The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is a small landlocked state in the north-west of the continental European Union, bordered by France, Germany and Belgium.
Main article: History of Luxembourg
The recorded history of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg begins with the construction of Luxembourg Castle in the middle ages. Legend has it that a count named Sigfrid constructed a small fort on land given to him by the Abbey of Trier in AD 963. Around this fort a town gradually developed, which became the centre of a small but important state of great strategic value to France, Germany and the Netherlands. Luxembourg's fortress was expanded by successive owners, among others the Bourbons, Habsburgs and Hohenzollerns, which made it one of the strongest fortresses on the European continent. The Luxembourgian dynasty provided several Holy Roman Emperors, Kings of Bohemia, as well as Archbishops of Trier and Mainz. From the Early Middle Ages to the Renaissance, Luxembourg bore multiple names, depending on the author. These include Lucilinburhuc, Lutzburg, Lützelburg, Luccelemburc, Lichtburg, among others.
The Congress of Vienna gave formal autonomy to Luxembourg in 1815, but its fortress was to be taken over by Prussian forces, following Napoleon's defeat. It thus became a member of the Zollverein, a Prussian-dominated free trading zone. It is from those times that the Luxembourgers still call the Germans informally Preisen (Prussians). Luxembourg eventually became an independent and neutral nation in 1839, but it was not until 1867 that its independence was formally ratified, after a turbulent period which even included a brief time of civil unrest against plans to annex Luxembourg to Belgium, Germany or France. Famous visitors to Luxembourg in the 18th and 19th centuries included the German poet Goethe, the French writers Emile Zola and Victor Hugo, the composer Franz Liszt, and the English painter Joseph Mallord William Turner.
The country was repeatedly attacked by Germany in the twentieth century. German troops invaded Luxembourg in 1914, but the government and Grandduchess Marie-Adélaïde were allowed to remain in office throughout the occupation, bringing accusations of collaboration from France. Through the intervention of the United States, Luxembourg was not annexed to Belgium in 1918, as France had wanted. After a 3-day period as a Republic in 1919, which was quickly abolished by French troops, Luxembourg reverted to being a parliamentary monarchy.
In the 1930s the internal situation deteriorated, as Luxembourgian politics was influenced by European left- and right-wing politics. The government tried to counter Communist-led unrest in the industrial areas and continued a friendly politics towards Nazi Germany, which led to much critique. The attempts to quell unrest peaked into the Maulkuerfgesetz , the "muzzle" Law, aimed at censoring the press. The law was voted down in a referendum.
A second German invasion on 10 May 1940 swept away the government and monarchy, most of whom went into exile in London, from where Grandduchess Charlotte broadcast regularly to Luxembourg to give hope to the people. Measures to quell any Luxembourgian feelings were met with passive resistance at first, such as the Spéngelskrich (lit. "War of the Pins"), and refusing to speak German. As French was forbidden, many Luxembourgians resorted to 'digging out' old Luxembourgish words, which led to a renaissance of the language. Other measures included deportation, forced labour, forced conscription and, more drastically, internment, deportation to concentration camps and execution. The latter measure was applied after a general strike from the 1 September to the 3 September 1942, which paralyzed the administration, agriculture, industry and education as response to the declaration of forced conscription by the German administration on 30 August 1942. The then civilian commander of Luxembourg, Gauleiter Gustav Simon had declared conscription necessary to support the German war effort. It was to remain one of only two mass strikes against German war machinery in the West of Europe.
The liberation by US troops in September 1944 restored Luxembourgian sovereignty. It was briefly endangered during the Battle of the Bulge, otherwise known as the Ardennes Offensive or the Rundstedt Offensive, which had German troops take back most of northern Luxembourg for a few weeks before the Allies' final push into Germany.
After World War II Luxembourg abandoned its politics of neutrality, when it became a founding member of NATO, the United Nations and the European Economic Community (later the European Union). It is a signatory of the Treaty of Rome, and constituted a monetary union with Belgium, and an economic union with Belgium and The Netherlands, the so-called BeNeLux treaty.
Furthermore, Luxembourg has been one of the strongest advocates of the European Union in the tradition of Robert Schuman. In 1995 it was given the honour of providing the President of the European Commission, former Prime Minister Jacques Santer. The current Prime Minister, Jean-Claude Juncker follows the European tradition. On September 10, 2004, Mr Juncker became the semi-permanent President of the group of finance ministers from the 12 countries that share the euro, a role dubbed "Mr Euro".
Main article: Politics of Luxembourg
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 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, elected directly to 5-year terms. A second body, the "Conseil d'État" (Council of State), composed of 21 ordinary citizens appointed by the Grand Duke, advises the Chamber of Deputies in the drafting of legislation.
The Grand Duchy has three lower tribunals (justices de paix; in Esch-sur-Alzette, in Luxembourg and in Diekirch), two district tribunals (Luxembourg and Diekirch) and a Superior Court of Justice (Luxembourg),which includes the Court of Appeal and the Court of Cassation.
There is also an administrative tribunal (Luxembourg) and an Administrative Court (Luxembourg),as well as a Constitutional Court (Luxembourg).
Main article: Geography of Luxembourg
Luxembourg is one of the smallest countries in Europe. It is ranked 177th in size of all the countries of the world. The country is about 2,586 km² in size. In the west it borders the Belgian province of Luxembourg, which is (at 4,443 km²) nearly twice the size the country.
The north of the country, part of the Ardennes, has hills and low mountains, with the Buurgplaaz as the highest point at 559 m. The rest of the country is also hilly.
Luxembourg's eastern border is formed by three rivers, the Moselle, the Sauer/Sûre and the Our.
The capital, Luxembourg, is the largest city of the country. Other important cities are Esch-sur-Alzette (or just Esch), to the south-west of the capital, and Echternach, against the German border in the east.
Main article: Districts of Luxembourg
Luxembourg is divided in to three administrative subdivisions, or districts:
Main article: Economy of Luxembourg
The 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.
Main article: Culture of Luxembourg
The linguistic situation in Luxembourg is characterized by the practice and the recognition of three official languages: French, German and Luxemburgish.
The plurilingualism of Luxembourg results from the coexistence of two ethnic groups, a Romance and a Germanic one.
In the beginnings of the country, French enjoyed the greatest prestige, and therefore its preferential use as the official and administrative language. German was used in the political field to comment on the laws and the ordinances in order to make them comprehensible to everyone. At primary school, teaching was limited to German, while French was taught in secondary education.
The law of July 26, 1843 reinforced bilingualism by introducing the teaching of French in primary school.
Luxembourgish ("Lëtzebuergesch"), a Francique dialect, native of the Moselle region, was introduced in primary school in 1912.
Until 1984, the official use of the languages was based on the grand-ducal decrees of 1830, 1832 and 1834, which allowed the free choice between German and French. French was preferred in the administration. Luxembourgish had no official status at all.
The constitutional revision of 1948 gave the legislator the possibility of regulating the language by law. On February 24, 1984 a law, passed by the constitutional chamber, made Luxemburgish the national language. Furthermore, this law recognized the three languages of Luxembourg (Luxembourgish, French and German) as official languages. French remains the language of the legislation, due to the application of the Napoleonic civil code in Luxembourg.
Luxemburgish is taught in schools after French and German. Moreover, Luxembourgish is taught only one hour per week at secondary school and only in the first years. In secondary school, besides German, French and Luxembourgish, English and one of Latin, Spanish or Italian is taught. At university level, bilingualism makes it possible to Luxembourgish students to continue their higher education in French-, German- or English-speaking countries.
At the political level, Luxembourg contributed to the creation of Europe linked with Robert Schuman. Mastery of two major European languages has made it possible for Luxembourg to be easily integrated into the creation of the European Community and to become a unifying and progressive factor.
German is the primary language of the press. Public service information is in French, German, and sometimes English or Portuguese, since roughly 10% of the population is of Portuguese extraction.