Switzerland, officially the Swiss Confederation, is a country in Europe. It consists of 26 cantons, and the city of Bern is the seat of the federal authorities. The sovereign state is a federal republic situated in western, central and southern Europe, and is bordered by Italy to the south, France to the west, Germany to the north, and Austria and Liechtenstein to the east. Switzerland is a landlocked country geographically divided between the Alps, the Swiss Plateau and the Jura, spanning a total area of 41,285 km2 (15,940 sq mi) (land area 39,997 km2 (15,443 sq mi)). While the Alps occupy the greater part of the territory, the Swiss population of approximately eight-and-a-half million people is concentrated mostly on the plateau, where the largest cities are to be found: among them are the two global cities and economic centres Zürich and Geneva.
The establishment of the Old Swiss Confederacy dates to the late medieval period, resulting from a series of military successes against Austria and Burgundy. Swiss independence from the Holy Roman Empire was formally recognized in the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. The country has a history of armed neutrality going back to the Reformation; it has not been in a state of war internationally since 1815 and did not join the United Nations until 2002. Nevertheless, it pursues an active foreign policy and is frequently involved in peace-building processes around the world. In addition to being the birthplace of the Red Cross, Switzerland is home to numerous international organisations, including the second largest UN office. On the European level, it is a founding member of the European Free Trade Association, but notably not part of the European Union, the European Economic Area or the Eurozone. However, it participates in the Schengen Area and the European Single Market through bilateral treaties.
Spanning the intersection of Germanic and Romance Europe, Switzerland comprises four main linguistic and cultural regions: German, French, Italian and Romansh. Although the majority of the population are German-speaking, Swiss national identity is rooted in a common historical background, shared values such as federalism and direct democracy, and Alpine symbolism. Due to its linguistic diversity, Switzerland is known by a variety of native names: Schweiz [ˈʃvaɪts] (German); Suisse [sɥis(ə)] (French); Svizzera [ˈzvittsera] (Italian); and Svizra [ˈʒviːtsrɐ] or [ˈʒviːtsʁːɐ] (Romansh). On coins and stamps, the Latin name – frequently shortened to "Helvetia" – is used instead of the four national languages.
Liechtenstein, officially the Principality of Liechtenstein is a doubly landlocked German-speaking microstate in Central Europe. The principality is a constitutional monarchy headed by the Prince of Liechtenstein.
Liechtenstein is bordered by Switzerland to the west and south and Austria to the east and north. It is Europe's fourth-smallest country, with an area of just over 160 square kilometres (62 square miles) and a population of 37,877. Divided into 11 municipalities, its capital is Vaduz, and its largest municipality is Schaan. It is also the smallest country to border two countries.
Economically, Liechtenstein has one of the highest gross domestic products per person in the world when adjusted for purchasing power parity. It was once known as a billionaire tax haven, but is no longer on any blacklists of uncooperative tax haven countries.
An Alpine country, Liechtenstein is mountainous, making it a winter sport destination. The country has a strong financial sector centered in Vaduz. Almost 20,000 people commute to work in Liechtenstein. Liechtenstein is a member of the United Nations, the European Free Trade Association, and the Council of Europe, and although not a member of the European Union, it participates in both the Schengen Area and the European Economic Area. It also has a customs union and a monetary union with Switzerland.
Italy, officially the Italian Republic, is a country in Europe. Located in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea, Italy shares open land borders with France, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, San Marino, and Vatican City. Italy covers an area of 301,340 km2 (116,350 sq mi) and has a largely temperate seasonal and Mediterranean climate. With around 61 million inhabitants, it is the fourth-most populous EU member state and the most populous country in Southern Europe.
Today, Italy is considered to be one of the world's most culturally and economically developed countries, with its economy ranking eighth largest in the world and third in the Eurozone. As an advanced economy, it has the sixth-largest worldwide national wealth, and is ranked third for its central bank gold reserve. Italy has a very high level of human development, and it stands among the top countries for life expectancy. The country plays a prominent role in regional and global economic, military, cultural and diplomatic affairs, and it is both a regional power and a great power. Italy is a founding and leading member of the European Union and a member of numerous international institutions, including the UN, NATO, the OECD, the OSCE, the WTO, the G7, the G20, the Union for the Mediterranean, the Council of Europe, Uniting for Consensus, the Schengen Area and many more.
As a reflection of its cultural wealth, Italy is home to 54 World Heritage Sites, the most in the world, and is the fifth-most visited country.