The Principality of Liechtenstein is a tiny, landlocked country under the mountains of the Rhine valley, bordered by Switzerland and Austria. The country’s population is a mere 37, 666, making it the sixth smallest country in the world. The Rhine River forms 27 km’s of its border with Switzerland and is also responsible for the country’s only natural lake, the Gampriner Seele, formed in 1927 when the Rhine burst its banks.
Much of its wealth is owed to its traditional status as a tax haven, an image it is recently dispelling as it repositions itself as a legitimate financial centre. The principality has come through a lengthy political wrangle over the role and power of the hereditary monarchy and is now run as a hereditary constitutional monarchy on a parliamentary and democratic basis. The country has developed from a mainly agricultural state to one of the most highly industrialised in the world.
Liechtenstein remained neutral during World War I, but nevertheless felt its economic impact and resulted in an impoverished population. At the end of the war, Liechtenstein split from Austria and aligned with Switzerland, signing the 1923 Customs Treaty. Swiss border police and customs officers secure its frontier with Austria. The Second World War was followed by a prolonged economic boom in which Liechtenstein transformed from an agrarian state to a modern contributor with a diversified economy.
Liechtenstein has a universal health care system with decentralised, free-market elements through mandated health insurance coverage for all residents, whether citizens or not. The education system is the responsibility of the state, and even private tuition is state monitored. Some Swiss schools are co-financed by Liechtenstein.
Liechtenstein’s economy is almost equally carried by the service and industry sectors and has a small but significant agricultural sector. The principal industries are electronics, metal manufacturing, textiles, ceramics, pharmaceuticals, food products, precision instruments, and tourism. A driving force in the success of its economy is that approximately one-third of revenue is invested in research and development. Exports include small specialty machinery, dental products, stamps, hardware and pottery. Imports are agricultural products, raw materials, machinery, metal goods, textiles, foodstuffs and motor vehicles.
Lichtenstein is a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and the European Economic Area (EEA) and participates in the Schengen Agreement for passport-free intra-European travel.
This small country has much to offer by way of holidaying, ranging from cultural to dining and the relatively great outdoors. Its geographical situation makes Liechtenstein a must for nature lovers. The Historical Eschnerberg Trail uncovers the country’s ancient origins and leads up to two pre-historic settlements.
Malbun’s Eagle Hike offers the adventure of walking in the heart of the Alps accompanied by a golden eagle, to best explore the bird’s natural habitat. Princes’ Way Hike is a high-altitude walking adventure over the Three Sisters mountains. Castles are much represented and include Vaduz Castle and Gutenberg Castle. Many museums cover many themes and include Liechtenstein National Museum which showcases the Principality’s history, fauna, flora and culture.
Liechtenstein is one of the two non-European Union members who are part of the Nordic Passport Union and are officially classified as ‘states associated with the Schengen activities of the EU’. The other country is Norway. As such it is subject to the same regulations as all Schengen members regarding entry to the Schengen zone. This means that Lichtenstein will be impacted by ETIAS which will be implemented in 2021.
Australians, EU citizens and nationals from those countries benefiting from the visa liberation policy, currently need only a valid passport to travel to Liechtenstein. When the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) is rolled out, these travellers will be affected. Travellers will apply online in a process similar to Australia’s own Electronic Travel Authority (ETA).
Schengen Area regulations will however persist, and non-EU nationals will need a Schengen Visa for visits longer than 90 days. Short-stay visitors will apply online for pre-authorisation before leaving for Europe. The ETIAS authorisation electronically attached to the passport is valid for three years or until the passport expires.
The EU Commission proposed this upgrade to security following increased risks associated with terrorism and uncontrolled immigration into Europe. ETIAS will safeguard and secure Europe’s external borders by identifying potential risks before they reach the borders. The application process will be cost effective, easy to use and speedy, and authorisation will be granted within minutes of application.
Liechtenstein currently has no official representation in Australia. The Swiss Embassy in Australia and Consulates-General throughout Australia are responsible for Liechtenstein affairs in Australia. No bilateral agreements are in place although the two countries are members of many of the same international Associations and treaties.
Australians visiting Liechtenstein will have to apply for ETIAS authorisation once it is implemented, although at [resent they may still travel with only a valid passport.