Very small European states such as Liechtenstein are today ranked among the most economically successful countries. The small state in the Alps has proved to be a cosmopolitan country for business ventures. At the same time, the microstate purchases public goods from neighbouring countries. The various enterprises cooperate with the worldwide leading universities and research institutes and recruit top employees in other European countries. Contributing to the success of Liechtenstein, whose 36 224 (as of 31 December 2013) jobs very nearly correspond to the number of inhabitants, are the 19 140 cross-border commuters who travel to work from neighbouring countries each day. Liechtenstein has excellent relationships with Switzerland and Austria. And for generations in nearly every family, Austrian or Swiss family members, primarily women, have become integrated.
Of the approximately 37 129 (as of 31 December 2013) people living in the small state, approximately 12 519, or 33.7% of the residents, are foreigners, 57% of whom come from Switzerland, Austria and Germany. The great majority is affiliated to a Christian religion, while only 3 to 4% are of the Muslim faith. Racism has been prosecutable since 2000, when Liechtenstein ratified the UN Convention on Racial Discrimination and amended its Criminal Code accordingly. In 2002 the government adopted a five-year National Action Plan concentrating on combating racism and promoting integration. A number of different measures were introduced to instruct officials and to sensitise the general public to combating racism and race-based violence. Since 2004, the integration of non-Liechtenstein citizens has been a state objective.
“Liechtenstein can be considered as a country committed to guaranteeing a high degree of respect for human rights” is the conclusion expressed in 2005 by Gil-Robles, Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe. He praises the “round table” between the government and the foreigners’ associations established by the government in 2004 as well as the support of the Association for Intercultural Education (ViB), which offers German language courses for immigrants and organises exhibitions to better acquaint the populace with foreign cultures.
The integration of immigrants corresponds to the principle “promoting and demanding” – “Promoting” includes measures for improving mutual understanding between the host society and the immigrant population. “Demanding” means the expectation of efforts on the part of the authorities and all members of society, chiefly from the immigrants themselves. As the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) confirmed in December 2007, Liechtenstein has implemented a series of measures: for example, remedying the disadvantages experienced by children of foreign backgrounds and educating schoolchildren on the dangers of racism. The fourth ECRI report on Liechtenstein was published on 19 February 2013. It notes further progress: “Liechtenstein has signed the Additional Protocol to the Convention on Cybercrime concerning the criminalisation of acts of a racist and xenophobic nature committed through computer systems. Several racially motivated offences, including violent acts, have been swiftly prosecuted by the judicial authorities. Basic police training includes lessons on human rights and racism; the awareness raising campaign on right-wing extremism has focused on the police, prosecutors and judges. There are plans to set up an independent Ombudsman’s Office. Measures have been adopted to strengthen equal opportunities in access to education; inter alia, the number of day care schools offering accompanied learning and homework tutoring has been increased and initiatives targeting parents of pupils with a migrant background, in order to improve their language abilities and raise their awareness of the importance of education, have been taken. The Commission against Violence has commissioned a study on right-wing extremism in Liechtenstein, launched an awareness-raising campaign targeting the public and set up an interdisciplinary professional group to provide counselling in this field. Various initiatives have been launched in order to raise awareness and to commemorate the Holocaust and several history teachers have received training on the issue.”
Since 2005, there has also been an Office for Equal Opportunity, dealing among other things with immigration and integration questions. Pursuant to Article 46 of the Foreigners Act, the Office for Equal Opportunities is responsible for coordinating integration measures. A working group for the integration of Muslims began efforts in 2004 to improve conditions for Muslims in Liechtenstein. For more than ten years, the Liechtenstein government has awarded an annual prize for projects dedicated to equal opportunities in the areas of gender equality, disability, social disadvantage, age, migration and integration, and sexual orientation.
Liechtenstein also established a Specialist Office against Right-Wing Extremism in 2010. The office builds up counselling expertise and offers anti-aggression training and other measures to deal with potentially violent right-wing extremists. In April 2012, the 2nd Monitoring Report on Right-Wing Extremism (REX) was published for the year 2011. The Liechtenstein Institute, a research institute in Bendern, was commissioned by the Government’s Violence Protection Commission to compile an annual documentation of right-wing extremist incidents over a period of five years. The monitoring report is a component of the Catalogue of Measures against Right-Wing Extremism (MAX), which was adopted by the government for the period from 2010 to 2015. This also implements a recommendation of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD). In 2013 – as in 2012 – the right-wing extremist scene made headlines with campaigns on “European Action” and the “Liechtenstein Youth Loyal to the Volk”. These internationally networked groups distributed pamphlets and presented themselves on websites. Compared with 2012, however, the presence in 2013 was significantly smaller. No violent incidents were reported in 2013, and no criminal prosecutions were initiated in regard to offences with a right-wing extremist background.
On 8 May 2012, Liechtenstein became the first state to ratify the amendments to the Rome Statute covering the crime of aggression. In the preceding years, Liechtenstein signed numerous human rights conventions, such as the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, the Convention on Cybercrime, and its Additional Protocol concerning the criminalisation of acts of a racist and xenophobic nature committed through computer systems. In 2009, Liechtenstein ratified both the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness and the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons. Also in 2009, Liechtenstein ratified the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption.
The data situation in the field of human rights protection was a weakness of Liechtenstein in the past. In recent years, the country has made efforts to improve that situation. Since 2010, the government has published an annual report on the situation of human rights. Domestic implementation of international standards is monitored not only through the submission and presentation of country reports, but also through country visits. In particular, the monitoring mechanisms of the Council of Europe visit Liechtenstein regularly. For instance, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights and the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) both visited Liechtenstein in the first half of 2012. In regard to the mechanisms of the OSCE, election observations are especially relevant. In this context, an ODIHR team visited Liechtenstein in the run-up to the parliamentary elections in 2009.
The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the human rights situation of every country by the UN Human Rights Council enjoys a special status among the reporting mechanisms. In the UPR, States review each other reciprocally. Liechtenstein underwent its first UPR in 2008 and the second review was carried out in January 2013. Liechtenstein accepted the recommendation to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.