Liechtenstein – a small state in the heart of Europe.
Nestling between Switzerland and Austria in the heart of Europe lies Europe’s fourth smallest country – the Principality of Liechtenstein. Located directly on the Rhine and virtually equidistant from Paris, Vienna, Hamburg or Rome, the little principality extends over 160 km2 and has around 35,000 inhabitants. From the Upper Rhine valley it rises to almost 2,600 m above sea level and offers all the diverse features of an attractive Alpine landscape.
The traditional hereditary monarchy with a modern parliamentary system underwent a long period of economic isolation. The Austrian origins of the princes who once ruled Liechtenstein from Vienna, the signing of an extensive free trade agreement and finally the opening of the continuous railway line to Austria laid the foundation for the country’s economic development in the 19th century.
The entire postal system had been organised by the Austrian postal authorities since 1817 but in 1911 a postal agreement was signed under which Liechtenstein expressly gained permission to print its own stamps. In the decades to follow, revenue from the sale of stamps formed an important source of income for the state. In general, the motifs on the stamps portray Liechtenstein in all its diversity.
The vast majority of the designs are from local artists. Since 1930 the capital of Vaduz has housed a post office museum containing all of the stamps that have ever appeared in circulation in the country together with a comprehensive documentation of their production.
After the First World War and collapse of the Austro-Hungarian dual monarchy Liechtenstein turned to Switzerland, its western neighbour. It concluded a series of treaties with the Swiss Confederation which secured access for the country’s population to new markets and which eventually led to the adoption of the Swiss franc as the national currency.
Spared from the ravages of the Second World War, Liechtenstein evolved from being a primarily agricultural country to becoming a state with a modern industry and services sector.
Today, the small country is well integrated into the global economy and focuses on international markets. Its active membership of the UN, the WTO, the EEA and the Council of Europe as well as EFTA and the OSCE supports this successful development.
Liechtenstein’s export industry can assert itself on the international markets thanks to its first-class products. Combined with the high level of education and training, the country’s diverse range of research and development activities form the basis of Liechtenstein’s industrial success. Since the 1970s Liechtenstein has also developed into an internationally recognised financial services centre with globally active investment enterprises and insurance companies. Diligence, security and expertise are the three hallmarks which define the quality of services rendered in Liechtenstein.
The successes of recent years are also reflected in the healthy state of the country’s finances. Whereas revenue from the sale of stamps used to play a far greater role in the past, today’s income is derived primarily from VAT receipts and proceeds from the financial and manufacturing sectors.
The many business establishments, industrial and commercial buildings are located in an intact valley environment that merges seamlessly into what are in part pristine natural surroundings in the Alpine area. The breathtaking beauty of this attractive mountain landscape continues to attract tourists and local residents alike, regardless of the season: winter sees the countryside come alive with skiers and summer with hikers. In the mountains truly princely moments can be experienced in Liechtenstein.
Despite all these successes Liechtenstein remains a modest country. The authorities and the population strive to maintain a delicate balance between commercial success and the need to protect the environment. They invest considerable resources to ensure that this small country will still remain an Alpine paradise in the future.