The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (Luxembourgish: Groussherzogtum Lëtzebuerg, French: Grand-Duché de Luxembourg, German: Großherzogtum Luxemburg), archaically spelled Luxemburg, is a small landlocked country in western Europe, bordered by Belgium, France, and Germany. Luxembourg has a population of under half a million people in an area of approximately 2,585 square kilometres (998 sq mi).
Luxembourg is a parliamentary representative democracy with a constitutional monarchy, ruled by a Grand Duke. It is the world's only sovereign Grand Duchy. The country has a highly developed economy, with the highest Gross Domestic Product per capita in the world. Luxembourg is a founding member of the European Union, NATO, the United Nations, Benelux, and the Western European Union, reflecting the political consensus in favour of economic, political, and military integration. The city of Luxembourg, the capital and largest city, is the seat of several institutions and agencies of the European Union.
Luxembourg lies on the cultural divide between Romance Europe and Germanic Europe, borrowing customs from each of the distinct traditions. Luxembourg is a trilingual country; French, German, and Luxembourgish are official languages. Although a secular state, Luxembourg is predominantly Roman Catholic.
For many people in other parts of Europe, Luxembourg is best known for its radio and television stations, Radio Luxembourg and RTL.
Grand Ducal Palace
The recorded history of Luxembourg begins with the acquisition of Lucilinburhuc
(today Luxembourg Castle) by Siegfried, Count of Ardennes in 963. The current
name of Luxembourg comes from the former name Lucilinburhuc. Around this fort, a
town gradually developed, which became the centre of a small, but important,
state of great strategic value. In 1437, the House of Luxembourg suffered a
succession crisis, precipitated by the lack of a male heir to assume the throne.
In the following centuries, Luxembourg's fortress was steadily enlarged and
strengthened by its successive occupants, the Bourbons, Habsburgs,
Hohenzollerns, and the French, among others. After the defeat of Napoleon in
1815, Luxembourg was disputed between Prussia and the Netherlands. The Congress
of Vienna formed Luxembourg as a Grand Duchy in personal union with the
Netherlands. Luxembourg also became a member of the German Confederation, with a
Confederate fortress manned by Prussian troops.
The Belgian Revolution of 1830–1839 reduced Luxembourg's territory by more than
half, as the predominantly francophone western part of the country was
transferred to Belgium. Luxembourg's independence was reaffirmed by the 1839
First Treaty of London. In the same year, Luxembourg joined the Zollverein.
Luxembourg's independence and neutrality were again affirmed by the 1867 Second
Treaty of London, after the Luxembourg Crisis nearly led to war between Prussia
and France. After the latter conflict, the Confederate fortress was dismantled.
The King of the Netherlands remained Head of State as Grand Duke of Luxembourg, maintaining personal union between the two countries until 1890. At the death of William III, the Dutch throne passed to his daughter Wilhelmina, while Luxembourg (at that time restricted to male heirs; see Salic Law) passed to Adolph of Nassau-Weilburg.
Luxembourg was invaded and occupied by Germany during the First World War, but was allowed to maintain its independence and political mechanisms. It was again invaded and subject to German occupation in the Second World War in 1940, and was formally annexed into the Third Reich in 1942.
Luxembourg State Department
During World War II, Luxembourg abandoned its policy of neutrality, when it joined the Allies in fighting Germany. Its government, exiled to London, set up a small group of volunteers who participated in the Normandy invasion. It became a founding member of the United Nations in 1946, and of NATO in 1949. In 1957, Luxembourg became one of the six founding countries of the European Economic Community (later the European Union), and, in 1999, it joined the euro currency area. In 2005, a referendum on the EU treaty establishing a constitution for Europe was held in Luxembourg.
Luxembourg has a parliamentary form of government with a constitutional monarchy inherited by male-preference primogeniture. 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 the legislature and reinstate a new one. However, since 1919, sovereignty has resided with the country.
Legislative power is vested in the Chamber of Deputies, a unicameral legislature of sixty members, who are directly elected to five-year terms from four constituencies. A second body, the Council of State (Conseil d'État), composed of twenty-one 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, the city of Luxembourg, and 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 and an Administrative Court, as well as a Constitutional Court, all of which are located in the capital.
Luxembourg's contribution to its defence 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 eighteen NATO AWACS airplanes were registered as aircraft of Luxembourg for convenience. In a joint agreement with Belgium, both countries have put forth funding for one A400M military cargo plane, now currently on order. Luxembourg still maintains three Boeing 707 model TCAs for cargo and training purposes based in NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen.
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