Europe

Liechtenstein country profile

  • 5 March 2016
  • From the section Europe
Map of Liechtenstein

The Principality of Liechtenstein is a tiny, doubly-landlocked country tucked away between Switzerland and Austria and with mountain slopes rising above the Rhine valley.

It owes much of its wealth to its traditional status as a tax haven, though it has in recent years taken steps to shake off its image as a tax haven and to reposition itself as a legitimate financial centre.

The country has come through a lengthy political wrangle over the role and power of the hereditary monarchy.

After an often bitter campaign, the people voted in March 2003 in a constitutional referendum to give Prince Hans-Adam sweeping new political powers. The following year he handed over practical power to his son, Crown Prince Alois.

LEADERS

Head of state: Prince Hans-Adam II

Regent and crown prince: Alois

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Prince Hans-Adam II

Prince Hans-Adam, a successful banker, became head of state following the death of his father, Prince Franz Josef, in 1989. In August 2004 he handed over the day-to-day running of the principality to his son, Crown Prince Alois, while remaining titular head of state.

In 2003 the royals won sweeping new powers in a constitutional referendum, which gave them the power to veto parliamentary decisions and to sack the government.

Prime minister: Adrian Hasler

Adrian Hasler of the centre-right Progressive Citizens Party (PCP) took office in March 2013, after his party came first in the February general election, winning 10 seats in the 25-seat parliament.

He has vowed to reduce the country's budget deficit by cutting back on public spending.

MEDIA

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images

Liechtenstein has a very sparse media scene, with the circulation figures of its newspapers at around 10,000 or less.

Its citizens rely on foreign and satellite broadcasters for most TV and radio services.

The press

Radio

TIMELINE

Some key dates in the history of Liechtenstein:

1719 - Liechtenstein acquires its present name and becomes an independent principality of the Holy Roman Empire.

1815 - Liechtenstein becomes a member of the German Confederation until 1866.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption View of Vaduz with Liechtenstein Castle in the background

1866 - Liechtenstein becomes fully independent.

1919 - The Hapsburg monarchy of Austria is abolished. Switzerland replaces Austria as the representative of Liechtenstein's interests abroad.

1921 - Liechtenstein adopts Swiss currency.

1923 - Liechtenstein enters customs union with Switzerland.

1938 - Prince Franz Josef II ascends to the throne.

1939 - Outbreak of World War II. Liechtenstein remains neutral.

1984 - Prince Franz Josef II hands over executive power to his son, Crown Prince Hans-Adam II. 1989 - Prince Franz Josef II dies. He is succeeded by Hans-Adam II.

1990 - Liechtenstein joins the United Nations.

2003 - People vote in referendum to give sweeping new political powers to Crown Prince Hans-Adam.

2004 - Prince Hans-Adam hands over day-to-day running of Liechtenstein to his son Prince Alois while remaining head of state.

2009 - Signs agreements on the sharing of financial information with a number of countries including the US, UK and Germany. OECD removes Liechtenstein from a blacklist of countries uncooperative on tax matters.

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