Sunday, 21 October 2012

CASE 428 - The history of Luxembourg

The first written account of this country and people is found in the fifth book of Cæsar's "Commentarii de Bello Gallico. On the Lower Moselle and its tributaries dwelt at that time (53 B.C.) the powerful race of the Treviri, who, in alliance with the people under their protection (for example the Eburones under Ambiorix), at first gave the Romans great trouble, but they were soon compelled to yield to superior numbers and gradually attained the highest civilization. Under Emperor Constantine (323-337) Trier (Augusta Trevirorum) became the capital of the province Belgica prima, and later the residence of the prefects of Gaul. The Christian Faith was introduced at a very early period. Since 316 the town was the see of a bishop. As more than half of the subsequent Duchy of Lorraine belonged for centuries to the Diocese of Trier, it is a logical conclusion that the Christianization of the Ardennes proceeded principally from there. During the Germanic migration the north-eastern provinces of the Roman Empire suffered greatly. Devastated and depopulated, they were occupied by the victorious Franks. In the division of Charlemagne's empire (843) the provinces in question fell to the share of the Emperor Lothair. In the middle of the tenth century (963?) the feudal lord, Siegfried, who held rich possessions in the Forest of Ardennes, acquired the Castellum Lucilini (supposed to have been built by the Romans) with the lands in its vicinity, and styled himself Graf von Lützelburg. From the marriage of this great and good man descended Empress Saint Cunigunde, wife of Henry II, the Saint."

"The last of Siegfried's male descendents, Conrad II, died about 1126. His dominions passed first to the counts of Namur and subsequently to Ermesinde, who reigned from 1196 to 1247. She was especially noted for the impulse she gave to religious life by the foundation of monasteries. Her son and successor, Henry V (1247-81), showed the influence of his noble mother. He took part in Saint Louis's crusade against Tunis. His successor, Henry VI, remained until nearly 1288 at war near Woringen. His wife, Beatrice, had borne him two sons, both of whom attained the highest honours and excellence: Baldwin, afterwards Archbishop of Trier, and Henry, who obtained the Roman imperial crown as Henry VII (1309). The advancement of the reigning family brought no advantage to the country, as the counts wandered farther and farther from home, and concerned themselves only with the affairs of the Empire or the Kingdom of Bohemia. They endeavoured to compensate for this in a measure by raising Luxemburg to a duchy, but could not prevent part of it from crumbling away and the whole (1444) falling to Burgundy by conquest. From the House of Valois, which became extinct on the death of Charles the Bold, in 1477, the country passed to Austria, and was subject to the Spanish Habsburgs (1556-1714); then to the German Habsburgs (1714-95), and finally to the French (until 1814)."

After the overthrow of Napoleon, better times began for Luxemburg. The Congress of Vienna decided that as an appendage of the newly created Kingdom of the Netherlands with the rank of grand duchy, it should become a part of the German Confederation. June 9, 1815, after 400 years of domination by various European nations, Luxembourg was made a grand duchy by the Congress of Vienna. It was granted political autonomy in 1838 under King William I of the Netherlands, who also was the Grand Duke of Luxembourg. The country considers 1835 to be its year of independence. In 1867, Luxembourg was recognized as independent and guaranteed perpetual neutrality. After being occupied by Germany in both World Wars, however, Luxembourg abandoned neutrality and became a charter member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1949.

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.

Since the end of World War II, the Christian Social Party (CSV) has usually been the dominant partner in governing coalitions. The Roman Catholic-oriented CSV resembles Christian Democratic parties in other west European countries and enjoys broad popular support. However, in June 1999, national elections ushered in a new government. For the first time since 1974, the Socialist Party (LSAP) ceded its junior coalition position with the long-reigning CSV majority to the Liberal Democrat Party (DP).

The DP is a center party, drawing support from the professions, merchants, 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 since 1984, the DP had been a partner in the three previous consecutive coalition governments.

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, including its membership in NATO.

National elections are held at least every 5 years and municipal elections every 6 years. In the June 1999 parliamentary elections, the CSV won 19, the DP 15, the LSAP 13, the ADR (a single-issue party that emerged from the LSAP focused on pension rights) 6, the "Greens" 5, and the PCL 1. Hence, for the first time since 1974, the Socialists (LSAP) ceded their junior coalition position with the long-reigning Christian Socialist (CSV) majority to the Liberal Democrats. Jean-Claude Juncker (CSV) remained for a second 5-year term as Prime Minister, and Lydie Polfer (DP), the former Luxembourg City mayor, was named Vice Prime Minister and Foreign Minister.

The 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. Luxembourg is the 2nd richest country per capita, at $81,500 per person and has been for many years due to many banks and financial institutes being drawn to Luxembourg.

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