Switzerland is a landlocked country located in the heart of Europe. Originally inhabited by Helvetic Celts, the country came under Roman rule for five centuries, becoming an important trading stop along Roman military roads. Germanic tribes invaded shortly after the decline of the Roman Empire, but ruled only briefly, before the area became part of Charlemagne’s kingdom. As Swiss families allied themselves for both peaceful co-existence and protection, they were able to defeat numerous invasions, including three from the Habsburg Empire of Austria. It became independent of the Holy Roman Empire in 1499, but soon stopped expansionist policies after defeats by the French and Venetians in 1515. Though the country’s three major religions were at odds throughout the Reformation, Switzerland managed to hold onto its confederate localities and remain neutral until Napoleon conquered and annexed much of the country between 1797 and 1798. Switzerland was governed by France until 1815, when the Congress of Vienna restored the old confederation of sovereign states and re-established neutrality. Switzerland became one of Europe’s most industrialized nations during the latter part of the 19th century, before committing itself again to neutrality during both World Wars. After the Second World War, Switzerland followed the economic model of the US, but shied away from joining international bodies. Although it hosted the UN’s European headquarters, Switzerland did not officially join the international organization until 2002. It is not a member of the European Union.
Lay of the Land: Europe’s backbone, watershed, and most mountainous country, landlocked in the heart of the continent. The mighty Alps, Europe’s largest mountain system, cover 60% of Switzerland. The Rhine, Rhone, and feeders of the Danube and Po originate in Switzerland.
Population: 7.6 million.
The territory comprising modern day Switzerland was originally inhabited by Helvetians. These Helvetic Celts came under Roman rule during the Gallic Wars and remained part of the Roman Empire until the 4th century. Cities such as Geneva, Basel and Zurich became thriving trade destinations thanks to the roads linking them to Rome and the northern tribes.
A number of individual Swiss were involved in the earliest colonization efforts in the United States, such as Theobald von Erlach, who was killed along with 900 French soldiers by the Spanish when their ship was wrecked by a hurricane in 1565. Some Swiss settled in the early Jamestown colony, while others settled later in South and North Carolina in colonies founded by Swiss pioneers.
Relations between the US and Switzerland are cooperative. The first four years of cooperation under the US-Swiss Joint Economic Commission (JEC) helped to strengthen ties by including consultations on anti-money laundering efforts, counter-terrorism, and pharmaceutical regulatory cooperation; an e-government conference; and the re-establishment of the Fulbright student/cultural exchange program. The United States and Switzerland signed three new agreements in 2006 that complement the JEC and deepen cooperation.
From 2003 to 2008, US imports from Switzerland included medicinal, dental and pharmaceutical preparations, increasing from $1.9 billion to $4 billion; jewelry watches, and rings, moving up from $1.5 billion to $2.5 billion; clocks, portable typewriters, and miscellaneous household goods, increasing from $566.2 million to $864 million; other industrial machinery, moving up from $488.8 million to $547 million; and electrical equipment, increasing from $407.5 million to $467million.
Switzerland’s Banks Accused of Aiding Tax Fraud
Switzerland has generally not been found in violation of any major human rights issues. However, there are reports of societal abuse and discrimination against religious groups and women and violence by right-wing extremists.
Theodore S. Fay
Appointment: Jun 29, 1853
Presentation of Credentials: Presented recall, Jul 1, 1861
Note: Nominated Feb 25, 1856, to be Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary; nomination withdrawn before the Senate acted upon it.
Manuel Sager, the ambassador of Switzerland since December 2010, is no stranger to the United States, having attended graduate school in North Carolina, worked as a lawyer in Arizona and held diplomatic posts in New York and Washington, DC.
The U.S. ambassador to Swaziland, a small absolute monarchy in Africa with the highest prevalence of HIV and AIDS in the world, is a specialist in African affairs. Earl M. Irving was confirmed by the United States Senate on July 31, 2009, and sworn-in on August 27, 2009. Irving replaced Ambassador Maurice Parker, who departed Swaziland on June 12, 2009.