The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (Lëtzebuerg in Luxembourgish, Luxemburg in German) is the 2nd smallest country in the European Union (after Malta). It is one of the most prosperous countries in the world, with a GDP per capita three times higher than the EU average.
Luxembourg is a trilingual country, having Luxembourgish (a Franconian dialect of High German), French and German as official languages. Luxembourgish is the mother tongue of the indigenous population and the main language spoken at home. School education is in German and French. In everyday life, German is the main language of the media, while French is used for government affairs and business. A lof of people also speak English fluently.
Luxembourg is a founding member of NATO and of the European Union. The city of Luxembourg is the seat of several EU institutions and agencies, notably the European Court of Justice and the Court of Auditors. The Schengen Agreement, which abolished border checks and introduced a harmonised visa policy for member states, was signed in the eponymous village at the southeastern tip of the country.
Luxembourg cuisine artfully blends elements of French, Belgian and German cuisines. It has recently been influenced by the numerous Italian and Portuguese immigrants to the country. Luxembourg City can boast having been awarded the most Michelin stars per capita of any city in the world. As of 2012, 13 of its restaurants had received a total of 16 Michelin stars, a number only exceeded by 6 other European cities, all with a population of over 1 million (against 100,000 for Luxembourg).
Famous people from Luxembourg include (chronologically): the physicist and inventor Gabriel Lippmann (Nobel prize), the EU "founding father" Robert Schuman (who also served twice as Prime Minister of France), the politician Gaston Thorn (former Prime Minister of Luxembourg and EU Commission President), the politician Jacques Santer (former Prime Minister of Luxembourg and EU Commission President), the current Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker (former President of the European Council and President of the Eurogroup).
The history of Luxembourg started with the creation of an independent Frankish county in 963. Promoted to the rank of duchy in 1354, its rulers were to have a profound impact on the politics of central Europe, providing several Holy Roman Emperors, Kings of Bohemia, and Archbishops of Trier and Mainz. The Duchy of Luxembourg passed to the Habsburg by marriage in 1477, and remained in their possession until the French Revolution.
In 1815, after the collapse of Napoleon's Empire, the Congress of Vienna gave formal autonomy to Luxembourg. In the ensuing years, the Austrians, Prussians, Dutch and French all tried to reclaim Luxembourg, which was one of the strongest fortifications in Europe at the time, and therefore played strategic role in European politics. In 1830 the Belgians and Luxembourgers revolted against Dutch rule and became an independent country, Luxembourg acting as a province of the new Belgian state.
The Dutch refused to recognise Belgium's independence and seized Antwerp, Belgium's only sizeable port. In the Treaty of London of 1839, the Netherlands accepted to recognise the independence of the Kingdom of Belgium and to retrocede Antwerp in exchange for the creation of an independent state of Luxembourg (comprising only the German-speaking part of the historical duchy), with William I of the Netherlands as its Grand Duke.
In 1867, a diplomatic dispute between France and Prussia over the political status of Luxembourg almost led to war between the two parties. The French government of Emperor Napoleon III offered to purchase Luxembourg from William III of the Netherlands for 5 million guilders. Being in deep financial trouble, William accepted the offer. Bismarck, the Prussian Prime Minister, opposed the deal and threatened war. All of the Great Powers were convened to London to hammer out a deal that would prevent war. The Second Treaty of London guaranteed the perpetual independence and neutrality of Luxembourg. It was agreed that Luxembourg's fortifications were to be dismantled - which took sixteen years of work ! Luxembourg remained a possession of the kings of the Netherlands until the death of William III in 1890, when the grand duchy passed to the House of Nassau-Weilburg due to a Nassau inheritance pact of 1783.
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