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General background: Founded in 963, Luxembourg became a grand duchy in 1815 and an independent state under the Netherlands. It lost more than half of its territory to Belgium in 1839, but gained a larger measure of autonomy. Full independence was attained in 1867. Overrun by Germany in both World Wars, it ended its neutrality in 1948 when it entered into the Benelux Customs Union and when it joined NATO the following year. In 1957, Luxembourg became one of the six founding countries of the European Economic Community (later the European Union) and in 1999 it joined the euro currency area.

Area comparative: Slightly smaller than Rhode Island.

Climate: Modified continental with mild winters, cool summers.

Terrain: Mostly gently rolling uplands with broad, shallow valleys; uplands to slightly mountainous in the north; steep slope down to Moselle flood plain in the southeast.

Population: 448,569 (July 2002 est.)

Ethnic groups: Celtic base (with French and German blend), Portuguese, Italian, Slavs (from Montenegro, Albania, and Kososvo) and European (guest and resident workers).

Religions: The greatest preponderance of the population is Roman Catholic with a very few Protestants, Jews, and Muslims
note: 1979 legislation forbids the collection of religious statistics.

Language: Luxembourgish (national language), German (administrative language), French (administrative language)

Government type: Constitutional monarchy

Capital: Luxembourg

Legal system: Based on civil law system; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction.

Economic overview: This stable, high-income economy features solid growth, low inflation, and low unemployment. The industrial sector, initially dominated by steel, has become increasingly diversified to include chemicals, rubber, and other products. Growth in the financial sector has more than compensated for the decline in steel. Services, especially banking, account for a substantial proportion of the economy. Agriculture is based on small family-owned farms. The economy depends on foreign and trans-border workers for 30% of its labor force. Although Luxembourg, like all EU members, has suffered from the global economic slump, the country has maintained a fairly robust growth rate. On 1 January 2002, Luxembourg - together with 11 of its EU partners - began to replace its circulating national currency with the euro.

Communication/Telephone system: Highly developed, completely automated and efficient system, mainly buried cables.

Places of interest: The north of the country lures outdoors enthusiasts with sylvan settings promising fabulous skiing and hiking. The Moselle Valley, just east of Luxembourg City, is one of Europe's most idyllic wine-producing regions.

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