The PDU kicks off its series in anticipation of the 2014 European Parliament elections with a profile of Luxembourg. By Korbinian Rueger
For decades Luxembourg has been one of the most pro-European countries on the continent. From day one the small country has been at the forefront of European integration. Luxembourg has been a signatory of the Treaty of Brussels in 1948 and every European treaty or contract that followed. The city of Luxembourg itself is home to numerous European institutions such as the European Court of Justice, the Secretariat of the European Parliament and the European Investment Bank. Many of Luxembourg’s politicians (e.g. Jean Claude Juncker and Jacques Santer) have held important posts in EU institutions.
Luxembourg is the only country with a Grand Duke (Henri) as the official head of state. As in most western monarchies, however, his role is mainly limited to ceremonial tasks. In 2008 the Duke’s power was even further restricted. Parliament took away his right to veto legislation after the Duke threatened to veto a bill legalising euthanasia. Political power therefore mainly lies with the unicameral parliament and the government, led by the prime minister.
The year 2013 brought major changes to Luxembourg’s political landscape. For only the second time since World War 2 the conservative Christian Social People’s Party (CSV) finds itself in opposition. After 18 years as prime minister (1995-2013) CSV’s Jean Claude Juncker had to leave office after a snap election brought down his government in November. Juncker had stumbled over a scandal involving tapped phonelines and Luxembourg’s intelligence agency, which led his coalition partner, the social democratic Luxembourg Socialist Workers’ Party (LSAP), to end the coalition.
The new prime minister is Xavier Bettel from the liberal Democratic Party (DP). Bettel leads the country in a coalition consisting of the DP, the LSAP and The Greens. However, with 23 seats in parliament the CSV remains the overall strongest party. The two remaining opposition parties are the national conservative Alternative Democratic Reform Party (ADR) and the socialist The Left.
Before becoming prime minister, Bettel had served as the mayor of Luxembourg City between 2011 and 2013. Together with his government, Bettel is expected to promote social liberal policies, ending decades of primarily conservative politics. However, one of Bettel’s first tasks will be to do everything in his government’s power to preserve the country’s AAA credit rating. The country has accumulated a huge deficit that Bettel wants to reduce via an increase in VAT.
In a heavily pro-European country, the ADR is the only eurosceptic party in parliament. Historically the ADR has always done worse in European elections than in national ones. It is to be expected that this will not change in 2014; the ADR will not win a seat in the European Parliament.
Last European Election and Outlook
Due to its small size Luxembourg only elects six MEPs. Still, the country elects more MEPs per capita than any other member state. On 7 June 2009 three seats went to the CSV (a member of the European People’s Party). The DP (Liberal Democrat and Reform Party), the LSAP (Party of European Socialists) and The Greens (European Green Party) each won one seat. Taking into consideration the national election from last November, a similar outcome can be expected for this year’s election, with the possibility of the CSV losing one seat to either the DP or the LSAP.
Image “DSC05279” courtesy of Alex naersjoen via Flickr. Published under Creative Commons.