History in Brief


The “Rütli” meadow by Lake Lucerne, where in 1291, members of the three founding Cantons came together to swear the famous Rütli Oath.

The Swiss Confederation was founded in 1291 as a defensive alliance among three cantons (Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden) against the reign of the Habsburg feudal dynasty. In succeeding years, other localities joined the original three. In 1499, the Swiss Confederation secured its independence from the rule of the “Holy Roman Empire” in the Peace of Basel. A constitution of 1848, subsequently modified in 1874, replaced the confederation with a centralised federal government. Switzerland's sovereignty and neutrality have long been honoured 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 organisations, has strengthened Switzerland's ties with its neighbours, although the country did not officially become a UN member until 2002. Switzerland is an active member of many UN and international organisations but retains a strong commitment to neutrality.

Unlike most of its neighbours, Switzerland is not a member of NATO or the European Union (EU). However, on 12 December 2008, it implemented the Schengen Agreement in which border controls with other Schengen members were eliminated. At the same time, border controls with non-Schengen countries were subjected to more stringent regulations.