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Luxemberg Geography - History

Luxemberg Geography - History

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Luxembourg is located in Western Europe, between France and Germany. The terrain of Luxembourg mostly gently rolling uplands with broad, shallow valleys; uplands to slightly mountainous in the north; steep slope down to Moselle floodplain in the southeast.Climate: Luxembourg is modified continental with mild winters, cool summers.

Economy of Luxembourg

The economy of Luxembourg is largely dependent on the banking, steel, and industrial sectors. Luxembourgers enjoy the highest per capita gross domestic product in the world (CIA 2018 est.).

  • $71 billion (nominal, 2019) [4]
  • $74 billion (PPP, 2019) [4]
  • $115,839 (nominal, 2019 est.) [4]
  • $120,490 (PPP, 2019 est.) [4]
  • 0.909 very high (2018) [8] (21st)
  • 0.822 very high IHDI (2018) [9]
  • 300,538 (2019) [10]
  • 72.1% employment rate (Target: 73% 2018) [11]
  • 6.8% (August 2020) [12]
  • 16.4% youth unemployment (Q4-2019) [13]
  • Germany(+) 25.6%
  • Belgium(+) 17.6%
  • France(+) 14%
  • Netherlands(+) 5.1%
  • Italy(+) 4.1%
  • United Kingdom(+) 4.1%
  • (2017) [5]
  • Belgium(+) 32%
  • Germany(+) 24.9%
  • France(+) 11.1%
  • United States(+) 5.7%
  • Netherlands(+) 4.9%
  • (2017) [5]
  • 22.1% of GDP (2019) [15]
  • €14.013 billion (2019) [15]
    : [16]
  • AAA (Domestic)
  • AAA (Foreign)
  • AAA (T&C Assessment)
  • Outlook: Stable [17] : [17]
  • Aaa
  • Outlook: Stable : [17]
  • AAA
  • Outlook: Positive
  • Scope: [18]
  • AAA
  • Outlook: Stable

Although Luxembourg in tourist literature is aptly called the "Green Heart of Europe", its pastoral land coexists with a highly industrialized and export-intensive area. Luxembourg's economy is quite similar to Germany's. Luxembourg enjoys a degree of economic prosperity very rare among industrialized democracies.

In 2009, a budget deficit of 5% resulted from government measures to stimulate the economy, especially the banking sector, as a result of the world economic crisis. This was however reduced to 1.4% in 2010. [19]

For 2017 the (expected) figures are as follows: Growth 4.6% Inflation 1.0% Budget deficit 1.7%, to be reduced to 0.8% in 2020 Debt: 20.4%, no new debts to be taken in the fiscal year. [20]

Government and politics

Luxembourg is a parliamentary democracy headed by a constitutional monarch. Under the constitution of 1868, executive power is exercised by the Grand Duke and the cabinet, which consists of several other ministers. The Governor has the power to dissolve the legislature and reinstate a new one, as long as the Grand Duke has judicial approval. However, since 1919, sovereignty has resided with the Supreme Court.

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.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

The dominant public space is the medieval fortress built on Bock promontory. Portions remain of Sigefroi's castle built in 963, as well as archaeological evidence from ancient Gallic encampments and Roman outposts. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when the nation was occupied by the Spanish, French, and Austrians, increasingly elaborate fortifications were constructed on the promontory, and Luxembourg became known as the "Gibraltar of the North." Carved inside the cliff was a fourteen-mile (twenty-three-kilometer) maze of tunnels for underground defense, known as casemates.

When the Prussians withdrew in 1867, the fortifications were larger than the city of Luxembourg. No longer serving a military purpose, most of the fortifications were demolished in the late nineteenth century. During the 1930s though, eleven miles (seventeen kilometers) of casemates and some of the aboveground fortifications were restored as parks and museums. The restored fortifications are the most prominent feature in contemporary "skyline" photographs of the city.

Homes in the historic, central area are typically narrow two- or three-story row houses. Those originally built for wealthier families are more ornate than those originally occupied by working-class families. Older homes in smaller towns and villages, and newer ones in the suburbs, are free-standing, but relatively close together. Outside these houses are well-kept gardens, as well as space to park cars.

Gibraltar of the North

The political galaxy, in the same way as the increasing role played by artillery, was of great significance to the future of the city whose fate was a plaything of the major powers during the course of the 1540s. In the strife which took place between Francis I and Charles V, the city changed hands four times before finally resting in those of the Habsburgs. The latter decided to review the entire defensive system. After long and seemingly interminable works, which were drawn out over almost a century and a half, the fortified city had been transformed into a complete fortress.

At the end of a memorable siege, led by Vauban, the forces of the French King Louis XIV conquered Luxembourg in 1684. Vauban entirely redesigned the defences of the city, and made it into a formidable entity - formidable in the first meaning of the word, that is to say inspiring great fear and apprehension. Luxembourg returned to the Habsburgs in 1697, the city took on the nickname of "Gibraltar of the North" during the 18th century.

After a long blockade, the city of Luxembourg was conquered, in 1795, by the French Revolutionary troops. In 1815, after the creation of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, which became a member of the German Confederation, the city was made a federal fortress with a Prussian garrison.

During the 19th century the conflict between the Bourbons and the Habsburgs had Luxembourg at the very front line between France and Germany. In fact a war over it almost broke out between Napoleon III and Bismarck in 1867. It was only possible to avoid it at the last moment. Thanks to the Treaty of London: the Grand Duchy was declared a neutral state, and the fortifications of the Capital were ordered to be dismantled. Nine centuries after Siegfried, Luxembourg had ceased to be a fortress. There are still remains of the impressive remparts, but they face another problem today - modern traffic.

Luxembourg: History

The county of Luxembourg (originally Lützelburg), extending between the Meuse and Moselle rivers and including the Luxembourg province of Belgium, was one of the largest fiefs in the Holy Roman Empire. John of Luxemburg, king of Bohemia and father of Emperor Charles IV, made Luxembourg a duchy in 1354. The elder line of the house continued in Bohemia and other parts of the Roman empire, with Emperors Wenceslaus and Sigismund the younger line, descended from Charles's brother, Duke Wenceslaus, continued in Luxembourg. (The French noble family of Luxembourg was descended in collateral line from an early count of Luxembourg.)

In 1443, Philip the Good of Burgundy seized the duchy, and in 1451, he was confirmed in possession by the estates of Luxembourg. Luxembourg passed in 1482 to the house of Hapsburg following the death of Mary of Burgundy. For the ensuing three centuries it shared the history of the S Netherlands (see Netherlands, Austrian and Spanish), passing from Spanish to Austrian rule in 1714. The southern part of the duchy, including Montmédy, Thionville, and Longwy, was ceded to France in the Peace of the Pyrenees (1659). In 1684, Louis XIV of France seized Luxembourg, but he was obliged to restore it to Spain by the Treaty of Ryswick (1697). Occupied by the French during the French Revolutionary Wars, the duchy was formally ceded to France by the Treaty of Campo Formio (1797).

The Congress of Vienna (1814–15) officially made Luxembourg a grand duchy, in personal union through the sovereign with the Netherlands. At the same time, Luxembourg became a member of the German Confederation, and the fortress in the capital was garrisoned by Prussian troops. When in 1830 the Belgians rebelled against William I of the Netherlands, Luxembourg shared in the revolt. Belgium, on gaining independence, claimed the entire grand duchy it eventually obtained (1839) the major part (i.e., the present Belgian Luxembourg prov.). The remainder, continuing in personal union with the Netherlands as well as a member of the German Confederation, became autonomous and was granted a constitution in 1848.

When the German Confederation was dissolved in 1866, William III of the Netherlands agreed to sell the grand duchy to France, nearly provoking war between France and Prussia. At the London Conference of 1867 the European powers declared Luxembourg a neutral territory its fortress was dismantled and the Prussian garrison withdrawn. William III died (1890) without a male heir his daughter Wilhelmina succeeded him in the Netherlands, but Duke Adolf of Nassau, from a collateral line, became grand duke of Luxembourg.

Grand Duke Adolf was followed in 1905 by William IV and in 1912 by Marie Adelaide. In 1914, Germany violated the neutrality of the grand duchy and occupied it for the duration of World War I. Grand Duchess Marie Adelaide abdicated in 1919 in favor of her sister, Charlotte, who married Prince Felix of Bourbon-Parma.

Germany again invaded (May, 1940) neutral Luxembourg in World War II. The grand duchess and her cabinet fled abroad, and a government in exile was established in London. Allied troops liberated Luxembourg in Sept., 1944. Luxembourg entered the United Nations (1946) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1949, and it received Marshall Plan aid.

A constitutional revision (1948) abolished the perpetual neutrality of the grand duchy, a status that in practice had ended with the introduction of compulsory military service (1944–67). In 1958, Luxembourg joined with Belgium and the Netherlands to establish the Benelux Economic Union and became a founding member of the European Economic Community (now the European Union). In 1961, Prince Jean, son and heir of Grand Duchess Charlotte, was made his mother's representative as head of state she formally abdicated in 1964, and Prince Jean became grand duke.

In 1995 Jean-Claude Juncker of the Christian Social People's party (CSV) became premier he succeeded Jacques Santer, who became head of the European Union's European Commission. Grand Duke Jean abdicated in favor of his eldest son, Prince Henri, in Oct., 2000. Constitutional changes in 2008 ended the monarch's power to approve Luxembourg's laws. Juncker resigned in 2013 and new elections were called after a misconduct scandal involving Luxembourg's secret service Juncker was responsible for the agency's oversight. Following the elections, Xavier Bettel of the Democratic party became premier of a coalition government. In the 2018 elections the CSV won a plurality, but the parties in the governing coalition won a narrow majority of the seats, and Bettel remained premier. A recent problem in Luxembourg has been the increasing number of aging citizens and a lack of population growth, both of which affect the economy and have led to a dependence on foreign workers.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Benelux Political Geography

Low Countries

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Low Countries, also called Benelux countries, coastal region of northwestern Europe, consisting of Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. These are together known as the Benelux countries, from the initial letters of their names. The Low Countries are bordered by Germany to the east and France to the south. In 1947 the three nations formed the Benelux Customs Union, which broadened over the years into what a 1960 treaty confirmed as the Benelux Economic Union.

The Low Countries are so called because much of their land along the North Sea coast and for some distance inland is either below sea level or just slightly above it. More than a quarter of the total land area of the Netherlands is below sea level, for instance. Natural sand dunes and a system of man-made sea walls and dikes protect the polders (artificially drained flat country largely below sea level) from flooding. The Zuidplaspolder northeast of Rotterdam is the lowest point in the Low Countries and lies 22 feet (6.76 metres) below sea level. The principal rivers of the Low Countries include the Schelde, Meuse (Maas), and branches of the lower Rhine. An extensive network of shipping canals and waterways links the major rivers. More than 3,000 square miles (8,000 square km) of fertile farmland have been reclaimed from the deltas of the Schelde, Meuse, and Rhine rivers and from the Zuiderzee, which was formerly a shallow arm of the North Sea cutting deep into the northwestern coast of the Netherlands.

Ethnically, the Low Countries form a transitional zone between the ancient Germanic and Latin heritages of western Europe. Dutch (a Germanic language) is spoken in the Netherlands and in northern Belgium (where it is known as Flemish), while French (a Romance language) and its Walloon dialects are spoken in southern Belgium. In Luxembourg, Letzenburgish, a German dialect, is the spoken language of the majority. Most of the population of Belgium and Luxembourg is Roman Catholic, while religious adherence in the Netherlands is equally divided between Roman Catholics and Protestants.

The population density of the Low Countries is among the highest in Europe and in the world. All three countries are highly urbanized, and some nine-tenths of the region’s total population resides in cities or urbanized communities. Brussels and Antwerp (in Belgium) and Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and The Hague (in the Netherlands) are among Europe’s major cities.

The Low Countries are one of the world’s more highly industrialized regions and have market economies that are heavily dependent upon external trade. In order to help secure and protect their trade, they were early pioneers in economic integration, forming the Belgium-Luxembourg Economic Union (BLEU) in 1921, followed after World War II by Benelux. That union allows for the free movement of people, goods, capital, and services between the three countries coordinates their policy in economic, financial, and social fields and pursues a common foreign-trade policy. In 1958 the three nations of the Low Countries were among the six founding members of the European Economic Community (EEC now in the European Union).

Conquered by the Romans in the 1st century bce , the Low Countries remained under Roman occupation until the early 5th century ce , when the area came under the control of the Franks. After the collapse of the Frankish Carolingian empire in the mid-9th century, a number of political units emerged in the area of the Low Countries, including the county of Flanders, the duchy of Brabant, the county of Holland, and the bishopric of Liège. The rule of the dukes of Burgundy and then of the house of Habsburg during the 15th and early 16th centuries brought a degree of unity and stability to the area. A revolt began against the rule of Spanish Habsburgs in 1568, and the predominantly Protestant northern provinces formed a Dutch republic, the United Provinces, 12 years later. Spain formally recognized Dutch independence in 1648. Throughout the 17th century the United Provinces was one of the great commercial powers of Europe.

The Low Countries came under the rule of revolutionary France in 1795, and in 1814 they were reunited as the independent Kingdom of the Netherlands. But the mostly Catholic southern provinces, which had remained under Habsburg rule during the 17th and 18th centuries (to 1795), revolted against the north and formed the independent kingdom of Belgium in 1831. Luxembourg, for much of its history a principality of the Holy Roman Empire, was set up as a grand duchy in 1815 to be ruled as a separate state by the kings of the Netherlands. That union ended in 1890.

During World War I the Netherlands remained neutral, while Belgium and Luxembourg were occupied by German forces. All the Low Countries were overrun by the Germans in World War II. After the war, all three countries abandoned their policies of neutrality and became founding members of NATO, proceeding from there to the customs union that became the expanded Benelux Economic Union in 1960. The Low Countries are constitutional and hereditary monarchies with parliamentary forms of government.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Michael Ray, Editor.


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Luxembourg, also called Letzeburg, city, capital of Luxembourg, located in the south-central part of the country. Luxembourg city is situated on a sandstone plateau into which the Alzette River and its tributary, the Petrusse, have cut deep winding ravines. Within a loop of the Alzette, a rocky promontory called the Bock (Bouc) forms a natural defensive position where the Romans and later the Franks built a fort, around which the medieval town developed. The purchase of this castle in 963 ce by Siegfried, count of Ardennes, marked the beginning of Luxembourg as an independent entity. The castle’s old name, Lucilinburhuc (“Little Fortress”), is the origin of the name Luxembourg.

The old town consists of Luxembourg Castle’s surviving fortifications, the Grand Ducal Palace, Notre-Dame Cathedral (the construction of which was begun by the Jesuits in 1613 and completed in 1621), and other historic buildings. The city eventually spread westward, and the suburbs of Grund, Clausen, and Pfaffenthal developed in lower-lying sections across the Alzette from the old town. These sections are linked by several bridges.

Over a 400-year period, Luxembourg Castle was repeatedly attacked and rebuilt—by the Spaniards, Austrians, French, and Dutch, successively—to become the strongest fortress in Europe after Gibraltar. One such reinforcement was undertaken by the French military engineer Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban, who redesigned the city’s defensive fortifications after having orchestrated its siege in 1684 in the service of Louis XIV.

From after the Congress of Vienna (1815) to 1866, the fortress was garrisoned by the Prussians as a bulwark of the German Confederation. With the Treaty of London, in 1867, Luxembourg was declared neutral, and the fortress, containing 15 miles (24 km) of casements, three battlements with 24 forts, and an extensive (10-acre [4-hectare]) area of military barracks, was largely dismantled, an operation that took 16 years. Today visitors can tour the remaining 7 miles (11 km) of casements or view the modern city below from the Chemin de la Corniche, a promontory built atop the old town wall.

The Grand Ducal Palace is home to the royal family, heirs of William I (1772–1843), king of the Netherlands and grand duke of Luxembourg (1815–40). The palace dates from 1572, and later additions were made in 1895. After renovations were completed in the 1990s, portions of the palace were opened to the public.

Notre-Dame Cathedral, a Gothic-style church, contains the tomb of John the Blind, king of Bohemia and count of Luxembourg from 1310 to 1346. Several members of the royal family and noted bishops are buried in the crypt.

The heart of the old town is the Fish Market (Marché-aux-Poissons), around which stand several 17th- and 18th-century buildings, including the mansion housing the Luxembourg National Museum (National Museum of History and Art). Um Bock, a 13th-century building and the city’s oldest, is also located at the Fish Market. Among the city’s other cultural institutions are the Villa Vauban–Museum of the Art of the City of Luxembourg, MUDAM Luxembourg (Grand Duke Jean Museum of Modern Art), the Museum of the History of the City of Luxembourg, and the National Museum of Natural History. At the town of Hamm, 4 miles (6 km) to the east, is a World War II military cemetery with the graves of more than 5,000 U.S. soldiers, including those of Brig. Gen. Edward Betts and Gen. George S. Patton, Jr.

Luxembourg has long been a major road and railway hub. In the 20th century the city became a thriving financial centre, owing to banking laws that keep investors’ identities confidential and allow the accounts of foreign nationals to earn interest tax-free. Luxembourg is the seat of the European Investment Bank, the European Court of Justice, and several other administrative offices of the European Union. In 1994 the old town was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. Pop. (2011 est.) commune, 94,034 urban agglom., 136,816.


The original nucleus of the city, in the upper town, consists of numerous medieval houses and churches, the most notable of which are the Grand Ducal Palace and the Cathedral of Notre Dame (both 16th cent.). Newer features such as the city hall and the Chamber of Deputies, as well the National Museum of Art and History and the city history museum, are also located there. The modern upper town to the west is a busy commercial center bordered by a complex of parks that replaced the old fortifications. On the Kirchberg Plateau to the northwest are Radio-Television-Luxembourg, the Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte Concert Hall, the Grand Duke Jean Museum of Modern Art, and several institutions of the European Union, including the European Court of Justice, the European Investment Bank, and the Secretariat of the European Parliament. The lower town, in the winding valley bottoms, is mostly industrial. The entrenched meanders of the rivers are crossed by spectacular bridges, including the Adolphus Bridge and the Bridge of Europe. The city is the seat of a university (founded 1958).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Benelux Political Geography

Each Whit Tuesday some 10,000 men, women, and children gather in the city of Echertnach in honor of seventh-century monk St Willibrord to take part in Europe’s largest traditional dancing procession, an event which has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status. Watched by around 40,000 spectators, dancers wearing white shirts and dark trousers or skirts and holding handkerchiefs perform a synchronized hopping procession around the city, accompanied by a catchy polka marching band.

It’s home to the European Investment Bank and more than 150 others. At the end of 2014, investigative journalists leaked some 28,000 tax agreements, tax returns and other documents – exposing how around 350 of the world’s largest companies, including Pepsi, IKEA, Procter & Gamble, JP Morgan, and FedEx, were able to save millions by using schemes made possible by Luxembourg’s favorable corporate tax laws. ‘LuxLeaks’ showed how companies set up complicated accounting and legal structures to legally move their profits from the high-tax countries where they have their HQs to low-tax Luxembourg – and in some cases, pay less than 1% in tax. Reforms are on their way.

Watch the video: Geography Now! LUXEMBOURG (June 2022).


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