Luxembourg' s view

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, a constitutional monarchy, is an independent sovereign state, tucked between Belgium, France and Germany (cf Luxembourg in Europe map). The country is 84 km (51 miles) long and 52 km (32 miles) wide, encompassing an area of 2586 square kilometres (999 square miles) with a population of 435 700 inhabitants (official estimate Jan 1, 2000).

A) The country is divided into two clearly defined REGIONS:

The “Eisl?ck” or ‘Oesling’ in the north, which is part of the Ardennes, on the western rim of the Eifel, and covers one-third of the territory. It is a wooded country of great scenic beauty. Highest point: 555 metres (1823 feet).

The ‘Good country’ in the centre and the south, covering the remainder of the territory, is mainly rolling farmland and woods. Average height: 270 metres (900 feet). Culminating point 426 metres (1400 feet). It is bordered in the east by the wine-producing valley of the Moselle, and in the extreme south west by a narrow strip of red earth which forms the Luxembourg iron-ore basin.

B) RIVER NETWORK:

The 4 most important rivers are:
The Moselle, the S?re, the Our, and the Alzette
The other rivers are:
The Mess, the Mamer, the Eisch, the Attert and the Wark in the West;
The Wiltz, the Clerve and the Blees in the North;
The Ernz Blanche, the Ernz Noire, the Syr and the Gander in the East;
The Petrusse is a very small river that crosses Luxembourg city, and meets the Alzette.

C) CLIMATE:

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg enjoys a temperate climate without extremes. The sea (some 200 miles distant) has but a moderating influence on the weather. The air is clean, beneficial and health giving. Rainfalls: 31 inches.

2) 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’. At its height, the fortress was girdled by three ring-walls studded with 24 forts, and linked underground by a 23 kilometre network of Casemates. In 1994, Luxembourg City was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

After a long period of foreign sovereignty (Burgundian/ Spanish/ French/ Austrian / ...), the Congress of Vienna 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 which 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.

Since 1890, when the Crown of the Grand Duchy passed to the elder branch of the House of Nassau, 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, after having been appointed as “Lieutenant-Repr?sentant” -the Grand Duke’s official deputy- on March 3, 1998, as provided for by Article 42 of the Luxembourg Constitution.

Grand Duke Jean’s mother, Grand Duchess Charlotte, Duchess of Nassau, Princess of Bourbon Parma, died in 1985. Grand Duke Jean and his wife Grand Duchess Jos?phine-Charlotte, the sister to Albert, King of the Belgians, have five children Henri, Jean, Guillaume, Marie-Astrid, and Margaretha. (See also Grand-Ducal Family Tree and/or The Grand-Ducal Family)

Executive power is in the hands of the Grand Duke and a Cabinet of 12 ministers. The legislative power rests with a Parliament (Chamber of Deputies) elected by men and women over 18, all of whom in Luxembourg have the right and duty to vote. (See also: Luxembourg Government)

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. Already forming a close economic union with Belgium since 1921, the Grand Duchy is a founder member of the EU, and was host to the first European institutions in 1953.

At present the following European Union institutions are based in Luxembourg: (See also:US site)
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 European Court of Auditors.
The Official Publications Office
The Nuclear Safety Administration,
The Directorate-General of ‘Credits and Investments’,

In addition, various other European Organisations (among which EFTA) also have offices in Luxembourg. Moreover, the sessions of the Council of Ministers take place in Luxembourg three months in the year. (April, June and October).

5) POPULATION & LANGUAGES

Of the country’s 439 500 inhabitants (official estimate 2001), some 90,000 live in Luxembourg-city and its immediate surroundings. The number of foreign residents in Luxembourg has already exceeded 32 % of the population. It is the highest proportion of foreigners of any EU country. (see also: Luxembourg in Figures(sub Population)

‘L?tzebuergesch’ is the everyday spoken language of the people, and the symbol of the Luxembourgers national identity. Since the creation of a dictionary and a grammar, this former Mosel-Frankish dialect is now recognised as the national language (since 1984), while both French and German remain the official languages. ‘L?tzebuergesch’ or Luxembourgish is taught in schools and in language courses mostly addressed to the resident foreigners. Although of Germanic origin (around 11th century), L?tzebuergesch has sufficiently differentiated itself from its parent language, so as no longer to be understood by many a German. Indeed many French words (and a dash of English, for good measure) have been adopted into the language and were transformed, sometimes beyond recognition.

Both German and French culture meet in Luxembourg. Franco-German bilinguism, without any language differences, is a typical aspect of the country’s social structure. If both German and French are used in the press, in political and in religious life, French is nevertheless the official language of the administration, jurisdiction, parliament, education, and of some literary circles. Public offices though are held to answer -wherever possible- in the language they are addressed in.

This peculiar language situation is a direct result of the size of the country, and its historic associations with both France and Germany. When going abroad -which after all, is not very far- the Luxembourgers have to speak other languages, simply because their own is not understood elsewhere. Thus it comes as no surprise that many Luxembourgers speak English too. This is obviously more the case in the capital and in other centres, than in rural areas, where there is hardly a need for more than 2 foreign languages.