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Luxembourg, History

Jacques Santer, Jacques Delors, Dutch king, Zollverein, Grand Duchess Charlotte

Under Roman rule, Luxembourg was included in the province of Belgica Prima; later it became a part of the Frankish kingdom of Austrasia and of Charlemagne’s empire.

In 1060 the country came under the rule of Count Conrad, founder of the house of Luxemburg, which provided the Holy Roman Empire with four emperors in the 14th and early 15th centuries before being superseded in 1437 by the Habsburg dynasty. For the next four centuries, Spain and Austria alternately dominated the country. At the close of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, Luxembourg was established as a grand duchy by the Congress of Vienna and placed under the rule of William I, king of The Netherlands. In 1830 the Belgian provinces of The Netherlands revolted, and the grand duchy joined them. By the end of that year, Belgium had become an autonomous kingdom, and Luxembourg remained a part of the new country until 1839, when its western portion was ceded to Belgium and the remainder was recognized as a sovereign and independent state. The Dutch king retained nominal authority as grand duke. In 1842 Luxembourg became a member of the Prussian-led German customs union called the Zollverein, and for the next quarter-century the grand duchy was under Prussian domination. Napoleon III, emperor of France, opened negotiations in 1866 with William III, king of The Netherlands, for the purchase of Luxembourg, but the proposal provoked a dangerous crisis in Franco-Prussian relations. War was averted by an international conference held in London in May 1867, which adopted a treaty guaranteeing the independence of the grand duchy and providing for its perpetual neutrality. With the death of William III in 1890 the grand ducal crown passed to Adolf of the German house of Nassau.

German military forces occupied Luxembourg in August 1914, at the outbreak of World War I, and retained control of the country for the duration of the war. The grand duchy joined the League of Nations in 1920.

During World War II (1939-1945) Luxembourg was invaded by Germany on May 10, 1940. The reigning grand duchess, Charlotte, subsequently established a government-in-exile in London. In August 1942 the Germans proclaimed the grand duchy a part of the Third Reich.

Allied military forces liberated Luxembourg in September 1944, and the country was restored to civilian control. On June 26, 1945, it became an original member of the United Nations. An agreement establishing the Benelux Customs Union (now the Benelux Economic Union) among Belgium, The Netherlands, and Luxembourg, took effect on January 1, 1948. Under the terms of a constitutional amendment adopted later in 1948, Luxembourg abrogated its traditional neutrality. The same year the country became a founding member of the Brussels Treaty Organization and a participant in the European Recovery Program; it joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1949. Luxembourg signed the 1951 treaty creating the European Coal and Steel Community. In 1956 France agreed to assist in the electrification of the Luxembourg railroads; in exchange, the grand duchy permitted France to construct a canal along the Mosel River, which forms part of the Luxembourg border. Early in 1957, France, West Germany (now part of the united Federal Republic of Germany), and Luxembourg founded an international company to canalize the Mosel River. On January 1, 1958, the European Community (now called the European Union) went into effect, with Luxembourg as a founding member. In elections in 1959, the Christian Social Party won a plurality in the legislature, and Pierre Werner, a Christian Socialist, formed a coalition cabinet. Treaties transforming the Benelux nations into a full economic union went into effect on November 1, 1960. On May 4, 1961, Prince Jean, the heir apparent, was sworn in as governor by his mother, Grand Duchess Charlotte. The duchess abdicated on November 12, 1964; immediately afterward, Jean became grand duke.

The government of Prime Minister Werner resigned on October 29, 1968. In general elections in December, the Democratic Party made strong gains, and Werner formed a new government of Christian Socialists and Democrats. In general elections in 1974 the Democrats and Socialists made strong gains, and Gaston Thorn, a Democrat, became prime minister at the head of a Democratic-Socialist coalition. Werner headed another coalition government from 1979 to 1984, a period marked by a prolonged recession. After elections were held in June 1984, a Christian Social-Socialist Worker coalition led by Jacques Santer took office. Santer remained prime minister, but with a reduced majority after the elections of June 1989 and June 1994. In 1995 Santer resigned as prime minister and replaced Jacques Delors as president of the European Commission. Santer was succeeded by Jean-Claude Juncker as prime minister. Juncker has been returned to office in subsequent elections.

Luxembourg’s Chamber of Deputies ratified the Treaty on European Union (known as the Maastricht Treaty) in July 1992. Luxembourg’s constitution was amended in 1994 to reflect the Maastricht Treaty’s clauses on monetary union and the electoral rights of foreigners.

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