Founded in 963, Luxembourg became a grand duchy in 1815 and an independent state under the Netherlands. It lost more than half of its territory to Belgium in 1839 but gained a larger measure of autonomy. In 1867, Luxembourg attained full independence under the condition that it promise perpetual neutrality. Overrun by Germany in both world wars, it ended its neutrality in 1948 when it entered into the Benelux Customs Union and when it joined NATO the following year. In 1957, Luxembourg became one of the six founding countries of the EEC (later the EU), and in 1999 it joined the euro currency zone.
This small, stable, high-income economy has historically featured solid growth, low inflation, and low unemployment. Luxembourg, the only Grand Duchy in the world, is a landlocked country in northwestern Europe surrounded by Belgium, France, and Germany. Despite its small landmass and small population, Luxembourg is the second-wealthiest country in the world when measured on a gross domestic product (PPP) per capita basis. Luxembourg has one of the highest current account surpluses as a share of GDP in the euro zone, and it maintains a healthy budgetary position and the lowest public debt level in the region.Since 2002, the Luxembourg Government has proactively implemented policies and programs to support economic diversification and to attract foreign direct investment. The government focused on key innovative industries that showed promise for supporting economic growth: logistics, information and communications technology (ICT); health technologies, including biotechnology and biomedical research; clean energy technologies;, and most recently, space technology and financial services technologies. The economy has evolved and flourished, posting a strong GDP growth rate – projected at 4.5% in 2017-2018, far outpacing the European average of 1.8%.Luxembourg remains a financial powerhouse – the financial sector accounts for more than 35% of GDP - due to the exponential growth of the investment fund sector through the launch and development of cross-border funds (UCITS) in the 1990s. Luxembourg is the world’s second-largest investment fund asset domicile, after the US, with $4 trillion of assets in custody in financial institutions.Luxembourg has lost some of its advantage as a favorable tax location because of OECD and EU pressure, as well as the “LuxLeaks” scandal, which revealed advantageous tax treatments offered to foreign corporations. In 2015, the government’s compliance with EU requirements to implement automatic exchange of tax information on savings accounts - thus ending banking secrecy - has constricted banking activity. Likewise, changes to the way EU members collect taxes from e-commerce has cut Luxembourg’s sales tax revenues, requiring the government to raise additional levies and to reduce some direct social benefits as part of the tax reform package of 2017.