printable banner

U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Luxembourg (01/13/10)


January 13, 2010

Share

For the most current version of this Note, see Background Notes A-Z.

PROFILE

Geography
Area: 2,586 sq. km. (999 sq. mi.; about the size of Rhode Island).
Cities: Capital--Luxembourg City (pop. 83,800). Other cities--Esch-sur-Alzette (pop. 29,100), Differdange (pop. 20,100), Dudelange (pop. 18,000). (2007 figures from National Statistical Institute of Luxembourg--STATEC.)
Terrain: Continuation of Belgian Ardennes in the north, heavily forested and slightly mountainous; extension of French Lorraine plateau in the south, with open, rolling countryside.
Climate: Modified continental, rainy, with mild summers and moderate snowfall in winter.

People
Nationality: Noun--Luxembourger(s). Adjective--Luxembourgian, Luxembourgish.
Population (2007): 480,222.
Annual growth rate (2007): 1.2%.
Ethnic groups: Celtic base with French and German blend; large communities of ethnic Portuguese, Italians, French, Belgians, and Germans.
Religion: Historically and predominantly Roman Catholic. However, Luxembourgian law forbids the collection of data on religious practices.
Official languages: Luxembourgish, French, and German; English is widely spoken.
Education: Years compulsory--9. Attendance--100%. Literacy--99%.
Health: Life expectancy (2007)--Avg. 79.03 years; males 75.76 years; females 82.52 years. Infant mortality rate (2007)--4.68/1,000.
Labor force (2006): 318,600, of which 126,800 commuted from neighboring countries. European Union institutions employ 8,300. Services (non-financial)--53%, (financial)--11%; commerce--14%; industrial and manufacturing--11%; construction--10%; agriculture--1%.
Unemployment rate (2006): 4.5%, up from 3.9% in 2004 and 4.3% in 2005.

Government
Type: Constitutional monarchy.
Independence: 1839.
Constitution: 1868.
Branches: Executive--Grand Duke (head of state, ceremonial), Prime Minister (head of government). Legislative--unicameral parliament (Chamber of Deputies with Council of State serving as a consultative body). Judicial--Superior Court.
Political parties in parliament: Christian Social Union (CSV), Socialist Workers' Party (LSAP), Democratic Party (DP), Green Party, Alternative Democratic Reform Party (ADR).
Suffrage: Universal over age of 18.
Government budget (2006): $19.07 billion.

Economy
GDP (2007): $51.842 billion (official exchange rate).
Currency: euro (€). Exchange rate (September 8, 2008): €1 = $1.4346.
Annual growth rate (2007): 4.5%.
Per capita income (2007): $75,886 (purchasing power parity).
Inflation rate (2006): 2.7%.
Natural resources: Iron ore, timber.
Agriculture (2005: 0.4% of GDP): Dairy, wine, forestry, animal feed crops. Arable land--24%; forested land--21%.
Services (2005: 83.3% of GDP): Banking and financial services predominate.
Industry (2005: 16.3% of GDP): Steel, chemicals.
Trade (2006): Exports--$24.22 billion: steel and other metallic products, chemicals, processed wood products, machinery and other manufactured equipment. Major markets--other European Union countries (esp. Germany, France, and Belgium). Imports--$24.22 billion: Machinery and other manufactured equipment, raw materials, chemicals, food products. Major suppliers--other European Union countries (esp. Belgium, Germany, and France).

HISTORY
After 400 years of domination by various European nations, Luxembourg was granted the status of Grand Duchy by the Congress of Vienna on June 9, 1815. Although Luxembourg considers 1835 (Treaty of London) to be its year of independence, it was not granted political autonomy until 1839 under King William I of the Netherlands, who also was the Grand Duke of Luxembourg. In 1867, Luxembourg was recognized as independent and guaranteed perpetual neutrality. After being occupied by Germany in both World Wars, Luxembourg abandoned neutrality and became a charter member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1949. It is also one of the six original members of the European Union, formed in 1951 as the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC).

The present sovereign, Grand Duke Henri, succeeded his father, Grand Duke Jean, on October 7, 2000. Grand Duke Jean announced his decision to abdicate in December 1999, after a 35-year reign.

The national language of Luxembourg is Luxembourgish, a blend of Dutch, old German, and Frankish elements. The official language of the civil service, law, and parliament is French, although criminal and legal debates are conducted partly in Luxembourgish and police case files are recorded in German. German is the primary language of the press. French and German are taught in the schools, with German spoken mainly at the primary level and French at the secondary level. In addition, English is taught in the local high schools. Most Luxembourgers, as a result, speak English with some level of fluency.

GOVERNMENT
Luxembourg has a parliamentary form of government with a constitutional monarchy by inheritance. Under the constitution of 1868, as amended, executive power is exercised by the Grand Duke and the Council of Government (cabinet), which includes the prime minister, who serves as head of government. The prime minister is the leader of the political party or coalition of parties having the most seats in parliament, known as the Chamber of Deputies.

Legislative power is vested in the Chamber of Deputies, the members of which are 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 Council's opinions have no binding effect, and the responsibilities of its members are in addition to their normal professional duties.

Luxembourg law is a composite of local practice, legal tradition, and French, Belgian, and German systems. The apex of the judicial system is the Superior Court, whose judges are appointed by the Grand Duke.

Principal Government Officials
Head of State--Grand Duke Henri
Prime Minister, Minister of Finance--Jean-Claude Juncker (CSV)
Vice-Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs--Jean Asselborn (LSAP)
Minister of Justice, Minister of Treasury and Budget--Luc Frieden (CSV)
Minister of Economy and Foreign Trade--Jeannot Krecké (LSAP)
Minister of Defense--Jean-Louis Schiltz (CSV)
Minister of Interior--Jean-Marie Halsdorf (CSV)
Ambassador to the United States--Jean-Paul Senninger
Ambassador to the United Nations--Sylvie Lucas

The Embassy of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg in the United States is located at 2200 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-265-4171), http://washington.mae.lu/en.

Consulates of Luxembourg are located in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Detroit, Fort Worth, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, and St. Paul.

POLITICAL CONDITIONS
Luxembourg's political system has a strong local focus. National politicians very often begin their careers and establish their base serving as mayors, and members of the Chamber of Deputies are elected from one of four regions. The political culture favors consensus, and the parties coexist within the context of broad agreement on key issues, including the value of deep European integration. National elections are held at least every five years and municipal elections every six years. Elections for the Chamber of Deputies were held in June 2009.

Since the end of World War II the Christian Social Union (CSV) has been part of the governing coalitions and usually the dominant party. The only exception was from 1974-1979 when the CSV was in opposition to a governing coalition led by the Democratic Party (DP). The CSV resembles Christian democratic parties in other west European countries and enjoys broad popular support. Its leader, Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, in power since 1995, is the longest serving head of government in the European Union.

The Socialist Party (LSAP) is a center-left party similar to most social democratic parties in Europe. Initially founded by a worker's movement and a main defender of universal suffrage in 1919, the LSAP defends state intervention in the economy and the sustainability of the welfare system. Part of the government from 1984 to 1999, it lost its junior coalition status to the Democratic Party but regained it in the 2004 elections. While in the opposition, the LSAP voiced opposition to U.S. action in Iraq.

The Democratic Party (DP) is a center-right party, drawing support from civil servants, the professions, and urban middle class. Like other west European liberal parties, it advocates both social legislation and minimum government involvement in the economy. It also is strongly pro-NATO. In the opposition from 1984 to 1999, the DP overcame the LSAP to claim the role of junior partner in the government from 1999-2004. It is currently again in the opposition. The Green Party has received growing support since it was officially formed in 1983. It opposes both nuclear weapons and nuclear power and supports environmental and ecological preservation measures. This party generally opposes Luxembourg's military policies, but it has shown some openness to peacekeeping missions. The ADR (Alternative Democratic Reform Party) when elected in 2004 was known as the Action Committee for Democracy and Pension Rights.

ECONOMY
While Luxembourg is aptly described as the "Green Heart of Europe" in tourist literature, its pastoral land coexists with a highly industrialized and export-intensive economy. Luxembourg enjoys a degree of economic prosperity almost unique among industrialized democracies.

In 1876, English metallurgist Sidney Thomas invented a refining process that led to the development of the steel industry in Luxembourg and the founding of the Arbed company in 1911. In 2001, Arbed merged with Aceralia and Usinor to form Arcelor, which was headquartered in Luxembourg. In 2005, Arcelor acquired Canada's largest steel manufacturer, Dofasco. In June 2006, Arcelor merged with Mittal Steel to become Arcelor-Mittal, the largest steelmaker in the world. The company now produces 10% of the world's steel output. The iron and steel industry in Luxembourg comprises approximately 11% of the overall economy.

During the past few decades there has been a relative decline in the steel sector, offset by Luxembourg's emergence as a major financial services center. The overall services sector in 2005 comprised 83.3% of Luxembourg's GDP with it employing, in terms of percentage of workers, 78% of the labor force. The financial sector in 2005 continued to grow and made up 11% of Luxembourg's total labor force making it identical in size to the industrial labor force. In 2006 there were 156 banks in Luxembourg employing 24,752 people. Political stability, good communications, easy access to other European financial centers, skilled multilingual staff, and a tradition of banking secrecy have contributed to the growth of the financial sector. German banks represent the largest number, with Italian, French, Swiss, Belgian, American, and Japanese banks also heavily represented. Total banking assets in 2005 were $1 trillion. The funds industry is the second largest in the world after the U.S. with $2.158 trillion in domiciled funds.

Government policies promote the development of Luxembourg as an audiovisual and communications center. Radio-Television-Luxembourg is Europe's premier private radio and television broadcaster. The government-backed Luxembourg satellite company Société Européenne des Satellites (SES) was created in 1986 to install and operate a satellite telecommunications system for transmission of television programs throughout Europe. The first SES "ASTRA" satellite, a 16-channel RCA 4000, was launched by Ariane rocket in December 1988. SES presently operates 12 satellites. ASTRA 1H is an advanced satellite with a return channel capacity in the Ka band frequency range enabling two-way satellite communications directly to users' terminals.

Luxembourg offers a favorable climate to foreign investment. Successive governments have effectively attracted new investment in medium, light, and high-tech industry. Incentives cover taxes, construction, and plant equipment. The recent European Union (EU) directive on services supplied electronically has caused a number of companies to look to Luxembourg, with its relatively low value-added tax (VAT) rates, as a possible location for directing their European operations. U.S. firms are among the most prominent foreign investors, producing tires (Goodyear), chemicals (Dupont), glass (Guardian Industries), and a wide range of industrial equipment. The Department of Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis reports that total U.S. direct investment in Luxembourg (on a historical cost basis) was nearly $72 billion at the end of 2005. Foreign direct investment (FDI) data for Luxembourg must be interpreted cautiously, however, because of Luxembourg's role in financial intermediation, particularly involving Luxembourg-based holding companies.

Labor relations have been peaceful since the 1930s. Most industrial workers are organized by unions linked to one of the major political parties. Representatives of business, unions, and government participate in the conduct of major labor negotiations.

Unemployment in 2006 was 4.5%, up from 3.9% two years earlier. Luxembourg's small but productive agricultural sector employs 1% of the total labor force, a typical figure for a highly developed country. Most farms produce milk, meat, and foraging crops. Timber is another important sector. Luxembourg, being a part of the Moselle region, produces outstanding white wines.

Due to its powerful services sector, Luxembourg maintains a favorable current account balance, with a $4.63 billion surplus in 2006. Government finances have deteriorated over the past few years, with a 2006 budget deficit of $552 million.

FOREIGN RELATIONS
Luxembourg has long been a prominent supporter of European political and economic integration. In efforts foreshadowing European integration, Luxembourg and Belgium in 1921 formed the Belgium-Luxembourg Economic Union (BLEU) to create an inter-exchangeable currency and a common customs regime. Luxembourg is a member of the Benelux Economic Union and was one of the founding members of the European Economic Community (now the European Union). It also participates in the Schengen Group, whose goal is the free movement of citizens among member states. At the same time, Luxembourgers have consistently recognized that European unity makes sense only in the context of a dynamic, transatlantic relationship and have traditionally pursued a pro-NATO, pro-U.S. foreign policy.

Luxembourg is the site of the European Court of Justice, the European Court of Auditors, European Investment Bank, and other vital EU organs. The Secretariat of the European Parliament is located in Luxembourg, but the Parliament usually meets in nearby Strasbourg. Luxembourg held the EU Presidency in the first half of 2005.

Luxembourg budgeted $291 million for official development assistance (ODA) in 2007, or about 0.84% of its GNI. This places Luxembourg among the top three donor nations in the world, if calculated by percentage of GNI; Luxembourg has stated that it has a goal of eventually reaching 1% of GNI for its ODA.

DEFENSE
The Luxembourg Army is under civilian control. The country has no navy or air force. A 1967 law made the army an all-volunteer force with current strength of approximately 430 professional soldiers, about 340 enlisted recruits, and 110 civilians. A 2002 law allows EU citizens, under certain conditions, to join the Luxembourg Army.

In 2005 Luxembourg spent approximately $310 million on defense, or about 0.85% of GDP. Luxembourg has participated in the European Corps (EUROCORPS) since 1994 and has contributed troops to UNPROFOR, IFOR, SFOR, and KFOR missions in the former Yugoslavia. Luxembourg has one officer serving in Bosnia and Herzegovina with the European Union's ALTHEA mission and, as of February 2008, had a 23-person contingent in Kosovo as its contribution to KFOR. Luxembourg participates in the NATO ISAF mission in Afghanistan; it has nine soldiers integrated into the Belgian forces deployed there. Luxembourg takes part in EU- and NATO-sponsored missions in Africa. It committed to sending a team of de-mining experts to participate in UNIFIL in Lebanon. Luxembourg financially supported international peacekeeping missions during the 1991 Gulf War and in Rwanda and Albania and provided humanitarian aid to Iraq. The army also participated in humanitarian relief missions such as setting up refugee camps for Kurds and providing emergency supplies to Albania.

U.S. RELATIONS
Luxembourgers are deeply appreciative of the sacrifices made by Americans, leading to the country's liberation in the two World Wars of the 20th century. More than 5,000 American soldiers, including Gen. George S. Patton, are buried at the American Military Cemetery near the capital, and there are monuments in many towns to American liberators. The strong U.S.-Luxembourg relationship is expressed both bilaterally and through common membership in NATO, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Principal U.S. Officials
Ambassador--Cynthia Stroum
Deputy Chief of Mission--Todd M. Huizinga
Political-Economic Chief--Michael A. Via
Public Affairs Officer--Jeffrey T. Lodermeier
Management Officer--Paul Salarano
Regional Security Officer--Kirby W. Rosenbluth
Consular Chief--Adam M. Center
Defense Attache--Colonel Daniel J. Fagundes (based in Brussels)
Legal Attache--Robert F. Clifford (based in Brussels)
Office of Defense Cooperation--Colonel Michael A. Salvi (based in Brussels)

The U.S. Embassy in Luxembourg is located at 22 Boulevard Emmanuel Servais, L-2535 Luxembourg City (tel. 352-460-123).
 



Back to Top
Sign-in

Do you already have an account on one of these sites? Click the logo to sign in and create your own customized State Department page. Want to learn more? Check out our FAQ!

OpenID is a service that allows you to sign in to many different websites using a single identity. Find out more about OpenID and how to get an OpenID-enabled account.