15 August 2003
Although the weather had been hot and sunny for the past few weeks, of all days the day Liechtenstein’s national day (Staatsfeiertag) is celebrated yearly, August 15 (Assumption Day), started with rain. I left my hotel in Schaan early in the morning not to miss anything. Although it was dry but cloudy at that moment I took an umbrella with me as it looked pretty dark outside. I took the bus to Vaduz (public transport was free on this day) and stepped out at the point from which I was supposed to walk or take a smaller bus. As it was said it was only 10 minutes walking – however unexperienced ‘hill’ walkers like me do it in at least 15 minutes – I decided to walk to Vaduz Castle, the residence of Prince Hans Adam II of Liechtenstein and his family. Already more people were walking around. A bus with invited people came in from Italy, another bus carried Liechtenstein prominents. Liechtenstein press soon arrived too. Unfortunately just before the royal family left the castle it started to rain very heavily and everybody was trying to find a hiding-place to keep dry, which was even very difficult with an umbrella.
Finaly around 9:30 the family left the castle. Because of the heavy rain there was nothing else that I could do than trying to make photographs holding my umbrella above my head and camera, which is not the easiest way to make photographs. Surely it didn’t become easier as I had to try to follow the family down from the castle to the place at the meadow – a little bit down the road – where the mass was being held. Somehow I managed to be down there before the family and I even got a place in first row from where I could see the family very well, although I hardly got a look at the Archbishop Wolfgang Haas and the others on the (covered) stage.
I knew the national anthem of Liechtenstein which was played at the end of the mass, but as a non-catholic I wasn’t able to sing any of the other songs with the others. During the mass I had a look around me and observed the members of the princely family of Liechtenstein. The members of the family attending Staatsfeiertag were Fürst Hans Adam II, Fürstin Marie, Hereditary Prince Alois, Hereditary Princess Sophie, Prince Joseph Wenzel, Princess Marie Caroline, Prince Constantin, Princess Marie and Prince Nikolaus. I had hoped some more would show up, although I was already delighted to see the members of the family present. Also the public was pretty small, most likely because of the bad weather. Happily halfway the mass it started to become dry. Despite of that Archbishop Wolfgang Haas decided not to hold his sermon this time due to the weather, saying that everyone could read it in the newspaper the next day, which I found very nice of him.
During the nice apéritif, with free drinks and food, you could find the princely family, people, politicians and press mixing up at the garden of Vaduz Castle. Members of the princely family living abroad could be watched talking with friends and acquaintances they hadn’t seen for ages, Prince Joseph Wenzel tapped beer, while the Fürst and Hereditary Prince gave tens of interviews to radio and journalists. I managed to have a short word with Hereditary Prince Alois who told me he would only become the ‘Stellvertreter’ (substitute) of his father on August 15, 2004, and that he didn’t know when he would become the Fürst. Telling him that that could last another 50 years (Fürst Hans Adam II is only 58 at the time, so why not), he had to laugh. Later on asking a Liechtenstein lady I had met earlier, I found out that the illness Hereditary Princess Sophie had suffered from at the beginning of the year had been a brain tumor. Shortly afterwards I heard her telling some people that it happily had been ‘benignant’, but that it had been a difficult period for the family. She joked that the short haircut had been very handy with the hot weather this summer. A short time afterwards I quickly followed a Luxembourg photographer who had just asked the Hereditary Princely Couple if he could take an ‘official’ photo of them. I didn’t want to miss that opportunity of course. Unfortunately it rained from time to time and it didn’t look as if it was going to stop soon, so in the early afternoon I decided to walk down to Vaduz to see what was going on there.
The speech of Fürst Hans Adam II
In name of the princely house as well as my own name I want to thank you once again with all my heart, that you have spoken out your trust in the princely house and also in me personally at the elections about the question of the Constitution.
With that the people and princely house together have created a solid base for a continuation of the successful partnership at the beginning of this third millenium. A partnership, that now already can look back at three centuries, and that especially has made possible an unheard economical recovery to the country and its people in the past decennia. Because of that social, sportive and cultural areas can be generously supported.
Yesterday I have signed the changements in the Constitution, who with its publication become legal. Because of the reformation of the Constitution it was necessary to adjust an amount of laws. Together with the government and the support of experts in the meantime the most important changements could be worked out. Several revisions of the law were after profound research postponed to a later date. Now it is important, that the Landtag (diet) quickly decides about the necessary changements of laws, to prevent that some laws won’t be abolished because they are in violation of the Constitution.
For the period of my government I had intended on foreign affairs to insure the sovereignty of the country and the right of self-determination of the people, and on home affairs to extend the self-determination of the people by extending the direct democracy. It also seemed important to me to strengthening of the constitutional state, that had been critizised over the past decennia locally as well as abroad. I have succeeded in all of this in the past 20 years in a way, I hadn’t dared to hope for. Therefore I would like to thank everybody who has supported me in these 20 years, also when they were attacked by my political opponents because of that over and over again. But I would also like to thank my political opponents, because with their critics at the monarchy in the constitution they have very decisively contributed to the fact that those important changements of the constitution were possible. Now it is important, that we all work together to keep our small native country also for future generations.
The missions in foreign and home affairs for which I have fought, are or closed or are about to be closed successfully. New missions must be solved, with which the hereditary prince has already been kept busy with intensively. With that for me slowly has come the time to withdraw from political life. Next to that we, in the princely house, are already long of opinion that the Fürst (Prince) hands over the political powers to his heir when this one is willing to take over.
So has my grandfather renounced in favour of my father, and has my father handed over political powers to me when I had largely closed the reorganisation and the reconstruction of the Princely Finances. The Hereditary Prince and I have decided that the delegation of political powers will take place in one year at the next Staatsfeiertag (national day).
Can I invite you for a refreshement in front of the castle after the speech of the president of the Landtag (diet) and on this road also thank everybody who co-operate on this feastday. I wish you a nice feastday and God’s blessing.
The evening programme
The centre of Vaduz is the place to be at Staatsfeiertag, as the rest of the country is pretty empty on that day. The programme, starting at 14:00, is varied. On several stages in the centre there are concerts of local bands, a market is held, you can eat food on one of the several terraces. Interesting, but if you know nobody, like me, after a while it becomes pretty boring. However I met a photographer of the Liechtensteiner Volksblatt with companion and spent some time with them. Of course the weather became even hot in the afternoon, and no rain was seen anymore.
The Radio Liechtenstein stage had an interview with Fürst Hans Adam at 17:00 and of course I wouldn’t miss it for anything in the world. After he arrived he first had to say something to the winners of medals at the Kleinstaatenspiele (Mini-Countries Games), Special Olympics and Berufsweltmeisterschaften (World Championships for Profs), who were getting their share of applause for their achievements from the public. Then the interview, with subjects as politics, Europe and the succession of Hereditary Prince Alois, started. For me the most interesting question was what he would do after he had ‘retired’. The Fürst laughed out loudly before answering that he wouldn’t think of retiring yet. Although he will leave the Liechtenstein politics to his son Alois, he plans to continue managing the finances of the princely family, on which he already spends half of his time now, to make it Hereditary Prince Alois somewhat easier. He also plans to spend more time with his family and grandchildren. After the interview the Fürst stayed for a while, drinking something and talking to some people. I happily managed to get his signature in my programme of Staatsfeiertag.
Around 19:00 I finally spotted some members of the princely family in town. First my eye fell on Fürst Hans Adam II and his grandson Joseph Wenzel while the Fürst was buying his grandson a South-American panflute. Soon afterwards I spotted Fürstin Marie with a little boy on her hand. It costed me a while to find out that the boy was Prince Georg, the third child of the hereditary princely couple. Not long afterwards I finally discovered the princely and hereditary princely couple with their three eldest children all together in front of the Real restaurant. Prince Joseph Wenzel managed to get another toy, while little Georg was totally happy with some ‘figure’ balloons he carried around his waist. The family was stopped by people on the streets all the time and it looked to me as if they know every single person in Liechtenstein.
Like Fürst Hans Adam II (as he said in the Radio Liechtenstein interview) I had been looking forward to the lasershow that replaced the usually fantastic fireworks because the weather had been too dry lately to risk the use of fireworks. The half-an-hour lasershow was nice, showing all kind of figures on the walls of Vaduz Castle far above us, but unfortunately the distance was a bit too far to recognise most of the figures. Please, next year fireworks again! After finding the bus to Schaan, I went back to my hotel. The day had been long and I thought I had seen enough of the celebrations.