Liechtenstein, officially the Principality of Liechtenstein is a doubly landlocked alpine country in Central Europe, bordered by Switzerland to the west and south and by Austria to the east and north. Its area is just over 160 square kilometres (62 sq mi), and it has an estimated population of 35,000. Its capital is Vaduz. The biggest town is Schaan(HP Pavilion dv6 battery). Liechtenstein has the highest gross domestic product per person in the world when adjusted by purchasing power parity, and has the world's lowest external debt. Liechtenstein also has the second lowest unemployment rate in the world at 1.5% (Monaco is first).
Liechtenstein is the smallest yet the richest (by measure of GDP per capita) German-speaking country and the only country to lie entirely within the Alps. It is known as a principality as it is a constitutional monarchy headed by a prince(HP Pavilion DV6-1210SA battery). Liechtenstein is divided into 11 municipalities. Much of its terrain is mountainous, making it a winter sports destination. Many cultivated fields and small farms characterize its landscape both in the south (Oberland, upper land) and in the north (Unterland, lower land). The country has a strong financial sector located in the capital, Vaduz, and has been identified as a tax haven. It is a member of the European Free Trade Association and part of the European Economic Area and the Schengen Area, but not of the European Union(HP Pavilion dv6000 battery).
At one time, the territory was part of the ancient Roman province of Raetia. For centuries this territory, geographically removed from European strategic interests, had little impact on European history. Prior to the reign of its current dynasty, the region was enfeoffed to a line of the counts of Hohenems(HP Pavilion dv6200 battery).
The Liechtenstein dynasty, from which the principality takes its name, comes from Castle Liechtenstein in Lower Austria, which the family possessed from at least 1140 until the 13th century, and from 1807 onward. Through the centuries, the dynasty acquired vast tracts of land, predominantly in Moravia, Lower Austria, Silesia, and Styria, though these territories were all held in fief under other more senior feudal lords, particularly under various lines of the Habsburg family, whom several Liechtenstein princes served as close advisers(HP Pavilion dv6500 battery). Thus, without any territory held directly under the Imperial throne, the Liechtenstein dynasty was unable to meet a primary requirement to qualify for a seat in the Imperial diet (parliament), the Reichstag.
The family yearned for the added power a seat in the Imperial government would bring and therefore sought to acquire lands that would be unmittelbar, or held without any feudal personage other than the Holy Roman Emperor having rights on the land. After some time(HP Pavilion dv8000 battery), the family was able to arrange the purchase of the minuscule Herrschaft ("Lordship") of Schellenberg and county of Vaduz (in 1699 and 1712 respectively) from the Hohenems. Tiny Schellenberg and Vaduz had exactly the political status required: no feudal lord other than their comital sovereign and the suzerain Emperor.
On 23 January 1719, after the lands had been purchased, Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor, decreed that Vaduz and Schellenberg were united and elevated the newly formed territory to the dignity of Fürstentum (principality) (HP Pavilion dv9000 battery) with the name "Liechtenstein" in honour of "[his] true servant, Anton Florian of Liechtenstein". It was on this date that Liechtenstein became a sovereign member state of the Holy Roman Empire. It is a testament to the pure political expediency of the purchases that the Princes of Liechtenstein did not set foot in their new principality for over 120 years(HP Pavilion dv9200 battery).
As a result of the Napoleonic Wars, by 1806 much of the Holy Roman Empire was under the effective control of French emperor Napoleon I. When the empire was dissolved, this had broad consequences for Liechtenstein: imperial, legal and political mechanisms broke down. The state ceased to owe obligations to any feudal lord beyond its borders(HP Pavilion dv9500 battery).
Modern publications generally attribute Liechtenstein's sovereignty to these events. Its prince ceased to owe obligations to any suzerain. From 25 July 1806 when the Confederation of the Rhine was founded, the Prince of Liechtenstein was a member, in fact a vassal of its hegemon, styled protector, the French Emperor Napoleon I, until the dissolution of the confederation on 19 October 1813(HP Pavilion dv9700 battery).
Soon afterward, Liechtenstein joined the German Confederation (20 June 1815 – 24 August 1866) which was presided over by the Emperor of Austria.
Then, in 1818, Johann I granted the territory a limited constitution. 1818 also saw the first visit of a member of the house of Liechtenstein, Prince Alois; however, the first visit by a sovereign prince would not occur until 1842(HP Pavilion N5000 battery).
Developments during the 19th century included:
In 1836, the first factory was opened, making ceramics.
In 1861, the Savings and Loans Bank was founded, as was the first cotton-weaving mill.
Two bridges over the Rhine were built in 1868, and in 1872 a railway line across Liechtenstein was constructed.
Until the end of World War I, Liechtenstein was closely tied first to the Austrian Empire and later to Austria-Hungary; the ruling princes continued to derive much of their wealth from estates in the Habsburg territories, and they spent much of their time at their two palaces in Vienna. The economic devastation caused by this war forced the country to conclude a customs and monetary union with its other neighbor, Switzerland. Liechtenstein's army was disbanded in 1868 for financial reasons(HP Pavilion dm3 battery).
At the time of the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, it was argued that Liechtenstein, as a fief of the Holy Roman Empire, was no longer bound to the emerging independent state of Austria, since the latter did not consider itself as the legal successor to the empire. This is partly contradicted by the coeval Liechtenstein perception that the dethroned Austro-Hungarian Emperor still maintained an abstract heritage of the Holy Roman Empire(HP Pavilion DM4 battery).
Franz I, Prince of Liechtenstein.
In March 1938, just after the annexation of Austria into Greater Germany, 84 year old Prince Franz I named his heir-presumptive, 31-year-old first cousin-twice removed, Prince Franz Joseph, regent. Franz died in July that year, and Franz Joseph succeeded to the throne. The new sovereign prince's wife Elisabeth von Gutmann, whom he had married in 1929, was a wealthy Jewish woman from Vienna, and local Liechtenstein Nazis had already identified her as their Jewish "problem"(HP Pavilion dm3-1001au battery). Although Liechtenstein had no official Nazi party, a Nazi sympathy movement had been simmering for years within its National Union party.
During World War II, Liechtenstein remained officially neutral, looking to neighboring Switzerland for assistance and guidance, while family treasures within the war zone were taken to Liechtenstein for safekeeping. At the close of the conflict, Czechoslovakia and Poland, acting to seize what they considered to be German possessions, expropriated the entirety of the Liechtenstein dynasty's hereditary lands and possessions in Bohemia(HP Pavilion dm3-1014tu battery), Moravia, and Silesia – the princes of Liechtenstein lived in Vienna until the Anschluss of 1938. The expropriations (subject to modern legal dispute at the International Court of Justice) included over 1,600 km2 (618 sq mi) of agricultural and forest land, and several family castles and palaces.
Citizens of Liechtenstein were forbidden to enter Czechoslovakia during the Cold War. More recently the diplomatic conflict revolving around the controversial post-war Beneš decrees resulted in Liechtenstein not sharing international relations with the Czech Republic or Slovakia. Diplomatic relations were established between Liechtenstein and the Czech Republic on 13 July 2009, and with Slovakia on 9 December 2009. (HP Pavilion dv6-3000 battery)
Liechtenstein gave asylum to about 500 soldiers of the First Russian National Army (a collaborationist Russian force within the German Wehrmacht) at the close of World War II. About 200 of the group somewhat voluntarily agreed to return to the USSR. They departed in a train to Vienna and nothing was ever heard of them again. The remainder stayed in Liechtenstein for another year, resisting with support of Liechtenstein(HP Pavilion dv6-3005sa battery), further pressure by the Soviet government to participate in the repatriation programme. (In contrast, due to agreements made during the Yalta Conference, the western Allies repatriated Soviet citizens.) Eventually the government of Argentina offered asylum and about a hundred people left. This is commemorated by a monument at the border town of Hinterschellenberg(HP Pavilion dv6-3005tx battery).
In dire financial straits following the war, the Liechtenstein dynasty often resorted to selling family artistic treasures, including the priceless portrait "Ginevra de' Benci" by Leonardo da Vinci, which was purchased by the National Gallery of Art of the United States in 1967. Liechtenstein prospered, however, during the decades following, as it used its low corporate tax rates to draw many companies to the country(HP Pavilion dv6-3006tx battery).
The Prince of Liechtenstein is the world's sixth wealthiest leader with an estimated wealth of USD $5 billion. The country's population enjoys one of the world's highest standards of living.
The centre of government in Vaduz.
Hans-Adam II, Prince of Liechtenstein as pictured by Erling Mandelmann in 1974
Liechtenstein has a constitutional monarch as Head of State, and an elected parliament which enacts law. It is also a direct democracy, where voters can propose and enact constitutional amendments and legislation independent of the legislature. The Constitution of Liechtenstein was adopted in March 2003(HP Pavilion dv6-3011tx battery), replacing the previous 1921 constitution which had established Liechtenstein as a constitutional monarchy headed by the reigning prince of the Princely House of Liechtenstein. A parliamentary system had been established, although the reigning Prince retained substantial political authority.
The reigning Prince is the head of state and represents Liechtenstein in its international relations (although Switzerland has taken responsibility for much of Liechtenstein's diplomatic relations). The Prince may veto laws adopted by parliament(HP Pavilion dv6-3010sa battery). The Prince can call referendums, propose new legislation, and dissolve parliament, although dissolution of parliament may be subject to a referendum.
Executive authority is vested in a collegiate government comprising the head of government (prime minister) and four government councilors (ministers). The head of government and the other ministers are appointed by the Prince upon the proposal and concurrence of parliament, thus reflecting the partisan balance of parliament. The constitution stipulates that at least two members of the government be chosen from each of the two regions. (HP Pavilion dv6-3015sa battery) The members of the government are collectively and individually responsible to parliament; parliament may ask the Prince to remove an individual minister or the entire government.
Legislative authority is vested in the unicameral Landtag made up of 25 members elected for maximum four-year terms according to a proportional representation formula. Fifteen members are elected from the "Oberland" (Upper Country or region) and ten members are elected from the "Unterland" (Lower Country or region). (HP Pavilion dv6-3020sa battery) Parties must receive at least 8% of the national vote to win seats in parliament. Parliament proposes and approves a government, which is formally appointed by the Prince. Parliament may also pass votes of no confidence in the entire government or individual members.
Parliament elects from among its members a "Landesausschuss" (National Committee) made up of the president of the parliament and four additional members. The National Committee is charged with performing parliamentary oversight functions(HP Pavilion dv6-3025sa battery). Parliament can call for referendums on proposed legislation. Parliament shares the authority to propose new legislation with the Prince and with the number of citizens required for an initiative referendum.
Judicial authority is vested in the Regional Court at Vaduz, the Princely High Court of Appeal at Vaduz, the Princely Supreme Court, the Administrative Court, and the State Court. The State Court rules on the conformity of laws with the constitution and has five members elected by parliament(HP Pavilion dv6-3026tx battery).
On 1 July 1984, Liechtenstein became the last country in Europe to grant women the right to vote. The referendum on women's suffrage, in which only men were allowed to participate, passed with 51.3% in favor.
In a national referendum in March 2003, nearly two-thirds of the electorate voted in support of Hans-Adam II's proposed new constitution to replace the 1921 one. The proposed constitution was criticised by many, including the Council of Europe(HP Pavilion dv6-3030sa battery), as expanding the powers of the monarchy (continuing the power to veto any law, and allowing the Prince to dismiss the government or any minister). The Prince threatened that if the constitution failed, he would, among other things, convert some of the royal property for commercial use and move to Austria. The royal family and the Prince enjoy tremendous public support inside the nation, and the resolution passed with about 64% in favour. A proposal to revoke the Prince's veto powers was rejected by 76% of voters in a 2012 referendum. (HP Pavilion dv6-3030tx battery)
The Rhine: Border between Liechtenstein and Switzerland (view to the Swiss Alps)
Liechtenstein is situated in the Upper Rhine valley of the European Alps and is bordered to the east by Austria and to the south and west by Switzerland. The entire western border of Liechtenstein is formed by the Rhine. Measured south to north the country is about 24 km (15 mi) long. Its highest point, the Grauspitz, is 2,599 m (8,527 ft). Despite its Alpine location, prevailing southerly winds make the climate of Liechtenstein comparatively mild(HP Pavilion dv6-3031sa battery). In winter, the mountain slopes are well suited to winter sports.
New surveys using more accurate measurements of the country's borders in 2006 have set its area at 160 km2 (61.776 sq mi), with borders of 77.9 km (48.4 mi). Thus, Liechtenstein discovered in 2006 that its borders are 1.9 km (1.2 mi) longer than previously thought.
Liechtenstein is one of only two doubly landlocked countries in the world—being a landlocked country wholly surrounded by other landlocked countries (the other is Uzbekistan). Liechtenstein is the sixth-smallest independent nation in the world by land area(HP Pavilion dv6-3032sa battery).
The principality of Liechtenstein is divided into 11 communes called Gemeinden (singular Gemeinde). The Gemeinden mostly consist only of a single town or village. Five of them (Eschen, Gamprin, Mauren, Ruggell, and Schellenberg) fall within the electoral district Unterland (the lower county), and the remainder (Balzers, Planken, Schaan, Triesen, Triesenberg, and Vaduz) within Oberland (the upper county) (HP Pavilion dv6-3032tx battery).
Despite (or perhaps because of) its limited natural resources, Liechtenstein is one of the few countries in the world with more registered companies than citizens; it has developed a prosperous, highly industrialized free-enterprise economy and boasts a financial service sector as well as a living standard which compares favourably with those of the urban areas of Liechtenstein's large European neighbours(HP Pavilion dv6-3033sa battery).
Very low business taxes (lowest in Europe after Andorra 10% maximum tax rate)—the corporate tax rate is a flat 12.5%—as well as easy Rules of Incorporation have induced about 73,700 holding (or so-called 'letter box') companies to establish registered offices in Liechtenstein. This provides about 30% of Liechtenstein's state revenue. Liechtenstein also generates revenue from Stiftungen ("foundations"), which are financial entities created to increase the privacy of nonresident foreigners' financial holdings(HP Pavilion dv6-3035sa battery). The foundation is registered in the name of a Liechtensteiner, often a lawyer.
Recently, Liechtenstein has shown strong determination to prosecute international money-launderers and has worked to promote the country's image as a legitimate finance center. In February 2008, the country's LGT Bank was implicated in a tax-fraud scandal in Germany, which strained the ruling family's relationship with the German government. Crown Prince Alois has accused the German government of trafficking in stolen goods(HP Pavilion dv6-3040sa battery). This refers to its $7.3 million purchase of private banking information illegally offered by a former employee of LGT Group. However, the United States Senate's subcommittee on tax haven banks said that the LGT bank, which is owned by the royal family, and on whose board they serve, "is a willing partner, and an aider and abettor to clients trying to evade taxes, dodge creditors or defy court orders." (HP Pavilion dv6-3042tx battery)
Liechtenstein participates in a customs union with Switzerland and employs the Swiss franc as national currency. The country imports about 85% of its energy. Liechtenstein has been a member of the European Economic Area (an organization serving as a bridge between the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the European Union) since May 1995. The government is working to harmonize its economic policies with those of an integrated Europe(HP Pavilion dv6-3044sa battery). Since 2002, Liechtenstein's rate of unemployment has doubled. In 2008, it stood at 1.5%. Currently, there is only one hospital in Liechtenstein, the Liechtensteinisches Landesspital in Vaduz. The gross domestic product (GDP) on a purchasing power parity basis is $5.028 billion, or $141,100 per capita, which is the second highest in the world. (HP Pavilion dv6-3045sa battery)
Liechtenstein is a large producer of ceramics and is the world's largest producer of sausage casings and false teeth. Other industries include electronics, textiles, precision instruments, metal manufacturing, power tools, anchor bolts, calculators, pharmaceuticals, and food products. Its most recognizable international company and largest employer is Hilti, a manufacturer of direct fastening systems and other high-end power tools(HP Pavilion dv6-3046sa battery). Liechtenstein produces wheat, barley, corn, potatoes, dairy products, livestock, and wine. Tourism accounts for a large portion of the country's economy.
Since 1923 there has been no border control between Liechtenstein and Switzerland
The government of Liechtenstein taxes both personal and business income and principal (wealth). The basic rate of personal income tax is 1.2%. When combined with the additional income tax imposed by the communes, the combined income tax rate is 17.82%.(HP Pavilion dv6-3047sa battery) An additional income tax of 4.3% is levied on all employees under the country's social security programme. This rate is higher for the self-employed, up to a maximum of 11%, making the maximum income tax rate about 29% in total. The basic tax rate on wealth is 0.06% per annum, and the combined total rate is 0.89%. The tax rate on corporate profits is 12.5%.
Liechtenstein's gift and estate taxes vary depending on the relationship the recipient has to the giver and the amount of the inheritance(HP Pavilion dv6-3048sa battery). The tax ranges between 0.5% and 0.75% for spouses and children and 18% to 27% for non-related recipients. The estate tax is progressive.
The 2008 Liechtenstein tax affair is a series of tax investigations in numerous countries whose governments suspect that some of their citizens may have evaded tax obligations by using banks and trusts in Liechtenstein; the affair broke open with the biggest complex of investigations ever initiated for tax evasion in the Federal Republic of Germany. (HP Pavilion dv6-3048tx battery) It was also seen as an attempt to put pressure on Liechtenstein, then one of the remaining uncooperative tax havens—along with Andorra and Monaco—as identified by the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in 2007. On 27 May 2009 the OECD removed Liechtenstein from the blacklist of uncooperative countries.
In August 2009, the British Government Department, HM Revenue & Customs, agreed with Liechtenstein to start exchanging information. It is believed that up to 5,000 British investors have roughly £3 billion stashed in accounts and trusts in the country. (HP Pavilion dv6-3050eo battery)
Administrative divisions of Liechtenstein
Liechtenstein is the fourth smallest country of Europe, after Vatican City, Monaco, and San Marino. Its population is primarily Alemannic-speaking, although its resident population is approximately one third foreign-born, primarily German speakers from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, other Swiss, Italians, and Turks. Foreign-born people make up two-thirds of the country's workforce. (HP Pavilion dv6-3050sa battery)
The official language is German; most speak Alemannic, a dialect of German that is highly divergent from Standard German but closely related to those dialects spoken in neighbouring regions such as Vorarlberg, Austria. In Triesenberg, a dialect promoted by the municipality is spoken. According to the 2000 census, 87.9% of the population is Christian, of whom 78.4% adhere to the Roman Catholic faith, while about 8% are Protestant. Compared to the 1990 census(HP Pavilion dv6-3055sa battery), the percentage of Christians fell, whereas Muslims and the undeclared more than doubled in size. According to a 2009 Pew Research Center report, Muslims constitute approximately 4.8% of the population.
Liechtensteiners have an average life expectancy at birth of 80.31 years, male: 76.86 years, female: 83.77 years (2011 est.). The infant mortality rate is 4.64 deaths per 1,000 live births, according to recent estimates. The literacy rate of Liechtenstein is 100%. The Programme for International Student Assessment, coordinated by the OECD, currently ranks Liechtenstein's education as the 10th best in the world. (HP Pavilion dv6-3056sa battery)
9.5 km (5.9 mi) of railway connects Austria and Switzerland through Liechtenstein. The country's railways are administered by the Austrian Federal Railways as part of the route between Feldkirch, Austria, and Buchs, Switzerland. Liechtenstein is nominally within the Austrian Verkehrsverbund Vorarlberg tariff region. There are four stations in Liechtenstein, namely Schaan-Vaduz, Forst Hilti, Nendeln(HP Pavilion dv6-3057sa battery), and Schaanwald, served by an irregularly stopping train service that runs between Feldkirch and Buchs provided by the Austrian Federal Rail Service. While EuroCity and other long distance international trains also travel along the route, they do not normally stop at the stations within the borders of Liechtenstein.
Liechtenstein Bus is a subsidiary of the Swiss Postbus system, but separately run, and connects to the Swiss bus network at Buchs and at Sargans(HP Pavilion dv6-3060sa battery). Buses also run to the Austrian town of Feldkirch.
Liechtenstein has no airport. The nearest large airport is Zürich Airport near Zürich, Switzerland (130 km/80 mi by road). The nearest small airport is St. Gallen Airport (50 km/30 mi). There is a small heliport at Balzers in Liechtenstein available for chartered helicopter flights.
As a result of its small size, Liechtenstein has been strongly affected by external cultural influences, most notably those originating in the southern German-speaking areas of Europe, including Austria, Baden-Wurttemberg, Bavaria, Switzerland, and specifically Tirol and Vorarlberg(HP Pavilion dv6-3065ea battery). The "Historical Society of the Principality of Liechtenstein" plays a role in preserving the culture and history of the country.
The largest museum is the Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein, an international museum of modern and contemporary art with an important international art collection. The building by the Swiss architects Morger, Degelo and Kerez is a landmark in Vaduz. It was completed in November 2000 and forms a "black box" of tinted concrete and black basalt stone. The museum collection is also the national art collection of Liechtenstein(HP Pavilion dv6-3067ea battery).
The other important museum is the Liechtenstein National Museum (Liechtensteinisches Landesmuseum) showing permanent exhibition on the cultural and natural history of Liechtenstein as well as special exhibitions. There is also a stamp museum and a ski museum.
The most famous historical sites are Vaduz Castle, Gutenberg Castle, the Red House and the ruins of Schellenberg(HP Pavilion dv6-3068ea battery).
Music and theatre are an important part of the culture. There are numerous music organizations such as the Liechtenstein Musical Company, the annual Guitar Days and the International Josef Gabriel Rheinberger Society, which play in two main theatres.
The Private Art Collection of the Prince of Liechtenstein, one of the world's leading private art collections, is shown at the Liechtenstein Museum in Vienna(HP Pavilion dv6-3070ea battery).
Amateur radio is a hobby of some nationals and visitors. However, unlike virtually every other sovereign nation, Liechtenstein does not have its own ITU Prefix. It uses Switzerland's callsign prefixes (typically "HB") followed by a zero.
Marco Büchel, the first Liechtensteiner Alpine skier to compete at six Winter Olympics.
Liechtenstein football teams play in the Swiss football leagues. The Liechtenstein Football Cup allows access for one Liechtenstein team each year to the UEFA Europa League(HP Pavilion dv6-3077la battery); FC Vaduz, a team playing in the Swiss Challenge League, the second division in Swiss football, is the most successful team in the Cup, and scored their greatest success in the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1996 when they drew with and defeated the Latvian team FC Universitate Riga by 1–1 and 4–2, to go on to a lucrative fixture against Paris St Germain, which they lost 0–4 and 0–3(HP Pavilion dv6-3085ea battery).
The Liechtenstein national football team is regarded as an easy target for any team drawn against them; this was the basis for a book about Liechtenstein's unsuccessful qualifying campaign for the 2002 World Cup by British author, Charlie Connelly. In one surprising week during autumn 2004, however, the team managed a 2–2 draw with Portugal, who only a few months earlier had been the losing finalists in the European Championships. Four days later(HP Pavilion dv6-3088la battery), the Liechtenstein team traveled to Luxembourg, where they defeated the home team 4-0 in a 2006 World Cup qualifying match. In the qualification stage of the European Championship 2008, Liechtenstein beat Latvia 1-0, a result which prompted the resignation of the Latvian coach. They went on to beat Iceland 3-0 on 17 October 2007, which is considered one of the most dramatic losses of the Icelandic national football team. On 7 September 2010, they came within seconds of a 1–1 draw against Scotland in Glasgow(HP Pavilion dv6-3089la battery), having led 1–0 earlier in the second half, but Liechtenstein lost 2–1 thanks to a goal by Stephen McManus in the 97th minute. On 3 June 2011, Liechtenstein defeated Lithuania 2-0.
As an alpine country, the main sporting opportunity for Liechtensteiners to excel is in winter sports such as downhill skiing: the country's single ski area is Malbun. Hanni Wenzel won two gold medals and one silver medal in the 1980 Winter Olympics (she won bronze in 1976) (HP Pavilion dv6-3100 battery), and her brother Andreas won one silver medal in 1980 and one bronze medal in 1984 in the giant slalom event. With nine medals overall (all in alpine skiing), Liechtenstein has won more Olympic medals per capita than any other nation. It is the smallest nation to win a medal in any Olympics, Winter or Summer, and the only nation to win a medal in the Winter Games but not in the Summer Games. Other notable skiers from Liechtenstein are Marco Büchel, Tina Weirather, Willi Frommelt, Paul Frommelt and Ursula Konzett(HP Pavilion dv6-3100sa battery).
The Liechtenstein National Police is responsible for keeping order within the country. It consists of 87 field officers and 38 civilian staff, totaling 125 employees. All officers are equipped with small arms. The country has one of the world's lowest crime rates. Liechtenstein's prison holds few, if any, inmates, and those with sentences over two years are transferred to Austrian jurisdiction(HP Pavilion dv6-3110ea battery). The Liechtenstein National Police maintains a trilateral treaty with Austria and Switzerland that enables close cross-border cooperation among the police forces of the three countries.
Liechtenstein follows a policy of neutrality and is one of the few countries in the world that maintains no military. The army was abolished soon after the Austro-Prussian War, in which Liechtenstein fielded an army of 80 men, although they were not involved in any fighting. The demise of the German Confederation in that war freed Liechtenstein from its international obligation to maintain an army(HP Pavilion dv6-3110sa battery), and parliament seized this opportunity and refused to provide funding for one. The Prince objected, as such a move would leave the country defenceless, but relented on 12 February 1868 and disbanded the force. The last soldier to serve under the colours of Liechtenstein died in 1939 at age 95.
In March 2007, a 170-person Swiss infantry unit became lost during a training exercise and inadvertently crossed 1.5 km into Liechtenstein(HP Pavilion dv6-3111sa battery). The accidental invasion ended when the unit realized their mistake, and turned back. The Swiss army later informed Liechtenstein of the incursion and offered official apologies.
Sweden (i/ˈswiːdən/ swee-dən; Swedish: Sverige [ˈsværjɛ] ( listen)), officially the Kingdom of Sweden (Swedish: Konungariket Sverige (help·info)), is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. Sweden borders Norway and Finland, and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Øresund(HP Pavilion dv6-3112sa battery).
At 450,295 square kilometres (173,860 sq mi), Sweden is the third largest country in the European Union by area, with a total population of about 9.5 million. Sweden has a low population density of 21 inhabitants per square kilometre (54 /sq mi) with the population mostly concentrated to the southern half of the country. About 85% of the population live in urban areas. Sweden's capital city is Stockholm, which is also the largest city. Since the early 19th century Sweden has been at peace and has avoided war(HP Pavilion dv6-3113sa battery).
Today, Sweden is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary democracy form of government and a highly developed economy. Sweden has the world's eighth highest per capita income. In 2011, it ranked fourth in the world in The Economist's Democracy Index and tenth in the United Nations' Human Development Index (third on the inequality-adjusted HDI). In 2010, the World Economic Forum ranked Sweden as the second most competitive country in the world(HP Pavilion dv6-3114sa battery), after Switzerland. According to the UN, it has the third lowest infant mortality rate in the world. In 2010, Sweden also had one of the lowest Gini coefficients of all developed countries (0.25), making Sweden one of the world's most equal countries in terms of income. Sweden's wealth, however, is distributed much less equally than its income, with a wealth Gini coefficient of 0.85, which is higher than the European average of 0.8. (HP Pavilion dv6-3115sa battery)
The modern name Sweden is derived through back-formation from Old English Swēoþēod, which meant "people of the Swedes" (Old Norse Svíþjóð, Latin Suetidi). This word is derived from Sweon/Sweonas (Old Norse Sviar, Latin Suiones). The Swedish name Sverige (a compound of the words Svea and Rike, with lenition of the consonant [k], first recorded in the cognate Swēorice in Beowulf—) literally means "Kingdom of the Swedes", excluding the Geats in Götaland(HP Pavilion dv6-3115tx battery).
Variations of the name Sweden are used in most languages, with the exception of Danish and Norwegian using Sverige, Icelandic Svíþjóð, and the more notable exception of some Finnic languages where Ruotsi (Finnish) and Rootsi (Estonian) are used, names commonly considered etymologically related to the English name for Russia, referring to the people, Rus', originally from the coastal areas of Roslagen, Uppland(HP Pavilion dv6-3116sa battery).
The etymology of Swedes, and thus Sweden, is generally not agreed upon but may derive from Proto-Germanic Swihoniz meaning "one's own", referring to one's own Germanic tribe.
Sweden emerged as an independent and unified country during the Middle Ages. In the 17th century, the country expanded its territories to form the Swedish Empire. The empire grew to be one of the great powers of Europe in the 17th and early 18th century. Most of the conquered territories outside the Scandinavian Peninsula were lost during the 18th and 19th centuries(HP Pavilion dv6-3116tx battery). The eastern half of Sweden, present-day Finland, was lost to Russia in 1809. The last war in which Sweden was directly involved was in 1814, when Sweden by military means forced Norway into a personal union. Since then, Sweden has been at peace, practicing "non-participation in military alliances during peacetime and neutrality during wartime". Sweden has been a member of the European Union since 1 January 1995 and is a member of the OECD(HP Pavilion dv6-3117sa battery).
Vendel era helmet, at the Swedish Museum of National Antiquities.
Sweden's prehistory begins in the Allerød oscillation, a warm period around 12,000 BC, with Late Palaeolithic reindeer-hunting camps of the Bromme culture at the edge of the ice in what is now the country's southernmost province. This period was characterized by small bands of hunter-gatherer-fishers using flint technology.
Sweden enters proto-history with the Germania of Tacitus in AD 98. In Germania 44, 45 he mentions the Swedes (Suiones) as a powerful tribe (distinguished not merely for their arms and men, but for their powerful fleets) (HP Pavilion dv6-3118sa battery) with ships that had a prow at each end (longships). Which kings (kuningaz) ruled these Suiones is unknown, but Norse mythology presents a long line of legendary and semi-legendary kings going back to the last centuries BC. As for literacy in Sweden itself, the runic script was in use among the south Scandinavian elite by at least the 2nd century AD, but all that has come down to the present from the Roman Period is curt inscriptions on artefacts(HP Pavilion dv6-3119sa battery), mainly of male names, demonstrating that the people of south Scandinavia spoke Proto-Norse at the time, a language ancestral to Swedish and other North Germanic languages.
In the 6th century Jordanes named two tribes he calls the Suehans and the Suetidi who lived in Scandza. These two names are both considered to refer to the same tribe. The Suehans, he says, have very fine horses just as the Thyringi tribe (alia vero gens ibi moratur Suehans, quae velud Thyringi equis utuntur eximiis) (HP Pavilion dv6-3120sa battery). Snorri Sturluson wrote that the contemporary Swedish king Adils (Eadgils) had the finest horses of his day. The Suehans were the suppliers of black fox skins for the Roman market. Then Jordanes names the Suetidi which is considered to be the Latin form of Svitjod. He writes that the Suetidi are the tallest of men together with the Dani who were of the same stock. Later he mentions other Scandinavian tribes for being of the same height(HP Pavilion dv6-3121sa battery).
Originating in semi-legendary Scandza, believed to be somewhere in modern Götaland, Sweden, a Gothic population had crossed the Baltic Sea before the 2nd century AD, reaching Scythia at the coast of the Black Sea in modern Ukraine where Goths left their archaeological traces in the Chernyakhov culture. In the 5th and 6th centuries, they became divided as the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths, and established powerful successor-states of the Roman Empire in the Iberian Peninsula and Italy. (HP Pavilion dv6-3122sa battery) Crimean Gothic communities appear to have survived intact until the late 18th century.
Viking expeditions (blue): going into Russia were Swedish Vikings.
The Swedish Viking Age lasted roughly between the 8th and 11th centuries. It is believed that Swedish Vikings and Gutar mainly travelled east and south, going to Finland, the Baltic countries, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, the Black Sea and further as far as Baghdad. Their routes passed through the Dnieper south to Constantinople, on which they carried out numerous raids(HP Pavilion dv6-3123sa battery). The Byzantine Emperor Theophilos noticed their great skills in war, and invited them to serve as his personal bodyguard, known as the varangian guard. The Swedish Vikings, called Rus are believed to be the founding fathers of Kievan Rus'. The Arab traveller Ibn Fadlan described these Vikings as follows:
I have seen the Rus as they came on their merchant journeys and encamped by the Itil. I have never seen more perfect physical specimens(HP Pavilion dv6-3125sa battery), tall as date palms, blond and ruddy; they wear neither tunics nor caftans, but the men wear a garment which covers one side of the body and leaves a hand free. Each man has an axe, a sword, and a knife, and keeps each by him at all times. The swords are broad and grooved, of Frankish sort.
The adventures of these Swedish Vikings are commemorated on many runestones in Sweden, such as the Greece Runestones and the Varangian Runestones(HP Pavilion dv6-3127sa battery). There was also considerable participation in expeditions westwards, which are commemorated on stones such as the England Runestones. The last major Swedish Viking expedition appears to have been the ill-fated expedition of Ingvar the Far-Travelled to Serkland, the region south-east of the Caspian Sea. Its members are commemorated on the Ingvar Runestones, none of which mentions any survivor. What happened to the crew is unknown, but it is believed that they died of sickness(HP Pavilion dv6-3130sa battery).
The Kingdom of Sweden
It is not known when and how the kingdom of Sweden was born, but the list of Swedish monarchs is drawn from the first kings known to have ruled both Svealand (Sweden) and Götaland (Gothia) as one province, beginning with Eric the Victorious. Sweden and Gothia were two separate nations long before that into antiquity. It is not known how long they existed: the epic poem Beowulf describes semi-legendary Swedish-Geatish wars in the 6th century(HP Pavilion dv6-3131sa battery).
Gamla Uppsala, (Old Uppsala), a site of religious and political importance in the early days of Sweden
During the early stages of the Scandinavian Viking Age, Ystad in Scania and Paviken on Gotland, in present-day Sweden, were flourishing trade centres. Remains of what is believed to have been a large market dating from 600–700 AD have been found in Ystad. In Paviken, an important centre of trade in the Baltic region during the 9th and 10th century(HP Pavilion dv6-3140sa battery), remains have been found of a large Viking Age harbour with shipbuilding yards and handicraft industries. Between 800 and 1000, trade brought an abundance of silver to Gotland, and according to some scholars, the Gotlanders of this era hoarded more silver than the rest of the population of Scandinavia combined.
St. Ansgar is usually credited with introducing Christianity in 829, but the new religion did not begin to fully replace paganism until the 12th century(HP Pavilion dv6-3141sa battery). During the 11th century, Christianity became the most prevalent religion, and from 1050 Sweden is counted as a Christian nation. The period between 1100 and 1400 was characterized by internal power struggles and competition among the Nordic kingdoms. Swedish kings began to expand the Swedish-controlled territory in Finland, creating conflicts with the Rus who no longer had any connection with Sweden. (HP Pavilion dv6-3150sa battery)
Feudal institutions in Sweden
Except for the province of Skane, on the southernmost tip of Sweden which was under Danish control during this time, feudalism never developed in Sweden as it did in the rest of Europe. The peasantry therefore remained largely a class of free farmers throughout most of Swedish history. Slavery (also called thralldom) was not common in Sweden, and what slavery there was tended to be driven out of existence by the spread of Christianity(HP Pavilion dv6-3163eo battery), the difficulty in obtaining slaves from the lands east of the Baltic Sea, and by the development of cities before the 16th century. Indeed, both slavery and serfdom were abolished altogether by a decree of King Magnus Erickson in 1335. Former slaves tended to be absorbed into the peasantry, and some became labourers in the towns. Still, Sweden remained a poor and economically backward country in which barter was the means of exchange. For instance(HP Pavilion dv6-3180ea battery), the farmers of the province of Dalsland would transport their butter to the mining districts of Sweden and exchange it there for iron, which they would then take down to the coast and trade the iron for fish they needed for food while the iron would be shipped abroad.
Valdemar IV takes control over Swedish Gotland. The final fight outside the walls of Visby ended with a total massacre of 1,800 Gotlanders(HP Pavilion dv6-3298ea battery).
The Plague in Sweden
In the 14th century, Sweden was struck by the Black Death. The population of Sweden was decimated. During this period the Swedish cities began to acquire greater rights and were strongly influenced by German merchants of the Hanseatic League, active especially at Visby. In 1319, Sweden and Norway were united under King Magnus Eriksson, and in 1397 Queen Margaret I of Denmark effected the personal union of Sweden, Norway(HP Pavilion dv6-3299ea battery), and Denmark through the Kalmar Union. However, Margaret's successors, whose rule was also centred in Denmark, were unable to control the Swedish nobility.
Minors and regents
A large number of children inherited the Swedish crown over the course of the kingdom's existence; consequently real power was held for long periods by regents (notably those of the Sture family) chosen by the Swedish parliament. King Christian II of Denmark, who asserted his claim to Sweden by force of arms, ordered a massacre in 1520 of Swedish nobles in Stockholm(HP Pavilion dv6-3300sg battery). This came to be known as the "Stockholm blood bath" and stirred the Swedish nobility to new resistance and, on 6 June (now Sweden's national holiday) in 1523, they made Gustav Vasa their king. This is sometimes considered as the foundation of modern Sweden. Shortly afterwards he rejected Catholicism and led Sweden into the Protestant Reformation. Economically, Gustav Vasa broke the monopoly of the Hanseatic League over Swedish Baltic Sea trade. (HP Pavilion dv6-3350ef battery)
The Hanseatic League had been officially formed at Lübeck on the Baltic coast of Northern Germany in 1356. The Hanseatic League sought civil and commercial privileges from the princes and royalty of the countries and cities along the coasts of the Baltic Sea. In exchange, they offered a certain amount of protection. Having their own navy, the Hansa were able to sweep the Baltic Sea free of pirates. HP Pavilion dv6-6000 battery The privileges obtained by the Hansa included assurances that only Hansa citizens would be allowed to trade from the ports where they were located. They sought agreement to be free of all customs and taxes. With these concessions, Lübeck merchants flocked to Stockholm, Sweden, where they soon came to dominate the economic life of the city, and made the port city of Stockholm into the leading commercial and industrial city of Sweden. Under the Hanseatic trade, 2/3rds of Stockholm's imports consisted of textiles and 1/3 of salt. Exports from Sweden consisted of iron and copper. HP Pavilion dv6-6000eg battery
However, the Swedes began to resent the monopoly trading position of the Hansa (mostly German citizens), and to resent the income they felt they lost to the Hansa. Consequently, when Gustav Vasa or Gustav I broke the monopoly power of the Hanseatic League he was regarded as a hero by the Swedish people. History now views Gustav I as the father of the modern Swedish nation. The foundations laid by Gustav would take time to developHP Pavilion dv6-6001ea battery. Furthermore, when Sweden did develop, freed itself from the Hanseatic League, and entered its golden era, the fact that the peasantry had traditionally been free meant that more of the economic benefits flowed back to them rather than going to a feudal landowning class.
The Swedish Empire between 1560 and 1815
See also: History of Sweden (1611–1648), Swedish Empire, Swedish overseas colonies, Sweden and the Great Northern War, Absolute Monarchy in Sweden, Sweden-Finland, and Union between Sweden and NorwayHP Pavilion dv6-6001eg battery
During the 17th century Sweden emerged as a European great power. Before the emergence of the Swedish Empire, Sweden was a very poor and scarcely populated country on the fringe of European civilization, with no significant power or reputation. Sweden rose to prominence on a continental scale during the tenure of king Gustavus Adolphus, seizing territories from Russia and Poland–Lithuania in multiple conflicts, including the Thirty Years' WarHP Pavilion dv6-6001sg battery.
During the Thirty Years' War, Sweden conquered approximately half of the Holy Roman states. Gustav Adolphus planned to become the new Holy Roman Emperor, ruling over a united Scandinavia and the Holy Roman states, but he died at the Battle of Lützen in 1632. After the Battle of Nördlingen, Sweden's only significant military defeat of the war, pro-Swedish sentiment among the German states fadedHP Pavilion dv6-6002eg battery. These German provinces excluded themselves from Swedish power one by one, leaving Sweden with only a few northern German territories: Swedish Pomerania, Bremen-Verden and Wismar. The Swedish armies may have destroyed up to 2,000 castles, 18,000 villages and 1,500 towns in Germany, one-third of all German towns.
Stockholm in mid-17th century
In the middle of the 17th century Sweden was the third largest country in Europe by land area, only surpassed by Russia and Spain. Sweden reached its largest territorial extent under the rule of Charles X after the treaty of Roskilde in 1658. HP Pavilion dv6-6002sg battery The foundation of Sweden's success during this period is credited to Gustav I's major changes on the Swedish economy in the 16th century, and his introduction of Protestantism. In the 17th century, Sweden was engaged in many wars, for example with the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth with both sides competing for territories of today's Baltic states, with the disastrous Battle of Kircholm being one of the highlights. One-third of the Finnish population died in the devastating famine that struck the country in 1696. Famine also hit Sweden, killing roughly 10% of Sweden's population. HP Pavilion dv6-6003eg battery
The Swedes conducted a series of invasions into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, known as the Deluge. After more than half a century of almost constant warfare, the Swedish economy had deteriorated. It became the lifetime task of Charles' son, Charles XI, to rebuild the economy and refit the army. His legacy to his son, the coming ruler of Sweden Charles XII, was one of the finest arsenals in the world, a large standing army and a great fleet. Sweden's largest threat at this time, Russia, had a larger army but was far behind in both equipment and trainingHP Pavilion dv6-6004sa battery.
Death of Gustav II Adolf at the Battle of Lützen
After the Battle of Narva in 1700, one of the first battles of the Great Northern War, the Russian army was so severely decimated that Sweden had an open chance to invade Russia. However, Charles did not pursue the Russian army, instead turning against Poland-Lithuania and defeating the Polish king Augustus II and his Saxon allies at the Battle of Kliszow in 1702. This gave Russia time to rebuild and modernize its armyHP Pavilion dv6-6005ea battery.
After the success of invading Poland, Charles decided to make an invasion attempt of Russia which ended in a decisive Russian victory at the Battle of Poltava in 1709. After a long march exposed to Cossack raids, Russian Tsar Peter the Great's scorched-earth techniques and the extremely cold winter of 1709, the Swedes stood weakened with a shattered morale and enormously outnumbered against the Russian army at Poltava. The defeat meant the beginning of the end for the Swedish Empire. In additionHP Pavilion dv6-6005eg battery, the plague raging in East Central Europe devastated the Swedish dominions and reached Central Sweden in 1710.
The Battle of Poltava in 1709. In the years following Poltava, Russia and her allies occupied all the Swedish dominions on the Baltic coast and even Finland.
Charles XII attempted to invade Norway in 1716; however, he was shot dead at Fredriksten fortress in 1718. The Swedes were not militarily defeated at Fredriksten, but the whole structure and organization of the campaign fell apart with the king's death, and the army withdrewHP Pavilion dv6-6005sg battery.
Forced to cede large areas of land in the Treaty of Nystad in 1
In the 18th century, Sweden did not have enough resources to maintain its territories outside Scandinavia, and most of them were lost, culminating with the 1809 loss of eastern Sweden to Russia which became the highly autonomous Grand Principality of Finland in Imperial Russia.
In interest of re-establishing Swedish dominance in the Baltic Sea, Sweden allied itself against its traditional ally and benefactor, France, in the Napoleonic WarsHP Pavilion dv6-6007sg battery. Sweden's role in the Battle of Leipzig gave it the authority to force Denmark-Norway, an ally of France, to cede Norway to the King of Sweden on 14 January 1814 in exchange for northern German provinces, at the Treaty of Kiel. The Norwegian attempts to keep their status as a sovereign state were rejected by the Swedish king, Charles XIII. He launched a military campaign against Norway on 27 July 1814, ending in the Convention of Moss, which forced Norway into a personal union with Sweden under the Swedish crownHP Pavilion dv6-6007tx battery, which lasted until 1905. The 1814 campaign was the last war in which Sweden participated as a combatant. Swedish troops partake in peace-keeping missions and currently have forces deployed in Afghanistan and Kosovo.
Swedish emigrants boarding ship in Gothenburg in 1905
There was a significant population increase during the 18th and 19th centuries, which the writer Esaias Tegnér in 1833 attributed to "the peace, the smallpox vaccine, and the potatoes". Between 1750 and 1850HP Pavilion dv6-6008eg battery, the population in Sweden doubled. According to some scholars, mass emigration to America became the only way to prevent famine and rebellion; over 1% of the population emigrated annually during the 1880s. Nevertheless, Sweden remained poor, retaining a nearly entirely agricultural economy even as Denmark and Western European countries began to industrialize.
Illustration of starvation in northern Sweden, Famine of 1866–1868HP Pavilion dv6-6008sa battery
Many looked towards America for a better life during this time. It is believed that between 1850 and 1910 more than one million Swedes moved to the United States. In the early 20th century, more Swedes lived in Chicago than in Gothenburg (Sweden's second largest city). Most Swedish immigrants moved to the Midwestern United States, with a large population in Minnesota, with a few others moving to other parts of the United States and CanadaHP Pavilion dv6-6008tx battery.
Despite the slow rate of industrialization into the 19th century, many important changes were taking place in the agrarian economy because of innovations and the large population growth. These innovations included government-sponsored programs of enclosure, aggressive exploitation of agricultural lands, and the introduction of new crops such as the potato. Because the Swedish peasantry had never been enserfed as elsewhere in Europe, HP Pavilion dv6-6011tu battery the Swedish farming culture began to take on a critical role in the Swedish political process, which has continued through modern times with modern Agrarian party (now called the Centre Party). Between 1870 and 1914, Sweden began developing the industrialized economy that exists today.
Strong grassroots movements sprung up in Sweden during the latter half of the 19th century (trade unions, temperance groups, and independent religious groups), creating a strong foundation of democratic principlesHP Pavilion dv6-6012tu battery. In 1889 The Swedish Social Democratic Party was founded. These movements precipitated Sweden's migration into a modern parliamentary democracy, achieved by the time of World War I. As the Industrial Revolution progressed during the 20th century, people gradually began moving into cities to work in factories and became involved in socialist unions. A communist revolution was avoided in 1917, following the re-introduction of parliamentarism, and the country was democratizedHP Pavilion dv6-6013cl battery.
Sweden remained officially neutral during World War I and World War II, although its neutrality during World War II has been disputed. Sweden was under German influence for much of the war, as ties to the rest of the world were cut off through blockades. The Swedish government felt that it was in no position to openly contest Germany, and therefore made some concessions. HP Pavilion dv6-6013tu battery Sweden also supplied steel and machined parts to Germany throughout the war. However, Sweden supported Norwegian resistance, and in 1943 helped rescue Danish Jews from deportation to concentration camps. Sweden also supported Finland in the Winter War and the Continuation War with volunteers and materielHP Pavilion dv6-6022eg battery.
Swedish soldier during World War II
Toward the end of the war, Sweden began to play a role in humanitarian efforts and many refugees, among them many Jews from Nazi-occupied Europe, were saved partly because of the Swedish involvement in rescue missions at the internment camps and partly because Sweden served as a haven for refugees, primarily from the Nordic countries and the Baltic states. The Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg and his colleagues may have saved up to 100,000 Hungarian Jews. HP Pavilion dv6-6023tx battery Nevertheless, internal and external critics have argued that Sweden could have done more to resist the Nazi war effort, even if risking occupation.
Sweden was officially a neutral country and remained outside NATO or Warsaw pact membership during the cold war, but privately Sweden's leadership had strong ties with the United States and other western governmentsHP Pavilion dv6-6024tx battery.
A typical red house in Tällberg, Sweden
Following the war, Sweden took advantage of an intact industrial base, social stability and its natural resources to expand its industry to supply the rebuilding of Europe. Sweden was part of the Marshall Plan and participated in the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). During most of the post-war era, the country was governed by the Swedish Social Democratic Party largely in cooperation with trade unions and industryHP Pavilion dv6-6025tx battery. The government actively pursued an internationally competitive manufacturing sector of primarily large corporations.
Sweden, like countries around the globe, entered a period of economic decline and upheaval following the oil embargoes of 1973–74 and 1978–79. In the 1980s pillars of Swedish industry were massively restructured.[by whom?] Shipbuilding was discontinued, wood pulp was integrated into modernized paper production, the steel industry was concentrated and specialized, and mechanical engineering was robotized. HP Pavilion dv6-6026tx battery
Between 1970 and 1990 the overall tax burden rose by over 10%, and the growth was low compared to other countries in Western Europe. Eventually government began to spend over half of the country's gross domestic product. Sweden GDP per capita ranking declined during this time.
Sweden joined the European Union in 1995 and signed the Lisbon Treaty in 2007HP Pavilion dv6-6027tx battery.
A bursting real estate bubble caused by inadequate controls on lending combined with an international recession and a policy switch from anti-unemployment policies to anti-inflationary policies resulted in a fiscal crisis in the early 1990s. Sweden's GDP declined by around 5%. In 1992, a run on the currency caused the central bank to briefly increase interest rates to 500%.HP Pavilion dv6-6029tx battery
The response of the government was to cut spending and institute a multitude of reforms to improve Sweden's competitiveness, among them reducing the welfare state and privatizing public services and goods. Much of the political establishment promoted EU membership, and the Swedish referendum passed with 52% in favour of joining the EU on 13 November 1994. Sweden joined the European Union on 1 January 1995HP Pavilion dv6-6042sf battery.
Sweden remains non-aligned militarily, although it participates in some joint military exercises with NATO and some other countries, in addition to extensive cooperation with other European countries in the area of defence technology and defence industry. Among others, Swedish companies export weapons that are used by the American military in Iraq. Sweden also has a long history of participating in international military operations, including most recently, Afghanistan, where Swedish troops are under NATO commandHP Pavilion dv6-6051sf battery, and in EU sponsored peacekeeping operations in Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Cyprus. Sweden held the chair of the European Union from 1 July to 31 December 2009.
Situated in Northern Europe, Sweden lies west of the Baltic Sea and Gulf of Bothnia, providing a long coastline, and forms the eastern part of the Scandinavian Peninsula. To the west is the Scandinavian mountain chain (Skanderna), a range that separates Sweden from NorwayHP Pavilion dv6-6054ef battery. Finland is located to its northeast. It has maritime borders with Denmark, Germany, Poland, Russia, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, and it is also linked to Denmark (southwest) by the Öresund Bridge.
Sweden lies between latitudes 55° and 70° N, and mostly between longitudes 11° and 25° E (part of Stora Drammen island is just west of 11°).
At 449,964 km2 (173,732 sq mi), Sweden is the 55th largest country in the world, the 4th largest country entirely in Europe, and the largest in Northern Europe. The lowest elevation in Sweden is in the bay of Lake Hammarsjön, near Kristianstad at −2.41 m (−7.91 ft) below sea level. The highest point is Kebnekaise at 2,111 m (6,926 ft) above sea levelHP Pavilion dv6-6054sf battery.
Sweden has 25 provinces or landskap (landscapes), based on culture, geography and history. While these provinces serve no political or administrative purpose, they play an important role in people's self-identity. The provinces are usually grouped together in three large lands, parts, the northern Norrland, the central Svealand and southern Götaland. The sparsely populated Norrland encompasses almost 60% of the countryHP Pavilion dv6-6063sf battery.
About 15% of Sweden lies north of the Arctic Circle. Southern Sweden is predominantly agricultural, with increasing forest coverage northward. Around 65% of Sweden's total land area is covered with forests. The highest population density is in the Öresund Region in southern Sweden, along the western coast up to central Bohuslän, and in the valley of lake Mälaren and Stockholm. Gotland and Öland are Sweden's largest islands; Vänern and Vättern are its largest lakes. Vänern is the third largest in Europe, after Lake Ladoga and Lake Onega in RussiaHP Pavilion dv6-6087eg battery.
Most of Sweden has a temperate climate, despite its northern latitude, with four distinct seasons and mild temperatures throughout the year. The country can be divided into three types of climate; the southernmost part has an oceanic climate, the central part has a humid continental climate and the northernmost part has a subarctic climate. However, Sweden is much warmer and drier than other places at a similar latitudeHP Pavilion dv6-6090sf battery, and even somewhat farther south, mainly because of the Gulf Stream. For example, central and southern Sweden has much warmer winters than many parts of Russia, Canada, and the northern United States. Because of its high latitude, the length of daylight varies greatly. North of the Arctic Circle, the sun never sets for part of each summer, and it never rises for part of each winter. In the capital, Stockholm, daylight lasts for more than 18 hours in late June but only around 6 hours in late December. Sweden receives between 1,100 to 1,900 hours of sunshine annuallyHP Pavilion dv6-6090us battery.
Temperatures vary greatly from north to south. Southern and central parts of the country have warm summers and cold winters, with average high temperatures of 20 to 25 °C (68 to 77 °F) and lows of 12 to 15 °C (54 to 59 °F) in the summer, and average temperatures of -4 to 2 °C (25 to 36 °F) in the winter, while the northern part of the country has shorter, cooler summers and longer, colder and snowier winters, with temperatures that often drop below freezing from September through MayHP Pavilion dv6-1016ez battery. The highest temperature ever recorded in Sweden was 38 °C (100 °F) in Målilla in 1947, while the coldest temperature ever recorded was −52.6 °C (−62.7 °F) in Vuoggatjålme in 1966.
On average, most of Sweden receives between 500 and 800 mm (20 and 31 in) of precipitation each year, making it considerably drier than the global average. The southwestern part of the country receives more precipitation, between 1000 and 1200 mm (39 and 47 in), and some mountain areas in the north are estimated to receive up to 2000 mm (79 in). Despite northerly locations, southern and central Sweden may have almost no snow in some wintersHP Pavilion dv6-1013tx battery.
Sweden is a constitutional monarchy, in which King Carl XVI Gustaf is head of state, but royal power has long been limited to ceremonial and representative functions. The Economist Intelligence Unit, while acknowledging that democracy is difficult to measure, listed Sweden in fourth place in 2010 in its index of democracy assessing 167 countries.
The nation's legislative body is the Riksdag (Swedish Parliament), with 349 members, which chooses the Prime MinisterHP Pavilion dv6-1013ea battery. Parliamentary elections are held every four years, on the third Sunday of September.
Main articles: Counties of Sweden and Municipalities of Sweden
Sweden is a unitary state, currently divided into twenty-one counties (län): Stockholm, Uppsala, Södermanland, Östergötland, Jönköping, Kronoberg, Kalmar, Gotland, Blekinge, Skåne, Halland, Västra Götaland, Värmland, Örebro, Västmanland, Dalarna, Gävleborg, Västernorrland, Jämtland, Västerbotten and NorrbottenHP Pavilion dv6-1012tx battery.
Each county has a County Administrative Board or länsstyrelse, which is a Government appointed board. It is led by a Governor or Landshövding appointed for a term of six years and the list of succession, in most cases, stretches back to 1634 when the counties were created by the Swedish Lord High Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna. The main responsibility of the County Administrative Board is to coordinate the development of the county in line with goals set in national politicsHP Pavilion dv6-1011tx battery. In each county there is also a County Council or landsting which is a policy-making assembly elected by the residents of the county.