Thursday 23 December 2010

Principality of Liechtenstein views the European Union

Recently the General Affairs Council (GAC) of the European Union adopted conclusions about the relations between the EU and the four EFTA countries: the three members of the European Economic Area (EEA) Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, as well as fourth EFTA member Switzerland, which remains outside the EEA:

Council conclusions on EU relations with EFTA countries; 3060th GENERAL AFFAIRS Council meeting Brussels, 14 December 2010

We took a first look at Liechtenstein in the blog post 'EU relations with Liechtenstein (general conclusions)' (22 December 2010), presenting the general remarks including Liechtenstein, but addressed at the EEA or EFTA states.

Since Liechtenstein and its relations with the European Union are not widely known, we are going to look at some materials about and from this fascinating Principality.

Liechtenstein background

Here is a link to the Wikipedia article about the Principality of Liechtenstein (German: Fürstentum Liechtenstein), a country with more registered companies than citizens.

Digital Liechtenstein offers you added opportunities to look at interesting topics in English, German, French or Chinese.

EEA Fact Sheet

The EEA Coordination Unit offers readers a recently updated brochure in English: European Economic Area (EEA) Fact Sheet (November 2010; 12 pages).

EEA population

A brochure detail: On the authority of the CIA World Factbook the brochure starts by stating that the EEA is a single market of about 496 million consumers (as per July 2010).

Why not check the facts instead?

According to Eurostat we have the following population figures for 2010:

EU 27 501090520
Iceland 317630
Liechtenstein 35894
Norway 4858199

This adds up to an internal market of about 506 million people. If we equate inhabitant with consumer (as I suppose the intention has been), the population of the European Economic Area exceeds the number in the folder by ten million.

EEA Coordination Unit

There is an explanatory web page in English about the EEA Coordination Unit, with a link to the active pages in German of Stabsstelle EWR.

Embassy of Liechtenstein in Brussels

Another important player is the Embassy of Liechtenstein in Brussels. It serves as a mission to the European Union and handles EEA and EFTA affairs (besides functioning as the Embassy to Belgium).

Detailed EEA report

There is a fresh government position paper, with a detailed evaluation of Liechtenstein's 15 years in the European Economic Area (23 March 2010), in German:

Bericht und Antrag der Regierung an den Landtag des Fürstentums Liechtenstein betreffend 15 Jahre Mitgliedschaft des Fürstentums Liechtenstein im Europäischen Wirtschaftsraum (EWR) Nr. 17/2010 (306 pages)

In a nutshell, the report depicted the 15 year EEA membership as a Liechtensteinian success story.

On 21 April 2010 the Liechtenstein Parliament (Landtag) took notice of the annual report of the EEA/EFTA parliamentary delegation as well as the EEA report from the government (Jahresbericht 2009 der Delegation für die EWR/EFTA-Parlamentarierkomitees Information; 15 Jahre Mitgliedschaft des Fürstentums Liechtenstein im Europäischen Wirtschaftsraum (EWR), (Nr. 17/2010) Landtagsprotokolle 21 April 2010).

The discussion gave me the impression that the positive assessment of EEA membership is shared by the Landtag, even if coordination with neighbouring Switzerland outside the European Economic Area requires constant attention.


The next blog post in this series is going to change perspective, from the Liechtensteinian viewpoint to EU materials and resources.

Ralf Grahn

P.S. Mathew Lowry wrote a timely blog post called 'Censoring Hungarian blogs during the Hungarian EU Presidency' spreading the word about the ignominious media law and the Twitter Hashatag #NoToHuEU.

The presidencies of the Council of the European Union were supposed to be about team spirit and presidency trios. It worked during the Belgian presidency @EuTrioBe on Twitter. Why did the government of Hungary discard this manifestation of European team spirit? I hope that the hashtag #EuTrioHu will keep the idea alive, despite the nationalistic Twitter address @HU_Presidency by a government badly discredited even before the presidency starts.


  1. Couple of thoughts Ralph,

    Nice to see someone feeling happy with their EFTA EEA status with no desire to become enmeshed in the whole project.

    Love the idea that the Embassy of Lichenstein is "an important player". A touch of the Skibbereen Eagle's about that.

    But on Hungary, whilst I agree that the Media Law is awful, Orban isn't that discredited, amongst the people who really count, that is the people who elected him. After all he did get 53% of the vote this year. And people were aware of his plans for a media law.

    So discredited amongst people who don't get to vote on him maybe? Wonder what the EPP will do about him? Throw out the 14 Fidez MEPs?

  2. Gawain,

    The blog post was written from a Liechtensteinian viewpoint, so among players in the Principality the Embassy in Brussels is important, as you must realise if you pause to think about it instead of offering wise-cracks.

    True, official Liechtenstein seems content to pay for access to the internal market without a vote in decision-making. I surmise you imply this would be the way to go for the United Kingdom.

    PM Orban may not be that discredited among Hungarian voters yet, since most of them have not woken up to how his party is undermining the European values Hungary has signed up to.

    We have seen it before, when prime ministers and presidents in the more recently established democracies have started playing the card of übernationalist rhetoric and ended up as embarrassments for their countrymen and with egg on their face.

    It usually works through delayed reaction.

    I have been wondering why the EU institutions seem to sleep-walk through the brutalities in Belarus and the media censorship in Hungary, but perhaps your comment about Fidesz' EPP membership is spot on.

    Actually, the EPP should oust Fidesz, in my humble view, and would be better off, because they need respect even more than a maximum of members.

    Fidesz could then come to a political group near you, perhaps less particular about credentials.

  3. Gawain,

    Following your remarks about Fidesz and the European People's Party, I have addressed specific messages to the EPP on Facebook and Twitter, but had not yet received any replies when I last looked.


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