Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Quirky Liechtenstein marks bicentennial

By Aussiegirl

I hope you saved all your 4th of July stuff, because this Wednesday you'll have the fun of celebrating all over again, as Liechtenstein celebrates its 200th birthday. The illustration shows the reigning family's cozy hide-a-way.

Quirky Liechtenstein marks bicentennial - Yahoo! News

Quirky Liechtenstein marks bicentennial
By SAM CAGE, Associated Press Writer

In a Europe of nations coming together in a vast continental superstate, Liechtenstein is a quirk of history that harks back to an older world — of separateness, neutrality and sharp survival instincts.

Created by Napoleon in 1806, it has managed to avoid the upheaval of the past century to celebrate its bicentennial, starting Wednesday, in peace and prosperity.

This wedge of central Europe is no fairy tale kingdom, however, but a banking and tax haven which, like other constitutional anomalies such as Monaco and the Isle of Man, has done well out of the world economy. [....]

Today the population numbers 34,000 on a Washington, D.C.-sized patch of the upper Rhine River sandwiched between Austria and Switzerland. In Vaduz, the capital of 5,000 inhabitants, the bicentennial is being celebrated in traditional dress, with street music and a 220-yard-long bar running along Staedtle, the main street.

Alois' controversial father, Hans-Adam II, remains head of state, but has passed most of his sweeping powers — including the right to dismiss governments, veto new laws and cast the deciding vote on the appointment of new judges — to his son.

Hans-Adam gained those powers in 2003, much to the disapproval of human rights groups, when he won a referendum to change the constitution, effectively giving him more power than any other monarch in Europe.

An impoverished farming community until well into the 20th century, Liechtenstein suffered economically during the world wars despite its neutrality, and "was very lucky not to become a battleground," says Swiss historian Peter Geiger.

It oriented itself toward fellow-neutral Switzerland, with which it shares a currency and customs union, and after World War II concentrated on developing its financial services industry, rapidly becoming one of the richest states in the world.

Like other tax havens, Liechtenstein has come under international financial scrutiny and has sought to clean up its image, passing new laws to curb money-laundering and launching a national brand in an attempt to raise its international profile. [....]



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