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June 2016



The world's longest and deepest rail tunnel officially opened in Switzerland. The Gotthard tunnel is 57 km (35 miles) long, providing a high-speed rail link under the Swiss Alps. Previously, the Seikan rail tunnel in Japan was the longest (53.9 km). The Channel Tunnel between the United Kingdom and France is 50.5 km long.

Switzerland is located in Central Europe and is not quite two times the size of New Jersey. It borders five European countries: Austria, France, Italy, Liechtenstein, and Germany. This mostly mountainous, landlocked country has a mean elevation of 1350m; the highest point is Dufourspitze (4634 m) and the lowest point is Lake Maggiore (195 m). The four official languages of Switzerland are: German, French, Italian, and Romansch.

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.

CIA World Factbook, 5/2016