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.
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