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Switzerland (; ; ; ; or ), officially the Swiss Confederation (, hence its abbreviation CH), is a federal parliamentary republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities, the so-called Bundesstadt ("federal city"). where it 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 an area of . While the Alps occupy the greater part of the territory, the Swiss population of approximately 8 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 of Zürich and Geneva.
The establishment of the Swiss Confederation is traditionally dated to 1 August 1291, which is celebrated annually as Swiss National Day. It has a long history of armed neutrality—it has not been in a state of war internationally since 1815—and did not join the United Nations until 2002. It pursues, however, an active foreign policy and is frequently involved in peace-building processes around the world. Switzerland is also the birthplace of the Red Cross and home to numerous international organizations, including the second largest UN office. On the European level, it is a founding member of the European Free Trade Association and is part of the Schengen Area – although it is notably not a member of the European Union, nor the European Economic Area. Switzerland comprises four main linguistic and cultural regions: German, French, Italian and the Romansh-speaking valleys. Therefore, the Swiss, although predominantly German-speaking, do not form a nation in the sense of a common ethnic or linguistic identity; rather, the strong sense of identity and community is founded on a common historical background, shared values such as federalism and direct democracy, and Alpine symbolism.
Switzerland has the highest nominal wealth per adult (financial and non-financial assets) in the world according to Credit Suisse and eighth-highest per capita gross domestic product on the IMF list. However, Switzerland is also the most expensive country in the world to live in, as measured by the price level index.
Swiss citizens have the second-highest life expectancy in the world on the UN DESA list. Switzerland is tied with the Netherlands for the top rank on the Bribe Payers Index indicating very low levels of business corruption. Moreover, for the last five years the country has been ranked first in economic and tourist competitiveness according to the Global Competitiveness Report and the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report respectively, both developed by the World Economic Forum. Zürich and Geneva have each been ranked among the top cities with the highest quality of life in the world, with the former coming second globally according to Mercer. However, Mercer also rates those two cities as the fifth- and sixth- most expensive cities in the world to live in.