The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is an independent European country. It is bordered on the north and west by Belgium, on the east by West Germany, and on the south by France. Because of its central location, Luxembourg has been subject to foreign invasions and domination for much of its history. During the 20th century Luxembourg has been one of the strongest supporters of economic and political cooperation with other Western European countries. At the same time the people maintain a strong national identity.
LAND AND PEOPLE
The northern third of Luxembourg, called Oesling, is an extension of the forested, gently rolling Belgian ARDENNES. The southern portion, called Gutland or Bon Pays (“good earth” in German and French, respectively), is an extension of the French Lorraine Plateau. Luxembourg is laced with rivers and streams; most drain eastward into the two major rivers, the MOSELLE and the Sure (German: Sauer).
The climate is cool, with mean temperatures of about 1 deg C (30 deg F) in January and 23 deg C (73 deg F) in July. Rainfall varies from an annual average of 1,015 mm (40 in) to 685 mm (27 in). It tends to be wettest in January, July and October, where the rainfall is approximately 65 mm (2.6 in) in each month.
Luxembourg’s native population is primarily of French and German descent. Approximately one-third of the population is composed of foreign workers, who come to the country because of employment opportunities there. The predominant spoken language is Letzeburgesch, of German origin, but French and German are the two other official languages. About 97% of the population is nominally Roman Catholic, though less than 20% are regular attenders. Education is free and compulsory from the ages of 6 to 15; 98% of the population is literate.
A heavily concentrated banking economy gives Luxembourg one of the highest standards of living in Europe. Building and manufacturing industry is mainly concentrated in the southern portion of the country; there is however tyre manufacturing by Goodyear, in the Colmar-Berg area. Industry is declining, contributing only 12% to the total economy, compared with 25% in 1980.
The iron and steel industry was the economic heart of Luxembourg, yet now accounts for only 3% of the industrial production, compared with nearly 50% in 1980. In recent years industry has become more diversified, and today chemicals, plastics, rubber, and synthetic fibres are produced. The building industry is currently fairly stable, showing some decline since the 1980’s.
Agriculture, which employs only about 10% of the labour force, is concentrated in central Luxembourg. Workers on the land have dropped from 11,872 in 1980, to a current figure of only 5,554.
Tourism, also important to the economy, is centred in the north, because of the scenic landscape and castle ruins.
In 1948, Luxembourg joined the Benelux customs union, and in 1958, the EUROPEAN ECONOMIC COMMUNITY.
HISTORY AND GOVERNMENT
Luxembourg (or Luxemburg) emerged as a separate political entity in the Middle Ages, when it was a powerful fife of the Holy Roman Empire. In 1308 its ruling count was elected German king (later Holy Roman emperor) as HENRY VII. His son, John of Luxembourg (1296-1346), became king of Bohemia in 1310; although blind, he died fighting on the French side in the Battle of Crecy. John’s son Holy Roman Emperor CHARLES IV made (1354) Luxembourg a duchy under his brother Wencelas. (Bohemia and the imperial crown passed to Charles’s sons, first Wencelas and later Sigismund.)
In 1443, Luxembourg was seized by Philip the Good of Burgundy. It subsequently passed (1477) to the Habsburg dynasty and was under Spanish and (after 1714) Austrian rule. It was twice (1684-97 and 1795-1814) annexed by France. The Congress of Vienna (1814-15) made Luxembourg a grand duchy but bestowed the ruling title on WILLIAM I, king of the Netherlands, and provided for a Prussian garrison in the city of Luxembourg.
When Belgium gained its independence from the Netherlands it received (1839) a portion of the grand duchy (now the Belgian province of Luxembourg). Finally, the London Conference of 1867 recognized the independence and neutrality of the grand duchy.
When Queen WILHELMINA succeeded to the Dutch throne in 1890, Luxembourg passed to a collateral branch of the house of Nassau. Germany violated the neutrality of Luxembourg and occupied the duchy in both world wars. The present grand duke is Henri, who succeeded on the abdication of his father, Jean.
Luxembourg is a constitutional monarchy headed by the grand duke. He appoints the 7-member council of ministers. The council, however, is responsible to the 59-member chamber of deputies, elected by universal suffrage. A 21-member advisory council of state, whose members are appointed by the grand duke and serve for life, is required to review and advise on all legislation before it comes before the chamber of deputies.
PAUL C. HELMREICH
Grand Duchy of Luxembourg
Area: 2,586 sq km (998 sq mi). Capital and largest city. Luxembourg (pop. 81,800). Elevations. Highest-Wemperhardt, 559 m (1,834 ft); lowest-Wasserbillig, 129 m (423 ft).
Population 441,300. Density 170 persons per sq km (442 per sq mi). Annual Growth 1.30%. Of the total population, 276,600 are Luxembourgers. This makes Luxembourg a country with, probably, the highest foreign population in the West. Of the 164,000 foreigners, 35% are Portuguese, with large numbers of Italian, French, Belgian and German citizens in residence. Many other nationalities are present, but are too small to list individually. Official Languages. Letzeburgish, French, German. English is spoken by a large number of citizens, especially the young people. Major Religion. Roman Catholicism.
GDP – ESA version: $19.186 billion; $49,608 per capita. Major Crops, Products, and Industries: cereals, potatoes, grapes; cattle, pigs; tyres, iron and steel products, chemicals, plastics; iron ore, coal. Foreign Trade: imports–$12.0 billion; exports–$9.9 billion; principal trade partners-Belgium, West Germany, France, United States. Energy: total electrical energy production 492,000 ton petroleum equivalents Currency: Euro
Type: constitutional monarchy. Political Parties: Christian Social party, Socialist Worker party, Democratic party (Liberal), Communist party, Social Democratic party. Government Leaders: Henri-Grand Duke; Jean-Claude Junker-Prime Minister. Legislature: Chamber of Deputies. Political Subdivisions: 3 districts; 12 cantons.
Life Expectancy: women-80; men-73. Infant Mortality: 5.0 per 1,000 live births. Births: 13.1 per 1,000 persons. Deaths: 8.5 per 1,000 persons. Marriages: 4.9 per 1,000 persons. Divorces: 2.3 per 1,000 persons.
Railways: 274 km (171 mi). Roads: 2,863 km (1,789 mi). Major Ports: 1; loaded 491,000 tons of goods, unloaded 1,109,000 tons of goods. Airfields (international): 1.
Gunther, F. G., The Benelux Countries (1959; repr. 1972); Herchen, Arthur, History of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, trans. by A. H. Cooper-Prichard (1950); Nelson, Nina, Belgium and Luxembourg (1975); Riley, R. C., and Ashworth, Gregory, Benelux: An Economic Geography of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg (1975); Taylor-Whitehead, W. J., Luxembourg: Land of Legends (1976).