Liechtenstein -- Geography --
Official Name: Principality of Liechtenstein
Capital City: Vaduz
Languages: German (official)
Official Currency: Swiss Franc
Religions: Catholic, others
Population: 34 247 (2008)
Land Area: 160 sq km
Landforms: The Rhine River valley covers the western third of the country, with the mountainous (Alps) the balance.
Land Divisions: 11 communes, including: Balzers, Eschen, Gamprin, Mauren, Planken, Ruggell, Schaan, Schellenberg, Triesen, Triesenberg, and Vaduz.
Liechtenstein -- History --
The territory of today’s Liechtenstein has been populated since the 5th millennium BC. In the year 15 BC Rome conquers this region, and a few years later an important military road was built there, connecting Italy and today’s Austria over the Alps. Gradually, a lot of Romans settled along the road.
The Roman culture and the Latin language, together with Christianizing process at a later time gradually melted the local cultures and languages, and led to the creation of the Romansh, or Romanish. This language is still spoken in Liechtenstein and in one of the Swiss cantons.
After the disintegration of the Roman Empire in the 5th century AD the territory of Liechtenstein was fought over and conquered by the Alemans, later by the Francs under Charlemagne. In the 10th century AD Liechtenstein became private property of the Bregenz counts. From then on until1608 Liechtenstein was inherited, sold, divided and reunited between different noble families. In 1608 the counts of Liechtenstein received some recognition, but not yet independence. These counts managed to unite the different parts of Liechtenstein in 1712.
Liechtenstein was recognized as an independent country in 1806, when Napoleon included it in the Rhine union as a sovereign state. The Vienna congress in 1814-1815 confirmed this sovereignty. Liechtenstein at that time was declared a sovereign “small state” within the German Union. The form of government was absolute monarchy. The economic status of the small country was difficult, that is why in 1851 Liechtenstein entered a customs union with the Austria-Hungarian Empire, followed by a series of reforms.
After the World War I many things in Liechtenstein changed. The customs union with Austria was canceled in 1919, and instead a customs treaty with Switzerland was signed in 1923. A new, democratic constitution entered into force in 1921. After that Liechtenstein has developed as constitutional monarchy (principality).
Liechtenstein remained neutral during World War II, and managed to overcome the post-war crisis mainly due to its close partnership with Switzerland. After the war Liechtenstein’s economy quickly developed and diversified. Today, Liechtenstein’s industries, and especially its banks (whose banking policy has sometimes been criticized as too liberal) are world famous.
After the wars the Princedom became member of many international institutions and organizations, such as: International Court of Justice, OSCE, European Council, UN since 1990, EFTA, WTO. Today Liechtenstein is governed by Prince Hans Adam II, who transferred his executive powers to his heir, Prince Alois in 2004. Head of Government is Ottmar Hasler (since 2001).
Liechtenstein -- Economy --
Despite its small geographic area and limited natural resources, Liechtenstein has developed into a prosperous, highly industrialized, free-enterprise economy, and boasts a financial service sector and also living standard which compare favourably to those of the urban areas of Liechtenstein's large European neighbours. Advantageously low business taxes – the maximum tax rate is 18% – as well as easy Rules of Incorporation have induced about 73,700 holding (or so-called 'letter box') companies to establish nominal offices in Liechtenstein. Such processes provide about 30% of Liechtenstein's state revenue.
Recently, Liechtenstein has shown strong determination to dispel the country's unhelpful image as a center for international money-laundering.
Liechtenstein participates in a customs union with Switzerland and employs the Swiss franc as national currency. The country imports more than 90% of its energy requirements. Liechtenstein has been a member of the European Economic Area (an organization serving as a bridge between the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the European Union) since May 1995. The government is working to harmonize its economic policies with those of an integrated Europe. Since 2002, Liechtenstein's rate of unemployment has doubled, although it stood at only 2.2% in the third quarter of 2004.
Liechtenstein -- Culture --
Due to Liechtenstein's small size, the country has been strongly affected by external cultural influences, most notably those originating in the southern German-speaking areas of Europe, including Austria, Bavaria, Switzerland, and the Tyrol. The Historical Society of the Principality of Liechtenstein plays a role in preserving the culture and history of the country.
Liechtenstein -- Political system, law and government --
Liechtenstein is a constitutional monarchy headed by its ruling prince or Furst. The current prince is Hans-Adam II of Liechtenstein, who succeeded upon his father's death in 1989. The parliament of Liechtenstein, the Landtag, consists of 25 representatives chosen by the people. A cabinet of five members is responsible for daily political matters.
In a referendum on July 1, 1984, male voters granted women the right to vote in national (though not local) elections, a victory for Prince Hans-Adam who had supported the legislation. Unlike many other constitutional monarchies, the constitution of Liechtenstein gives many important powers to the Prince, some of which have caused controversy in recent years.
Critics were, however, largely discredited when in March 2003, a popular referendum bolstered the Liechtenstein dynasty's constitutional position. Prior to the referendum, Prince Hans-Adam had announced that he and his family would relocate to Vienna, Austria if the House's constitutional prerogatives were curbed. The referendum confirmed the broad popularity of the Liechtenstein dynasty and underscored the populace's faith in Prince Hans-Adam as leader.
Administrative division.The parliamentary elections of March 11 and 13th, 2005 resulted in the government of Otmar Hasler losing its general majority in the Landtag. By April he had formed a coalition government with the main opposition party.
Liechtenstein was admitted to the United Nations in 1990.