Luxembourg acquired its independence in 1839 by the Treaty of London. It presents a very rich history, shaken up by the successions and other conflicts in Europe.
Today, the country is governed by a Constitutional Monarchy. It is the only Grand Duchy in the world.
Luxembourg is one of the founding countries of the European Union. Today it houses several European institutions.
“Mir wölle bleiwe wat mir sin” – “We want to remain what we are
The motto of Luxembourg testifies to its desire for independence from the countries that have annexed it and its desire to preserve its national identity
History of Luxembourg
The origins and heyday of Luxembourg territory
Luxembourg owes its origin to a small castle, Lucilinburhuc, overlooking the Alzette Valley. Located on the Bock rock, in the city of Luxembourg, it gave its name to the capital and the country itself, Luxembourg. Acquired by Count Sigefroi in 963, the small fortress gave birth to the County of Luxembourg. See below the legend of Melusine.
Several count houses succeeded one another, working for the development of the County of Luxembourg. The latter is gaining more and more importance and political power.
Count Henry VII became king in 1308. He was crowned emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in 1312. His son John the Blind, the originator of the Schueberfouer, became King of Bohemia.
In 1354, his descendant Charles IV raised the County of Luxembourg to the rank of Duchy. Thanks to numerous territorial regroupings, Luxembourg occupied a vast territory between the Meuse and the Moselle. In 1364, it reached an area of over 10,000 square kilometers.
An eventful history in Europe
For lack of a male heir, Luxembourg passed into the hands of the Burgundians in 1443. It was annexed by the Duke of Burgundy, Philippe le Bon. French became the main administrative language. Luxembourg belongs to the Netherlands, as a relatively autonomous principality. His destiny will be linked to this kingdom.
Due to marriages, Luxembourg passed into the hands of the Habsburgs of Spain in 1555 . Due to its strategic location, Luxembourg was involved in many wars between France and Spain. It was at this time that the city of Luxembourg became a famous fortress. It becomes“the Gibraltar of the North”.
The Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659 ceded southern Luxembourg, including the city of Thionville, to France. Later, the troops of Louis XIV besieged the city of Luxembourg. It also passed to France in 1684. It was at this time that the Vauban fortifications were built.
In 1697, Luxembourg was returned to Spain. The Habsburgs recovered the duchy by the Treaty of Ryswick, putting an end to French expansionist desires. The War of the Spanish Succession handed Luxembourg over to Austria in 1715.
The 18th century was a peaceful period for Luxembourg. Numerous advances such as freedom of worship and tax equality laid the foundations for today’s Luxembourg.
Towards the pacification and independence of Luxembourg
But following the blockade of the troops of the Revolution in 1795, the fortress is again handed over to France. Luxembourg became the Department of Forests under the reign of Napoleon. The Cane War, “Klëppelkrich”, against the generalized military service took place in 1798. The Napoleonic Code was introduced in 1804. This is the basis of the Luxembourg civil code.
The fall of Napoleon’s empire led to a new division of Europe.
In 1815, the Congress of Vienna created the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. William I of Orange-Nassau, king of the Netherlands, takes over the new state on a personal basis. In addition, part of the Luxembourg territories are attributed to Prussia. This one places a Prussian garrison in the city of Luxembourg.
With the Treaty of London in 1839, Luxembourg acquired its independence and its current form. Part of Luxembourg is given to Belgium (the province of Belgian Luxembourg) following the Belgian Revolution.
Luxembourg adopted a constitution in 1848.
With the new Treaty of London in 1867, Luxembourg acquired the status of a permanently neutral and independent state. The fortress is dismantled. The Prussian garrisons leave the territory.
The Grand Duchy obtained its own dynasty in 1890 with the accession to the throne of Grand Duke Adolphe de Nassau-Weilbourg. The Grand Duke Henri is his descendant.
The legend of Melusine
Melusine was the wife of the Count of Sigefroi, founder of the City of Luxembourg.
It is during a bear hunt in the “Bockfiels”, among the ruins of an old castle, that Count Sigefroi is seduced by the voice of a beautiful young girl. Falling in love, he proposed to Melusine to marry her. This one accepted, with the condition of never leaving the place and that he will never spy on her.
They settled there and lived very happily. But one day, Count Sigefroi was curious to see what his wife did when she was alone. He spied her through the keyhole. He then saw her lying in her bath, combing her long hair. But instead of legs, she had a big fish tail.
Betrayed, Melusine disappeared in the Alzette river.
The legend says that she reappears every 7 years, in the form of a snake. She is waiting for someone to free her from her fate. To do this, you will have to take a key in your mouth and throw it into the Alzette.
While waiting for her deliverance, she sews a shirt, adding a stitch every 7 years. When the shirt is finished, Melusine will be released from her spell. But in return, all the inhabitants of Luxembourg will disappear with her.
The statue of Melusine can be seen on the banks of the Alzette, at the very spot where she is said to have disappeared into its waters.
From the point of view of Luxembourg is a sovereign and independent state. It is a parliamentary democracy in the form of a constitutional monarchy. The crown is hereditary in the Nassau-Weilbourg family.
The national holiday is June 23, the symbolic day of the Grand Duke’s birthday.
The legislative power
Legislative power is shared between the Chamber of Deputies, the government and the Council of State.
The Chamber of Deputies
The Chamber of Deputies debates and votes on laws. It can also propose laws. The parliamentary commission for the control of budget execution, chaired by a member of the opposition, has a right of review over the management of the state.
There are 60 deputies. They are elected for 5 years by universal suffrage, by proportional representation.
The next legislative elections will be held in June 2023.
In the assembly, the political parties represented are :
- Christian Social People’s Party (CSV): 21 seats. Traditionally, almost all of Luxembourg’s prime ministers have been from the CSV (Chrëschtlech-Sozial Vollekspartei). Gaston Thorn (Prime Minister from 1974 to 1979) and Xavier Bettel (Prime Minister since 2013) are exceptions to the rule. They both come from the DP (Demokratische Partei).
Jean-Claude Juncker, CSV, was Prime Minister of Luxembourg from 1995 to 2013. He left his position to become President of the European Commission from 2014 to 2019.
The CSV is close to the Republicans in France and the CDU in Germany.
- Democratic Party (DP): 12 seats. The DP is a centrist party with a liberal tendency. The DP is a member of the Alliance of European Liberals and Democrats. Xavier Bettel, the current Prime Minister, comes from this party.
- Luxembourg Socialist Workers’ Party (LSAP): 10 seats. The LSAP (Lëtzebuerger Sozialistesch Aarbechterpartei) participated in coalition governments in 1974-1979 and since 2013. LSAP is a member of the Party of European Socialists.
- The Greens (déi gréng): 9 seats. The green party was for the 1st time in power with the coalition government of Xavier Bettel in 2013.
- Alternativ Demokratesch Reformpartei (ADR): 4 seats. The ADR is a conservative party with populist tendencies. He is a member of the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists.
- dei Lénk: 2 seats. Member of the European Left Party
- the Pirate party: 2 seats. This party is in the line of the European Pirate parties. He advocates democracy through transparency of the state and civil rights.
The government has a right of legislative initiative through bills.
The Council of State
The Council of State is composed of 21 councillors. They are appointed and dismissed by the Grand Duke, on the basis of proposals made alternately by the government, the Chamber of Deputies and the Council of State.
It gives its opinion on the bills and proposals presented to the House before the deputies vote. In particular, it examines the conformity of texts with the Constitution, the various international conventions and general principles of law.
The Executive Branch
Executive power is exercised jointly by the Grand Duke and the government.
The Grand Duke
The Head of State
The Grand Duke is the Head of State. His person is inviolable and he cannot be held responsible. He cannot be charged or prosecuted.
He promulgates the laws in the collection of legislation called Memorial. The laws are countersigned by the Minister responsible for the ministerial portfolio concerned. Any act bearing the signature of the Grand Duke must first be submitted to the deliberation of the Council of Government.
The Nassau-Weilburg dynasty
In 1890, Luxembourg obtained its own dynasty with the accession to the throne of Grand Duke Adolphe de Nassau-Weilburg.
After William IV his son, his granddaughter Grand Duchess Marie-Adélaïde took over the government in 1912. She was then 17 years old. His attitude during the invasion of the German troops during the 1st World War is violently criticized. She abdicated at the end of the war in 1919.
The Grand Duchess Charlotte then ascended the throne. During his reign, the country was again invaded by German troops during the Second World War. Not wishing to submit, the Grand Duchess and her government went into exile in London. Luxembourg was liberated in June 1944 by American troops. Grand Duchess Charlotte abdicated in 1964. She is very popular with the Luxembourg people.
Grand Duke Jean succeeded his mother in 1964. Grand Duke Jean died in October 2000 .
His Royal Highness, the Grand Duke Henri succeeds his father. He occupies the throne with his wife, Her Royal Highness Grand Duchess Maria-Teresa, a native of Cuba.
The Crown Grand Duke is Prince William, their eldest son. He is accompanied by his wife the Crown Grand Duchess, Princess Stephanie, of Belgian origin.
The Luxembourg government
Parliamentary elections are held every 5 years. Following them, the Grand Duke appoints an informant who will propose a government. In fact, the informant often becomes Prime Minister and Head of Government. He is appointed by the Grand Duke.
The government consists of several ministers. They are appointed by the Grand Duke on the basis of proposals from the Prime Minister.
The government is responsible for drafting legislation. Each minister is entrusted with one or more ministries.
The current government
The current government is a product of the 2018 elections. It is a coalition government. It is formed by the DP (Demokratische Partei), the LSAP (Lëtzebuerger Sozialistesch Aarbechterpartei) and the Ecological Party dei Gréng.
The CSV, which had a majority in these elections, is once again in opposition. He was in power for 35 years. Jean-Claude Juncker, its representative, was Prime Minister for 19 years. He left his position following his appointment as President of the European Commission in 2013.
Members of the government
The Prime Minister is Xavier Bettel, from the Democratic Party (DP)
- Xavier Bettel (DP), Prime Minister since December 2013 and Minister of State. He is also in charge of Communication and Media, Cults, Digitalization and Administrative Reform,
- Paulette Lenert (LSAP), Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Consumer Protection, Minister of Health and Minister Delegate for Social Security.
- François Bausch (dei Greng) Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Defense, Minister of Mobility and Public Works,
- Jean Asselborn (LSAP), Minister for Foreign and European Affairs, Minister for Immigration and Asylum
- Claude Meisch (DP), Minister of National Education, Children and Youth, Minister of Higher Education and Research,
- Corinne Cahen (DP), Minister for Family and Integration, Minister for the Greater Region
- Joëlle Welfring (Déi Gréng), Minister of Environment, Climate and Sustainable Development
- Marc Hansen, Minister for the Civil Service, Minister for Relations with Parliament, Minister Delegate for Digitalisation, Minister Delegate for Administrative Reform
- Claude Turmes (dei Greng), Minister of Energy, Minister of Land Management
- Sam Tanson (dei Greng), Minister of Justice, Minister of Culture
- Taina Bofferding (LSAP), Minister for Equality between Men and Women, Minister of the Interior
- Lex Delles (DP), Minister of Tourism, Minister of Middle Classes
- Henri Kox, Minister of Internal Security, Minister of Housing
- Franz Fayot (LSAP), Minister of Economy, Minister of Cooperation and Humanitarian Action
- Claude Hagen (LSAP), Minister of Agriculture, Viticulture and Rural Development, Minister of Social Security
- Georges Engel (LSAP), Minister of Sports, Minister of Labour, Employment and Social Economy
- Yuricko Backes (DP), Minister of Finance.
See the electoral system of the Chamber of Deputies and the Commons.
The Judicial Branch
The judiciary is completely independent. The courts and tribunals are charged by the Constitution with the exercise of judicial power.
The members of the Public Prosecutor’s Office are headed by the State Attorney General.
The Constitutional Court
It is composed of 9 members and is based in Luxembourg. It rules on the conformity of laws with the Constitution.
Justice of the Peace
They are the first level of the judicial system. They are located in Luxembourg, Diekirch and Esch-sur-Alzette.
They are competent for civil and commercial matters of lesser importance, provided that the subject matter of the dispute does not exceed 10,000 euros and in the last resort up to 750 euros.
They also have jurisdiction over leases and wage garnishments, regardless of the amounts involved.
They sit in Luxembourg and Diekirch and are competent in civil and commercial matters for all cases not assigned to another court.
They are also competent in criminal matters up to imprisonment of at least 8 days or fines of more than 250 euros. They are competent in criminal cases for life imprisonment or more than 5 years.
They have appellate jurisdiction in cases handled by the Justice of the Peace, where the subject matter of the dispute exceeds 750 euros.
The Youth and Guardianship Court tries youth protection cases.
The Superior Court of Justice
It is composed of a Court of Cassation and a Court of Appeal.
Luxembourg and the European Union
Luxembourg, founder of the EU
Luxembourg is one of the 6 founding members of the European Union. Some of its citizens are illustrious figures.
Robert Schuman is one of the “founding fathers” of Europe. Born in Luxembourg in 1886, he was born in Luxembourg on his mother’s side and participated in the creation of the ECSC (European Coal and Steel Community) in 1951.
In 1952, the city of Luxembourg was the first place of work for the Community institutions.
In 1957, the creation of the European Economic Community by Jean Monnet marked a further step towards a supranational European organization.
Founded by Germany, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy, the EEC was gradually expanded to include other countries. The European Union now has 27 countries.
Luxembourg, European capital
The Luxembourg capital, Luxembourg, became a European capital in 1986. It shares this title with Brussels (Belgium) and Strasbourg (France) following the merger of the European institutions.
The city of Luxembourg is now home to the headquarters of several European institutions and bodies. Many European officials work there. It includes:
- the Court of Justice,
- the Court of Auditors,
- the European Investment Bank,
- the European Investment Fund
- several services of the European Commission.
There is also talk of the European district in the Kirchberg area.
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