerland finally joined the United Nations in 2002, and signed the Schengen treaty in 2005, showing their support for the European Union