Switzerland in a Changing Europe
WILLIAM E. RAPPARD, Professor in the University of Geneva since 1913; Director of the International Institute of Graduate Studies, Geneva; member of the Permanent Mandates Section of the League of Nations; author of several political and historical worksSee more by this author
SWITZERLAND, always something of a riddle in European developments, is today more so than ever. She is a landlocked country, deficient in natural resources. For over six centuries she has been a republic surrounded by monarchies. She became a liberal democracy in 1848, at a time when the general European environment was neither liberal nor democratic. From 1870 -- when Italy and Germany achieved national unity -- until the World War, she was surrounded by four powerful neighbors, each with a population of from ten to twenty times her own. Her people, having long partaken of three rival cultures, have never enjoyed either confessional or linguistic unity.
Yet this small state has survived all the tumultuous wars which have laid Europe waste during more than six centuries. In spite of being landlocked she has exported her textiles, her watches, her machinery, her chemical products and, above all, her emigrants to the four corners of the earth. The United States alone has nearly as many Swiss-born as, for instance, French-born. Though a poor country, without raw materials and colonies, she nevertheless was the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution on the European Continent. The per capita value of her foreign trade exceeds not only that of Great Britain and the United States, but of Holland and Belgium, small states like herself. Her general standards of economic and social well-being are a source of astonishment to all foreigners and a cause of envy to her neighbors. And this small people, internally divided by tongue, creed and divergent international sympathies, today remains firmly united in a common devotion to its national independence.
The changes which have come over Europe since the World War have increased Switzerland's difficulties, both economic and political, but they have reënforced rather than shaken the determination of her citizens to subordinate everything to the defense of her national unity. To understand the country's peculiar international position today we must first of all examine the point of view from which the Swiss regard those changes in Europe's equilibrium. Her geographical position, her small area, her economic structure and the racial composition of her people combine to make her extraordinarily sensitive to what goes on beyond her own frontiers.