Luxembourg, or Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, a landlocked independent country in western Europe. It is bordered by Belgium, Germany, and France. With an area of 999 square miles (2,586 km2), Luxembourg is one of the smallest countries on the continent. Maximum distances are about 50 miles (80 km) north-south and 30 miles (50 km) east-west.
Northern Luxembourg, called sling, is part of the Ardennes plateau and forms the more rugged portion of the country. Elevations here reach more than 1,800 feet (550 m). Much of the land is heavily wooded. The southern two-thirds of Luxembourg, called Gutland or Bon Pays (both meaning Good Land), consists of open, rolling land at an elevation of roughly 1,000 feet (300 m). Found here are the most productive and heavily populated parts of the country. Virtually all of Luxembourg is drained by the Moselle River and its tributaries, one of which is the Sre.
The climate is moderate, with temperatures averaging about 34 F. (4 C.) in winter and 62 F. (17 C.) during summer. Precipitation is plentiful, averaging about 30 inches (760 mm) a year.
Luxembourg is primarily a banking and manufacturing nation and is one of the more prosperous countries of Europe. Membership in the European Union (EU) and in the Benelux union has aided economic growth and stability.
Luxembourg's basic currency unit is the euro.
Manufacturing, especially of steel and steel products, accounts for a large share of Luxembourg's gross domestic product. The steel industry is concentrated in the south. Among the other manufactured items are processed foods, wine and beer, textiles, ceramics, and plastic, chemical, and rubber goods. Numerous foreign companies operate manufacturing plants in Luxembourg.
The banking industry has experienced spectacular growth since the early 1960's. Virtually all the banks are foreign owned; most have been attracted by the country's liberal banking laws. Most of the banks and other financial institutions are located in the city of Luxembourg, the national capital. Also in the city are several units of the European Union, including the European Court of Justice, the secretariat of the European Parliament, and the main office of the European Investment Bank.
About half of Luxembourg's land is used for agriculture. Farms are generally small and are concentrated in the south. Chief crops are potatoes, wheat, barley, oats, and fodder crops. Wine grapes are grown in the Moselle Valley. Beef and dairy cattle, hogs, and poultry are raised.
Luxembourg has well-developed road and railway systems. The Moselle River is the only waterway open to barge traffic. International oceanic shipments are handled through the ports of neighboring countries, mainly Antwerp in Belgium. Just outside Luxembourg city, the capital, is Findel Airport, the nation's only international and commercial airport.
Luxembourg's population density is 445 persons to the square mile (172 per km2). About 90 per cent of the population is urban.
The original language of Luxembourg, and still the chief dialect, is Letzeburgisch (or Luxembourgish), an old Frankish dialect of German. The official language of the government is French, although German is the language most frequently used in commerce and the press. Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion, with Protestants and Jews together totaling only 3 per cent of the population.
Almost everyone in Luxembourg can read and write. Education is compulsory for children from the age of 6 to the age of 15. There are several professional and technical colleges, including an academy of music. Centre Universitaire de Luxembourg was founded in 1969.
|Facts in brief about Luxembourg|
|Languages: Official—French, German, Letzeburgesch.|
|Form of government: Constitutional monarchy.|
|Area: 998 mi2 (2,586 km2). Greatest distances—north-south, 55 mi (89 km); east-west, 35 mi (56 km).|
|Elevation: Highest—Buurgplatz, 1,835 ft (559 m) above sea level, in the Ardennes Mountains. Lowest—435 ft (133 m) above sea level on the Moselle River.|
|Population: Current estimate—469,000; density, 470 per mi2 (181 per km2); distribution, 91 percent urban, 9 percent rural. 2001 census—439,539.|
|Chief products: Agriculture—barley, grapes, oats, potatoes, wheat, livestock. Manufacturing—steel, chemicals, plastics, tires, wine, food processing.|
|National anthem: "Ons Hémécht" ("Our Homeland").|
|Flag: Luxembourg's flag, adopted in 1845, has three horizontal stripes, red, white, and blue (top to bottom). The colors come from the coat of arms of Luxembourg.|
|Money: Basic unit—euro. One hundred cents equal one euro. The Luxembourg franc was taken out of circulation in 2002.|
Luxembourg is a constitutional monarchy. It is called a grand duchy because the ruler is a grand duke or grand duchess—a sovereign of slightly lower rank than a king or queen. Executive power is vested in the grand duke or grand duchess, who is assisted by an appointed president of the government (prime minister) and a Council of Ministers. Legislative power rests with an elected 60-member Chamber of Deputies. There is also an appointed 21-member Council of State, whose function is advisory.
For administrative purposes, Luxembourg is divided into three districts and 12 cantons.