Who’s Afraid of Luxembourg?





Luxembourg is about as cuddly as countries come: prosperous, picturesque and delightfully tiny. At 999 square miles, it is the smallest but one of the European Union states [1]. You could drive its length (55 miles) or its width (35 miles) in less time than it takes to watch a feature-length movie — provided you don’t stop at one of the many touristy villages or vineyards along the way. The capital, also called Luxembourg [2], is a cozy city of barely 100,000 souls; its major problem is not drugs or urban decay, but the apparently unfixable fact that it’s rather boring [3].

Luxembourg is the only country in the world ruled by a grand duke [4], which sounds more like the setup to a fairy tale than a real-world constitutional arrangement. The grand duchy is a founding member of the European Union and NATO [5], and hosts the European Court of Justice, Eurostat (the European Statistical Office), the Secretariat of the European Parliament and other supranational institutions. Luxembourg expects to be listened to and taken seriously by its international peers. And it is: of its last four prime ministers, one went on to become president of the United Nations General Assembly, another of the European Commission, and a third of the Eurogroup [6].

All that from a country less populous than Hanover, Germany’s 13th largest city. It is so small that even tiny Belgium is able to smirk about the grand duchy’s size, replicating the scorn heaped upon itself by its own larger neighbors. Why is Luxembourg so determined to punch above its weight? Could it be that it has a grander idea of itself than its neighbors have? An elevated sense of self is a useful survival tool, for countries as well as people. But Luxembourgers could argue that they don’t have delusions of grandeur, but rather memories of grandeur. Once upon a time, you see, there was a Greater Luxembourg....



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