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bmir, Business mir #15 - 2010-01 MAIL PRINT 
From September 15 to November 15, 2009, Moscow’s Alexander Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts hosted an exhibition called “Biedermeier. Austrian art from the collection of the Prince of Liechtenstein”.
The project also provided Hereditary Prince Alois von und zu Liechtenstein with an opportunity to visit Moscow, where he met with President Dmitry Medvedev.
Prince Alois agreed to share his thoughts on the exhibition and to talk about the latest trends in his country’s policies with Business Mir.
Visitors to Moscow’s Alexander Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts had a chance to admire outstanding Biedermeier period works of art from the Liechtenstein Princes’ private collection for two entire months.
The Biedermeier period spanned from 1815 to 1848, influencing literature, music, visual arts and interior design.
The Biedermeier style developed in Germany after the Napoleonic Wars and flourished until 1848, with the onset of various European revolutions. Unlike the art of the Romantic period that preceded it, Biedermeier artworks centred on the family, privacy and rural middle class values, portraying a kind of “bourgeois dream” focused on a cosy home, work and peaceful daily life.
The Princes of Liechtenstein accumulated a large collection of art over the years and a significant number of pieces are Biedermeier period paintings. Hereditary Prince Alois von und zu Liechtenstein, who has been the country’s Prince Regent since 2004, personally supervised the organisation of the Moscow exhibition. He agreed to give Business Mir an exclusive interview about the exhibition and his views on future cooperation between Russia and Liechtenstein.
What made you think of exhibiting paintings from your collection at the Pushkin Museum? The idea of an exhibit at the Pushkin Museum initially came from two sources. Our collection’s director had established a good, long-term working relationship with the Pushkin Museum’s director and another factor was an important exhibition of Malevich’s works in Liechtenstein; having an exhibit of Liechtenstein’s art collection in Moscow came up shortly thereafter.
How long does it take to organise an exhibit of this size? The time needed for organising any exhibition depends a lot on the availability of the right location and the pieces of art to be shown. Luckily, in the case of this exhibit at the Pushkin Museum, both were available on rather short notice.
However, other details such as insurance, transportation and the printing of catalogues always take a few months to organise.
What about the history of the collection itself? Is one period particularly represented? The Reigning Princes of Liechtenstein and the royal family have been adding to the collection since the beginning of the 17th Century. It includes a variety of works, from 15th Century Italian paintings to 19th Century Biedermeier period pieces.
You met President Medvedev when you came to the Moscow exhibition opening. Did that meeting result in furthering diplomatic relations and future partnerships between Russia and Liechtenstein? The visit with President Medvedev served to improve the good relationship Russia and Liechtenstein already enjoyed. Ties between our two countries have grown significantly over the last 15 years on political, cultural and economic levels.
On that subject, were any contracts or treaties signed? My visit with the Russian President was not connected to signing any bilateral treaties, as the meeting was intended to be an informal exchange on various topics of common interest.
However, one of the subjects we discussed was the conclusion of a free trade agreement between Russia and the EFTA countries.
Considering the difference in size between Russia and Liechtenstein, which areas would be most apt for development? In addition to its financial centre, Liechtenstein has a very successful industrial sector, including some world leaders in niche markets. Hilti, for example, is a Liechtenstein-based construction business that has already established a market in Russia.
By continuing to intensify the relationship between the two countries on both political and cultural levels – and particularly by concluding a free trade agreement – I am sure that increased business activities will follow.
On the subject of banking confidentiality – in an interview at the G20, President Medvedev stated that people should have the right to do whatever they want with their income, profit and capital; the State should accept responsibility for applying laws to its own taxes and financial resources. What are your feelings on the subject? I believe we have to find solutions to ensure that financial centres are not used abusively to evade taxes while continuing to allow for a certain level of client data and privacy protection.
Liechtenstein does not belong to the European Union and other European organisations, yet Liechtenstein has been consistently active in cooperating with Euro-zone countries. What are your views on the Principality’s position in this context? Although Liechtenstein is not a member of the EU, it is a member of various European organisations, including the Council of Europe. As a member of the European Economic Area, Liechtenstein has close economic ties to the EU and is subject to duties and rights membership status to the European Common Market entails without being an EU country. We are convinced that this is the best form of integration into Europe for our nation.
Furthermore, like Switzerland, we will be ratifying the Schengen and Dublin Agreements to increase cooperative efforts in fighting crime and illegal immigration.
Liechtenstein and Switzerland were recently both victims of harsh, unjustified political and media attacks on the subject of tax evasion by neighbouring countries. Could a better communication strategy be used? What are the potential reactions to this sort of move? I don’t think that a better communication strategy would have made much of a difference, as major Western countries have many more ways of steering a media campaign in any case. Considering the West’s huge financial problems recently, it could be considered politically expedient to claim that potentially undeclared funds in other countries are part of a solution to economic problems. We have to be realistic in that we cannot block the international initiative for a greater exchange of information on tax matters. However, we have to ensure the move happens in such a way that countries like Liechtenstein – which are justly concerned with privacy and data protection issues – can continue to do so.
REFERENCE Liechtenstein is a landlocked alpine microstate in Western Europe, bordered by Switzerland to the west and south and by Austria to the east. Its area is just over 160 sq km (about 62 sq miles) and it has an estimated population of 35,000.
Liechtenstein is the smallest German-speaking country in the world, and is the only alpine nation to lie entirely within the Alps.
Liechtenstein is also the last principality to have emerged as an independent state directly from the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire and it has preserved its sovereignty and territorial integrity through centuries of historic turmoil.
As a constitutional monarchy, Liechtenstein is ruled by a princely family of the same name that settled there in 1719 and has played an important role in the nation’s politics.
Prince Alois has been the head of state since August 15, 2004, when he became Prince Regent following his father, Prince Hans-Adam II, as sovereign of the tiny principality.
According to the country’s constitution, Prince Alois’ responsibilities include representing Liechtenstein in foreign countries, introducing new bills in the nation’s parliament and issuing decrees agreed upon with government leaders. He also has the authority to dissolve the parliament and pardon convicts.
Liechtenstein has enjoyed the advantages of common postal and customs systems with Switzerland since the early 20th Century. The country experienced a period of economic prosperity after the end of the World War II, evolving from a backward agrarian country into one of the world’s best developed industrial regions in less than 40 years.
Liechtenstein’s integration into the global economy accelerated after joining the European Economic Area (EEA) and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in 1995.
This tiny alpine state, which has no mineral resources or access to the seas, became one of the world’s richest countries by following astute government policies and keeping taxes low, which attracted foreign companies. The number of foreign companies operating in Liechtenstein now exceeds 73,000, although many of them are only registered there. The principality is also an important banking and financial centre, comparable to Switzerland. This sector accounts for about 29% of the country’s gross domestic product, while 30% of the State’s budget comes from taxes paid by foreign companies operating there.
These policies have earned Liechtenstein its reputation as a “tax paradise” and that has been increasingly irritating its European neighbours – especially Germany, which has repeatedly accused Liechtenstein of helping their rich citizens evade taxes. In an effort to resolve the problem, Liechtenstein overhauled its financial and banking sectors in the early 2000s to discourage money laundering and tax evasion.
Liechtenstein’s economy is not limited to banking and finance: about 40% of its GDP comes from industry and handicrafts.
Major international industrial companies based in Liechtenstein include Hilti AG, a leading global producer of building materials and equipment, and Ivoclar Vivadent AG, a major diversified producer of high-quality materials for the dental industry.
Along with large industrial facilities, Liechtenstein also has a flourishing arts and crafts sector.
The tourist industry is another important source of income for Liechtenstein: 77,500 tourists - mostly Germans and Swiss - visited the country in 2007.
bmir, Business mir #15 - 2010-01  MAIL PRINT 
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