European reference systems

In addition to the conventional national reference systems, there is a European reference system called ETRS89. The connection of national reference systems to global, terrestrial reference systems by means of geodetic measuring methods results in only a limited degree of accuracy. However, modern (local) reference systems, distinguish themselves by providing a precisely defined link to global systems, thus allowing absolute positioning within a centimetre.

ITRS: IERS Terrestrial Reference System

An international reference system which was defined by the International Earth Rotation Service (IERS) and is mainly used for the international application of satellite geodesy and for defining the velocity of tectonic plates. ITRS is the «Conventional Terrestrial System» which is used as the basis for continental and national reference systems.

ETRS89: European Terrestrial Reference System 1989

Reference system defined by the Subcommission EUREF of the International Association for Geodesy (IAG) in 1989. The scale and fundamental point are identical with the ITRS. Its spatial orientation was chosen in such a way that the system follows the movement of the Euro-asiatic tectonic plate and thus allows the determination of coordinates in Central and Northern Europe which are invariable in time in a first approximation.

Local national reference systems

In addition to the European reference system ETRS89, national systems are also used in all European countries. For information about these systems and their transformation parameters, please consult the respective national survey institutions. 

The names of the reference frames of neighbouring countries are indicated in greater detail under reference frames.

CRS-EU provides an overview of the European systems

EPSG takes you to the global database of reference systems

Federal Office of Topography swisstopo Seftigenstrasse 264
P.O. Box
3084 Wabern
+41 58 469 01 11


Relevant authority

Geodesy and Federal Directorate of Cadastral Surveying

Print contact

Federal Office of Topography swisstopo

Seftigenstrasse 264
P.O. Box
3084 Wabern


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