The Austrian Liechtenstein family acquired the fiefs of Vaduz and Schellenberg
in 1699 and 1713 respectively, and they became an independent principality
under the Holy Roman Empire in 1719 under the name Liechtenstein. The French
under Napoleon occupied the country for a few years, but Liechtenstein
regained its independence in 1815 within the new German Confederation.
In 1868, after the Confederation dissolved, Liechtenstein disbanded its
army of 80 men and declared its permanent neutrality, which was respected
during both World Wars.
In 1919 Liechtenstein entrusted its external relations to neutral Switzerland.
After World War II, Liechtenstein became increasingly important as a financial
center, and the country became more prosperous. In 1989, Prince Hans Adam
II succeeded his father to the throne, and in 1996 settled a long-running
dispute with Russia over Liechtenstein family's archives, which had been
confiscated during the Soviet occupation of Vienna in 1945 and later moved
to Moscow. In 1978, Liechtenstein became a member of the Council of Europe,
and then joined the UN in 1990, the European Free Trade Association (EFTA)
in 1991, and both the European Economic Area (EEA) and the World Trade
Organization in 1995.
The political parties are the moving forces with regard to the composition
of the government and in the Parliament. For the 2001-05 legislature period
of office, one Councilor and three deputies are women. From 1938 to 1997
Liechtenstein had a coalition government. Until a few years ago there were
only two parties in Parliament, the Fatherland Union and the Progressive
Citizen's Party. Liechtenstein's distinctive form of coalition government
came to an end in April 1997. The Fatherland Union took sole responsibility
for the government during the 1997 to 2001 Parliament, with its members
filling all the positions on the government committee. Since 2001 it has
been the Progressive Citizen's Party that has provided all the members
of the government. The minority parties, as opposition parties, act as
a check on the government in Parliament and on parliamentary commissions.
The Liechtenstein electorate on March 16, 2003, endorsed Prince Hans-Adam
II's proposal for a revision of the Liechtenstein Constitution with 64.3%
of votes. Prior to the vote, the Prince indicated that he and the reigning
family would leave the country if his endorsed Constitution failed to pass.
The Prince now has the power to dissolve Parliament and appoint an interim
government, dismiss individual members of government, and veto any parliamentary
legislation by not signing the bill within 6 months. Without the approval
of the reigning prince, no further constitutional amendments can be adopted,
except in the case of a referendum abolishing the royal house. Finally,
the Prince now has the final say on the appointment of judges, and the
State Court loses its key competence to mediate between the government
and the Prince on constitutional matters. The opponents of the Prince's
proposal announced an appeal against the referendum decision before the
Liechtenstein State Court. The Council of Europe has indicated that it
may "monitor" the new Constitution.