Liechtenstein (/ˈlɪktənstaɪn/ ( listen) LIK-tən-styne[ˈlɪçtn̩ʃtaɪn]]]), officially the Principality of Liechtenstein Fürstentum Liechtenstein), is a German-speaking microstate in Alpine Central Europe. The principality is a semi-constitutional monarchy headed by the Prince of Liechtenstein.
Liechtenstein is bordered by Switzerland to the west and south and Austria to the east and north. It is Europe's fourth-smallest country, with an area of just over 160 square kilometres (62 square miles) and a population of 37,877. Divided into 11 municipalities, its capital is Vaduz, and its largest municipality is Schaan. It is also the smallest country to border two countries. Liechtenstein and Uzbekistan are the only two doubly landlocked countries in the world.
Economically, Liechtenstein has one of the highest gross domestic products per person in the world when adjusted for purchasing power parity. It was once known as a billionaire tax haven, but is no longer on any blacklists of uncooperative tax haven countries.
An Alpine country, Liechtenstein is mountainous, making it a winter sport destination. The country has a strong financial sector centered in Vaduz. Liechtenstein is a member of the United Nations, the European Free Trade Association, and the Council of Europe, and although not a member of the European Union, it participates in both the Schengen Area and the European Economic Area. It also has a customs union and a monetary union with Switzerland.
The Hallstatt and La Tène cultures flourished during the late Iron Age, from around 450 BCE—possibly under some influence of both the Greek and Etruscan civilisations. One of the most important tribal groups in the Alpine region were the Helvetii. In 58 BCE, at the Battle of Bibracte, Julius Caesar defeated the Alpine tribes, therefore bringing the region under close control of the Roman Republic. By 15 BCE, Tiberius—destined to be the second Roman emperor—with his brother, Drusus, conquered the entirety of the Alpine area. Liechtenstein was then integrated into the Roman province of Raetia. The area was maintained by the Roman military, who also maintained large legionary camps at Brigantium (Austria), near Lake Constance, and at Magia (Swiss). A Roman road which ran through the territory was also created and maintained by these groups. In 259/60 Brigantium was destroyed by the Alemanni, a Germanic people who settled in the area in around 450 CE.
In the Early Middle Ages, the Alemanni settled the eastern Swiss plateau by the 5th century and the valleys of the Alps by the end of the 8th century, with Liechtenstein located at the eastern edge of Alemannia. In the 6th century, the entire region became part of the Frankish Empire following Clovis I's victory over the Alemanni at Tolbiac in 504.
The area that later became Liechtenstein remained under Frankish hegemony (Merovingian and Carolingian dynasties), until the empire was divided by the Treaty of Verdun in 843 CE, following the death of Charlemagne. The territory of present-day Liechtenstein was under the possession of East Francia. It would later be reunified with Middle Francia under the Holy Roman Empire, around 1000 CE. Until about 1100, the predominant language of the area was Romansch, but thereafter German began to gain ground in the territory. In 1300, an Alemannic population—the Walsers, who originated in Valais—entered the region and settled. The mountain village of Triesenberg still preserves features of Walser dialect into the present century.
By 1200, dominions across the Alpine plateau were controlled by the Houses of Savoy, Zähringer, Habsburg, and Kyburg. Other regions were accorded the Imperial immediacy that granted the empire direct control over the mountain passes. When the Kyburg dynasty fell in 1264, the Habsburgs under King Rudolph I (Holy Roman Emperor in 1273) extended their territory to the eastern Alpine plateau that included the territory of Liechtenstein. This region was enfeoffed to the Counts of Hohenems until the sale to the Liechtenstein dynasty in 1699.
The family, from which the principality takes its name, originally came from Liechtenstein Castle in Lower Austria which they had possessed from at least 1140 until the 13th century (and again from 1807 onwards). The Liechtensteins acquired land, predominantly in Moravia, Lower Austria, Silesia, and Styria. As these territories were all held in feudal tenure from more senior feudal lords, particularly various branches of the Habsburgs, the Liechtenstein dynasty was unable to meet a primary requirement to qualify for a seat in the Imperial diet (parliament), the Reichstag. Even though several Liechtenstein princes served several Habsburg rulers as close advisers, without any territory held directly from the Imperial throne, they held little power in the Holy Roman Empire.
For this reason, the family sought to acquire lands that would be classed as unmittelbar (immediate) or held without any intermediate feudal tenure, directly from the Holy Roman Emperor. During the early 17th century Karl I of Liechtenstein was made a Fürst (prince) by the Holy Roman Emperor Matthias after siding with him in a political battle. Hans-Adam I was allowed to purchase the minuscule Herrschaft ("Lordship") of Schellenberg and county of Vaduz (in 1699 and 1712 respectively) from the Hohenems. Tiny Schellenberg and Vaduz had exactly the political status required: no feudal lord other than their comital sovereign and the suzerain Emperor.
On 23 January 1719, after the lands had been purchased, Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor, decreed that Vaduz and Schellenberg were united and elevated the newly formed territory to the dignity of Fürstentum (principality) with the name "Liechtenstein" in honour of "[his] true servant, Anton Florian of Liechtenstein". It was on this date that Liechtenstein became a sovereign member state of the Holy Roman Empire. It is a testament to the pure political expediency of the purchase that the Princes of Liechtenstein never visited their new principality for almost 100 years.
By the early 19th century, as a result of the Napoleonic Wars in Europe, the Holy Roman Empire came under the effective control of France, following the crushing defeat at Austerlitz by Napoleon in 1805. Emperor Francis II abdicated, ending more than 960 years of feudal government. Napoleon reorganized much of the Empire into the Confederation of the Rhine. This political restructuring had broad consequences for Liechtenstein: the historical imperial, legal, and political institutions had been dissolved. The state ceased to owe an obligation to any feudal lord beyond its borders.
Modern publications generally attribute Liechtenstein's sovereignty to these events.
In 1818, Prince Johann I granted the territory a limited constitution. In that same year Prince Aloys became the first member of the House of Liechtenstein to set foot in the principality that bore their name. The next visit would not occur until 1842.
Developments during the 19th century included:
- 1836, the first factory, for making ceramics, was opened.
- 1861, the Savings and Loans Bank was founded along with the first cotton-weaving mill.
- 1868, the Liechtenstein Army was disbanded for financial reasons.
- 1872, a railway line between Switzerland and the Austro-Hungarian Empire was constructed through Liechtenstein.
- 1886, two bridges over the Rhine to Switzerland were built.
Until the end of World War I, Liechtenstein was closely tied first to the Austrian Empire and later to Austria-Hungary; the ruling princes continued to derive much of their wealth from estates in the Habsburg territories, and spent much of their time at their two palaces in Vienna. The economic devastation caused by the war forced the country to conclude a customs and monetary union with its other neighbour, Switzerland.
At the time of the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, it was argued that Liechtenstein, as a fief of the Holy Roman Empire, was no longer bound to the emerging independent state of Austria, since the latter did not consider itself the legal successor to the empire. This is partly contradicted by the Liechtenstein perception that the dethroned Austro-Hungarian Emperor still maintained an abstract heritage of the Holy Roman Empire.
In 1929, 75-year-old Prince Franz I succeeded to the throne. He had just married Elisabeth von Gutmann, a wealthy woman from Vienna whose father was a Jewish businessman from Moravia. Although Liechtenstein had no official Nazi party, a Nazi sympathy movement arose within its National Union party. Local Liechtenstein Nazis identified Elisabeth as their Jewish "problem".
In March 1938, just after the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany, Franz named as regent his 31-year-old grandnephew and heir-presumptive, Prince Franz Joseph. Franz died in July that year, and Franz Joseph succeeded to the throne. Franz Joseph II first moved to Liechtenstein in 1938, a few days after Austria's annexation.
During World War II, Liechtenstein remained officially neutral, looking to neighbouring Switzerland for assistance and guidance, while family treasures from dynastic lands and possessions in Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia were taken to Liechtenstein for safekeeping. At the close of the conflict, Czechoslovakia and Poland, acting to seize what they considered German possessions, expropriated the entirety of the Liechtenstein dynasty's properties in those three regions. The expropriations (subject to modern legal dispute at the International Court of Justice) included over 1,600 km2 (618 sq mi) of agricultural and forest land (most notably the UNESCO listed Lednice–Valtice Cultural Landscape), and several family castles and palaces.
Citizens of Liechtenstein were forbidden to enter Czechoslovakia during the Cold War. More recently the diplomatic conflict revolving around the controversial postwar Beneš decrees resulted in Liechtenstein not sharing international relations with the Czech Republic or Slovakia. Diplomatic relations were established between Liechtenstein and the Czech Republic on 13 July 2009, and with Slovakia on 9 December 2009.
Liechtenstein was in dire financial straits following the end of the war in Europe.
By the late 1970s, Liechtenstein used its low corporate tax rates to draw many companies, and became one of the wealthiest countries in the world.
As of September 2008 the Prince of Liechtenstein is the world's eighth wealthiest monarch, with an estimated wealth of US$3.5 billion. The country's population enjoys one of the world's highest standards of living.
Liechtenstein has a monarch as Head of State, and an elected parliament that enacts the law.
The reigning Prince is the head of state and represents Liechtenstein in its international relations (although Switzerland has taken responsibility for much of Liechtenstein's diplomatic relations).
Executive authority is vested in a collegiate government comprising the head of government (prime minister) and four government councilors (ministers).
Legislative authority is vested in the unicameral Landtag, made up of 25 members elected for maximum four-year terms according to a proportional representation formula. Fifteen members are elected from the "Oberland" (Upper Country or region) and ten from the "Unterland" (Lower Country or region). Parties must receive at least 8% of the national vote to win seats in parliament, i.e. enough for 2 seats in the 25-seat legislature. Parliament proposes and approves a government, which is formally appointed by the Prince. Parliament may also pass votes of no confidence in the entire government or individual members.
Parliament elects from among its members a "Landesausschuss" (National Committee) made up of the president of the parliament and four additional members.
Judicial authority is vested in the Regional Court at Vaduz, the Princely High Court of Appeal at Vaduz, the Princely Supreme Court, the Administrative Court, and the State Court.
On 1 July 1984, Liechtenstein became the last country in Europe to grant women the right to vote.
In a national referendum in March 2003, nearly two-thirds of the electorate voted in support of Hans-Adam II's proposed new constitution. The proposed constitution was criticised by many, including the Council of Europe, as expanding the powers of the monarchy (continuing the power to veto any law, and allowing the Prince to dismiss the government or any minister). The Prince threatened that if the constitution failed, he would, among other things, convert some royal property for commercial use and move to Austria. The princely family and the Prince enjoy tremendous public support inside the nation, and the resolution passed with about 64% in favour. A proposal to revoke the Prince's veto powers was rejected by 76% of voters in a 2012 referendum.
Few national constitutions provide a right of secession, but municipalities in Liechtenstein are entitled to secede from the union by majority vote.
In 2013, Liechtenstein won for the first time a SolarSuperState Prize in the category Solar recognizing the achieved level of the usage of photovoltaics per population within the state territory. The SolarSuperState Association justified this prize with the cumulative installed photovoltaic power of some 290 Watt per capita at the end of 2012.
Liechtenstein is situated in the Upper Rhine valley of the European Alps and is bordered to the east by Austria, and to the south and west by Switzerland. The entire western border of Liechtenstein is formed by the Rhine. Measured south to north the country is about 24 km (15 mi) long. Its highest point, the Grauspitz, is 2,599 m (8,527 ft). Despite its Alpine location, prevailing southerly winds make the climate comparatively mild. In winter, the mountain slopes are well suited to winter sports.
New surveys using more accurate measurements of the country's borders in 2006 have set its area at 160 km2 (62 sq mi), with borders of 77.9 km (48.4 mi). Liechtenstein's borders are 1.9 km (1.2 mi) longer than previously thought.
Liechtenstein is one of the world's two doubly landlocked countries — countries wholly surrounded by other landlocked countries (the other is Uzbekistan). Liechtenstein is the sixth-smallest independent nation in the world by area.
The principality of Liechtenstein is divided into 11 communes called Gemeinden (singular Gemeinde). The Gemeinden mostly consist of only a single town or village. Five of them (Eschen, Gamprin, Mauren, Ruggell, and Schellenberg) fall within the electoral district Unterland (the lower county), and the remainder (Balzers, Planken, Schaan, Triesen, Triesenberg, and Vaduz) within Oberland (the upper county).
Despite its limited natural resources, Liechtenstein is one of the few countries in the world with more registered companies than citizens; it has developed a prosperous, highly industrialized free-enterprise economy and boasts a financial service sector as well as a living standard that compares favourably with those of the urban areas of Liechtenstein's much larger European neighbours.
Liechtenstein participates in a customs union with Switzerland and employs the Swiss franc as the national currency. The country imports about 85% of its energy. Liechtenstein has been a member of the European Economic Area (an organization serving as a bridge between the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the European Union) since May 1995.
The government is working to harmonize its economic policies with those of an integrated Europe.
Industries include electronics, textiles, precision instruments, metal manufacturing, power tools, anchor bolts, calculators, pharmaceuticals, and food products.
The government of Liechtenstein taxes personal income, business income, and principal (wealth).
Liechtenstein's gift and estate taxes vary depending on the relationship the recipient has to the giver and the amount of the inheritance. The tax ranges between 0.5% and 0.75% for spouses and children and 18% to 27% for non-related recipients. The estate tax is progressive.
Liechtenstein has previously received significant revenues from Stiftungen ("foundations"), financial entities created to hide the true owner of nonresident foreigners' financial holdings. The foundation is registered in the name of a Liechtensteiner, often a lawyer. This set of laws used to make Liechtenstein a popular tax haven for extremely wealthy individuals and businesses attempting to avoid or evade taxes in their home countries. In recent years, Liechtenstein has displayed stronger determination to prosecute international money launderers and worked to promote an image as a legitimate finance center. In February 2008, the country's LGT Bank was implicated in a tax-fraud scandal in Germany, which strained the ruling family's relationship with the German government. Crown Prince Alois has accused the German government of trafficking in stolen goods, referring to its $7.3 million purchase of private banking information offered by a former employee of LGT Group. The United States Senate's subcommittee on tax haven banks said that the LGT bank, owned by the princely family, and on whose board they serve, "is a willing partner, and an aider and abettor to clients trying to evade taxes, dodge creditors or defy court orders".
The 2008 Liechtenstein tax affair is a series of tax investigations in numerous countries whose governments suspect that some of their citizens have evaded tax obligations by using banks and trusts in Liechtenstein; the affair broke open with the biggest complex of investigations ever initiated for tax evasion in Germany. It was also seen as an attempt to put pressure on Liechtenstein, then one of the remaining uncooperative tax havens—along with Andorra and Monaco—as identified by the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in 2007. On 27 May 2009 the OECD removed Liechtenstein from the blacklist of uncooperative countries.
In August 2009, the British government department HM Revenue & Customs agreed with Liechtenstein to start exchanging information. It is believed that up to 5,000 British investors have roughly £3 billion deposited in accounts and trusts in the country.
In October 2015, the European Union and Liechtenstein signed a tax agreement to ensure the automatic exchange of financial information in case of tax disputes.
Population-wise, Liechtenstein is Europe's fourth-smallest country; Vatican City, San Marino, and Monaco have fewer residents. Its population is primarily Alemannic-speaking, although one third is foreign-born, primarily German speakers from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, along with other Swiss, Italians, and Turks. Foreign-born people make up two-thirds of the country's workforce.
Liechtensteiners have an average life expectancy at birth of 82.0 years, subdividing as male: 79.8 years, female: 84.8 years (2018 est.). The infant mortality rate is 4.2 deaths per 1,000 live births, according to 2018 estimates.
The official language is German; most speak an Alemannic dialect of German that is highly divergent from Standard German but closely related to dialects spoken in neighbouring regions such as Switzerland and Vorarlberg, Austria. In Triesenberg, a Walser German dialect promoted by the municipality is spoken. Swiss Standard German is also understood and spoken by most Liechtensteiners.
Liechtenstein offers protection to adherents of all religions, and considers the "religious interests of the people" a priority of the government. In Liechtenstein schools, although exceptions are allowed, religious education in Roman Catholicism or Protestantism (either Reformed or Lutheran, or both) is legally required. Tax exemption is granted by the government to religious organizations. According to the Pew Research Center, social conflict caused by religious hostilities is low in Liechtenstein, and so is government restriction on the practice of religion.
According to the 2010 census, 85.8% of the total population is Christian, of whom 75.9% adhere to the Roman Catholic faith, constituted in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vaduz, while 9.6% are either Protestant, mainly organized in the Evangelical Church in Liechtenstein (a United church, Lutheran & Reformed) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Liechtenstein, or Orthodox, mainly organized in the Christian-Orthodox Church. The largest minority religion is Islam (5.4% of the total population).
The literacy rate of Liechtenstein is 100%. In 2006 Programme for International Student Assessment report, coordinated by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, ranked Liechtenstein's education as the 10th best in the world. In 2012, Liechtenstein had the highest PISA-scores of any European country.
Within Liechtenstein, there are four main centres for higher education:
- University of Liechtenstein
- Private University in the Principality of Liechtenstein
- Liechtenstein Institute
- International Academy of Philosophy, Liechtenstein 
There are nine public high schools in the country.
- Liechtensteinisches Gymnasium in Vaduz.
- Realschule Vaduz and Oberschule Vaduz, in the Schulzentrum Mühleholz II in Vaduz
- Realschule Schaan and Sportschule Liechtenstein in Schaan
There are about 250 kilometres (155 miles) of paved roadway within Liechtenstein, with 90 km (56 miles) of marked bicycle paths.
A 9.5 km (5.9 mi) railway connects Austria and Switzerland through Liechtenstein.
There are four railway stations in Liechtenstein, namely Schaan-Vaduz, Forst Hilti, and Nendeln and Schaanwald, served by an irregularly stopping train service between Feldkirch and Buchs provided by Austrian Federal Railways. While EuroCity and other long-distance international trains also travel along the route, they do not normally call at the stations within the borders of Liechtenstein.
Liechtenstein has no airport.
As a result of its small size, Liechtenstein has been strongly affected by external cultural influences, most notably those originating in the southern regions of German-speaking Europe, including Austria, Baden-Wurttemberg, Bavaria, Switzerland, and specifically Tirol and Vorarlberg. The "Historical Society of the Principality of Liechtenstein" plays a role in preserving the culture and history of the country.
The largest museum is the Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein, an international museum of modern and contemporary art with an important international art collection. The building by the Swiss architects Morger, Degelo, and Kerez is a landmark in Vaduz. It was completed in November 2000 and forms a "black box" of tinted concrete and black basalt stone. The museum collection is also the national art collection of Liechtenstein.
The other important museum is the Liechtenstein National Museum (Liechtensteinisches Landesmuseum) showing permanent exhibition on the cultural and natural history of Liechtenstein as well as special exhibitions. There is also a stamp museum, ski museum, and a 500-year-old Rural Lifestyle Museum.
On the country's national holiday all subjects are invited to the castle of the head of state.
Music and theatre are an important part of the culture.
The primary internet service provider and mobile network operator of Liechtenstein is Telecom Liechtenstein, located in Schaan. There is only one television channel in the country, the private channel 1FLTV created in 2008. At the moment, 1FLTV is not a member of the European Broadcasting Union. L-Radio, which was established in 2004, serves as Liechtenstein's radio station and is based in Triesen. L-Radio has a listener base of 50,000 and began as "air Radio Liechtenstein" on 15 October 1938. Liechtenstein also has two major newspapers; Liechtensteiner Volksblatt and Liechtensteiner Vaterland. The primary multimedia company in Liechtenstein is ManaMedia, located in Vaduz.
Amateur radio is a hobby of some nationals and visitors. However, unlike virtually every other sovereign nation, Liechtenstein does not have its own ITU prefix. It uses Switzerland's callsign prefixes (typically "HB") followed by a zero.
Liechtenstein football teams play in the Swiss football leagues. The Liechtenstein Football Cup allows access for one Liechtenstein team each year to the UEFA Europa League; FC Vaduz, a team playing in the Swiss Challenge League, the second division in Swiss football, is the most successful team in the Cup, and scored their greatest success in the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1996 when they drew with and defeated the Latvian team FC Universitate Riga by 1–1 and 4–2, to go on to a lucrative fixture against Paris Saint-Germain F.C., which they lost 0–3 and 0–4.
The Liechtenstein national football team is regarded as an easy target for any team drawn against them; this was the basis for a book about Liechtenstein's unsuccessful qualifying campaign for the 2002 World Cup by British author, Charlie Connelly. In one surprising week during autumn 2004, however, the team managed a 2–2 draw with Portugal, who only a few months earlier had been the losing finalists in the European Championships. Four days later, the Liechtenstein team traveled to Luxembourg, where they defeated the home team 4–0 in a 2006 World Cup qualifying match. In the qualification stage of the European Championship 2008, Liechtenstein beat Latvia 1–0, a result which prompted the resignation of the Latvian coach. They went on to beat Iceland 3–0 on 17 October 2007, which is considered one of the most dramatic losses of the Icelandic national football team. On 7 September 2010, they came within seconds of a 1–1 draw against Scotland in Glasgow, having led 1–0 earlier in the second half, but Liechtenstein lost 2–1 thanks to a goal by Stephen McManus in the 97th minute. On 3 June 2011, Liechtenstein defeated Lithuania 2–0. On 15 November 2014, Liechtenstein defeated Moldova 0–1 with Franz Burgmeier's late free kick goal in Chișinău.
As an alpine country, the main sporting opportunity for Liechtensteiners to excel is in winter sports such as downhill skiing: the country's single ski area is Malbun. Hanni Wenzel won two gold medals and one silver medal in the 1980 Winter Olympics (she won bronze in 1976), her brother Andreas won one silver medal in 1980 and one bronze medal in 1984 in the giant slalom event, and her daughter Tina Weirather won a bronze medal in 2018 in the Super-G. With ten medals overall (all in alpine skiing), Liechtenstein has won more Olympic medals per capita than any other nation. It is the smallest nation to win a medal in any Olympics, Winter or Summer, and the only nation to win a medal in the Winter Games but not in the Summer Games. Other notable skiers from Liechtenstein are Marco Büchel, Willi Frommelt, Paul Frommelt and Ursula Konzett. Liechtenstein is also the home country of Stephanie Vogt, a professional women's tennis player.
Liechtenstein competes in the Switzerland U16 Cup Tournament, which offers young players an opportunity to play against top football clubs.
Security and defence
The Liechtenstein National Police is responsible for keeping order within the country. It consists of 87 field officers and 38 civilian staff, totaling 125 employees. All officers are equipped with small arms. The country has one of the world's lowest crime rates. Liechtenstein's prison holds few, if any, inmates, and those with sentences over two years are transferred to Austrian jurisdiction. The Liechtenstein National Police maintains a trilateral treaty with Austria and Switzerland that enables close cross-border cooperation among the police forces of the three countries.
Liechtenstein follows a policy of neutrality and is one of the few countries in the world that maintain no military. The army was abolished soon after the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, in which Liechtenstein fielded an army of 80 men, although they were not involved in any fighting. The demise of the German Confederation in that war freed Liechtenstein from its international obligation to maintain an army, and parliament seized this opportunity and refused to provide funding for one. The Prince objected, as such a move would leave the country defenceless, but relented on 12 February 1868 and disbanded the force. The last soldier to serve under the colors of Liechtenstein died in 1939 at age 95.
During the 1980s the Swiss army fired off shells during an exercise and mistakenly burned a patch of forest inside Liechtenstein.
In March 2007, a 170-man Swiss infantry unit got lost during a training exercise and inadvertently crossed 1.5 km (0.9 miles) into Liechtenstein.