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Nation branding Luxembourg from abroad

Sweet indifference?

It’s hard to say if Luxembourgers are particularly sensitive but even mild criticism from abroad is rarely taken well. Hence the desire of many to project an attractive image both in an attempt to counteract negative publicity but also because “you can’t do nothing.” But is Luxembourg flattering itself if it thinks people really care enough to have a strong opinion?

Ignorance over opprobrium?

“Boring”, “tax haven”, “rich”, “too small”, “provincial” are some of the more aggressive terms used to describe the country abroad. However, “where?” is probably the most common and perhaps the more damaging reaction. Léa Linster’s cooking and personality has won her and her country friends around Europe and cyclist Andy Schleck’s nice-boy image is also getting the flag onto TV screens. Yet, these are still niche activities. Jean-Claude Juncker is as respected Europe-wide as any machine politician can be, but he is hardly a conventional superstar.

How to tell both sides to the story

Activists opposed to tax-evasion & tax-avoidance lobby against the country, providing ammunition for a media which often likes to reinforce the prejudice of its viewers and readers. It is easy for the press and TV to go with the grain of the popular view that smaller countries must secretly be up to no good. It is true that Luxembourg is used legally to reduce the tax bills of large corporations, however it is not reported that many economists think this is beneficial for general economic well-being. Companies use the tax they save to innovate and employ, goes the argument. There is no consensus on this, but the critical opinion does not always have to be correct.

Is there a problem?

Trying to articulate this contentious argument, however, would be both extremely difficult and probably counter-productive. Perhaps the wisest course is to realise that only a few tens of thousands actually read dense stories on tax that tend to be hidden in the middle of newspapers. Some suggest that these stories are actually good publicity; promoting the country as a major centre for private banking and corporate finance. If Luxembourg has nothing to be ashamed of it does not need to engage in a publicity war which could make it appear defensive.

December 17, 2012 10:38:33 AM CET

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