What is the glue that keeps the Swiss together? Not language nor culture, it would seem, but rather the mere desire to remain together. A common, long, peaceful history, shared national myths and institutional foundations (federalism, direct democracy, neutrality) encourage pride in being a special case. Its form of government is unique, as is its political-institutional system (a semi-direct democracy). Economically developed (with key sectors focusing on high-income generation), a strong international outlook (many organizations and multinational corporations have their headquarters there), Switzerland nonetheless faces increasingly great challenges stemming from its low degree of integration in the European context (due to its citizens will, the nation can only entertain bilateral relationships). Moreover, the availability of relatively cheap capital thanks to banking secrecy and advantageous tax policies have encouraged Switzerland's focus on finance, thus subjecting it to the risks entailed by the recent global crisis.
Sergio Gerotto teaches Institution of Public Law at the University of Padua.