History, Geography and Political system
Switzerland (in french : « Suisse » and « Confédération Helvétique » - CH) came into being on August 1st 1291 through the signing of a « Perpetual Alliance » between three cantons : Uri, Schwyz and Unterwald in a moutainside meadow called the Grütli. They swore to unite in order to free themselves from the Habsburg yoke.
The national hero, William Tell, according to the legend refused to recognize the authority of the Habsburgs over the region. Arrested, he was sentenced to pierce with an arrow an apple placed on his son’ s head. A confirmed marksman, he emerged victorious from the trial.
Other towns and regions joined the 3 « primitive » cantons. Today the country is made up of 26 cantons, with Berne the capital.
Situated at the heart of Europe, Switzerland has borders with Germany, France, Italy, Austria and Liechtenstein. Surface : approx. 41,300 km2.
Set in the Alps, with summits of 4000 m, Canton Valais is at the crossroads of the main mountain passes linking Switzerland to Italy and France. So it is at the same time a mountainous, commercial and touristic region.
Switzerland is a confederation – that is, an association of sovereign States (the cantons) delegating certain tasks to a common organism (the Confederation). Thus each canton has its own legislation, form of government and tribunals.