Luxembourg -- Geography --
Official Name: Grand Duchy of Luxembourg
Capital City: Luxembourg
Languages: Letzeburgish, German, French
Religions: Catholic, others
Population: 480 222 (2008)
Land Area: 2,585 sq km
Landforms: A beautiful landlocked country, with heavy, green forests covering rolling
hills and low mountains (the Ardennes) in the north, while a mostly flat,
central plateau drains to a low flood plain in the south. Important rivers
include the Alzette, Moselle, Our and Sbre.
Land Divisions: 3 districts, including: Diekirch, Grevenmacher, and Luxembourg
Luxembourg -- History --
The written history of Lucilinburhuc (i.e. Luxembourg) starts in the year 963, when Siegfried, Count of the Ardennes, and founder of the Luxembourg Dynasty, had a castle built on the territory of the present-day capital of Luxembourg. This castle was the origin of the establishment of a town, which later was to develop into a formidable fortress, known by the name of 'Gibraltar of the North'.
After a long period of foreign sovereignty (Burgundian/ Spanish/ French / Austrian/...), the Congress of Vienna (1814-1815) settled the destiny of the country, by raising it to the rank of Grand Duchy, and by giving it as personal property to the King of the Netherlands William I of Orange-Nassau. The personal union between Luxembourg and the Netherlands lasted until 1890. During this period the political independence and autonomy were strengthened, and the democratic institutions were developed.
The 11th of May 1867 is one of the most important dates in national history. The Treaty of London reaffirmed Luxembourg's territorial integrity, and the political autonomy that had already been granted by the Treaty of Vienna of 1839. Furthermore, Luxembourg was declared perpetually neutral, and the great powers agreed to guarantee and to protect the neutrality of the Grand Duchy.
Despite its neutrality, Luxembourg was occupied twice by German troops during the two World Wars. The Battle of the Bulge was to a great extent fought on Luxembourg territory. In 1948, the country gave up its neutrality, to join the various economic, political, and military organisations of Europe (especially the Benelux customs union with Belgium and the Netherlands). It joined NATO in 1949.
The Grand Duchy is a founder member of the EU, and was host to the first European institutions in 1953. Here are some of them:
The Commission of the European Community, including the Statistical Office (EUROSTAT) and the Publications Office,
The Court of Justice of the European Communities,
The general Secretariat of the European Parliament,
The European Investment Bank,
The Nuclear Safety Administration,
Moreover, the sessions of the Council of Ministers take place in Luxembourg three months in the year.
Today Luxembourg is a constitutional monarchy. The national language is Luxembourgish, the administrative – German. Since 1890 Luxembourg has had its own Dynasty. The present ruler, H.R.H. Grand Duke Henri, succeeded his father, Grand Duke Jean to the throne in October 2000.
Luxembourg -- Economy --
Luxembourg's stable, high-income economy features moderate growth, low inflation, and low unemployment. The industrial sector, until recently dominated by steel, has become increasingly more diversified to include chemicals, rubber, and other products. During the past decades, growth in the financial sector has more than compensated for the decline in steel. Services, especially banking, account for a growing proportion of the economy. Agriculture is based on small family-owned farms. Luxembourg has especially close trade and financial ties to Belgium and the Netherlands, and as a member of the EU, enjoys the advantages of the open European market. Luxembourg possesses the highest GDP per capita in the world ($62,700 as of 2005). Unemployment was 4.4% of the labour force as of July 2005.
Luxembourg -- Culture --
The culture of Luxembourg refers to the cultural life and traditions of the small European nation of Luxembourg. Most citizens are trilingual; speaking the Germanic Frankish dialect of Letzebuergesch, and also German and French. As such, the country has been overshadowed by the culture of its neighbours.
Long a deeply rural and folkloric nation, Luxembourg retains folk traditions. Notable is the Echternach Dancing Procession which happens annually.
The major museums are:
National Museum of History and Art (MNHA),
History Museum of the City of Luxembourg,
Museum of Modern Art Grand-Duc Jean (MUDAM).
Joseph Kutter and Jean Jacoby were notable around the turn of the century. Notable painters after World War 2 were Emile Kirscht, Fony Thissen, Joseph Kutter, and Gust Graas.
The influential photographer and painter Edward Steichen was of Luxembourg descent. Contemporary photographers include the photojournalist Thierry Frisch.
The most famous poets were Michael Rodange and Anise Koltz. Contemporary poets include Jean Portante.
Luxembourg has little of distinctive architectural merit, but the military town of Denzelt in Echternach is on the Unesco World Heritage List.
Brian Molko, singer/guitarist of rock band Placebo lived in Luxembourg for most of his life, where he learned to play various instruments such as guitar, piano and saxophone.
Luxembourg -- Political system, law and government --
Luxembourg has a parliamentary form of government with a constitutional monarchy by inheritance. Under the constitution of 1868, executive power is exercised by the Grand Duke or Grand Duchess and the cabinet, which consists of a prime minister and several other ministers. The Grand Duke has the power to dissolve parliament and reinstate a new one.
Legislative power is vested in the Chamber of Deputies, directly elected to 5-year terms. A second body, the "Conseil d'Etat" (Council of State), composed of 21 ordinary citizens appointed by the Grand Duke, advises the Chamber of Depities in the drafting of legislation.
Luxembourg's contribution to its defense and to NATO consists of a small army. As a landlocked country, it has no navy, and it has no Air Force, except for the fact that the 18 NATO AWACS airplanes were registered as aircraft of Luxembourg as a matter of political and aviation convenience.