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Since the end of the Second World War, Luxembourg has invested all its efforts into international cooperation, considered the best way of guaranteeing its sovereignty and development. Over the years, Luxembourg has become a member - often a founding member - of a large number of international organisations and institutions.
Owing to its geographical situation, the Grand Duchy is a country of many different influences due to its multicultural population. It is therefore often perceived by its international partners as a key partner within the institutions. Luxembourg is happy to play the role of mediator and guardian of the law and treaties.
The European institutions in Luxembourg are evidence of the close link between the country and the Union. The following institutions are based in Luxembourg: the Secretariat General of the European Parliament, European Commission services, the Court of Justice of the European Communities, the Court of Auditors, the European Investment Bank, the Office for Official Publications of the European Communities and a European school, with another under construction.
Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg signed a customs convention in London on 5 September 1944, which established the same tariffs at the external borders of the three countries and abolished customs duties on trade within the Benelux. This convention came into effect on 1 January 1948. By associating their three economies, the three countries gave impetus to a new process of integration on the European continent.
On 3 February 1958, nine months after the signature of the Treaties of Rome, the Benelux countries signed the treaty creating an economic union between the three countries. This union came into effect on 1 November 1960. The objective of this treaty was the free movement of persons, goods, capital and services. This involved coordinating economic, financial and social policies, as well as adopting and pursuing a common economic policy with third countries regarding associated payments.
Since then, there have been a number of shifts in Benelux cooperation. Some provisions of the Treaty have been implemented, others have been carried out at a European level, and new tasks have been added for the Benelux.
The three governments attach the utmost importance to political cooperation at all levels, by strengthening Union on the international stage and jointly preparing the concertation in the European institutions. In this way, the three countries play a leading role in European integration.
Founded in 1949, the Council of Europe is the oldest political organisation on the European continent. Luxembourg is one of the 10 founding states of the Council of Europe, which has 45 members to date. The Grand Duchy is an ardent supporter of the objectives of this international organisation, particularly the defence of human rights, parliamentary democracy, the signature of agreements on a continental scale, harmonisation of legal and social practices within Europe and promoting the development of the European identity based on cultural diversity.
At the 110th session of the Committee of Ministers in Vilnius on 2 and 3 May 2002, Luxembourg took on the rotating Presidency of the Committee of Ministers, which it held until November 2002. The priorities of the Luxembourg Presidency were aimed particularly at the gradual implementation of a Europe united around the same values, the guarantee of a common European area of law and respect for human rights and the continual reinforcement of cooperation with other organisations and institutions.
The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is one of the 51 founding member countries of the United Nations. When it joined the organisation on 24 October 1945, day on whichthe United Nations Charter was ratified, the Grand Duchy was the smallest member state in this new world organisation. However, this did not prevent it from participating with a small contingent in the UN intervention in Korea in 1950.
Luxembourg also participates in the work of the main UN agencies, including UNESCO, the World Health Organization (WHO), the Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the World Food Programme (WFP), the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
Furthermore, the Grand Duchy is a signatory to most of the organisation’s declarations and conventions, first and foremost the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As a signatory of the UDHR and the various UN conventions, Luxembourg undertakes to respect and require respect for the fundamental rights contained in these documents, particularly through the work carried out at the United Nations.
With the 191 current member states, the Grand Duchy sits in one of the six main bodies of the UN, the General Assembly. It should be pointed out within this context that in 1974 Gaston Thorn, then Luxembourg’s Prime Minister, took on the role of President of the 30th session of the General Assembly. He is the only Luxembourger ever to have been elected to that post.
Luxembourg now has a permanent representation to various United Nations institutions in New York, Geneva, Vienna, Paris and Rome. However, the country has not yet participated in the supreme body of the world system of international cooperation: the UN Security Council. Recently, the Luxembourg government declared its intention to express its interest in participating in the Council over the long term, by exercising a mandate there over the next decade.
On 27 October 1947, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg became a member of UNESCO, one of the main UN agencies, which was established on 16 November 1945 with the aim of promoting peace through education, science, culture and communication. Currently, this organisation has 190 member states.
Her Royal Highness Grand Duchess Maria Teresa of Luxembourg has been a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for the education of women and children worldwide since 1997. She is a strong supporter of all actions giving women the means to be autonomous and uphold their rights. The Grand Duchess supports all projects aimed at improving the quality of life for girls, women and their families, particularly through granting micro-loans.
It should also be mentioned that the fortifications of Luxembourg cityhave been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site ("Luxembourg city: old quarters and fortress") since 1994. These fortifications, which enjoy an international reputation, are unique in Europe. The casemates of the Bock promontory and those of the Pétrusse valley form an impressive labyrinth of kilometres of underground passageways carved into the rock.
"The Family of Man", the legendary photographic exhibition has been housed at the Chateau of Clervaux since 1994. Created by Edward Steichen for the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1955, it was recently included in this international organisation’s "World Memory" register.
On 4 April 1949, Luxembourg was among the 10 Western European countries which, together with the United States and Canada, signed the Treaty of Washington. It established the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), an alliance bringing together free and sovereign nations with the aim of creating a collective security system. By signing the treaty, the Grand Duchy abandoned its traditional neutrality, which had been granted to it by the Treaty of London of 11 May 1867.
The main objective of the Alliance is specified in Article 5 which stipulates that "the parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all". Although the Atlantic Alliance has fulfilled its mission of containing the threat of a nuclear conflict, new unrest and challenges have appeared. The unprecedented ethnic conflicts in Europe and the terrorist threat have given NATO new responsibilities.
Luxembourg has contributed several hundred volunteers to all NATO's peacekeeping operations (in the Balkans and Afghanistan). The Luxembourg army formed part of NATO’s AMF rapid reaction force, until it was disbanded in 2002.
Luxembourg’s armed forces participate in peacekeeping operations
The Army Act of 1967 did not give any indications as to the missions to be carried out by the Luxembourg army, and this omission has proven a serious handicap over the years.Since the reorganisation of the army in 1997, the Luxembourg army has been authorized to play a full role within the North Atlantic Alliance and the Western European Union in a new international context, in the fields of peacekeeping and humanitarian action, as well as in the traditional areas of the country’s security and defence.
Besides participating in the operations of the United Nations Protection Force in Croatia from March 1992 to August 1993, the Luxembourg army has participated as part of NATO in the IFOR, SFOR and KFOR missions in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia since 1996. As part of the International Security Assistance Force mission, 10 Luxembourg soldiers have been deployed in Afghanistan since August 2003, in order to participate in the security arrangements around Kabul Airport.Luxembourg soldiers have been deployed as part of a joint operation with Belgian armed forces in a mine clearance mission in Cambodia since September 2003.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe was founded in Helsinki in 1975, and currently counts 55 member states. Together, they seek to develop democracy and human rights in Europe, promote peaceful conflict management, develop common security through arms control, conflict prevention, support the reconstruction of democratic structures after a conflict and reinforce security and confidence measures based on reciprocal transparency.
As a founding member, Luxembourg pursues the above objectives through this organisation. In the past, the Grand Duchy has participated in several election supervision missions, particularly in Russia, Georgia, Armenia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and the Ukraine.
Luxembourg has also contributed to the funding of numerous OSCE projects. The Grand Duchy supported the Mobile Culture Container initiative, which sought to promote intercultural communication between young people in the Balkans region, thereby increasing awareness of the important issues involved in this investment among the main players in public life.
Luxembourg became a founding member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation (OECE) in 1947. It was set up to administer aid from the United States and Canada under the Marshall Plan, which aimed to support the reconstruction of Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War.
On 14 December 1960, representatives of the Grand Duchy signed the Convention of Paris, setting up OECD, which succeeded OECE and sought to strengthen the economy of 30 member states, improve their efficiency, promote a market economy, develop free trade and contribute to the growth of both industrialised and developing countries.
The OECD Council brings together the ministers of member countries once a year to deal with the major issues of the day, setting priorities for work during the following year in varied fields, such as sustainable development, the environment and taxation.
Luxembourg’s commitment to development cooperation
Since Luxembourg joined the Development Aid Committee (DAC) of OECD in 1992, the Grand Duchy’s development aid policy has changed substantially, both regarding the funds made available and organisational and qualitative aspects. In 2003, Luxembourg devoted 0.81% of its GNI (Gross National Income) to supporting developing countries, putting it in third place worldwide among the countries most committed to this aim. For further information, please refer to the publication "About Development Cooperation"
Luxembourg has been a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) since its creation on 1 January 1995. It was one of the original contracting parties in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the precursor of WTO, which came into effect on 1 January 1948. WTO, which currently has 147 member states, seeks to encourage the smooth operation, predictability and freedom of international trade as far as possible.
For reasons of efficiency, the European Union speaks with a single voice at the WTO. The commissioner in charge of trade represents the EU in negotiations with the various bodies of the institution. The Member States of the EU are full members of WTO, but the European Union as such also appears among the organisation's members, which increases the influence of European common positions.
The Grande Région is shared between Latin and Germanic cultures, and is located at the centre of the rail axis of European development. It has an urban, rural (Ardennes-Eiffel) and industrial network which creates rich and permanent economic and cultural relations. It has substantial flows of cross-border workers and consumers. Overall, there is a movement of approximately 120,000 cross-border workers, including 90,000 to Luxembourg alone.
The partners take it in turn to hold the Presidency of the Grand Région for a period of 18 months (from 1 January to 30 June the next year). To guarantee a balance between the German and French Presidencies, this rotates in the following pattern: Luxembourg - Saarland - Lorraine - Rhineland-Palatinate - Wallonia.
Since 1995, Grande Région summits have been held regularly every 18 months (one per Presidency), attended by the representatives of each partner in the Grande Région (Prime Minister of the Grand Duchy, Minister-President of the Land of Rhineland-Palatinate, Minister President of the Saarland, etc.).
These meetings at the highest political level are intended to give new impetus to cross-border and interregional cooperation within the Grande Région. Each summit is devoted to a main theme and gives rise to resolutions to be implemented jointly.
It should be noted that "Luxembourg and the Grande Région, European Capital of Culture 2007" was set up following a proposal by Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker and Erna Hennicot-Schoepges, Minister for Culture, Higher Education and Research.
Highlighting the common historic heritage, each region has been allocated a specific theme: migrations for Luxembourg, industrial heritage for the Saarland, culture of remembrance in Lorraine, European VIPs in Rhineland-Palatinate and expressions of modernity for our Belgian partners.
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